Montana’s “Inquisition” and Wikileaks

So you are a little girl in grammar school in 1917.  Your name is Christine Shupp.  You related to a neighbor here in Montana that as a child you were forced every morning after the pledge of allegiance to the flag to  kneel down on the floor and kiss the flag.  It is because you were German. And say you are a rancher in Rosebud County, Montana and you call WWI “a millionaire’s war”. Whamo, you are dragged off by neighbors to jail. You’re in a saloon and call war time food regulations “a big joke” and you are sentenced to from 7 to 20 years.

Montana played a huge part in suppressing free speech during WWI.  In light of all the noise about Julian Assange,  Wikileaks, and Joe Lieberman’s “upgrading” The Espionage Act of 1917,  it ‘s probably a good idea to take  a look backwards to the Montana Council of Defense.  (Yes, President Obama and MSNBC, it’s a good idea to look backwards because leaning forwards can more often than not have you falling on your face.)

Historian K. Ross Toole wrote a chapter called “The Inquisition” in his book “Twentieth Century Montana: A State of Extremes” about a very dark time in Montana’s history.  At the  beginning of WW I, Woodrow Wilson formed a National Council of Defense and asked each state and each county in the state to help with war propaganda, helping in recruitment of troops, and getting people to buy Liberty Bonds.  The Montana Council of Defense went whole hog into this endeavor and was especially keen on finding “slackers” and “draft dodgers”.  The Governor of Montana, Sam Stewart called a special session of the legislature in part to make the Montana Council of Defense a legal body with funding by the state.  The legislature also passed the Sedition Act and the Criminal Syndicalism Act, which the federal government would use as a model for the federal Sedition Act which was an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917. This act was probably one of the harshest anti-speech laws ever passed in the United States. Continue reading


I’m Not Ready to Make Nice

A bunch of concerned people called the “No Labels” group got together last week to talk about being nice in Washington politics. But being civil and trying to work things out isn’t a movement. It’s a style. But what is really going on beneath the surface of his party of nice is just another attempt by the elites to herd independents, disenfranchised Democrats and Republicans into the “magic middle” as Thomas Frank would call it and hope no one notices that this middle is still firmly preaching the flim flam of free market capitalism. This group hug does not get to the heart of the problem of having a government totally captured by corrupt economic interests producing crony capitalism which is a nice way of saying that this country and Europe are being rub by the mob. And that problem needs passionate debate and laws and institutions that will correct the injustices, not a love fest.

Yes, there is definitely a problem with the labels that we use to describe our political system. Few of our political words mean what they used to mean. Republicans, Democrats, progressives, liberals, conservatives, reform, free market, security… We truly inhabit George Orwell’s “1984”. We are caught in the brambles of bullshit and the maze of mendacity with weasel words abounding. But re-branding or being above branding is still in the end just marketing and not a philosophy that would lead to solutions. Continue reading