Friday, December 21, 2012

Privatized Venison Revisited

When considering how much damage a well-funded, plutocratic front-group like Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) can do to the lands and animals that we cherish, it’s critical to reflect on what exactly it is that we have the luxury of cherishing, and why we have it.

Stewart Brandborg (Brandy) published the following commentary in the Christian Science Monitor last month. His subject was the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (H.R. 4089), a bill that has already passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. H.R. 4089 would evicserate the Wilderness Act, as Brandy so eloquently describes. He is eloquent about the Wilderness Act and the wild lands that we cherish because he was one of the principle architects of the Wilderness Act. We take wilderness—and giants of conservation like Brandy-- for granted now. But think—please. If it weren’t for people like Brandy and his dad, Guy (Bitterroot Forest Superviser, 1935-55; the original "Brandy"), those lands that provide us with our pure water and pure experiences we would literally trade our lives for would have long been carved up and sold off to the highest bidder, just as the uberrich who support Trojan-Horse outfits like SWF would do today if we don't pay attention.  http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2012/06/24/new-sportsmens-group-enters-wolf-fray-but-what-is-their-real-agenda/#comments
They have already made great inroads in that direction, state by state. Look at the joke of our rogue commissioners appointing a rogue Boulanger to the state senate, just for tiny instance. 

Pay attention: the same crowd that fills our rogue commissioners' meetings now spouting "2nd Amendment" nonsense while simultaneously taking advantage of the unmatched wild amenities (often with snowmobiles!) that Brandy and his dad helped preserve for Ravalli County are the ones who have vilified, threatened and even stalked him over the last couple decades. This same unacceptable behavior has accelerated these last few tea-soaked years--for him as well as for all the rest of us to the left of Attila--because we collectively turned the other way when it was being perpetrated on giants like Brandy previous to this current teabaggery. Now we're all feeling his pain, and we should learn from it. The N.R.A. , as well as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have signed on as supporters for H.R. 4089. If you are a member of either organization, or any other organization listed as supporters, call them up and give them hell.

And give folks like Brandy thanks for being so tireless and passionate in protecting what everyone—including those who would bite their 2nd Amendment-blabbing toungue before admitting it—depends on for their very spiritual and corporeal lives.

For crying out loud. Let’s activate once and for all against this crap.

Note: For one more quick read on SFW, I recommend the following: http://www.hcn.org/blogs/range/sportsmen-stab-theodore-roosevelt-in-the-back . Inform yourself and get mad.


Commentary
Conservationists: Mobilize in defense of American Wilderness Act
Stewart Brandborg | The Christian Science Monitor | Nov, 30 2012
Conservationists and wilderness enthusiasts across America are mobilizing to defeat a bill passed by the House of Representatives in April that would eviscerate the 1964 Wilderness Act. Deceptively entitled the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, the bill (H.R. 4089) purports to protect hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. The bill is being pushed by powerful groups like the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International and supported by some of the most anti-wilderness Republicans in Congress. And it would effectively gut the Wilderness Act and protections for every wilderness in America's 110-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System – everywhere from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness along the Montana-Idaho border that I can see from my home.
The House bill's provisions could still become law during the current lame-duck session of Congress. Though the Senate is considering a different sportsmen’s bill that does not include the harmful elements, the Senate bill could eventually be merged with the devastating House bill in order to pass both chambers.
The Wilderness Act eloquently defines wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." The statute further designates wilderness as an area that retains “its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation” and is “protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”
I know the Wilderness Act. I worked alongside my mentor, Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society (the bill’s chief author and proponent), from 1956-1964 to gain its passage by Congress. After Zahniser’s untimely passing in 1964, I directed the Wilderness Society for the next 12 years in implementing the new law and in adding new areas to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Congress responded to requests from the American people by adding tens of millions of acres to the wilderness system. Today, that system has grown from the original 9 million acres in 1964 to nearly 110 million acres. The Wilderness Act provides the best and most protective standards of all types of federal public land protection.
But this great legacy of American Wilderness is essentially destroyed by H.R. 4089 in several key ways.
First, H.R. 4089 elevates hunting, fishing, shooting, and wildlife management above wilderness protection within designated wilderness areas. Visitors or wildlife managers could drive motor vehicles and build roads, cabins, dams, hunting blinds, aircraft landing strips, and much more in wildernesses if any of these activities could be rationalized as facilitating opportunities for hunting, fishing, shooting, or managing fish and wildlife.
The only limitation in H.R. 4089 on motor vehicles or development is that the activity must be related to hunting, fishing, shooting, or wildlife management, though that need not be its only or even primary use. In reality, almost any recreational or management activity could be shoehorned into one of these exceptions and thereby exempted from Wilderness Act safeguards.
Perhaps even more troubling, H.R. 4089 would waive protections imposed by the Wilderness Act for anything undertaken in the name of wildlife management or for providing recreational opportunities related to wildlife. This would allow endless manipulations of wildlife and habitat.
This could include logging, if done to stimulate new forest growth on which deer might graze. Similarly, bulldozing new dams and reservoirs could be validated as a way to enhance fishing habitats. Poisoning lakes and streams to kill native fish and then planting exotic fish might be allowed under the guise of increasing fishing opportunities. And predator control (including aerial gunning and poisoning) could be defended for boosting the numbers of popular hunted species like elk or bighorn sheep that predators also eat.
There is no limit to what managers could do in designated wilderness areas all in the name of wildlife management or providing opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting. These provisions strike at the heart of the Wilderness Act and its foundational underpinnings to preserve wilderness untrammeled and native wildlife in its natural environment.
Sportsmen and sportswomen – those who hunt and fish – were, and continue to be among the strongest supporters of the original wilderness law, of designating wilderness lands, and of the special quality of fishing and hunting experiences that wild and undeveloped lands provide. Many of these folks are fighting to prevent eviscerating the law and its wilderness preservation safeguards.
For nearly a half-century, the Wilderness Act has protected the finest of America’s wild lands and created a National Wilderness Preservation System that is the envy of much of the world. H.R. 4089 would negate all that we have preserved. In my 60 years of work for wilderness preservation and management, our nation has never been threatened by a more serious attack on this irreplaceable publicly owned resource. Citizens must demand that the US Senate do nothing to advance the House provisions of the so-called Sportsmen’s Heritage Act and instead protect our grand wilderness legacy for future generations.
Stewart Brandborg is a wildlife biologist, former executive director of the Wilderness Society, and a long-time board member of and now senior adviser to Wilderness Watch.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Did you know: the 223-caliber Bushmaster Assault Rifle is a "Pro-life" weapon?


Please look at the main weapon Adam Lanza pointed at little children--and fired into the faces of.

Now please read how Bushmaster clinically-describes such weapons, designed soley for combat, as the one used at Sandy Hook that capably fired up to six rounds a second into a crowded classroom of little children:
“With a Bushmaster for security and home defense, you can sleep tight knowing that your loved ones are protected. Bushmaster offers everything you need to ensure the safety of you and your family. Our high-quality pistols, carbines, and rifles are extremely reliable, easy to shoot, and include lightweight carbon models that are perfect for women. And with their intimidating looks, all Bushmasters make a serious impression.”  http://www.bushmaster.com/world/our_world.asp
Next, please check out all the local dealerships listed on Bushmaster’s own website where you can easily obtain this weapon. This list does not include gun shows or parents’ closets:
Finally, please consider all the ranting, railing and law-passing that’s been done in our Montana legislature by so-called “pro-lifers” these past 20 years or so to make such weapons so easily accessable in the name of their pro-life “freedom”.
It’s the flu season. If you throw up, it might be that. But it might be time to reclaim our very own official state language--English--and redefine some terms for the sake of sanity.
“Pro-life” indeed.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Will You Walk Away From a Fool and His Money? Musings on Montana Republicans' Dilemma

Remember that awful 1969 movie, “The Magic Christian”? Peter Sellers  played an eccentric billionaire, Sir Guy Grande, who orchestrated elaborate practical jokes on people in order to demonstrate his credo that everyone has their price as long as you’re willing to put up the money to find that price. The movie culminates with Sir Guy tossing larger and larger amounts of money into a giant vat of excrement until he succeeds in getting lords and ladies dressed to the nines to jump head first into the vat where they fight for as much of Sir Guy’s money as they can get. For themselves. At all costs.
There are several local and statewide developments that indicate we are seeing a similar display of dirty infighting over money going on within Montana’s Republican Party this political cycle. The appointment of hard-right ideologue Boulanger by our hard right commissioners  is the tip of the iceberg here in Ravalli County (1). Most of us don’t see the whole iceberg, because we’re either not Republicans or we're Republicans who don’t attend Republican Central Committee meetings. But there’s an increasingly-visible fracture occurring in that iceberg, at the local and state level, a fracture that by definition is anti-democratic in nature and bodes ill to anybody’s reasonable definition of good-government. And as always, money, money, money is at the bottom of the huge vat of climate-changing feces upon which that iceberg floats (Wow! Did I really say that?). We all should be paying close attention, I think. It bodes ill, but it also bodes good theatre.
Everyone should remember Fred Thomas, the godfather of Montana’s deregulation debacle. If you don’t, just look at your power bill, subtract from it the amount you formerly used on groceries, entertainment and Christmas but are now using to pay off Northwest Energy or PPL, and that amount is Fred Thomas’ legacy to you and yours. His deregulation stunt should have been his swan song as an elected official in the state of Montana. He hit people where they hurt, hard. But…here he is!! Back again in your legislature, a Senator this time, ready to add more of his legacy on to your already overburdened basic expenses. This time he’ll be aiming at your insurance premiums (my guess, but you just watch). Not to lower them (god forbid!) but to raise them, by attempting to disable the tepid improvements offered us within the Affordable Care Act among many other privatization tricks in his draft-bill bag http://www.leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/63rd/leg_info.asp?HouseID=0&SessionID=107&LAWSID=14716
How did this happen??!! Well, the same way Nancy Ballance (R-HD 89) and a lot of other bought-and-paid for races in Montana happened. You see, Fred sells insurance here in the Bitterroot. In fact, he was recently awarded at least one sweet taxpayer-funded contract by our rogue commissioners, who seem to rule by the same tenets of cronyism that your average banana republic does, complete with guns, or at least the threat of them (2).   And what a coincidence!!! Nancy Ballance is not only in the insurance business herself, she’s a retired vice-president of Farmer’s Insurance, a wholly-owned subsidy of out-of-country behemoth Zurich Financial (3) that in turn cashed in big-time on government bail-out money when it bought AIG’s tax-supported assets. Remember all this? Ballance, by the way, hit the ground running when she and her husband moved to Hamilton recently, becoming leaders in Ravalli County Tea Party Patriots (4).
Neither of these hired guns wants to help their constituents by working to see that insurance premiums are kept down, which would fit their job description if they actually believed their tea faction’s own blatherings about the constitution and founding fathers (ad naseum). Quite the opposite, since both have demonstrable, vested interests in seeing insurance premiums go up (5). It bears repeating: how did this happen?
In Thomas and Ballance’s case, it was the result of tens of thousands of dollars pumped into the Republican primary race by American Tradition Partnership (ATP), most visibly in the form of slick, costly—and multiple—attack mailings. And which naughty Republicans did ATP attack with such massive money dumps into our local elections we’ve never seen  a shadow of the likes of before? In Fred Thomas’ case, ATP attacked Gary MacClaren, A.L.E.C.’s former Montana representative according to A.L.E.C.’s own website.  I’ll leave the implications of this fratricide to you, dear reader, to cogitate on
Let’s now look at Sandy Welch’s aborted attempt to challenge her defeat by Denise Juneau for Superintendent of Public Schools.  How visibly-weird that she would threaten every election official in the state with a $200,000 recount she claimed she could pay for, and then back out at the last minute because she suddenly doesn’t have the money. Was it because the state Republican machine that originally promised Welch ATP money to whittle away voters’ rights by embarrassing those same election officials had to suddenly pull the rug out from under one of their shill’s feet because ATP got caught with their fingers in their other shills’ pies?
I don’t know about you, but in the Missoulian, the story about two Republican legislators, Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, and Rep. John Esp, R-Big Timber, filing political practices complaints against ATP for  a barrage of attacks similar to what we experienced here in the Bitterroot was in the same day’s edition as Welch’s respect-free capitulation. Esp and Tutvedt are arguing that ATP illegally coordinated efforts with their Republican primary election opponents, odd complaints coming from Republican operatives in their own right, to the state political practices office, often accused of—by Republican operatives—of being too…political!!
I’ll be the first to admit that, at this point, this bizarro Welch/ Esp/Tutvedt/ Thomas/ MacClaren/ Ballance contortion I’ve sketched out above are the political speculations of a biased source (myself). But from the point of view of your average Montana voter who’s trying her best to pay attention to this Machiavellian play brought to us by obscene amounts of foreign money, this stuff should  look like political fratricide, smell like political fratricide and talk like political fratricide. Prove us different, please, and in the meantime, I’ll leave the implications of this mysterious, violence-prone critter created in the lightening-lit dungeon of a mad Republican’s trophy-home to you, dear reader, to cogitate on.
If Sir Guy Grande were around today he’d be labeled a high-rolling sociopath (6). I understand that some folks don’t remember the good old days, back in 1969,when being a billionaire actually meant something. There just weren’t as many of them, statistically speaking. Maybe a handful in the whole world. Back then guys like Romney and Rehberg, with their mere millions, were top players. Now there are two handfuls of sociopathic billionaires, and that extra handful really makes a difference. Mere millionaires like Romney and Rehberg are now reduced to running for public offices where they would merely serve as water carriers for the Real Big Boys like the Koch brothers. What a waste of talent, don’t you think?! It isn’t fair! You just can’t have as much fun on a million dollars anymore, can’t hardly live on it, which, when you’re talking about billions of dollars pilfered from societies struggling against malicious austerity, reminds me of a song:
“Did I hear you say that there must be a catch?
Will you walk away from a fool and his money?
If you want it, here it is, come and get it, but you better hurry cuz it’s goin’ fast.”

What an unseemly spectacle we are allowing to be made of our ailing democracy. Let's do something about it. Feel free to post your own solution suggestions, and I'll devote my next writing spree to airing them, as well as to my own ideas for networking, activating, puffing ourselves up as large as possible, etc.

Joking aside, we (the people) who abhore the developments sketched out above, are not in the minority, and we can't allow billionaire bullies and their water-carriers to claim otherwise.

1. See “Privatized venison, anyone?” below for details on Boulanger’s ties to two out-of-state Wise-Use privatization organizations. My point here is that his stance on the privatization of big game herds has angered many Ravalli County hunters who may have shared in the anti-environmental rhetoric of past Wise-Use agendas, but who also understand the critical role the North American Wildlife Model plays in the protection of those herds and the protection of their access(!) to those herds. This, I would posit, is a fracture worth exploiting.

2. Commissioner Foss and her husband, treasurer of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, both signed Celebrating Conservatism’s bizarre “2nd Amendment Declaration” three years ago, which stated that the signers reserve the “right” to overthrow the government if one more gun law is enacted.



5. Notwithstanding what they say or don’t say about this conundrum they voluntarily enmeshed themselves in, the facts speak English, the official language of the state of Montana by order of the Montana State Legislature (blush, blush!)

6. See the original movie “Frankenstein” for another Hollywood version of the same. Colin Clive, who plays Dr. Frankenstein, bears a remarkable resemblence to either one of the young Koch brothers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Privatized venison, anyone?

When Ravalli County commissioners appointed hunting outfitter Scott Boulanger to fill Bob Lake’s vacated state senate seat last week, they threw their chips in with an outfit that has an established track record of advocating for the privatization of public lands and wildlife.
Boulanger, who has been active in the commissioners’ county-supremacy scheme that their out-of-state handlers (American Stewards of Liberty) euphemistically-dub “coordination” , openly declares his membership in another out-of-state, anti-government front group—Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW).  This group was founded by  Don Peay, a Utah outfitter who, like Boulanger, is not comfortable with the rules and regulations of wildlife and public lands management most Americans recognize as essential to the perpetuation of the same. The North American Wildlife Model has been the bulwark of successful wildlife management since Teddy Roosevelt recognized his citizens’ tendency to decimate unprotected herds. But Peay and Boulanger (and our commissioners who appointed him) want none of those dirty ol’ government rules and regs getting in the way of their bottom-line, notwithstanding ecological realities. Peay said as much last winter, when he labeled the North American Wildlife Model “socialism” while making SFW’s standard pitch for the privatization of wildlife herds (Anchorage Daily News, 3/3/12,  http://www.adn.com/ ).
But as the Cat in the Hat once said to some innocent kids as he gleefully tore up their house, “That is not all, oh, no, that is not all”. Another SFW operative who wormed his way into a state deemed “vulnerable” by SFW, former  Alaska Fish and Game’s Conservation Director, Corey Rossi, actually tried to float a law to partially-privatize herds before he had to resign for the indescretion of being charged with multiple game violations while being in charge of enforcing those same pesky rules and regs that he broke! (Field and Stream, 3/8/12, http://www.fieldandstream.com/ ) It’s ironic, indeed, that Rossi, like Boulanger, was an outfitter, and was also appointed, not elected, to his position of state power, despite a glaring lack of qualifications, by Alaska’s version of our own ideologically-land-locked commissioners, Sarah Palin.

Beware outfitters in "Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife" clothing. One of them has just been enabled by our demonstrably-inept county commissioners with the apparent purpose of causing those of us who love to hunt and fish—and by definition also love fairness, democracy and access to public lands—a lot of potential trouble.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Speaking of our extremist Ravalli County commissioners:

 Last week, by unanimous vote, the Ravalli County commissioners installed a fellow tea traveler--Scott Boulanger—to fill Bob Lake’s state senate seat (SD 44). Bob, as many of you may already know, is an A.L.E.C.-approved Bitterroot politician (*) who was recently elected to our Public Service Commission along with fellow-A.L.E.C.-approved extremist Roger Koopman. You also may know how this pair of intrepid private (not “public”) servants have been tasked by their corporate handlers with divvying up the public spoils for the greater corporate good.
What you may not know is who the hell Scott Boulanger is. Well, I’m here to tell ya:
Boulanger lives in Darby (I think) and holds outfitting permits for the Selway country and the West Fork of the Bitterroot, or at least he has in the recent past. He, along with our incomparable commissioners and a fellow named Keith Kubista have been very active in attempts to perpetrate a militia-style county supremacy scheme on Ravalli County that they insist on euphemizing as "coordination" which is part and parcel with other militia tenets such as nullification (**). Boulanger plays the “outraged outfitter” part in this scheme, claiming that public wolves have been responsible for ruining his private livelihood. Kubista, for his part, is Ravalli County’s vociferous representative of Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife (SFW), a well-funded and out-of-state Wise Use bunch who are infamous for advocating for the privatization of our wildlife as well as the privatization the public lands they frolic on. Follow the angle of repose of SFW's line of thinking, like Kubista and Boulanger apparently do, and you will come to the conclusion that wolves—as well as the land they tread and the game they live on—must be privatized so that they may be more easily eradicated for the private good. In fact, Boulanger positioned his outfitting business up the West Fork to take full advantage of liberal hunting regulations there, which regulations and excesses, from my observation point as a former elk hunter in those parts, contributed more to the nose-diving of the herds than any five packs of wolves. In all my tromping around I never saw a wolf-torn elk carcass, but saw a statistically-significant number of shot and unretrieved elk, either dead or slowly-dying, cluttering up the woods during that time. For a while, it was a massacre. Made conscientious hunters and outfitters sick.
In appointing Boulanger, the Ravalli County commissioners chose to ignore the fact that Boulanger lost a primary bid for HD 87 to Pat Connell this last June, in large part because he inspires indigestion even among his Republican neighbors, let alone the rest of us living in the round world. This, of course is not the first time our rogue commission has chosen cronyism over democracy. A year and a half ago they appointed the chair of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, Terry Nelson, to the newly-created position of Ravalli County Office Manager, duties of which include light monitor and chair monitor but apparently not much else since these same true-believers gutted our planning department. ( ***) But I digress.
To put it bluntly, which I always strive to do, appointing someone like Boulanger to a supposedly-democratic institution like our state senate is basically a nose-thumbing at anyone to the left of that good ol’ boy Attilla, which now includes just about every Republican who hasn't fallen off the far-right edge of the world yet (just south of Conner with a special heavenly bridge to Lost Trail Ski area and various other snowmobile-accessible areas). It is the unmitigated action of dictator-wannabees, of fools or of both.

And remember: $733 a month in insurance premiums is what you the taxpayer are gonna be paying this unqualified, government-fightin' guy to...be part of our government!! To sit in one of our senator seats, in other words, for the grand private (not public) good of fighting the expansion of Medicaid and the gutting of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

In closing, I’d like to wax enigmatic. I’m going to refer you to the Montana Cowgirl blog in general, and to her posting about the recount for school superintendant in particular http://mtcowgirl.com/2012/12/06/the-ruse/   and make a few obvious observations.
·         No real superintendant candidate who hails from Martin City, Montana would think of—let alone be able to afford—a $200,000 recount of a race she almost certainly lost.
·         Couple this with Boulanger’s taxpayer-funded coronation and Lake and Koopman on the PSC.
·         Consider Mark Twain’s timeless query: “I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
·         And just like a hologram, the answer Mark Twain's query pops out in 3-D from the flat page: that the smart ones running the country are only concerned with putting on the imbeciles who really mean it, and that both groups don’t give a flying two-cents for democracy or anything or anyone else in their way.
Maybe I should start a church or something. Any suggestions for a tax-exempt name?
In case you missed these footnotes in the previous post. They bear repeating, I think.
*In a nutshell, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is energy-billionaire Koch Brothers’ corporate vehicle for secretly-buying state legislatures with junkets and other trinkets in exchange for corporate-written policies that undermine democracy and have the ultimate goal of privatizing our country’s every function, including education, prisons, state and federal legislatures. These huge corporations, of course, in many if not most cases, are either trans-national or not even based in the United States.
** To simplify: Militia-corporate style interpretations of the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution claim that any rights or duties that weren’t SPECIFICALLY spelled out in the Constitution, any rights or duties that have been interpreted over 200 years of case law are null and void, and therefore those rights and duties revert back to the states. Hence the term “nullification”. In the past as well as the present, the cause of “Nullification” has been taken up by such groups as the Montana Freemen, Posse Comitatus, Oathkeepers, and various other gun-bristling outfits whose philosophies pretty much trace back to pre-Civil War “Bloody Kansas”, the training grounds for the likes of Quantrill’s Raiders, the James Gang and the Younger brothers. Pseudo-legal 10th Amendment/nullification canards were a major component of the “paper terrorism” strategy these violent militia groups used in threatening and harassing local officials. Up until this latest mass-hysteria euphemistically dubbed Tea Party politics , “nullification” was considered so extreme no serious politician would dare mention it. Now, we’re getting corporate bills underwritten by out-of-country money promoting it and being proudly introduced by our “patriot” legislators. Really??? Really.
*** This leaves Terry, who now pulls in a taxpayer-funded $50,000 a year salary plus healthcare benefits, free to practice his true interest of using his still-held position as Republican chair to spoon-feed his nominal bosses (our rogue commissioners) rogue candidates to fill vacancies. The way it works is that when a Republican official pulls a Palin, like former commissioner Kanenwisher did, or gets a sweet new taxpayer-funded job, like Lake did, it falls to the local Republican Central Committee to “suggest” candidates to fill the vacancy. This Mr. Nelson does with alacrity, since as an anti-government extremist on the public dole he’s doing essentially nothing, NOTHING, of value for his taxpayer bosses, and also because he’s in the catbird seat of appointing those who nominally oversee him for us. A commissioner here. A state senator there. What a coincidence! The public need not sully their hands anymore with that messy governing stuff anymore. Terry and our wonderful, wonderful commissioners will do all that for us, thank you very much now go run along and play while The Gang does the real work of tearing the meat off the half-dead carcass of our democracy.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ravalli County Commissioner Deploys See-Through Smokescreen

According to an email that just surfaced yesterday (posted below), our extremist Ravalli County commission has decided that the American Lung Association is simply too radical to be dealt with other than in the most condescending, insulting and inscrutably bizarre manner. How ironic it is that this is exactly how progressives such as us garden-variety environmentalists have been treated by those in power for decades. But more on that in a minute.

First off, let’s reminisce about how these same commissioners accused all of us to the left of them (or Attila the Hun) of being U.N. Agenda 21 dupes trying to send all true patriots in Montana off to labor camps in Seattle. www.RCWatchdog.org/. Never forget the mindset of those displaying inscrutable behavior when trying to divine the motives behind that behavior. It saves time, if nothing else.

More to the point: I’ve often wondered what magical formula these Inscrutable Ones use when they complain so bitterly about natural disasters like forest fire smoke but then attempt to extricate themselves from reality when confronted with evidence that pollution from their own diesel pickups and their own burn piles—things that they can all actually do something about--are just as deadly. My casual observation is that those who complain the loudest about smoke from forest fires are often the first to light their piles of green slash upwind from communites-full of kids’ lung while their piles typically smolder unattended for days and weeks. They are also, like as not,  smokers who don’t believe in either second hand smoke or Santa Claus.  Obviously these observations of mine are unscientific and can be readily refuted by someone who can shout with a louder, angrier voice than myself.

And indeed our local extremists, including the Fosses, have been shouting mad. In fact, they’ve been making loud, angry noises lately that they intend to sue the Forest Service over smoke from summer fires. In the real world, such a lawsuit would squander the wealth of whoever was foolish enough to stake the lawyer fees to attempt it, and if Suzie succeeds in dipping into your tax money to attempt such a foolish project, hold onto your wallet.

But hold off on the real world as we peel back the delusional onion a bit. How about a quasi-real world, where the Fosses et al. actually find a secessionist-minded judge to side with them?  In such a wonderful world, this unleashed precident would  free us all to sue any one of our neighbors at any time over smoke wafting our way from their slash piles, from their unnecessarily-muscular diesel pickups and from the very woodstoves to which many Bitterrooters ascribe the metaphor "Family Hearth". Suing the government over natural disasters starts sounding rather un-American when you follow it to its natural angle of repose, doesn’t it? But never mind. In the quasi-real world of selective hypocracy, the sky would literally be the limit for all of us who desire litiginous relationships with our neighbors, which in statistically-significant cases has been shown to be a contributor to unwanted pregnancies(*).

But wait! Let’s peel the onion back one more layer, to the fantasy-world of irascible extremism where many of these folks apparently reside, a world where everybody knows that the Forest Service is aiding in the U.N.’s  Agenda 21 plan to kill off all “patriots” in the Bitterroot with their communistic, premeditated conflagerations. In this wonderful world, the reason that smoke coming off of public lands is “Big and Bad” while smoke coming off of their slash piles or out of their diesel pipes is “Good and Wholesome” is because (grab your hats, the wind’s picking up!) the smoke coming off of public lands is Big Bad Gubmint smoke (!!) while the smoke coming off of their slash pile is God-Given, “patriot” smoke.

This, folks,  is the best that I can do with the hateful, grammer-challenged email commissioner Foss sent to the American Lung Association last Tuesday in response to their request that the commissioners sign onto a letter urging President Obama to support the tightening  of regulations governing small-particulate pollution from such sources as coal and diesel. I’ve long believed that the longer these out-of-control wingnuts beat up on righteous, mainstream people like the American Lung Association, using the same uglystick the Wise Use movement has been using on environmentalists for decades, the sooner mainstream America will realize that those “radicals” they’ve been sacrificing through neglect for all these years didn’t deserve the beatings. And also that it hurts. And when that empathetic revelation hits home, evolution will begin. Maybe...

 How’s that for hope?

Here’s the full text

From: Suzy Foss
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2012 1:19 PM
To: '
jfirehammer@mrss.com'
Subject: RE: Still hope you can sign Montana elected officials letter for Lung Association
 I am sorry but until the EPA recognizes the impact of particulate matter from Forest and Grassland Fires I cannot go along with this letter.  Montana has clean top quality coal that not only produces hundreds of jobs, it heats our communities inexpensively and efficiently.  Our farmers, ranchers and trucking industry depend upon diesel fuel for their jobs.  The tons of dangerous material that hovers over the west and in the case of north to south valleys like our and Salt Lake City, not to mention that the smog from the fires eventually hits the east coast and beyond, this issue is going to kill our western citizens far sooner than the impact you talk about.  Wildfires at the intensity we experience today are new to our environment due to the totally misguided management by the Federal Government.  Overgrown forests, thick under stories of fuel and a let it burn policy has destroyed the health, economies, culture and ability to safely live our lives.  The soot you worry about does not even begin to drive us from our homes and way of
life (**).
Thank you, 
Suzy Foss
Ravalli County Commissioner

Ravalli County Commissioners Office
215 South 4th Street, Suite A
Hamilton, MT 59840
406-375-6510 phone 406-375-6507 fax

(*) Just kidding.
(**) What a wonderful, wonderful world these people live in. Praise the lord and pass the Thorazine, please

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to Regroup at the Gates of Mordor

12/7/12
Two days ago I attended a Legislative Summit in Helena put on by a long list of Montana groups concerned about the makeup and direction of our upcoming Tea Party-infested 2013 Legislature. AARP, American Cancer Society, MEA/MFT, Montana Conservation Voters, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Montana Human Rights Network, Western Native Voice and Montana Small Business Alliance are just a sampling of the advocacy groups who sponsored the summit and who will be fighting a defensive battle to retain YOUR rights that will be under a full-court, well-funded attack by this rogue legislature (*). We all need to first of all pay close attention and second of all be prepared to give of our time, money and efforts to go to Helena and support YOUR allies in person. It’s going to be bad for them, and they will need you. Also, given the ATP-rigged make-up of the House and Senate, a governor’s veto of bad bills will be much harder to sustain than it was last session. Here’s my first attempt to help you in the former, and inspire you to participate in the latter. I’m talking car pools to Helena and rally organizing etc. Of course phone calls, emails, letters etc. are also essential: http://www.leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/63rd/roster.asp?HouseID=0&SessionID=107
But this session they need to see as many of us face-to-face as often as we can personally manage. Please start the process of considering what you can give. This looks like it’s going to be a nasty session. Right now most of the declared bills don’t have text yet, so the specifics are yet to come. Be prepared for ugly surprises and I’ll try to provide details as I get them.
Here’s a partial recap of what I found out and networked on last Tuesday:
·         Bitterrooters: Know that Family Planning will probably come under attack again, probably under the gigantic budget bill, which makes it harder to see. Please consider attending House and Senate Taxation Committee hearings, even if you don’t have all the numbers in your heads. This is how they get away with their defunding/privatization schemes. They confuse us and plow ahead with their ALEC-written corporate agenda (**)  http://billmoyers.com/tag/alec/  Show up and let them see your face, hear your voice, even on seemingly arcane issues, let them know that you know what these discussions mean to programs you care about and that you are paying attention. Don’t let them bully you with numbers.
o   This state-wide attack on Family Planning will probably be accompanied with another attack on our local program by our commissioners, either during or right after the legislative session. Get angry and get ready.
·         “Revising education laws” looks like the main topic of draft bills currently in the hopper. This is bad, bad news for parents and educators. Look for ALEC –written Creationism bills (euphemistically-dubbed “Intelligent design” and school privatization bills (euphemistically-dubbed “school choice”, “charter schools” and “vouchers”) They’re surfacing as I write. Our local legislator, Nancy Balance, has submitted at least one of them so far, and will surely be involved.
·         Fringe Militia tenets such as county-Supremacy (euphemistically-dubbed “Coordination”), anti-govt./ secessionist screeds such as state sovereignty (10th Amendment canards) and going back to the gold standard are already in the hopper as well. Wording  for 10th amendment/Coordination bills introduced in past sessions have come boiler-plate straight from ALEC’s “model bill” fashion plates they serve up to our private (not “public”) servants with their steak and lobster bribes.
o   This is important to remember: much the official jibber-jabber you’re going to hear about “constitutional principles” , “freedom” and “2nd Amendment solutions” can be traced straight back to mutli-national corporations, including money from Saudi Arabia and Dubai, through ALEC.
§  Really??? Really.
·         LGBT issues will be assuredly attacked, and any local and state gains will be retained by fighting for them. Expect no new gains. Anticipate losses. Federal gains will be challenged under “10th Amendment” bills. Look for creative variations and downright fights.
·         Under the federal expansion of Medicaid, Montana has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make sure tens of thousands of citizens have health care. This will also bring tens of millions of dollars into the state and create tens of thousands of jobs, as well as help assure there’s a healthy workforce to take advantage of those jobs. This expansion, as well as the Affordable
Care Act, with similar clear benefits to the state and its citizenry, will be under extreme attack on many fronts, including the disingenuous (and frankly seditious) interpretation of the Constitution in general, and the 10th Amendment specifically (***).
·         Again: many horrible bills were successfully vetoed last session. That’s because Schweitzer had enough votes in the legislature to sustain those vetoes. Two things here:
o   We need at least half a dozen Republican legislators on each and every horrible bill who will help sustain vetoes from the governor’s office this session. Think “personhood”, “creationism”, privatizing schools, “coordination”, the “gold standard” and the flock of other ugly issues you don’t want to see codified into law by these corporate stooges (*). Plan on showing your face or plan on being the laughing-stock of the country.
o   The end-run around democracy used in the last session was the resolution to put a bill on the ballot as a referendum. This only requires a simple majority vote, which the extremists have, and avoids the governor’s desk all together. ALL of their referenda passed this last election, and it is certain they will do this again. We may see a ballot in 2014 with as many as 20 extreme initiatives on it, sustaining that national laugh at our painful expense. Mitigation of this certainty calls for rallies and other “getting-out-on-the-street” activities, such as Wisconsin saw in 2011.
§  Really??? Really.
The above are my educated predictions. I’ve been researching for the sake of folks in the Bitterroot who are gonna need as much info as they can get on the doings of the likes of Thomas and Ballance, and I’ll do my best to be accurate. If something doesn’t jibe, please let me know and I’ll pass it along. I think most of my underpinnings are correct, and a lot of what I’m warning about will come true.
Or...you can prove me wrong by getting seriously involved. I don't mind eating crow, but it's best eaten served up warm. That’s all I ask. Don’t let ‘em mainstream their roadkill agenda til the crow gets cold. I’ll be right by then,  and then I won’t eat it.                               
*My personal analysis, but look at how much money was pumped into Ravalli Co. Republican primary races last Spring by ATP, look at Fred Thomas’ picture on the MT Legislative website, and please prove me wrong.
**In a nutshell, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is energy-billionaire Koch Brothers’ corporate vehicle for secretly-buying state legislatures with junkets and other trinkets in exchange for corporate-written policies that undermine democracy and have the ultimate goal of privatizing our country’s every function, including education, prisons, state and federal legislatures. These huge corporations, of course, in many if not most cases, are either trans-national or not even based in the United States.
*** To simplify: Militia-corporate style interpretations of the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution claim that any rights or duties that weren’t SPECIFICALLY spelled out in the Constitution, any rights or duties that have been interpreted over 200 years of case law are null and void, and therefore those rights and duties revert back to the states. Hence the term “nullification”. In the past as well as the present, the cause of “Nullification” has been taken up by such groups as the Montana Freemen, Posse Comitatus, Oathkeepers, and various other gun-bristling outfits whose philosophies pretty much trace back to pre-Civil War “Bloody Kansas”, the training grounds for the likes of Quantrill’s Raiders, the James Gang and the Younger brothers. Pseudo-legal 10th Amendment/nullification canards were a major component of the “paper terrorism” strategy these violent militia groups used in threatening and harassing local officials. Up until this last Tea Party spectacle, “nullification” was considered so extreme no serious politician would dare mention it. Now, we’re getting corporate bills underwritten by out-of-country money promoting it and being proudly introduced by our “patriot” legislators. Really??? Really.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Reagan, Bigotry and Evolution

“I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
                                                                                    Mark Twain
  

In August of 1980, a former California governor chose to do an odd thing. Originally, before he was a governor, he’d been an actor in westerns portraying men with easy access to guns working out Civil War-era post-traumatic stress disorder. He was telegenic, he knew his part, and the rich loved him.
He showed up in an obscure town named Philadelphia, Mississippi, where he was to give his first speech after winning the Republican candidacy for president.
As we all know, many Americans still can’t point out Iraq or Afganistan on a wordless map, nor can they attach meaningful words to Philadelphia, Mississippi today. So, as we labor through our various manifestations of post-election depression, as we wonder mightily at where all this hatred is coming from and struggle with our very memories, the following are a few meaningful words I would like to attach to Philadelphia, Mississippi, which I fear has become yet another blank spot on the low-information map which we Americans seem to prefer these days for navigating around painful issues.
Philadelphia, Mississippi was the town where three civil rights workers--James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner--were murdered by the Klan only sixteen years before Reagan showed up, in 1964, the same year Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. In fact, the murders of the three young men during the civil rights action known as Freedom Summer was one of the big straws that finally broke Jim Crow’s back in Mississippi and the South, and compelled the nation’s first Southern president since the Civil War into finally passing any civil rights act at all.
Freedom Summer, in turn, was organized by a lot of groups, but the main one was the now-legendary Students’ Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. SNCC was a group of young people who believed in doing things that were seen as presumptuous and threatening to the powerful. Sit-ins, freedom rides, marches on Washington, things that would get them jailed, beat up, killed. They were willing, in other words, to put it all on the line in a commitment for justice we provincial citizens haven’t seen the likes of since. Not surprisingly, these kids became more powerful than the seemingly-insurmountable powerful interests they opposed, and in the process they invented concepts and phrases still widely held in contempt by those who would still keep them down. For instance, one of SNCC’s presidents, Stokely Carmichael, popularized the term “Black Power”, a phrase that defeated segregationists in the South found presumptuous at best.  And the presumptuous goal of Stokely Carmichael and the murdered men during the Freedom Summer of ’64?  To register eligible voters.  
That shadow you may be sensing peering over your shoulder is the ghost of madame Déjà vu. We’ve been here before, haven’t we?
As with so many other campaign speeches coming from freshly-minted presidential candidates, Reagan’s speech was a calculated one, carefully crafted to set the tone for the candidate’s trajectory into history, and, as in real estate, armed conflict and other human endeavors, location was considered important. Reagan obviously chose Philadelphia, Mississippi out of approximately four million square miles of word-challenged United States territory for a specific reason: to aim his trajectory into history, and he did not mince his words. In an open ploy to woo working-class Americans away from paying attention to their own best interests, Reagan declared that “states’ rights” and truncated interpretations of the U.S. Constitution that would shrink the government’s power to regulate those who felt entitled to unregulated wealth, bigotry or both would be his central themes. Of course these were the very themes the South had used a century earlier to defend their “peculiar institution” and to forever justify the resultant Jim Crow century.
Reagan didn’t quite go so far as to call for a rebirth of the Confederacy, but in the eyes of all the white voters who openly resented the Civil Rights Act, “Black Power”, and who secretly carried the murders of Philadelphia, Mississippi within their own troubled souls, he did a good job of acting like he did. Madame Déjà vu was running a full-on cathouse, selling memories if nothing else.
Bigotry, like nuclear war, is a revelation you can rely on. The dread of both will sit there unexposed, invisible until it’s stirred and forced to the fore, floats for a while like sun specks on the skin of your eyes, temporarily annoying. Then gone just as quickly, denied and forgotten even though it’s swimming right before your eyes, like a shark, or sun specks.
Follow the thread of the cloth and it’s easy to see why we disengage before we trace the subject home. Be thankful, I guess, that it all comes so easy for us, but I still have a couple of questions. Is bigotry uniquely human and if not, does our uniquely-human bigotry necessarily steer us towards environmental catastrophe to the point of our own extinction? I mean, is it natural to be a bigot, or are we really the only beings on this planet hell-bent on destroying ourselves? Are there any studies? Ants, maybe? Wasps? Didn’t the Nazis have ‘God Is With Us’ stamped on every German soldier’s belt buckle? 
In other words, if we’re so smart, shouldn’t we evolve or something?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Sounds of Silence


There’s a book out now. I haven’t read it but I think I should, and I think you should, too. It’s written by a professional musician, Bernie Krause, whose work on the soundtracks of iconic movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Apocalypse Now” as well as his regular work with iconic musicians like Bob Dylan, the Byrds, George Harrison etc. have made him a household name in households that hold professional musicians. He knows his way around recording equipment, in other words, which flags his other work of recording natural sounds in pristine habitats as particularly poignant and important. His book is about how the natural world is demonstrably and unequivocally quieting down due to environmental degradation and resultant extinctions. What stands out are some numbers: over the last 40 years, Mr. Krause has collected 4,500 hundred hours worth of sounds emitted from 15,000 species. He now estimates that half of those recordings are unique archives, impossible to repeat due to extinctions of habitat, species or both. 

Eminent scientists have been telling us for a long time. Eminent social malcontents even longer. Now it's our eminent musicians’ turn. It’s about time. Read about Krause’ book here, and see what you think. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/09/05-2 Thinking’s good, I think.

Speaking of thinking, I was driving home from town the other day, making my way west up Bear Creek Road where I usually get a good look at one of the clear and majestic Bitterroot canyons that remind me why I’ve chosen to live in Montana on short wages for so long. This time, however, I couldn’t make out the canyon a mile and a half away due to poor visibility from the smoke belching out of the giant fires to the west of us, in the wilderness, and to the south of us, from the Salmon River drainage in Idaho. The whole visible world was cloaked in an eerie, greenish-orange sunset. Quite weird and, in a perverse way, very beautiful. All I needed was a Bernie Krause soundtrack to cap it off, cinematographically-speaking.

But of course, this is no specially-effected movie of a future, fictional, degraded world a future, fictional, degraded society is struggling within like we throng to theatres to horrify ourselves with these days (“Hunger Games” just for example). My family, including our six-year-old daughter with still-growing lungs, has been breathing this off-color smoke for the last month. It’s become commonplace and expected this time of year now. I’ve lost count, but for the fourth or fifth time the Lost Trail ski hill on the Montana-Idaho border will be saved by the government the owner of the hill hates. Eventually, the deafening sound of extinction will waft over that hill, too, and for all his anti-government posturing, the well-meaning owner won't be able to stop the government from saving him, or find anyone else to blame when the ski hill finally burns other than himself and his tea-soaked cronies. Nice guy that he truly is, he’s willfully provincial. Been here too long to really understand, I guess, or to give a damn where all the meadowlarks went.

We talk much of future calamities caused by a heating world and, as a corollary, we like to scare ourselves with movies about bleak worlds that we don’t think apply to us. But we in Montana and throughout the West are just like that frog in the slowly boiling pot, who doesn’t notice she’s being boiled to death until just before the final degree kills her, and it’s far too late to jump out. Indeed, by that time, she’s quite forgotten how to jump.

These times are when Wilderness shines as the enlightened concept that it has been right from its early-20th Century start. Because we preserved some wild areas, a lot of people developed a yearning to go and see them. And because a lot of people heeded that yearning here in the Northern Rockies over the past decades, there's now a critical mass of people who might understand when someone like my humble self asks you to visualize those delicate, fairy-land tairn-ponds and wet areas up in the high country in August, fringed with pink elephant-head and purple gentian, whose primary late-summer contribution to the Whole is to ooze out the last of the melting snows into the headwaters of our creeks, which in turn are the headwaters of our rivers. Imagine now twenty years hence, more or less, when those high-altitude sponges dry up because all the snowfields disappeared in July, and there is forevermore no snowmelt to feed the creeks and rivers we paid so dearly for to call home. Imagine what’s left of our trout-laden rivers, slowing and warming to the no-return point where they can no longer support cold-water-dependent trout populations. Then ask yourself: will those living here in fifty years accept the resultant sucker holes to be the norm, and will they therefore find them beautiful. Or will they realize that there is some huge piece of themselves missing, that they are living in a horribly degraded world, forevermore? And then what?

I have a background in forestry, native-plants restoration and living large parts of my life outdoors, which doesn’t make me any kind of an expert. Just savvy enough to tell you definitively—and with profound sadness--that this is not only going to happen. It’s happening. To us. Right now.

We are living in the slowly-boiling pot. Living through our lungs in this case, viscerally, just like the frog does with her skin. We just refuse to admit that we are so confined, that we have so confined ourselves. Egocentric critters that we are—and I’m no pschycologist either--I’m guessing our degraded day-to-day reality is too much like being the star in a scary movie where the screenwriter goes on strike due to poor working conditions and refuses to save us from impossible odds. Too scary to look at.

I’ve often said that Denial is a great human tool for getting ourselves out of the woods with a broken leg, but it's also a tool that devolves into dented monkey wrenches used inappropriately as hammers when applied to politics and other social disciplines where you actually have to acknowledge the Pain in order to do anything about it.

We have all the information on Global Warming we need to compel us. Our leading scientists have been warning us for a quarter-century that it’s an observable, replicable and therefore-scientific fact that we are living far beyond our means, that catastrophes and gothic-cloaked, degraded environments await us all, rich and poor.

Now it appears even our leading musicians are willing to speak with the same irrefutable authority. And yet here we are, a quarter century after scientific officialdom felt comfortable enough with its data to declare to political officialdom that we simply must quit shitting in our nest or else, and political officialdom has not only done nothing, but has willfully shifted the state vehicle in reverse, causing the first dire predictions to become either increasingly more dire, or true. In the course of human evolution, this reversal is predictable, significant and worth examining by every one of us. The fact that bigotry—religious zeolotry, apocalyptic teabaggery, war, you name it--blends so seamlessly with earthly destruction is one of the huge and impossible Pains we must acknowledge if we’re going to get ourselves out of these woods. To put it even more bluntly, our current pathetic behavior is a Pain that every single one of us denies at great peril to our children, our grandchildren and to ourselves.

Poor frogs. Poor us.

How about we evolve or something?