Friday, September 27, 2013

Sure, I'm a Marxist!

“I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”

                                                                                                                        Groucho Marx

Well, it didn't work. Despite my dire predictions that frogs will be in charge of eternally damning them, our tea-soaked county commissioners torpedoed the rock-bottom health care needs of over 400 low-income women and men (mostly women) by unequivocally refusing Title X funds that floated our Family Planning clinic. This latest, particularly sickening, example of their religious intolerance evoked yet another letter to the local papers (from me, below), but it also brings up some interesting parallel realities for us Montanans to ponder on.

The most dysfunctional Montana state legislature ended just a few months ago. Remember? It was so tea-soaked that the bottom fell out of the cardboard box these cruel AynRandians used to carry their lighter-than-air ideological fruitcakes around the halls of the Capitol that they would beat us over our heads and hearts with. One successful fruitcake they whupped us with was their denial of Medicaid coverage for over 70,000 low-income Montanans, while at the same time refusing tens of millions of healthcare dollars that would have come into our state, but now will be spent elsewhere[i]. They were very, very proud of this sanguinary achievement, which was predictable in a way only to those living in the same Bizarro World these folks reside in[ii], since this cruel act was one of the only things they did get accomplished.

That's because Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed most of their worst bills, including their passage through both houses of:

·      A bill that would have refused Title X funds statewide.

·      A bill that would have allowed develop(er)mentally-challenged county commissioners to consider only "adjacent agriculture" rather than agriculture as a whole when they ache to approve a mega-subdivision or five, which our commissioners dearly and always do ache to do[iii].

 Bullock vetoed both these bad boys, and, ironically, these are the two core issues that have any fight in them here in the Bitterroot. These two lapses in our commissioners’ famously limited judgment [iv], I hope and pray[v], may finally be our watershed moment.

Consider: If Title X funds had been refused statewide, these commissioners would not have had to insult a whole valley by refusing our local share of it all by their self-righteous selves, and their meeting room would not have been filled to the brim FOUR times in a week and a half with passionate people who maybe for the first time saw them for the American Taliban that they truly are. Simultaneously, if “adjacent agriculture” had become the law of Montana when it came to considering subdivisions, these commissioners would not have been lying through their teeth to an equally numerous (and different) outraged public when they approved Legacy Supersized Subdivision by saying to the good folks who showed up at their various packed meetings to condemn Legacy that they could only comment on “adjacent agriculture” and then turning around and say—in true upside-down Bizzarro World Speak—that they really meant “all that agriculture stuff since that’s what we were legally supposed to mean so shut up and go back to your minimum wage job so you can pay for your own heathcare you lazy welfare cheats”[vi]

Thus, in one swell foop, as Marx would say, our Inestimable Ones managed to unequivocally demonstrate to the entire valley now paying keen attention to their antics that the only reason these fundamentalist warriors running our county are in their positions of power is solely and exclusively because they are bought and paid for by deep-pocketed, out-of-state and even out-of-country development interests who have always polluted our local politics, interests who always have preferred compromised individuals to thinking rational beings when it comes to getting what they want out of local taxpayers. The peas, as everyone should see by now, are in the same pod. Discounting denial—which we should-- if you don’t like political theocrats, then you don’t like developer puppets. If you, Montana Heartland of Rural America, think you can have Tea Party politicians push back against that mean ol’ gubmint without turning the religio-bigoted dogs of hate loose on your dogs[vii] and your land, think again.

And maybe we finally are, which is the only silver lining around the black cloud these (fill in blank) s conjured up for us to plow through.

Just for a little icing on the cake for anyone STILL in doubt: here are a couple of rumors to chew on. Commissioner Suzy, the one who first said she consulted God about her Title X decision and then changed her story to read “it’s all about my concern for the U.S. government going broke”[viii] seems to have been using her tenure as a public official (with publicly-funded health benefits!) to file Workman’s Comp claims to cover a number of expensive operations she apparently claims are the result of her achingly hard physical job of pontificating from a soft swivel chair behind a commissioner’s meeting room desk[ix]. Commissioner Jeff, another one of our other Defenders of Virginal Purity and Other Chivalric Fictions who also receives our publicly funded health benefits, may have been finding the Title X Family Planning Clinic in Missoula much to his satisfaction for services provided to his wife (yet another Ravalli Co. Republican Central Committee member). We will be quizzing them on these and other apparent discrepancies in their famous moral fortitude applied to others but not to them[x]. Stay tuned.

Anyone who’s reading this would sensibly think I was making all this up. Well, would that I were. But I’m not, and I have this to say to any of you who live in Ravalli County or live elsewhere:

Beware your local apocalyptic teabaggers. They’re Marxists[xi].

Sent to the Bitterroot Star and the Ravalli Republic

With the Ravalli County commissioners’ latest two “in-your-face” decisions still fresh in the horrified public’s mind—Legacy Ranch and Title X--a few things should be pretty clear by now:
·      The “Tea Party” movement is deeply based in theocracy.
·      Theocrats, by definition, tend to be authoritarians.
·      Authoritarians are generally either unstable or just plain dishonest, and should never, ever be given the keys to the car or to county government.
·      “Tea Party” theocrats such as our commissioners are demonstrably joined at the hip with entrenched moneyed interests, both locally and nationally. Most of them would never have gained their seats of power if not for deep-pocketed benefactors who prefer to purchase local tinpot dictators to carry their water as opposed to actual public servants.
·      Just because someone self-describes herself as a “patriot” doesn’t mean she has the best interests of We The People in mind, or even that she or he remotely believes in any of the basic democratic tenets one usually associates with our American brand of patriotism.
·      Just because a “Tea Party patriot” loves his or her freedom, there’s no reason on God’s green earth to believe that he or she loves yours.

Title X and Legacy Ranch are by no means the only time this commission has crossed the red line into the trendy make-believe world where Tea Party dictators reside. Their reckless style of governing—most-recently displayed with Title X and Legacy Ranch--has been going on for the whole three years since local extremists coupled with local and statewide development interests deposited four tinpot theocrats into our local seats of power (three commissioners and a county attorney).

If you’re still inclined to doubt, consider that Cronyism is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes. It has to be by definition. Who else, after all, can tinpots trust except their cronies?

And voila! Through fiat appointments and hirings, our Ravalli County government is now almost the mirror image of the local Republican Central Committee. In fact, the commissioners latest outrage against representative government was the hiring of RCC precinct captain Valerie Stamey to the elected position of county treasurer at $50,000-plus a year WITH PUBLICLY-FUNDED HEALTH BENEFITS at almost the very second they denied that same amount of money to cover the rock-bottom healthcare needs of over 400 low-income women![xii]

This kind of know-nothing cronyism crudely clothed in “patriotism” currently threatens our county, our state and our entire nation. It’s on full display everywhere, and has been our local tinpots’ hallmark ever since day one. It’s far past time we all pay more attention to what these people are really saying, and more importantly, what they really mean[xiii].

[i]A hospital is a parked taxi with the meter running.”                              G. Marx
[ii]Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”                          G. Marx
[iii] It’s infinitely easier for a developer-friendly commission to blow off “adjacent agriculture” concerns than agricultural concerns as a whole. Basically, if the developer keeps his fences on her side of the property line, Agriculture’s case is happily dismissed and full bulldozers ahead!
[iv]I have nothing but confidence in you, and very little of that.”                            G. Marx
[v]“Q. What do you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic and a dyslexic?
   A. Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog.”                                      G. Marx
[vi] This is one of the counts in the Bitterrooters For Planning lawsuit against them, and I’m paraphrasing, since what they actually said didn’t make any sense.
[vii] See iv
[viii] “Quote me as saying I was misquoted.”                                                  G. Marx
[ix]“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.”              G. Marx
[x] See ix
[xi]The secret to life is honesty and fair dealings. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made."   G. Marx
[xii]  “I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.”                        G. Marx
[xiii] “Why should I care about posterity? What’s posterity ever done for me?”                           G. Marx

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ravalli County Commissioners Make Sacrifice to Their Woman-Hating God by Launching Frog Into Outer Space

Frog launch at NASA's LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) mission to the Moon. 

Within the last week, our tea-soaked Ravalli County Commissioners simultaneously threw 400 low-income local women and men under their church bus by refusing $50,000 Title X grant that has funded our Family Planning Clinic for the past 42 years, got served papers for illegally forking over million-dollar county-subsidized favors to their Legacy Ranch developer benefactors, and gifted yet another $50,000-a-year plum government job (with health benefits!) to yet another of their "anti-government" cronies on the Republican Central Committee[i].

In these times when universal healthcare is being successfully characterized as communism with fangs to whole swaths of working people whom you’d think would know better, what can one say to them? That they’re dupes to rich folks knocking them upside the head with multi-billion dollar propaganda blitzes so the aforementioned Rich Ones can more perfectly wring the aforementioned Poor Ones dry? However true and oft repeated, this doesn’t seem to be the right tack, at least here in Ravalli County. Fear is an unreasoning emotion by definition, and is a powerful deficiency in working peoples' psyche. This fact has been exploited by religious hucksters for the greater glory of themselves and their cronies for at least the last 3,000 years since, which is roughly when the Greeks invented Honkyism. I’m serious.

So…Religion? Well, historically-speaking, the Greek Gods, or at least the middlemen who spoke for them, used Fear to play one group of Us The People off of another group of the same for the mere purpose of their high entertainment, much like our modern versions of cloud-bearded pschycos, the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdochs of today. It’s all a chess game to them, where they’re the Invisible Hand and we’re the pawns. Neither the Greek gods nor their modern equivalents need the extra power or riches. They just need a good joke, and we’re it, and that, dear reader, is at the rotten core of what abuse of power has always been about. Hitler had “God is With Us” stamped on every German soldier’s belt buckle. For chrissakes. Remember?

So what does one say? These wingos just threw 400 low-income women (and men) and their families under their church bus[ii] while handing over many times $50,000 in tax money to their rich political cronies? How self-righteous is that? Can we talk to them about the fundamental separation of Church and State hardwired in plain English[iii] into our Constitution? No. Can we hope to get them to understand the cruel unfairness of refusing $50,000 in federal grant money for low-income women while simultaneously gifting their “anti-government” crony with a $50,000 government job (with health benefits, by God!)? No. Can we pray? Well…

For lack of a better idea, how about imagery? These churchy people LOVE imagery. How about a picture a frog launched into oblivion by a NASA spaceship headed to the moon. If you haven’t picked it out already, study the picture above taken by a tax-funded remote NASA camera[iv], and find the frog. The poor thing was apparently hanging out on or near the launchpad where cooling water from previous launches had made a moist environment, and to all the world this accidental shot is a vivid—and explicit—image of a frog being nailed to the cross to pay for the sins of others. The sin of the rocket ship in this case, but that’s us in that rocket ship. Headed to the moon instead of taking care of our frogs and other amphibians, who are on the front line of extinction as a result of our obsessions to understand everything about everything except how to take care of ourselves and our planet. We’re going where this frog is going. It’ll just take us a little longer, because we have thicker skin.

So here’s what you and I might as well say to one of these self-righteous tea-sippers who would put the entertainment of sky gods and rich bastards playing chess above the rock-bottom healthcare needs of over 400 people who don’t have enough money to go to a doctor: I pity you if, when you die, you get to your Pearly Gates and you find out the place is run by the frogs you spent your whole oblivious life launching into the heavens, where they now reside to sit in judgement of you!

Kind of silly, but given the stakes, we have to try. The image of St. Peter as a frog has as good a chance of connecting with them as anything else we’ve come up with so far. At best, it might put the Fear of God in them. At worst, they might think it's a good joke[v].

[i] Valery Stamey, Ravalli Co. Republican Central Committee (RCC) precinct captain for Victor was just appointed by the Ravalli County Commissioner—all politically-beholden to the RCC-- to the vacated elected position of County Treasurer. Last year, Scott Boulanger, RCC precinct captain for Darby was appointed by the RCC commissioners to the vacated State Senate position. Terry Nelson, chair of the RCC, was appointed in spite of blatant conflict-interest issues, to the $50,000+/year county position of Planning Office Manager, a position specially created by the commissioners for him. All three of these “anti-government” stalwarts were gifted tax-funded salaries and healthcare benefits. These are the most blatant abuses, but the list goes on.  

[ii] If you do the math, these 400 people represent approximately 1% of Ravalli County’s population. If you factor in their families and those close to them directly and negatively affected by the commissioners’ bigoted decision, you have 5% of the Bitterroot population cruelly dismissed. If you factor in the majority of the people in this valley who support the right of those low-income folks to access our family planning clinic, you have the American version of the Taliban running our community into the ground for the sake of their small minds.

[iii] Also thanks to your tax dollars at work in our inestimable Montana State Legislature, the official language of the State of Montana!

[iv] Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on the Virginia coast across Chesapeake Bay from Washington D.C.

[v] It’s no joke at all, to the frogs or to us.