Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rural Right-Wing Populism and the City-Slicker

This blog was started as my pea-shooter attempt to elevate our critical modern discussions out of Fox-news-landia and back to where intelligent (and literate) Americans can find their feet and fight back, either with the Muse, by other means, or both. It now includes essays and updates from the Bitterroot Valley, a rural area in Western Montana mostly encompassed within Ravalli County  where I am politically active in and from which I necessarily draw much of my material. “Bitterroot Politics” is intended to be informative, humorous and motivating for those of you who live in the Bitterroot and are experiencing this latest iteration of home-grown, rural right-wing populism known by me as Teabaggery first-hand. For those of you who happen upon this site and are not from the Bitterroot or rural areas like it—and I hope you do happen upon it—I try to keep “Bitterroot Politics” broad enough to be of interest to you, too. The Bitterroot is a microcosm of what’s happening throughout rural America these days. If you live in a relatively progressive area, a city for instance, and are wondering how the crazy nationalistic notions being peddled by the likes of the Koch Brothers et al. can possibly stick to the inside walls of otherwise-rational peoples’ skulls, wonder no more. Read on.
To finish up enigmatically, it’s not up to some politician to change the narrative. That’s up to us so don’t waste your time waiting for the bus. We can still get ourselves to where we need to go, so by definition we still have as good a chance as we ever had. Don't lose hope. It’s always been this way. At least in literate societies. So speak up, have fun and stay tuned.
And remember: if I do happen to come up with something original, enlightening and funny from time to time, which is of course my intent, you heard it here first.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

News Flash: Ravalli County Commissioners Save Taxpayer Cash by Buying Cheaper Tea While Blaming Wolves for the Bad Taste

Have you ever wondered how our money-saving, Constitution-thumping commissioners are spending your money these days? That’s just what I was wondering when on March 6th , I travelled to Helena to attend Fish Wildlife and Parks’ Large-Predator-Control work session. This session was specifically scheduled to offer Montana county commissioners disposed to blaming wolves for a large chunk of their counties’ ills a chance to do exactly that in front of the FWP board, which is exactly what they did. Led by our own, fastest-talking commissioner Kanenwisher, one after another stood before the FWP board and wagged their tax-payer-funded fingers at them, accusing them of everything from dishonesty to being shills for well-funded, out-of-state environmental organizations who have a secret, unspecified-yet-anti-American agenda that only these environmental organizations—and apparently only these county commissioners—were privy to. And, of course, of wasting tax dollars. One Madison County commissioner even went so far as to state that if things don’t change more to his liking, he will encourage citizens to break the law in unspecified-yet-threatening ways. This commissioner, by the way, is a fairly new arrival to Montana. But let’s not let that stop him from playing Cowboy, right?

More than half of the fifteen or so commissioners who spoke held up Ravalli County’s recently-passed “Large Predator Control Policy” as a shining example of how they planned to wrest control of scientifically-based wildlife management from the hands of Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials. Ravalli County’s policy is, of course, based almost entirely on American Stewards of Liberty’s county-supremacy scheme euphemistically dubbed “coordination”, the latest Wise-Use process they peddle as the way to cut out public involvement and write unscientific, emotion-based wildlife management public policy that suits inflammatory commissioners better than the scientific, democratic kind. Apparently Commissioner Kanenwisher was one of the ringleaders of this effort to bring this slate of commissioners with emotional issues before FWP to vent. He was enabled to coordinate this essentially anti-government message to FWP, of course and in part, by using the tax money he and his fellow commissioners saved by firing low-end women county employees, just for instance.

I was there largely to witness the spectacle, and to counter what I knew would be Kanenwisher’s characterization that Ravalli County’s “policy” was in fact scientific, democratic, and spoke for “the people” of this county through their majesties, the Ravalli County Commission. Which is what he did and what I countered.

There are many observations I could share regarding the anti-wolf hysteria our right-wing populists are so happily stoking. One would be the “testimony” presented by a six-and-a-half-foot-tall Darby resident presented during our commissioners' publicly-funded werewolf hunt that during the 2010 hunting season he backed up for a half-mile to his pick-up parked at the popular Tin Cup trailhead, firing rounds IN THE DARK at what he took to be a pack of wolves' beady eyes. Another would be that for all the years I have been seeing wolf tracks up Sweathouse and Gash Creek I have never actually seen wolves IN them, which speaks volumes about how much they want to be seen by me. But here’s a few bullet points to consider before you read the comments I submitted to the FWP board.

Have you noticed that:
·         These very same tea-sipping officials and citizens—in our neck of the woods as well as throughout Montana—who have repeatedly and consistently demanded the privatization of public lands and public policy on public lands are now the ones whining mightily about how public policy needs to be changed to push elk back on to those same evil public lands they claim to hate because it’s the only place where they can more freely kill them?
·       That American Stewards of Liberty’s county-supremacy scheme dubbed “coordination” is less a scheme to target wolves than a scheme to target pesky environmental organizations and green individuals who have stood the ground to keep the public lands these tea sippers depend on to kill the wolves they can’t find... public?
·        That the very same people who bedeck themselves with 19th century cowboy-warrior garb are the ones who claim they fear an animal that they factually see so little of they can’t find enough of them to shoot when the time comes?
Sounds a lot like the health care debate, doesn’t it? Or like every other public-policy issue these Right-wing populists and their corporate sponsors corrupt.

I don’t know if this bears repeating, but my main observation concerning this mess is that Intellectual Honesty is not a city in China. Let’s do a better job of demanding that these folks and officials acknowledge that the world really is, in fact, round. It really is embarrassing.

Comments to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Board
Re: Ravalli County Commissioners’ “Large Predator Control Policy”
American Stewards of Liberty/ “Coordination”

                                                                                                                        March 7, 2012

Ravalli County Commissioners’ “Large Predator Control Policy” that they adopted last Monday has not been properly or legally vetted with the public, does not represent the public at large, is undemocratic in nature and practice, and is extreme to the point that, if implemented in whole or in part by Fish Wildlife and Parks could seriously jeopardize Montana’s ability to manage wolves within its boundaries. There have been serious and unaddressed concerns raised within Ravalli County concerning the commissioners’ relationship to American Stewards of Liberty, the principle purveyor of what we view as a classic county supremacy scheme they term “coordination” and we urge you to continue using the best science to manage our wildlife notwithstanding emotional, antidotal and quasi-legal attempts to convince you to do otherwise, such as the Ravalli Co. “Large Predator Policy” does.

This is just a thumbnail of issues relating to what we’ve been dealing with here in Ravalli Co. in relation to this wolf policy and with “coordination” and American Stewards of Liberty. Hopefully it’ll give you an idea of the depth of concern we have about the path our commissioners have chosen in this regard.

Our commission has made it clear they intend to pursue American Stewards of Liberty’s (ASL) vision of “coordination”. They hired ASL as a consultant and we can only conclude that they are consulting with ASL on their wolf policy. According to their information and training documents, ASL recommends that local officials who buy into their scheme represent “coordination” meetings with agencies such as FWP as “government-to-government” where “there will be no public comment because of the government-to-government nature of the meetings” . This concept sets the groundwork for forming hoc, undemocratic committees to develop policy, such as they have done in this case, excluding voices they don’t approve of, such as organizations like Wolf watchers, then taking the policy to agencies such FWP and claiming that the public has already spoken through them and now it’s time not to listen to any pesky naysayers because now the conversation is “government-to-government”. Below are just a couple of examples from Commissioner Foss to demonstrate that they do indeed believe that they have the jurisdiction to “help” you make wildlife management decisions.
“Coordination is a process required by federal law, and one part of the nine criteria some state and all federal agencies must meet within any county where they conduct business. With coordination, your commissioners, when they have developed various county wide management tools, and advised federal agencies of their intent, can require those conducting business, resource management, etc. within their county, to coordinate the agency's policies with those of the county. All it really takes is informing those agencies of the requirement and preparing the documents defining county management.” Ravalli Republic Oct. 2010
“You do not need to have your policy or plan in place to invoke coordination. You can send a letter of coordination to an agency in which you want to work (sic) and at that moment they have to start working with you on an equal footing…” Transcript from Suzie Foss’ testimony before Senate Local Government Committee in support of SB 117 – Coordination Between Local and Feds sponsored by Sen. Greg Hinkle (R-Thompson Falls) 1/17/11

At the commissioners’ April 5 meeting when they adopted their “large predator control policy”, Commissioner Kanenwisher stated that part of the intent of this policy to provide landowners, presumably at state or county expense, with the technological tools to detect collared wolves in the vicinity so that they could more easily dispose of them. This is not hunting or fair chase in any way. Also at that meeting, substantive changes were being made to the document they voted on during that 45-minute session they allotted for passing the policy. Needless to say, there was no chance for anyone other than those few in the room to review that document or have any say whatever in whether or not they agreed with it or not. Notwithstanding a vocal and emotional minority, the public-at-large has been cut out this process from the beginning, and this “Large Predator Control Policy” you have before you from Ravalli Co. represents no more than the opinion of five commissioners.

The full video of this meeting, as well as a wealth of other related material, can be viewed on . We highly recommend you peruse this site before considering changing your large-predator policies in any way to match Ravalli County Commissioners’ suggestions.

Thank you , Bill LaCroix