Category In The News

Bullies, Bullies Everywhere

Well it looks like Gianforte won the special election.

It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… ― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

I’m no fan of Gianforte. He’s a religious extremist, a rich Californian and worst of all his first action REPRESENTING the state will be bringing Montana into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Namely he won his seat a day after he attacked a journalist with his fists and not, you know, his words.

“At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!” ― Fox News correspondent Alicia Acuna

Gianforte’ thuggish violence was a surprise to me. I would have figured he had more control over himself than that. As shocking as it is, the cynical side of me knows that there are a good number of people who will feel a sense of relief seeing a powerful man snap into righteous violence and clobber a little pipsqueak trying to taking advantage. It’s a part of our humanity to use force when reason fails.

Putting my political disagreement with Gianforte aside I think it’s important to look more into why using violence to win an argument is against my conscious even though in some cases my feelings are for it.

If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. ― Murakami

This quote lodged itself in my brain when I first read it. It’s a paradoxical position to have because it’s so hard to root for the egg. Rooting for the underdog is a big part of American culture and the American Dream, but it’s as old as David and Goliath. But David is not an egg. David has an individual triumph over Goliath. That little stone he throws smashes through Goliath’s head, tearing him down once and for all. Whereas egg never triumphs when it goes against the wall because the egg is not an underdog. The egg will always lose. It’s the story of the powerful expressing itself on the powerless. My sister gave me a copy of 1984 when I was a freshman in high school. The last sentences are horrifying:

“Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Winning is a great feeling. Go Cubs! But it cannot be what drives us. I looked up the rest of that Murakami quote and was happy to see that there was more context. A way out. We may not avoid the violence of being punched in the face by a US Representative, tortured for peacefully protesting a violently corrupt government, smashed against a wall or having a boot smash our faces but there is a way out of the game.

“Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals . . . We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs. We have no hope against the wall: it’s too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us — create who we are. It is we who created the system.” ― Murakami

Can joining together for warmth and strength defeat the wall? No. Not in the way David beat Goliath that’s for sure, there will be no thrill of victory. No sigh of relief, no parades, no win. But we will be there at the foot of the wall together.


A good article from the Atlantic on this race and the subject of violence: “This is not valor, it is the celebration of violence against those who cannot respond in kind.” — The Lessor Part of Valor

Everything Is Not Terrible

The feeling that everything is terrible is a familiar one to news followers everywhere. I question my own news consumption from time to time. I tell myself that I want to keep informed, but most of the time my relationship to the news is like my relationship to the TV show Game of Thrones. I like keeping up, guessing what will happen and getting morbidly excited the rare with dark twists.


I like this article:
How to Stay Happy When the News is Bad. It moves from the classic advice on news overload (stop reading the news) through the optimist viewpoint (the world is better now than ever before) to something more subtle all together.

Stop Reading

“Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months,” Rolf Dobelli, author of The Art Of Thinking Clearly, “name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you.”

Good point, but the news feels relevant to people who are connected to many places in the world or who have friends living in some of the places that pop up in the headlines. Reading news becomes a way to stay connected to those people, to keep up with their reality, even if it’s in a superficial way, even if it’s not truely relevant. It feels important.

Look on the Bright Side

We know, rationally, that people in every era have always believed that theirs was the worst in history – and that, by many yardsticks, things are better than ever. Yet the conviction that Everything Is Terrible remains. And now it is joined by the conviction that everything is uncertain, too, fuelling an escalating anxiety about the future.

I find myself saying this kind of thing all the time. I’m safe, you’re safe. We’re all better off now than ever before, but still just as worried because there is a baseline of pain and anxiety that every generation feels. If we judge the circumstance as really bad, then, wow, I can’t believe you made it through all that with a smile on your face. Or if we think the circumstance is comfortable (Millennials) we think, stop complaining so much and get to work. But through history everybody has felt about the same.

“Stability isn’t news” is the argument here. Things are OK but shocking things happen pretty regularly somewhere in the world and we’re reading about those things. Simultaneously expanding our personal circle of compassion and feeding into our worry.


The Solution?

“The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.”

Ten years ago I was in the doctor’s office getting a check-up before I left for college in New Zealand. Near the end of the visit my doctor asked if I had any questions or if anything was bothering me. I mentioned that my hips would hurt from time to time, a kind of stiff grinding feeling. I was thinking that maybe I would get some treatment, he’d have a closer look, find that there was some inter-muscular-boneitus failure of some kind. He asked me how often I exercised. “Never really,” I said. “Exercise, and it will go away,” he said. The oldest prescription in the book. Right next to eat better, sleep more.

There are no philosophical tricks to being able to beat the news blues. It’s a simple prescription. Something is bothering you? Do something about it. Make some effort, however small, toward building a better world. Volunteer, donate, write a letter to the Editor. Something that will activate you.

Because the news is not Game of Thrones. We have the option to play along and participate and that alone might be the answer to feeling overwhelmed. It might not fix the world or prevent the next Red Wedding but it’s something.

Wild West Outlaw, Ike Gravelle

Here’s an outlaw story about Helena, Montana that I’d never heard before.

This Ike character took on the railroad company and hatched a plan to hold the rail lines around Helena ransom. Pay up or they blow up. Of course the rail companies didn’t pay up. So Ike here started to blast the tracks in random places, trying to be taken seriously. Well, they did take him seriously. But they didn’t ever pay him.

He was a one man operation and so was always going to be near the scene of the crime. The law caught up to him. He was spotted preparing to lay another bomb by a rail worker who followed him home.


Upon being detained, the suspect was indignant, insisting that he was an honest rancher named “J.H. Plummer.” The suspect was brought to the Lewis and Clarke County Jail, where he was positively identified as Issac “Ike” Gravelle, a criminal well-known in Helena. Defiant as ever, Gravelle denied his identity even in the face of his former penitentiary warden, a Mr. McTague, who wasn’t one bit fooled.

Someone stashed a gun for him in the courthouse and shot his way out into the street, but he didn’t make it very far. He either killed himself while cornered or he bled out from another man’s bullet.

Either way, it was a violent end to a violent man’s life.

I’m reading so much about violence in the world these days and I find myself moved to outrage by modern tales of horror. Reading about Ike Gravelle made me wonder if through the lens of time, all violence can be transformed into something romantic or quaint. Is violence always a part of a founding mythology of a place? Why do I get excited to read that this happened in my home town? Wild West mythology fascinates me but on its face it’s actually horrible! If this happened last week wouldn’t I feel only fear and outrage?

Turkey Today

 What is going on in Turkey?

The answer is not entirely clear. But the stakes are high. Watching the attempted coup unfold from my laptop in Ljubljana last Friday was unsettling. I lived in Istanbul for about two years and never felt directly threatened by anybody. But as the frequency of violent news increased I had a harder and harder time being able to call home and honestly say that I felt safe. The time came to leave for a few reasons, one of the main ones was the rising level of background stress just got to be too much.


During my time in Istanbul I never tried to shrug off my yabancı status. I never learned the language, never stopped dressing a little funny, never got asked directions. I always felt like an outsider, protected as a foreigner. Ilgaz warned me about this from time to time, she could see what I couldn’t. She saw that there were good reasons to avoid this or that neighborhood and worried about my walking home alone after midnight.

So reading about this coup attempt gave me some mixed feelings: relief, that I’m not there to feel the rising tension in the air generated by chants of protestors, sirens and a rare whiff of tear gas. But also some kind of masochistic nostalgia, I should be in Istanbul talking with friends about what it feels like to be in the midst of a nation in transition.


So what do I make of what’s going on?

As the days pass, the English language news channels have been covering the changes that have been taking place post coup attempt. I should say that I don’t trust anything being said about the source of the coup. It’s all too speculative, fingers pointing one way and another: it’s the parallel state, it’s the CIA, he did it to himself! Maybe in 10 or 15 years the victors will write the history of the events of the past week. But that’s all too hard to parse out for now so I suspend my desire to know.

Something that is clear is that the response to the coup was swift and powerful, reaching not just into the military but all aspects of civil life in Turkey. As I said there are a lot of English language news sources reporting on this, but the scale of the changes didn’t hit home for me until I saw all those headlines rounded up and organized into the table below. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of the items below, I got it from Reddit after all, but it is a compelling list of “measures taken after the coup: dismissals, suspensions, media closures, travel bans.”

Travel Bans

  • 3,000,000 civil servants banned from exiting the country s
  • All university professors banned from exiting the country s


  • 24 TV and Radio stations close to the Gülen movement had their licenses revoked s
  • Unknown number of newspapers close to the Gülen movement stopped publishing
  • Leman (satyrical, leftist, unrelated to Gülen) magazine’s last issue banneds
Institution Supended, dismissed or arrested
Ministry of the Interior 8777 s 7,899 policemen of them 3,021 high ranking, 30 province governors, 92 vice province-governors, 41 district governors and others
Judges and prosecutors 2745 s
Energy Ministry 300 s
Defence Ministry 262 military judges and prosecutors s
Education Ministry 15200 suspended, 21000 private teacher licenses revoked s, 1577 university deans ordered to resign s
President’s office 257 s
Intelligence Service (MİT) 180 s
Religious affairs directorate 492 s 3 province mufti, 31 district mufti, 1 minister advisor etc
Economy Ministry 1500 s
Family and Social ministry 393 s
Istanbul University 95 professors s
Parliament 5 high ranking administrators arrested s
Universities 4 university rectors dismissed Dicle, Gazi, Yıldız Teknik ve Yalova üniversitesi s
Ministry of Customs and Trade 184 s
Energy Market regulator 25 s
Capital Markets Board 7 s


Just read another article and wanted to add it. The Turkish government has suspended all 3213 national ham radio licenses.

“The HF radio in Turkey is now silent. No transmissions are allowed. … Who’s transmitting outside turkey without licence should be considered a pirate – said Mr Erdogan.” Source

It might not seem too big. But amateur radio is an essential part of disaster recovery especially when other modes of communication are down. To quote W. Graig Fugate, administrator of FEMA and Dept. Homeland Security, “Amateur Radio often times is our last line of defense…When you need amateur radio, you really need them.”

Molt Montana’s Postmaster Intrigue

I like to follow my hometown’s local news. It’s tonic to the long series of bad news from everywhere else to read small town news. But like the proverbial moth to the flame I do find myself drawn to the darker stories. My favorite is reading the police blotter. It’s a daily record of mystery and tragedy and suspicion and I like it.

But after all the bad news this week, the narrow pages of the IR didn’t satisfy my need for small scale misery so I cruised over to the Billings Gazette and got what I was looking for: Molt Postmaster Admits Stealing Money

Molt is tiny, I had never heard of it. So I looked it up on Wikipedia:

Molt is an unincorporated rural village located in Stillwater County, Montana, and has a post office serving ZIP code, a hardware store, a cafe and several granaries. The elevation is 3,966 feet. Molt appears on the Molt U.S. Geological Survey Map

Don’t think that just because it’s a small town (unincorporated rural village) it’s going to be overlooked, oh no. The post office is listed first so you know it’s important.

From the article:

…agents with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General audited the Molt Post Office in August 2015. …

The audit found that Reinholz, 59, who was the postmaster, had issued herself 39 money orders between March 2015 and August 2015. She eventually paid for 25 of the money orders, but not the remaining 14 money orders, for a loss totaling $7,879, Sullivan said.

Like I said, this is just what I was looking for. But it’s sad huh? Tiny town, working in the post office with $20,000 in credit card debt. I’m sure she was staring at those money orders for months before she wrote the first one. But that’s just how it goes isn’t it? You let the devil get his foot in the door and before you know it he’s moved in and stinking up the place.

She’ll pay it all back and it doesn’t look like they’ll make her spend any time in jail. Lucky her there’s no jail in Molt. Then again, in a town that small, I’m sure she’ll never live it down.

I wonder what she bought in the first place. Avon? Presents for her kids? Was it worth all that? I doubt it. But then again I never worked in the post office in Molt so who am I to judge?