Steve Daines attempts to call us all stupid

This evening, my wife received an email from Steve Daines – our lone House of Representatives Congressman. In this email, he states he is taking a “survey” of the reactions of Montanans to the Federal ACA insurance exchange. Everything you ever wanted to know about how Steve Daines’s position on the ACA can be found in that email. For brevity, I will simply provide a link to this message posted on his official Legislative website.

Now I understand that the ACA (the Affordable Care Act) is pretty much a complicated mystery to most average voters. There is so much hype about this federal law (and much of that hype is downright bullshit) that it is often hard to sort through what is real and what is manufactured misinformation. Those of us that are somewhat tech savvie can find what we need pretty quickly and doing even basic fact checking can eliminate much of the political lies being floated about this law, but sadly, many don’t (or won’t) do that. Steve Daines is playing to that idea with this message. Let me quote just the first paragraph -

“As you might be aware, October 1 marked the official rollout of a key component of President Obama’s health care law—the Obamacare marketplace website. While the Administration had three full years to prepare for this rollout, there were numerous problems in the beginning weeks. ”

In just the first paragraph, Daines has already established his opposition to the law (a law that was passed by both the House and the Senate, signed into law by the President of the United States, and has withstood a Supreme Court Challenge), as well as couched the discussion in complete and utter bullshit. First, the ACA was the brain child of the Heritage Foundation – a conservative insurance industry lobbying group. It was championed in Congress by both Democrats and Republicans with Montana’s Senior Senator (Max Baucus) taking the lead. It is almost a carbon copy of the Insurance based health care law signed into law in Mass. by none other than Governor Romney. It bears little resemblance to the Health Care Reform that President Obama was advocating for except for some cosmetic additions (important ones such as not allowing insurance companies deny people due to pre-existing conditions, but cosmetic none the less). This “compromise” was passed and signed into law over three years ago (Daines at least got that right…).

Then Daines goes on to slam the rollout of the Federal Healthcare Exchange website. The key to all this is what Daines DOESN’T say. When the ACA was first conceived, there was only suppose to be ONE exchange – a federal exchange. This was one area where the Republicans in Congress refused to accept. Instead of a federal exchange, these hardline Republicans demanded that the States would set up their own exchanges. When the ACA was finally passed, that was the model that was suppose to happen. Enter the ultra conservative State legislatures – they chose to attempt to block the ACA by refusing to set up their own exchanges – Montana included. The Federal exchange was not meant to be a fallback position but it rapidly became one. To make matters worse, in another attempt to stop the ACA, the hard right Congress Critters defunded the Governmental agency responsible for setting up the exchanges and educating the American Voters on not only the ACA but also how to access and use the Federal Exchanges. Daines was part of this movement and he is very aware that his own actions have created the very crisis that he is slamming.

His hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. In this email, he is not only asking Montanans “to share their experience” with the Federal Exchange Website, he is also attempting to equate the technical issues with the website to the ACA itself. Moreover, by continually referring the ACA as “Obamacare” he is attempting to connect the technical problems with the website to the President, himself. This clearly obvious manipulation is unbecoming to a politician that claims to be “Montana’s voice in Washington”. Moreover, he calling each and every one of us stupid – too stupid to realize we are being lied to by Daines, too stupid to realize that he is asking us to justify the hardline position he has already taken on the ACA – up to and including shutting down the US Government over it – and too stupid to realize this is just a lame attempt on his part to do damage control over the loss of approval being shown in every poll being taken in Montana right now over his vote to shutdown the Government over the ACA.

Last, I would point out that in his multiple choice survey, there is no option to fix the ACA so it better serves American Citizens. This last point is the most telling. The options listed are -

1) Repeal [the ACA] entirely
2) Delay [the ACA] for one year
3) Repeal certain parts of the law, but keep most of it in place
4) Keep [The ACA] the way it is
5) Undecided

Notice, no mention of fixing or working cooperatively with … well pretty much anyone.. on making the ACA better. It is obviously Daines intent to destroy the ACA and he is looking for support from Montanans. He isn’t even being honest about it. This is the man that current represents “our” interests in Congress.

With my wife’s permission, I am going to reprint my wife’s response to Daines (I really couldn’t have said it better myself) -

“A) It is not ‘Obamacare’ it is the ACA – written in large part by our own Senator Baucus- you are letting your personal opinions come through in the way this survey is written.

B) The ACA would allow my daughter to get medical insurance. She works for a small company with fewer than 50 employees so they don’t have to provide medical insurance….

C) The problem for her now is that our own lovely state legislators refused to expand the Medicaid requirements. Because she makes slightly over $1000/month (before taxes and with a family of 6!) she cannot quality for Medicaid and she falls below the levels set for the ACA assistance. The website tells her she has to apply for Medicaid, which she cannot quality for because our legislators didn’t think the less affluent citizens of our state needed or deserved access to medical care.

D) I don’t buy the above statement in your question, where you state that we are seeing our insurance rates skyrocket. I just got the new rates for my insurance through BCBS – wow, they are going up a whole whopping $5 per month. I see what you wrote as scare tactics. As an intelligent, informed, attentive voter, I really do not appreciate those types of tactics from one of my elected politicians.

How about instead of jumping on the bandwagon of crying about how bad the ACA is because of some problems with the website and towing the ‘party line’, you focus on things that you and we as Americans can do to make the program actually work! Wow! What a concept. “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem”

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

It is time to loosen up your underwear, it is effecting your brain

Some days, I love Facebook. I like to see what is happening with my friends, I like the articles I read on the various pages I have liked and I like the cool ideas and information I gather from various sources. I even like the cute cat pictures everyone seems to want to post. There are also days that I really HATE Facebook. Today was one of those days.

I have friends that come from all kinds of political, religious, and social circles. It isn’t all that unusual for me to disagree with something someone has posted and I can usually just skip on by because most of my “friends” on Facebook are friends because of some specific common activity or ideal. I don’t expect everyone I have “friended” to post things I agree with 100% – that would be ridiculous. Some days, though, I see a never-ending parade of things I just can’t get past. Today was one of those days.

I grew up in a simpler time. If you wanted to send someone something, you wrote a letter. If you wanted to call someone, you had to call them on a phone connected to a jack in the wall. We didn’t have Ipads, Ipods, Computers, Laptops, MP3 players, WOW, 197 channels on the TV, or instant access (in stereo) to every event that occurred all over the world. If the President wanted to address the American Public, he did so on all three channels and it was BIG news. You usually only had one source of print news (unless you lived in a larger city) and you usually only had one choice when it came to national news (always on at 5:00pm). You trusted the reporters that reported that news to be fair, unbiased and “just the facts”.

Times have definitely changed. Now we do have Ipads, Ipods, Computers, the Intertubes thing, and 197 channels on our TV bringing you instant updates on every little issue all over the world in living color. You can hear about everything the President does in nice little slices on Twitter downloaded automatically to your cellphone and you just KNOW what is going on because your favorite news personality has told you what to think about it. You have constant and instant access to every opinion, “fact”, conspiracy, scandal and lie anytime of day, anywhere you are.

I avoided getting a cellphone when I worked at Intel. In fact, I swore I would never own a cellphone. The idea of someone being able to call me anytime, anywhere was simply too much an invasion of privacy for me to even consider. As I type this, I am wearing one on my belt. Granted, it is armored so I won’t break it, and it doesn’t have a big screen for surfing the Internet, but I could if I wanted to. It even has a GPS locator so my wife can keep tabs on me if I get my silly ass lost in the woods when I am hiking.

We take these things for granted now. Our kids grew up with the damn things and they know more about how to use them than I ever will. You can listen to music on them, you can remotely access your computer on them, you can use them as a walkie talkie, you can text instant messages back and forth on them and that is just for starters. My daughter pointed out to me that my phone even has a cool, built in pedometer in it (all the while looking at me as if I was some kind of retarded child for not knowing that in the first place). It actually is a technological marvel if you consider it for a moment.

Sadly, the cellphone has also completely changed the landscape of National Security. They provide instant communication to anyone, anywhere in the world. They can be used to coordinate operations, locate targets, give advance Intel for operations, upload and download operational information, take pictures of targets or classified information and send them anywhere in the world… the list goes on. There are quite likely even more things they can used for by people intent on causing death and destruction to the United States of America that I haven’t even begun to consider. They are also really useful for setting off bombs…

Herein lies my dislike of Facebook today. Everyone seems to want to talk about the current “scandal” over the US Government seizing the records of one of the largest domestic and international wireless company in the world. You would think the very sky was falling and we should all climb into the holes we have dug in our backyards. The Government is coming to get us all. Load up the AR’s, pack up all your belongings into the bugout vehicle and make your getaway. Except for a few facts that need to be pointed out….

1) On Sept 11th, 2001, a group of terrorists belonging to the Muslim Extremist group, al-Qaeda, seized a number of passenger jets and flew those jets into the World Trade Center buildings in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington DC. Another group attempted to hit a third target but the plane was brought down in a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers attempted to take the plane back from the terrorists. This changed American society in ways that we are just now beginning to understand- the most important one being that we learned how to really be afraid. One of those changes was the enactment of the Patriot Act. This Act created the Department of Homeland Security and it gave the US Government special powers – many of which arguably violate the Constitution of the United States. Let me be clear here, while I personally disagreed with the Patriot Act at the time it was enacted, it was supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. It was a piece of legislation that was enacted out of fear and it wasn’t to be last such fear driven piece of legislation.

2) Between then and now, the Federal Government has used the Patriot Act to seize records for communication companies on many occasions. Just how many is still unknown because the Government is not required to inform the public of these seizures. Usually, the public finds out about them because someone in the Government leaks the information to the press for some kind of political gain. It happened multiple times during the Bush Administration (the largest one to my knowledge being when AT&T handed over more than 3 terabytes of data on it’s customers to the US Government without even requiring a warrant) and it has happened multiple times during the Obama Administration. To date, NONE of these seizures have been done illegally. They have all met with the requirements put forth in the Patriot Act, they have all met the many legal challenges made against them and they were done in the name of National Security.

3) On April 15th, Two brothers successfully exploded two pressure cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon. While a relatively small number of people were injured or killed, because the attack was terrorist in nature and because of the possibility of it being done by Muslim radicals or al-Qaeda, the national reaction to this event was again highly publicized and politicized. To make matters worse, many radical Muslim leaders have called for other American Muslims to enact similar terrorist attacks on American Soil.

If you consider these three things, it suddenly becomes very clear why the United States Government might want to examine phone records from one of the largest domestic and international wireless company in the world. Suddenly it becomes clear why they would even consider mining all that data. They don’t care if you are banging the woman next door, they aren’t looking to see if you own guns and they certainly aren’t preparing to round us all up and put us in FEMA camps. In fact, it is obvious that they are doing EXACTLY what we told them we wanted them to do after September 11th, 2001 – protect us from the mean, nasty terrorist that want to kill us all and rape out women.

Consider for a moment just how much data we are talking about here. The average person makes about 14 calls a day on their cellphone. I use mine a lot less, some people seem to use theirs nonstop, but the average (according to the data I can find) is 14 calls a day. Given the 10′s of millions of Verizon customers, that makes hundreds of millions of calls a day. Multiply that by the number days covered by the warrant (and the reports are conflicting on just how many days the warrant covered), you are talking about tens of Terrabytes of data. It will take months to even begin to mine that data even if they have a sophisticated algorithm to do the number crunching.

So who do we get angry with when we read that Verizon handed over the records they were REQUIRED BY LAW to hand over? Do we blame the President for doing the job we hired him to do – protecting our nation from all threats, foreign and domestic? Do we get mad at Verizon for following the law when faced with a Federal Warrant? Do we get mad at the Congressmen who failed to kill the Patriot Act when they had the chance?

I say “BULLSHIT”. If you really want to get all butthurt about it, then get butthurt at the people who are really at fault… ourselves. We demanded that the Government protect us from the mean nasty Muslim people who brought down the Towers. We demanded that the Government use the CIA, the NSA, the FBI and all those other three letter agencies to root out these threats and keep us safe. We never stopped to consider just how they would have to do that – which brings me back to the that cellphone sitting within easy reach of your hand 24/7.

Unlike a landline, a cellphone is almost impossible to track – especially if the owner is moving. If the cellphone has a GPS locator and the authorities know the number, they can always have the GPS locator turned on remotely, but that takes information and time to accomplish. It certainly isn’t as easy as CSI:NY makes it appear to be. Moreover, a cellphone can’t be “tapped” like a landline. You can record the number that the cellphone called, the length of the call etc, but you can’t listen in on what is said. It is a numbers game. If you have enough data to work with, and you have a list of phone numbers that are likely linked with badguys, you can use an algorithm to try to identify suspicious calls. That is pretty much it. To make matters worse, anyone can walk into the neighborhood grocery store or department store and for the low price of 29.99, you can walk out with an untraceable, throwaway cellphone.

The fact is, we don’t have many real facts. We know that the Federal Government presented Verizon with a Federal Warrant for phone records between specific dates. We do NOT know what Federal investigation this was for and the Federal Government CANNOT legally tell us. In fact, there is very little the Federal Government can say about the investigation without violating the law. Those trying to make a big deal about this are using that simple fact of law to make this a much larger scandal than it is. We may never know what the investigation was about – that is a simple fact of National Security. I am quite sure we never find out about a LOT of Federal investigations. Anyone that tells you they have the facts about this situation is LYING to you either for profit or some kind of idealistic gain. Use your head and don’t give into the fear being peddles by either politicians for political gain or the media for financial gain.

Now let’s be clear… I am a Verizon customer. I do NOT like the idea that the data captured from every phone call I have made over the period of time covered by the Federal Warrant in now in the hands of the NSA/FBI. To me, it is an invasion of privacy. That said, I know that the law was followed, and the Government is currently authorized to do exactly what they have done. Until the law changes, this was not the first time this has happened and it certainly won’t be the last. Sadly, given the technology that exists today, I am not sure what a better answer would be on how to deal with that technology.

Let me make one more thing perfectly clear. Any politician that wants to make this about the President of the United States over-reaching his authority has lost all credibility with me. It was CONGRESS that gave the Executive Branch the authority when it passed the Patriot Act and then voted to extend it. In fact, every single Congressman making a big deal about this voted to either pass the Patriot Act originally or voted to extend it, making them world class hypocrites.

Don’t give into the fear that has pervaded almost every aspect of our lives. It sickens me just how much we fear EVERYTHING today. I remember a time when we weren’t so afraid and I miss those days.

Posted in Federal, Politics | Leave a comment

Radicalizing the Internet

In a recent comment conversation about Dark Money on another blog, my Brother made a statement that has stayed with me.

Dark money is *not* the biggest threat to Democracy today. Radicalization in the
Internet age is, but that’s a discussion for another time. Dark money has proven itself far less effective than it’s hype would actually have us believe.

This was in response to a statement made by another person commenting on the article and while I still believe that Corporatism IS the single largest threat to our political Democracy (and dark money is just one of the tools used by corporatists to enact that agenda), I have been pondering my Brother’s words. What does he mean by “Radicalization in the Internet Age”?

Since he hasn’t – as of the time of this writing – explained his statement, I can only guess at this meaning. Rather than put words into his mouth, I will explore my concerns along those lines.

I remember when society (American Society, anyway) rejoiced at entering the “information age”. A great deal of time was spent lauding how the information age would set up free. Now, decades later, we realise that the “information age” has hardly set us free and, some would argue, has actually caused  us to be more ignorant. I am rapidly leaning in that direction myself. If this is what my Brother was talking about, I can see his point.

Take, for example, the three recent “scandals” facing the President Obama’s administration. Three very real events have been blown completely out of proportion by political pundits and the media, and even though we have all the information available to us to realise that these three issues are NOT the scandals that the pundits want them to be, we – as a society – seem to cling to them as some kind of gospel.

Jim Wright, over at Stonekettle station has done a far better job than I could explaining why the first two scandals are completely and utterly overblown. I won’t try to mangle his points by regurgitating them here. Instead, I will simply link his discussion about Benghazi and the supposed IRS scandal. You really should read them. They are very enlightening – especially the one on Benghazi. You see, Jim Wright is not only in a very unique position to comment on that particular event, he has experience and knowledge that most of us don’t that relates to that situation.

The point, here, is that, had the average American done ANY real research into either situation, they would rapidly realise that neither situation is even remotely represented by the either the media or the pundits. Simple things like – 1) We could NOT legally sent troops to aid the station in Benghazi because it is AGAINST THE LAW. 2) The IRS is REQUIRED to ensure that those that apply for 501 (c) (4) tax status are doing so within the bounds of the law and 3) NOT ONE conservative organization that applied for tax exempt status was refused. None of the media outlets have even brushed on those little facts and the pundits are certainly not bringing them up. You see, they WANT you to believe that there is a scandal. The media sources make money off of them and the pundits want to entertain you so you will continue to read them. Herein lies the issue with the so called “information age”. We have so MUCH information at our disposal that we have lost the ability to distinguish between “good” information and “bad” information. Moreover, we WANT to believe the “bad” information so much that we choose to stay ignorant of the facts.

Case in point… How many of you check on the validity of what you read/share on Facebook? My newsfeed is quite literally littered with story after story (or meme after meme if you will) that has little basis in fact, and yet the people that post that information/meme believe in it wholeheartedly. Hell, I have had people unfriend me because I had the audacity to disprove one of their pet meme’s. Today I read a post (copied for a political website, the Daily Kos) that was obviously bogus. It took me all of about 40 secs to verify that it was bogus, but the Kos author still posted it on their site.

The problem isn’t that we don’t have access to factual information. The problem is that we have TOO MUCH access to information, much of it being inaccurate or slanted. We are also far too willing to accept the conclusions of others without ever questioning how those conclusions were reached or what those conclusions are based on. Some maintain this is a product of the way we educate our children (learning facts instead of learning critical thinking). I, personally believe that is part of the problem. I don’t believe that it is all of the problem, though. I think we – as a species – are basically lazy. When faced with an overload of information, we would rather accept someone else’s conclusions rather than form a conclusion of our own.

I would still love to hear my Brother’s thoughts on the Radicalization of the Internet, but until he shares them, I will continue to try to figure out if it is even possible to address the concerns I have with the so called Information Age.

Posted in Blogging, Montana Life, Politics | 2 Comments

Gun Grabbers do exist

For the most part, I have tried to stay out of the debates and arguments about gun control currently circulating around the internet. It is my belief that the only thing we are probably going to see come out of Congress in terms of gun control is a bill that requires sales of firearms to go through an FFL holder and requiring a background check. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. In fact, I like the idea that every gun sale will be checked because I do not want to see firearms in the hands of people that shouldn’t have them. This is not a violation of our Second Amendment rights and it might have a positive effect on gun crime.

I do not believe that Feinstein’s Gun ban act will see the light of day. Even if it passes the Senate (by no means a given…), it certainly won’t pass the House of Representatives. Even the Feinstein bill is not a true ban, though, as it does not take away your right to own those guns you already legally own. This lies at the very heart of why I am posting now.

In the few cases that I have argued about gun control, it usually involved my brother and his fallback argument has always been that “No one is coming to take your guns”. In fact he has challenged me (and others) to give proof of anyone making the attempt to pass legislation that would take our guns away.

Fact is, such legislation DOES exist and HAS been introduced. Up to this point, I thought it was rumor and anti-gun control rhetoric. Missouri and Minnesota have proven that rumor to be fact.

Missouri Democrats introduced a bill (HB-545) which would give owners of any weapon deemed and “assault weapon” 90 days to either remove the weapon from the state, turn the weapon into law enforcement for destruction or make the weapon permanently inoperable. Failure to comply with those requirements is a felony – permanently removing your right to EVER own a firearm. This bill has multiple co-sponsors and as of the time of this post has had it’s second reading. Given that Missouri has a Republican Supermajority, it is still unlikely to pass but given that it has actually made it out of committee to the floor, it is a significant step toward actual prohibition.

It is not the only attempt at actual gun prohibition, either. In Minnesota, HF-241 was introduced on 1/31/2013. This bill has been referred to the Public Safety, Finance and Policy Committee. It has not had a hearing yet in that committee.

Again, this bill is likely not to pass. It stands a better chance than the Missouri bill, but the Republicans still hold too many seats for it to get to the Governor’s desk. It isn’t that the bill will pass/not pass that concerns me. It is that the bill exists in the first place.

Up to now, the arguments made by the pro-gun groups have been, well frankly, paranoid and overly dramatic. Sadly, their concerns are being given validity by bills like these two. If this trend of actual “gun grabbing” bills continue, expect to see people who are currently on the fence about gun control get pushed toward fighting ANY gun control measure.

Bro, you owe me an apology. You said that no one was proposing taking our guns away. That is patently false.

Posted in Guns and Gunsmithing, Politics | 5 Comments

Election 2012 – Filling out the ballot

This election cycle has been one of lies, misinformation and rancor the likes of which I have never seen in 50 years. The very idea that our politicians can lie to us – knowing that fact checkers will be commenting on their lies – with impunity scares the living shit out of me. Further, this election cycle has seen the Republican Party not only embrace the wackjob, religious right, but actually support legislation by them to force their religious ideas on the rest of us. Needless to say, when I filled out my ballot this year, I tended to vote primarily Democrat – not because I necessarily agree with the bulk of the Democratic Party, but because my rational conservative leanings are better served by the Democrats this time around.

In my opinion, the single largest threat to the American Economy (and for the American Political system as a whole) is Corporatism. Sadly, Corporatism has been embraced wholeheartedly by the Republican Party. The Party of the “working man” is now the party of the “Corporate Role Model”. Most of that can be laid firmly at the feet of President Reagan and his “trickle down” economic model. 20 years later, we can see – categorically – that “trickle down” economics only results in the rich getting richer and everyone else getting poorer. The economic crisis we are now seeing is a direct result of those policies and since 2007, the average person has seen 40% of their net worth disappear while the average person with a net worth over $1,000,000 INCREASE their net-worth by 14%. This economic disparity will only continue as long as corporatism controls and influences our political process.

With that in mind, let’s get to the ballot.

President/Vice President – Barack Obama/Joe Biden -

This vote was a no-brainer. I am disappointed in President Obama for his performance over the last four years. I feel he could have been a much better leader and he failed to unite the country like many Presidents before him. Now before my liberal leaning friends and family crucify me, I want to make clear that I recognise that the job of truly uniting the country was probably not possible given the Republican stance of obstruction and sabotage, but, in my not so humble opinion, I feel that he folded when he should have stood fast, and pushed when he should have folded in a lot of areas.

That said, I don’t feel he was that bad a President. He worked tirelessly to salvage what he could of the American Economy given what the previous administration and the Corporate World had done to it, he saved the American Auto Industry, and he was directly responsible for a bullet being put through the head of Osama Bin Ladin. Not too bad for a President that was routinely and systematically sabotaged by the Republicans in Congress. They even boasted about setting out to sabotage the President. Personally, I think each and every one of them that did boast about it should be taken out to the steps of the Congressional Building and hung by the neck until dead for treason.. but I digress.

The idea of a Corporate CEO/Apologist and a wingnut, religious richboy being elected is beyond scary. Romney and Paul Ryan would be the worst thing to happen to America if elected. They would expand the hold of corporations on the American Economy, they would put the last nail in the coffin of the middle class and they would piss out our foreign allies and enemies to the point of open warfare (again). Under no circumstances would a Romney presidency be “helpful” or “needed” by America. This team would further expand corporatism in the US and the average person would continue to lose net-worth while the upper 1% would continue to amass more wealth. Even Romney himself claimed that he could care less for 47% of the American population. That statement alone should have tanked his Presidential campaign but as I write this, polls show him even with President Obama.

United States Senator – Jon Tester

I have written at length both here and as a commenter on other blogs how much I despise Richy Rehberg. He is a drunk, obnoxious, do nothing career politician with deep pockets and lots of corporate backing. If elected, he would further the ends of Corporatism, further harm the citizens of Montana and he would do so for his own personal gain. This man really needs to receive a pink slip and be sent home to his mansion farm in Billings.

I did not vote for Jon Tester because of my hatred for Denny Rehberg, though. I voted for Jon Tester because he is one of the few politicians in either the Federal scene or the Statewide scene that honestly wants to represent the voters. He has continually shown that he will represent the majority of constituents – even when that support is counter to what his party is doing. Further, he has single handedly done more for Veterans than any other Montana Senator in history. This is a clear choice and Montana will be far better for re-electing Jon Tester to the Senate.

United States Representative – Kim Gillan

This race was between two relative newcomers since the incumbent (Denny Rehberg) challenged Jon Tester. The choice here was not as cut and dried as some of the other races.

Kim Gillan is a political insider from Helena. As such, she was more polished than many of her primary opponents. I did not know a lot about her before the primary and I did support another candidate in the primary. Since then, I have gotten to know more about Kim Gillan. It is my opinion that she will more faithfully represent the majority in Montana than Steve Daines. More importantly (to me), she is NOT the blatant corporatist that Daines is. She has a track record of supporting civil rights, women’s rights and the working man.

Daines, on the other hand, is an open corporatist. He supports the Citizen United Decision, he is funded by large corporate handouts and he freely embraces the same stances as Denny Rehberg. Left up to Daines, this state would be under corporate control, large business interests would call the shots and religious backed “social reforms” would be implemented. I shudder to think of the damage Daines could conceivably cause if elected.

Montana Governor and Lt. Governor – Steve Bullock and John Walsh

Again, this choice was clear. Steve Bullock was an excellent Montana Attorney General with a track record of supporting and aiding the citizens of Montana. General John Walsh is also well respected for both his military service and his commitment to supporting a platform of defending the Montana Constitution against those that would seek to subvert it.

Rick Hill is a career politician with a highly questionable past. While he talks of “jobs, jobs, jobs”, he has yet to advocate a clear plan on how he would attain that goal. His work on the abortion that was the Workers Compensation system here in Montana by itself should disqualify him. He was also Judy Martz’s “go to” guy, and as such, he did immeasurable damage to both the Montana economy and the citizens of this state. Under no circumstances should Hill ever be allowed back into the halls of power.

Secretary of State – Linda McCulloch

This race was a “gimme”. Brad Johnson was run out of the office for his voter suppression efforts and his less than adequate job performance. Linda McCulloch has proven to be an effective and gifted Secretary of State. Even the Chamber of Commerce has endorsed McCulloch over Johnson and that endorsement speaks volumes.

Attorney General – Pam Bucy

I voted for Pam Bucy even though I still have unresolved concerns about her candidacy during the primary. I felt that her primary opponent was a much better candidate and I was very put off of Pam Bucy due to the actions of many of her supporters. I voted for her in the General for two reasons – 1) her record indicates that she would more likely uphold the law and work for the betterment of Montanan Citizens and 2) Tim Fox has shown himself to be cut from the Rightwing, Religious Nuttree. There is NO WAY I would ever vote for Tim Fox given the many fliers I received in the mail. Montana’s Attorney General should be concerned about Montana, not what happens at the Federal level. Pam would focus on Montana and for that reason, she gets my vote.

State Auditor – Monica Lindeen

I would vote for Monica Lindeen regardless of what position she ran for. Of all the politicians I have personally met, she is the most honest, hard working individual I have had the pleasure of meeting. She has done a great job so far in this position and I have no doubt that she will continue to do a great job. She has my full and unwaivering support. The idea that “Confederate General” Skees is running against her is an epic joke. Skees couldn’t get elected dog catcher after his sick and demented performance in the last legislative session.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Denise Juneau

Denise Juneau is a “Teacher’s teacher”. She has done a fantastic job in this position and will only continue to make Montana’s Public Education system better in the future. Her opponent, Sandy Welch is a joke who’s primary focus seems to be destroying public education. This should be a no brainer for anyone.

Public Service Commissioner, District 3 – John Vincent

Anyone that has been following the circus of the PSC over the last couple of years is already aware that John Vincent is the only stable member of that group as it stands now. He has done as good a job as he could given the circumstances and I anticipate that he will continue to do his best if re-elected. Roger Koopman (dubbed the “Lie Monkey” by Wulfgar at “A Chicken is not Pillage!”) is a statewide joke who publicly has stated that “the earth is only 4,000 to 6,000 years old” and has publicly denounced science on multiple occasions. Further, he has broken with his own party because they don’t really seem interested in supporting him. This idiot has no place on a commission that is primarily concerned with energy and utilities – a field that is primarily applied science.

State Senator District 36 – Richard Turner

While I think it is a long shot that Richard will win this race, I support his candidacy over that of his opponent. Richard is a relative newcomer to political office but he is a well spoken, reasonable man with a desire to see the citizens in this district rationally represented. I think he would be a good representative for us. Debby Barrett, on the other hand, exemplifies the wingnut agenda of the previous Montana Legislative Session. She consistently voted for the wackjob bills that got the Montana Legislature named one of the worst “batshit crazy” legislative sessions in the nation. I see no reason to believe that she learned anything from the outcry against the nuttiness of her actions and, if re-elected, I foresee that she will continue to embarrass this district with her batshit crazy votes.

State Representative District 72 – Jeffrey Welborn

This vote is definitely a choice for the lesser of two evils. Jeff Welborn – in most cases – voted for the same wingnut, batshit crazy agenda that Debby Barrett voted for. The only saving grace is that Jeff did change his vote in a number of instances to better represent the people of his district rather than the Wingnut Republican leadership. I still haven’t forgiven him for his “Ditch Bill” – a blatant attempt to legislate around the Montana Supreme Court decision in the Huey Lewis case – but I am also aware that that bill was also supported by many of the farmers and ranchers in this area and was likely pushed on him by Debbie Barrett.

On the other hand, you have Norma Duffy. Anyone that has spent any time on the Montana Blogs in the last year is familiar with Norma. The issues she lists on her campaign website are – for most part – in line with many of my stances on the issues that face Montana, but her activity online has proven beyond doubt that she is even more a wackjob than Debbie Barrett. I believe her to be a liar, and to have some very serious issues and I don’t want to see her anywhere near a political office. It is too bad that someone more stable didn’t run as a Democrat or Independent in this election.

There you have it.. my choices for State and Federal offices in Montana. We will see how it plays out in November. I am sure someone will comment that I did not discuss the Libertarian candidates on the ballot and I will only say this… I did not find any of them to even approach being electable or viable candidates and as such, I could not get behind any of them.

 

Posted in Federal, Politics, State | Leave a comment

Zombie Guns

I am going to step away from the political discussions for a moment to discuss something I have a real interest in… GUNS. More specifically, guns for the Zombie Apocalypse. If you are not interested in either subject, I highly recommend you skip right on by as this post will be Guns, Guns, and more Guns.

Recently, an Internet meme got passed around about which gun would you choose to have in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse based on a graphic of world military hardware -

In an attempt to answer the question, I have to first state some basic criteria I would use to choose my zombie weapon.

Assumption and Criteria -

For this discussion to make any sense, you have to have some information about the criteria used to determine what my needs are when it comes to a Zombie Survival weapon.

1) Mobility VS Static. In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, I am going to state up front that unless you are a member of an already established Zombie Protection Fortress, mobility means survival. Most people will have to be able to move from one place to another easily and avoidance of zombie confrontation is very important. Further, firearms would be used for self defense to facilitate escape. Were this post to be about Zombie eradication, my choice would probably be very different.

2) I am using the assumption of a Romero/Brookes Zombie Apocalypse – ie, zombies don’t run (EVER, that’s a fact), Zombies are killed by head shots and zombies moan when they sense prey.

3) The weapon choice would be made on what I could obtain either before the ZA (Zombie Apocalypse) or gleaned after the fact.

Using these assumptions and criteria, the choice for me becomes relatively clear.

Breakdown -

The above weapons can be effectively broken down into four categories – Support/Specialty weapons, Heavy caliber assault weapons, Light caliber Assault Weapons, and Pistol cartridge Weapons. I will discuss each of these weapon types separately.

Support/Specialty Weapons -

There are some fine choices for Support and Specialty Weapons in the graphic above – many of which I wish I had in my own arsenal. Unfortunately, given the criteria listed, none of them would make my list. The Support Automatic Weapons, like the M240, The RPD, the MG4 and the L86 LSW are great support fire weapons but they would be more at home in a static defense situation. They are heavy, most of them fire high caliber ammo (also heavy) and they fire in full auto – none of which lends itself to mobile defense.

The Specialty weapons are also very nice – particularly the Barrett. While that rifle can effectively target a Zedhead at 1800 yards (well beyond the Zed’s ability to detect you in most situations), it weighs 32 pounds unloaded and certainly do not want to lug that thing around, especially if I am running from a small pack of Zeds.

So that brings us to the Heavy Caliber Assault Weapons -

There are many fine choices for Heavy Caliber Assault Weapons pictured above. Since this graphic was created with the military versions of these rifles, most of them are selective fire (meaning they can fire either fully auto or semi-auto). For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume we are talking about the civilian versions of these weapons (and all of them have civilian versions) firing just semi-auto.

“But Moorcat, wouldn’t you want the selective fire option?” you ask… No, I really wouldn’t. In a ZA, fully automatic fire is a waste of ammunition. You can only kill a Zed by hitting them in the head and a single, well aimed shot will produce more kills than spraying down an area with fully automatic fire. I will assume for the rest of this post that we are talking semi auto weapons.

If I had to choose one of these heavy caliber battle rifles, I would probably go with the original FAMAS .308 bullpup rifle. The M-14 is a spectacular rifle in accuracy and reliability but it is heavy and ungainly in a mobile operation scenario compared to the FAMAS. Moreover, if I am using the gun in self defense, the shorter barrel length on the FAMAS would not be a detrimental factor.

Now before any gun experts jump on me, I am aware that the FAMAS pictured is one of the new versions chambered for .223. Sue me. I actually got to fire a .308 FAMAS years ago and that will always be the version I “see” when discussing the gun. I liked the reduced recoil, the shorter overall length and the reliability of the gun.

Another heavy caliber rifle (not pictured) I would consider would be the H&K G3. It is lighter than the M-14 (granted, not by much) but the accuracy of that rifle is unmatched. Further, .308 is a popular sporting and military round here in the US and ammo reloads would not be that hard to come by.

Now, all that said, the reason I would NOT choose any of these weapons goes back to my basic criteria – the weapon must support a mobile lifestyle, be comfortable to carry, and allow the carrying of ammunition. Fact is, .308 ammo is heavy compared to some of the lighter caliber rounds, and .308 rifles are also heavy compared to the lighter caliber guns. This is where you lose me on the heavy battle rifles. That brings us to the Light Caliber Assault weapons -

Most of the military weapons shown above are what are referred to as light caliber assault weapons. They tend toward two calibers (with one notable exception which I will get to later) – .223 and 7.62 X 39. Either caliber is more than capable of taking out a Zed at self defense ranges (inside of 100 yards), the ammunition for these weapons are light, and given their popularity in America, reloads are likely for either caliber. It is the guns themselves that separate this category. These guns tend to be light and easy to carry in a mobile situation.

The most common gun chambered for the 7.62 X 39 is the AK 47 and it’s variants. It is important to note that there is another gun (not pictured) that is the forerunner of the AK – that being the SKS. I will discuss that gun shortly.

The AK is the most widely used assault rifle in the world. There are more AK’s in current use around the world than any other battle rifle. The reason for this is simple – they are cheap to produce, they are easy to use by the (usually) untrained people using them, and they are one of the most reliable rifles ever made. An AK can be produced by a moderately skilled machinist with a bare minimum of tools and that rifle will perform adequately under the most extreme conditions of use. The trade off is accuracy. While it is relatively easy to produce 1″ groups at 50 yards with an AR style rifle, I have yet to see a stock AK that can do it. Even a well manufactured and modified AK is unlikely to produce the accuracy of a comparable AR or H&K rifle.

The SKS is an assault weapon designed to fire semi auto. It has a number of design features which, while hidden and not widely understood, make this weapon far superior to the AK in both functionality and accuracy. It is easily updated with new furniture – making it on a par with the AR in weight and adaptability – but it is far more reliable than the AR and the 7.26 X 39 ammo is superior to the .223 at 100 yards. The SKS can easily match the AR in accuracy if a little care is put into the rifle and it is far superior to the AR in terms of reliability. I would choose an SKS over either an AK or an AR in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse.

The AR (M-16) is the current standard for .223 battle rifles. It was so successful that most NATO countries have adopted the .223 round as their standard assault rifle round. That said, the AR has some significant design deficiencies – not the least of which is that the rifle was not originally designed to use such a light round. Because of this design problem, the AR – even today – suffers from the problem of “short cycling”, where the bolt does not completely clear the spent round before trying to load the new round. This can be addressed by some changes to the rifle but most of those changes require a rebuild of the gun or a qualified gunsmith. Further, these design issues contribute to the absolute need to constantly clean the gun.

Some of the other pictured battle rifles chambered for the .223 do not suffer these design problems but parts for these guns would probably be hard to find in America. I particularly like the AUG, myself, and have had many opportunities to fire one of these light, accurate rifles.

As when discussing the heavier caliber battle rifles, I would probably choose a bullpup design for the functionality, reduced recoil and balance of the weapon. These weapons tend to be lighter, easier to carry and produce less felt recoil than the non-bullpup designs.
Again, the FAMAS, the TAR, the F-2000 and the AUG would be more preferable to me than the AR – assuming that I could procure beforehand a supply of replacement parts.

The exception in this category is the FN P-90. This light, effective self defense assault weapon is chambered for the FN 5.7 x 28. They also developed a pistol using this round. Ballistically, the 5.7 x 28 is far superior to the .223 or 7.62 X 39 out to 100 yards and these guns are far superior to the other light battle rifles in terms of weight. The P-90 is easy to maintain, reliable and portable. The top mounted 50 round (military) or 40 round (civilian) clip is also light and extremely portable. The ONLY downside to this rifle for me is that the ammo is not widely available in the United States so reloads would be problematic.

All that said, I probably wouldn’t choose one of these light assault weapons. My choice (from the graphic anyway) would be one of the pistol cartridge weapons pictured.

There are four pistol cartridge weapons in the graphic – The Mp5K, the Mini-Uzi, the Vector, and the UMP 45. The Mp5K and the Mini-Uzi both fire the 9mm round, the Vector and the UMP 45 both fire the .45 ACP round. I would lean toward the .45 round as the 9mm is questionable beyond 40 yards – even in a carbine. The UMP and the Vector are both rated to 100 yards which meets my requirements for a self defense zombie weapon.

It is no secret that I am a fan of H&K and the UMP is a marvelous weapon. Assuming I could get some common replacement parts as part of my pre-ZA loadout, I would gladly settle on this weapon. The ammo is heavier than 9mm ammo, but I would take the trade off for the range offered by the UMP. The ammo would still be lighter than taking .223 or 7.62 x 39 ammo. Further, .45 ACP ammo is one of the most common calibers available in the US. Reloads would be easy to obtain. The Vector is appealing because there is a version with a mounted silencer, but silencing a .45 round is questionable at best and after going over some range data on both guns, the UMP is my choice.

There you have it.. my choice from the above graphic for a ZA weapon – The H&K UMP in .45 ACP caliber…. But wait, there is more.

First, I want to express my complete disgust that not one shotgun was pictured in the graphic. There are plenty of military shotguns (both automatic, semi automatic and pump) that should have been included and given that a 12 gauge round could easily remove the head of a Zed at short range, the lack was noticeable. The downsides to a shotgun are range and weight, but the lethality of a shotgun VS a Zed is something to be considered. If you can’t put 10 rounds into the X ring at 50 yards with a rifle, you can certainly remove the X ring with a shotgun.

Second, my actual choice of a ZA gun did not appear on the graphic (not surprising given that it isn’t a military weapon). I have been doing a lot research lately on a pistol and carbine produced by Keltec – the PMR 30 pistol and the RMR 30 carbine. The pistol is currently available and the Carbine is slated to ship by the end of this year. I have fired the pistol and seen one of the prototypes of the carbine and they both excite me a LOT in terms of a perfect Zombie Apocalypse weapon.

 

What excites me about these weapons is the caliber and capacity. They use 30 round clips of .22 magnum ammo. This round is capable of accurately reaching 100 yards, it is powerful enough to penetrate the brainpan of a Zed and the ammo is ridiculously light. Further, the ammo is readily available anywhere in America and you won’t be competing for that ammo with those using .223 or any other caliber. The carbine (according to tests run by many of the gun trade magazines) is deadly accurate at 50 and 100 yards, both the carbine and the pistol are designed to accept a variety of accessories and either could be easily modified to accept a silencer. The .22 magnum round is quite capable of being suppressed and this would save you the trouble of using your self defense weapon only to ring the dinner bell.

So there you have it. My choice from the graphic would be the H&K UMP but my actual choice would be the Keltec PMP 30 and RMR 30 carbine.

Feel free to discuss your choice…

Posted in Guns and Gunsmithing | 4 Comments

My Kryptonite

Reading through the various blog entries here in Montana and elsewhere, I am once again struck by what I can only characterize as willful stupidity. It simply amazes me that in the so called “information age”, that people would choose to be so ignorant. It really doesn’t matter what the subject matter is - Education, Health Care, Patriotism, Our Representatives… it all attracts those that seem to be bound and determined to be willfully, adamently, forcefully, and undeniably stupid.

Under normal circumstances, I really try to ignore these people. I have structured my life – in part – so that I don’t have to deal with most of these people. You see, these people are like my Kryptonite.

I don’t mean that these people will kill me or take away my superpowers (though one could argue that enough stupid people in large groups will be the downfall of us all). It is just that I can’t simply ignore them. It is like that sore tooth that your toungue keep worrying at when your attention wanes.

I know better.. I really do. Trying to argue with these people is a lesson in futility. They can’t be convinced that what they are saying is stupid and they certainly won’t see reason even if you grab them by the back of the head and submerge their head in reasonable argument until they drown. Moreover, they breed. First there is one stupid person, then another, and then you find yourself drowning in stupid people.

Now I honestly believe that the majority of the American Population isn’t stupid (or at least tries not to be). Sadly, these really stupid people seem to lower the IQ of those that aren’t stupid, though. Case in point. I got into a discussion with an old friend that I KNOW isn’t stupid. This young man has accomplished a lot for someone his age. He reasons well, he is capable of thinking for himself and he is a genuinely good person. Sadly, he has chosen to listen to the wrong people.

What we were discussing is moot. The fact is, though, that shortly after starting this reasonable and intellegent discussion, the stupids came out in force. Not just people who disagreed with me or him… I am talking the willfully stupid, ignorant type of people that blather incomprehensable arguments based on what they gleaned from Glenn Beck and Faux News. It was like a plague of stupid.

Any chance for reasonable discussion disappeared. The conversation rapidly devolved into this real idiot making completely unsupportable claims and insulting anyone that would care to point out his stupidity. In short, the conversation was over for all intents and purposes. This is where the “kryptonite” comes in.

I couldn’t let it go. It was like there was the internal directive that compelled me to attempt to educate this moron. Yes, yes, I know.. that isn’t possible, but it was like the knowledge that it wasn’t possible got shoved aside by the desire to reach through my screen and strangle the living shit out of this idiot. I was taken over by my baser instincts and wanted to crush this oozing pestule of slime. I quoted facts, statistics, even news stories from his own beloved Faux News – to no avail. Then it dawned on me (as it should have from the very beginning) – Nothing I say will change this idiot.

I honestly believe you can fix just about anything… except willful stupidity. There is no cure for that. It is a terminal disease. I need to keep telling myself that you can’t fix stupid and ignore these people. I need some lead shielding to protect me from my Kryptonite.

Posted in Blogging, Politics | Leave a comment

Jumping off the Cliff

In the last couple of weeks, I have been using a phrase on Facebook that many people wanted me to clarify. The simple fact that people are unaware of the financial cliff we are facing is more concerning to me than having to explain it.

To make a long story short, unless major things happen in Congress between now and December 31st of this year, we will be faced with a financial crash that will make the recession of 2008 look like a picnic. In fact, many economists are predicting an outright depression if something isn’t done soon.

To preface this explanation, I suggest you read this. I will wait…. It isn’t a complete explanation of all the processes that will result in a major financial meltdown, but it covers the main points (except one which I will get to later).

For those that didn’t read that link, (Shame on you…), let me break it down as concisely as I can – something very difficult for me.

The Six Kisses of Death -

1) The Bush Tax cuts and several temporary tax breaks expire.
On Dec 31, 2012, the Bush era Tax Cuts will expire. In the long run, this is actually a good thing. The Bush Tax Cuts gutted our government’s revenue and is the single largest contributing factor to the current debt crisis we have now. Understand, I am not blaming President Bush the Second, though I think he was the worst President this country has ever had. No, the problem was Congress. They passed that abortion, effectively setting our country up for bankruptcy. The President cannot initiate Tax Cuts. Those have to be done in Congress. Failure to let those tax cuts to expire will increase our national debt by over 5 TRILLION dollars over the next 7 years. On the other hand, letting them expire will increase the tax burden on everyone and those that are NOT in the top 5% of the nation financially, cannot handle that burden at this point because the average American Citizen has LOST over 40% of their net worth since 2007.

2) The Debt Ceiling fight.
Once again, John Boner (House Speaker) has promised a tough fight if the Republican demands are not met. This is no different than the last time Congress fought over the Debt Ceiling – a fight which cost American investors over $6 Trillion dollars in investments and resulted in the first time ever US credit downgrade.  This is shear insanity. If a tough fight ensues, the American Economy will tank – AGAIN – and it is completely avoidable if only these stuffed suits in Congress would work together instead of working against each other. Personally, I think Boner should be hung on the Capital Building Steps as a Traitor to his country, along with every other stuffed suit in Congress that thinks our economic well-being is a bargaining chip for political gain.

3) Mandatory Spending Cuts.
One of the ways that Congress has operated in the last year is that our economic welfare has been held hostage to partisan posturing. One of the results of those partisan battles was agreements to MASSIVE spending cuts – usually targeting policies and agencies that benefit the middle and lower classes – while leaving the policies and agencies that benefit corporations and the wealthy alone. When these were passed, almost every major economist in the US said that these cuts – as written – would not only impede the recovery from the recession of 2008, they were likely to cause a “double dip” recession. The agreements were still made and the first large cut goes into effect January 1, 2013 to the tune of over $1 Trillion dollars. This will entail large scale cuts in services and public employees, making an already overburdened unemployment rate even worse and reducing the level at which the government is in a position to help those unemployed people. A recession is the least of our worries and this is likely to result in a full scale Depression.

4) The Social Security Holiday and the extended Unemployment benefits expire.
One of the moves Congress made in an attempt to stem the harshest part of the recession was to pass a Social Security Holiday – reducing the amount of money taken out of a wage earner’s paycheck for Social Security. Congress also – grudgingly – passed a number of measures to extend unemployment benefits for those trying to get back to work but were unable to find a job in a rapidly shrinking job market. Both of those measure will expire December 31st, decreasing the take home pay of those actually working and removing the lifeline to those that have not been able to find a job. Once again, this will hit middle to low income people the hardest and since they are ones already hurting, a recession is inevitable.

5) No working Budget.
This is the issue that was NOT brought up in the CNN article (though why they left it out is beyond me given the situation). As of this post, no full budget has been passed in over 2 years. Instead, continuing resolutions have been passed, giving the Government temporary authority to spend money with certain restrictions. If I read the last one passed correctly, the current temporary budget is set to expire this year. Each time this has been done, there was always a lengthy battle in Congress, followed by a last minute agreement – usually involving spending cuts that effect the lower and middle classes while holding the upper class and defense budget “holy”. There is no reason to believe that this won’t happen again this year – at the very least until after the elections on Nov 6th.

6) The Average Person is 40% poorer than they were in 2007.
You read that right… the average net worth of the American Citizen is now 40% less than it was in 2007. In fact, the average wage has DROPPED since 2007, so people are actually making less now than they were before the recession. These are hard numbers. Given this simple fact, any one of the 5 situations above could result in a “double dip” recession. If all five occur at once, a recession will be the least of our worries. Our economy will, quite literally, go over a cliff with no foreseeable bottom.

Conclusion -

Given that no substantive move is likely to occur on ANY of these issues until after the election in November, it is reasonable to assume that one or more of these economy damaging events will occur. In fact, given the track record of the current Congress, it is likely that they all will occur at the same time and the result of any compromise – if a compromise is reached at all – is going to be a measure punting the issue down the road to the new Congress after the first of the year. At the very least, we are likely to see another downgrade in our credit rating, a partisan fueled bloodletting that accomplishes nothing in Congress, a probable volatile Stock market (and likely, a stock market crash) and a further erosion of the wages and net worth of anyone making less than $1 million dollars. Further, we are likely to see an even larger decline in public employment at both the Federal level and at the State level – adding to an already taxed unemployment problem.

Given the likely outcome of this situation, I have no idea why anyone would want to be President of the United States. I certainly would not want to be known as the man at the wheel when the American Economy crashed.

Does this all sound gloomy? Of course it does. It is also as real as it gets. The Fed is out of tools to stop another recession from happening. Congress seems incapable or unwilling to do what it needs to do to fix the problem and people are too focused on the upcoming to elections to realise the trouble we are heading for at light speed. There is little good to be seen here even for an optimist like me.

Posted in Federal, Politics | Leave a comment

Malesich at it again

In a previous post, I described a situation where a former City Councilman approached me about reporting on the actions of the Dillon City Government. At the time I was understandably confused given the history of my blog reporting on the City Council, but things have come to my attention that begin to explain why I was approached.

First, when we received our monthly mortgage bill around the first of the year, we were understandably concerned about an almost $50.00 increase in our monthly payment.
For months we have been trying to figure out why our mortgage payments increased by that amount (totalling nearly $600 a year). We checked to make sure our mortgage insurance didn’t go up (it had but not by $50.00 a month), we checked to make sure our property value didn’t go up (property values have slightly decreased in the Dillon area) and then we started looking into our actual annual taxes. That is where we found where the majority of the increase came from. Unfortunately, getting information about your taxes – where they come from, where they are going and who is levying them – is like pulling teeth.

Then, today I happened to pick up the front section of the weekly Dillon Tribune to read on the porch while I smoked my morning cigarette. Lo and behold, things became crystal clear…

History -

About four years ago, Dillon Mayor Marty Malesich tried to pull an end run and pass an SID to repair Glendale Street near Downtown Dillon. This street was badly constructed in the first place – it was paved on concrete and annually develops massive potholes, it is graded incorrectly so runoff doesn’t work the way it is suppose to, and it has been a problem for years. Unfortunately, this street is lightly populated with a combination of businesses, churches, a school and a few private property owners. An SID (Special Improvement District) would have dropped the $800,000 cost of the street repair on those few residents, businesses and schools. Needless to say, the people occupying that street flatly protested the project and, under the law, were more than able to halt the idea of an SID.

It was proposed that the City Council put a vote to the people of Dillon to raise a bond for the project but this idea was flatly refused by Malesich. It had to his way, or it wasn’t going to happen. Sadly, he found another way around the problem that denied the citizens of Dillon a voice in the decision.

Last year, during the budget process, Malesich proposed a massive hike in the Street Maintenance Tax – from 80 cents a linear foot to $1.60 a linear foot. This tax is levied on all property owners in Dillon and it is specifically for doing annual street maintenance and snow removal. There are specific rules to the usage of these funds as well.

The Situation Now -

Imagine my surprise when I open up the paper to see a front page story about Malesich declaring that the Glendale Street Project is a go and will begin work shortly. Huh?!?!?!

It appears that this $800,000+ project is going to be funded from the Street Maintenance Fund. With the added $238.000 generated by the increased Street Maintenance Tax this year, the Street Maintenance Fund now sits at $870,000. Further, when the Glendale project is completed, Malesich is going to work a block of Walnut Street (something not included in the original project).

House Purchase -

In addition to the Street Repair that is taking place on Malesich’s say so, it appears that the City of Dillon has also purchased a home on Thompson Avenue. This was done so that the City of Dillon can extend Walnut street all the way to Thompson Avenue. JS Turner, the City Director of Operations claims this project (not including the purchase of the home) will cost approximately $80,000. The article does not indicate where the funds for the purchase of the property came from or where the funds for the street extension will come from though the context is that it came from the Street Maintenance Fund.

The Kicker -

You knew there had to be a kicker if I am writing about, right? Well, of course there is…..

All this was done without City Council approval. Yep, if the author of the story in the Dillon Tribune got it right, all of this was done on Malesich’s say-so, not the duly elected representatives of the City of Dillon.

Here is where things go south rapidly. According to the City Charter, the City of Dillon cannot enter into a contract without the expressed approval of the City Council. Therefore, the purchase of the property, any contract for street replacement or repair, any contract for engineering services etc could NOT be legally made without City Council approval.  The Mayor’s response – The City Council approved the projects by approving the budget. This is utter and complete horseshit. There is no other word that fits.

The REAL kicker -

This story actually has an even deeper kicker to it. The City Council of Dillon is in a VERY tricky situation. If they pursue the idea that Malesich did these things without City Council approval, they implicitly admit that Former Mayor George Warner and Former City Councilman Martin Breneche were correct in their denial of having a remote water meter installed on their property. They both contended that the water meter project was never explicitly approved by the Dillon City Council (a contention that they have backed up with evidence) and the City’s reply was that the water meter project was “approved” because the City Council budgeted for it. On the other hand, if the City Council allows Malesich to bypass them in seeming violation with the City Charter, then Malesich has effectively minimized the duly elected City Council – the representatives of the citizens of Dillon. This is a lose/lose situation and sadly, the ones that will REALLY lose are the tax payers of Dillon as they shell out tax money for Malesich’s pet projects.

Update -

In discussing this situation with another City resident, he asked the question “Well don’t you think Glendale Street should be fixed?”. This is a valid question and one that should be answered.

As I stated up above, Glendale Street is a mess. Of course I think it should be fixed. I was one of the people supporting a bond issue to address the problem. These are my reasons -

1) Barring an SID (that would have put the cost on a relatively small group of businesses, Churches and residents), the bond issue is the right way to fund a repair of this nature. This isn’t simple annual maintenance (what the Street Maintenance Fund was designed for) and as a major City center street, it should be something that the entire city population funds. A bond issue is the most responsible way to address it. People would hedge and complain about it, but in the end they would step up and approve it just like the bond issue to fund the Police Retirement Fund.

2) By allowing Malesich to bypass the rules, we are yet again allowing him and his administration to break the rules without consequences. The only reason he continues to do this is because no one has been able to prevent him from doing it (or more accurately, the people that should be doing it are refusing to do so). Malesich and his pet hit attorney will continue to get away with anything they want to do until someone stops him. When he had me arrested, not one… NOT ONE… City official stepped up to denounce his actions.
Why should he stop acting like King Malesich the First? Until the duly elected city officials grow a set of balls and step up to the plate, King Malesich will continue to do pretty much whatever the hell he wants to do – on the taxpayer dime.

Posted in Local, Politics | 2 Comments

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Store

Brittany and I had to go to the local Supermarket to pick up some stuff I needed for work around the house. We had no sooner gotten out of our van before an Ex Dillon City Councilman floored me by saying “We really need to you to start blogging and recording City Council Meetings again”.

Hey… What?!?!?!?!?!?

To say I was floored would be an understatement. I really had no idea how to reply to that statement – or the person making it. Let’s see if I can explain -

History -

When we first moved back to Montana in 2005, I quickly reconnected with my Brother, Wulfgar. We were pretty much inseparable while we were growing up and our relationship had become very estranged during the time I was in the service and the two decades after that while I lived on the coast. I can’t speak for him, but I always looked up to my younger brother and it hurt a lot that we had grown so far apart. It was amazing how much we have in common and we were able to bury the hard feelings enough to become best friends again.

I was really impressed with Wulfgar’s life here in Montana and even more so with his success at political blogging. He was a huge influence in me starting to blog. I took a little different tact with blogging than he did, though. I focused primarily on local politics. Goddess knows, there was plenty enough shenanigans here in Dillon to provide me with TONS of articles. Our local Mayor and his pet hit attorney are pieces of work….

My blog was called “Pragmatic Revolt” and it rapidly became the bane of the local City Council and Mayor Malesich. By the beginning of 2006, I was attending all the city council meetings (and recording them) and much of their monkey business found it’s way to the pages of my blog – often with video attached. I was threatened repeatedly by the Mayor and his hit attorney, Wilber Gilbert III (mustn’t forget the III). They both made it abundantly clear how much they hated my presence at meetings and multiple efforts were made to silence me. Eventually, my ISP dropped me without warning and all I could get from them was “an attorney contacted them and threatened to sue”. I wonder who that was?

Things went from bad to worse when my wife decided to run for City Council. The person she was running against was one of the Mayor’s “boys” – constantly supporting the less than above board crap the mayor was doing. That, coupled with the two attempts to recall the mayor I was involved in, must have tipped the scales. Mayor Malesich had me investigated (he claims that the Mayor is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the city and he has the right). When he found out I had a suspended licence, he and the City Councilman my wife was running against worked together to have me arrested. This made the news locally and was even reported on by the Butte newspaper.

Interestingly enough, not a single city councilman spoke out against this blatant abuse of authority by the mayor – including the very same City Councilman that said I should be recording and blogging about the misdeeds being done right now. Not one. After the election that year where Malesich was able to win re-election with less than a majority because two people ran against him, thus splitting the votes, I was done blogging about the City’s dirty laundry.

What makes this situation even more ironic is that the man who approached me about blogging the current fiasco claimed that one of the major ways Malesich was bypassing the public of Dillon was that he was arranging special council meetings during the work day to decide important issues so that the public couldn’t comment. This is ironic because when I was blogging about the antics of the city council, one of my primary complaints with the specific councilman in question was that he was scheduling meetings during the work day.

I won’t go back to blogging about local politics except in a general way. I won’t go back to spending 40 hours a week researching issues, attending meetings, recording video, composing posts, and generally working my butt off for a public that simply doesn’t give a crap about how they are being screwed over by the Mayor and his pet attorney. Moreover, if no one will speak out about his abuse of power in having a critic ARRESTED, I won’t put my butt on the line again for these people. They can deal with this crap. I will exercise my right to vote against him and leave it at that.

Posted in Local, Politics | 4 Comments