In conclusion: meth sucks.
May 9, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Every now and again, a story or scandal falls off the newswire that reminds you good guys and bad guys don't happen in real life. The fantastic original expose and ongoing coverage of the Dick Dasen case in Montana is one of them. The testimony of dozens or hundreds of women Dick Dasen, a wealthy Christian pillar-of-the-community businessman type, has paid for sex (or sometimes nothing at all) over several years are bringing the Flathead Valley meth scene to light, and thanks to what I personally think is some excellent local reporting by the New West, you can read along as it happens.
posted by saysthis (38 comments total)
One way or another, there seem to be a lot of posts about Flathead Valley today.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2005

Yeah, but does he do mules?
posted by Specklet at 11:33 AM on May 9, 2005

Wow. That is some riveting reporting.
posted by graventy at 12:09 PM on May 9, 2005

"...punching a till.."

Actually had to think about that one for a second. Prose, apparently, thrives. Just like meth.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:20 PM on May 9, 2005

If the mules are relatively thin and have late bills, yes.
posted by saysthis at 12:24 PM on May 9, 2005

From Part 6 of the story:

"Poor young women, rendered sickly and angry and dangerous by addictions they can’t control, are much easier to despise than wealthy, seemingly genial men like Dick Dasen."

WHAT!?!!? That sounds freaking BACKWARD to me.
posted by davy at 12:35 PM on May 9, 2005

I'm with graventy; this Hal Herring guy and his editor(s) have done a great job on this story. You really nail it, saysthis; it's much more complex than it first appears. But ultimately, Dasen's compulsive need for sex stands out just as clearly as the women's compulsive need for meth. I couldn't believe it when I read that the woman who set him up in the sting operation was actually his 2nd of the day. And the last two paragraphs in the most recent piece capture the pathetic quality perfectly.

Nice post.
posted by mediareport at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2005

Remember when they made a tv show and movie about this place? Hmmm, what was it called? Twin Peaks?
posted by billysumday at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2005

Wow, great story. I'm originally from northern Montana, bleak, bleak existence. I have friends from high school who stayed behind whose lives have followed similiar spirals of despair.

I don't think anyone who hasn't lived in remote rural areas really understands what it's like to live somewhere, with nothing to do, nowhere to go without hours of driving. Trapped in a sea of cattle ranchers, indian reservations, and nothing. No jobs, no colleges, alcohol and drug use rampant.
posted by patrickje at 12:42 PM on May 9, 2005

Of course there's also this, also from Part 6:

Deana Dimler, finishing up a jail term for meth-related charges at a Butte pre-release center, offers one line of defense. She freely admits that, some years ago, she had a sexual relationship with him in return for his financial help. “You know, everybody’s talking about Dick, how he gave us all this money and made us victims, like we can’t take any responsibility for ourselves. I don’t buy that. I’m a grown woman and I’m responsible for what I do, and for what I did with the money. You ask if I’m pro-Dick Dasen, and yes, I am. Dick for Mayor! I notice nobody is asking if just maybe Dick is a victim of all of us. How come nobody’s asking that?”

And as far as I can tell nobody's alleging Dasen started anybody on meth or had anything to do with making or distributing it, but assuming this story is true (remember the million-chapter "Satanic Ritual Abuse" ring story?) then he would have had to know what they were doing with the money. That's what qualifies such a person as an evil predatory asshole. If on the other hand these women were using the money to do good things for themselves or their kids I would have no problem with it.

Imagine level-headed "clean" women unionizing to bargain with him collectively. (And no I'm not talking about forming an AFL-CIO chapter; who says unions or the occupations they're about have to be legal?)

As it is though, if this story is accurate, Dasen had most of the power while this was going on so he deserves most of the blame. But yes, they were all pathetic; even him, kinda in the way that Hitler was a victim of a need to feel powerful and "special".
posted by davy at 12:58 PM on May 9, 2005

And what's the lesson of a case in which a long series of “victimless” crimes somehow resulted in a lot of victims?

posted by cali at 1:11 PM on May 9, 2005

patrickje: As a young kid I lived alternately in Big Sky and Manhattan, MT for about 8 years. Moved to Michigan just before 7th grade. When I went back for a visit during high school, I was struck at how different I had become from my old friends. There really is very little for a bored teen to do, let alone an adult, that does not require a long road trip to get to a larger town first. I can see how this boredom could translate into something worse.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:39 PM on May 9, 2005

Just reading the whole series-- thank you for posting it, saythis, it has a personal resonance after a rather fraught Mother's Day dinner where my ex-sister in law was the ghost that nobody mentioned (last we heard she was in remand). A few things leapt out at me. The first:

In another age -- not so long ago in a place like the Flathead Valley -- Dasen’s involvement with so many young women would have brought forth a storm of infuriated brothers, cousins, fathers or grandfathers. But now it's up to the mothers and grandmothers and the inelegant mechanics of the legal system to bring about some kind of justice.

Also, in regard to Dasen's actual (as opposed to moral) crimes, this:

Investigators at the Montana Department of Health and Human Services are still trying to determine what happened to about $500,000 that remained in a trust for Chad Emery, who was awarded a product liability settlement after choking on a marshmallow as a child and being rendered brain damaged. Dasen was the conservator of the trust, and in 2000 filed a one-sentence report saying that the money was all gone.

And though I sometimes find the writing a little laboured or over the top, this utterly nails something important: that awful boredom of drugs, that lie that because your heart is pumping triple-speed and the room is filled with kaleidoscopes of color and emotion and desire, that something significant is actually happening, when in truth, nothing is.
posted by jokeefe at 1:51 PM on May 9, 2005

[T]he room is filled with kaleidoscopes of color and emotion and desire, that something significant is actually happening.

That sounds like people's descriptions of their "religious experiences" to me. All that's missing is a trumpet and a stain.
posted by davy at 1:55 PM on May 9, 2005

Good god man, I keep reading and reading....this guy really likes to eat pussy.
posted by graventy at 2:09 PM on May 9, 2005

Paging James Crumley, James Crumley to Thread # 41856 please.

Gritty story. Thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:11 PM on May 9, 2005

What strikes me is how completely separate the world of the rural poor is from the rest of society. It sounds like everyone [or at least every woman] who was down and out knew about Dasen, yet none of the good Christian people of Flathead Valley knew or suspected a thing.

And the amount of sex Dasen must have been having is stunning. He most definitely has some demons. That, or he's incredibly virile. I don't see much point in debating who should share most of the blame - it's a tragedy all around.

Meth scares me.
posted by kanewai at 2:12 PM on May 9, 2005

caution live frogs: Fort Belknap (Harlem) and Fort Peck (Poplar) for me.
posted by patrickje at 2:16 PM on May 9, 2005

I wonder if he ever heard of a little thing called masturbation.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 2:30 PM on May 9, 2005

Just a real tragedy. I think about all these jobs that have been taken away from the rural poor and shipped overseas, across the border and leaving economic devastation behind and I have to wonder. What's next? When are your or my job going overseas never to return? When will MBA's and CEO's be looking for jobs that aren't there because their jobs have been shipped overseas.
posted by mk1gti at 2:31 PM on May 9, 2005

Speaking of James Crumley, his new novel 'The Right Madness' is released today and so Bill Kittredge has an appreciation of the author in the current Missoula Independent.
posted by liam at 2:47 PM on May 9, 2005

mk1gti When will MBA's and CEO's be looking for jobs that aren't there because their jobs have been shipped overseas.

Ah, but if your job is to ship jobs overseas, you're set!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:40 PM on May 9, 2005

mk1gti: Are you implying that if I lose my job, I'll become addicted to meth? Or that if I lose my because it was shipped overseas - then and only then - I'll become addicted to meth?

Not seeing the direct correlation here.
posted by billysumday at 3:52 PM on May 9, 2005

No, billysumday... but poverty, despair, and lack of hope in the future getting any better do correlate very strongly with severe drug addiction.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:55 PM on May 9, 2005

posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:13 PM on May 9, 2005

From the article: 67 percent of the women and 85 percent of the men in Montana’s prisons are there because of meth-related crimes.

posted by anthill at 4:37 PM on May 9, 2005

Hit it right on the head, I've lived in small rural towns, military bases, etc. and when you're down and out, abuse despair, lack of hope are very close behind. And for many, abuse of whatever is available. Drugs, alcohol, one's spouse, children, pets, etc.
posted by mk1gti at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2005

dirtynumbangelboy: I completely agree with you. I just think it's odd that in the midst of a discussion about meth and prostitution, someone brings up how awful job outsourcing is. Not that it's incongruous, but I think that sounding off about jobs being outsourced to other countries (as opposed to somewhere else in America, or growing up without parents, or not getting an education, or living in a remote and depressing environment or, hell - not being saved by Jesus) is a little specific and sounds more than anything like someone just finished writing a paper about the evils of job outsourcing, and how all of society's ills can be traced back to it.

Whoa. Why am I so grumpy today?
posted by billysumday at 4:46 PM on May 9, 2005

billysumday, I assumed the connection was because this article is by and large about poverty... and one of the aspects of poverty in North America is not necessarily starvation on the streets, but the grinding boredom and uselessness that one feels... the lack of anything to do with one's life, the lack of opportunity, the lack of a future. I don't seem to be able to write about this without lapsing into cliches, and I apologize, but some of what is going on here is an economic disintegration that has caused a social disintegration. A part of this story, and which is only addressed in passing in the articles, is how deeply disenfranchised the men are and how the women are trying to hold the remaining ties of family together. And that, in turn, is partially about the loss of jobs providing living wages. It's a story that is not exclusive to Montana, but is affecting British Columbia too, and other places where resource-based economies are failing due to overharvesting, outsourcing, whatever.
posted by jokeefe at 4:57 PM on May 9, 2005

I was also reminded of going back to towns I had moved out of, small towns that were doing okay when I left, but in which farming had shut down and now the population was just left there, hanging on in a state of shock. From time to time I take road trips around my state (Washington) and elsewhere (Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico) and see similar conditions. Not very promising. And the old refrain of 'well, they should just get a job or 'well, they should just go back to school' is just simplistic and unhelpful.
posted by mk1gti at 6:14 PM on May 9, 2005

mk1gti.."I was also reminded of going back to towns I had moved out of, small towns that were doing okay when I left, but in which farming had shut down and now the population was just left there, hanging on in a state of shock. From time to time I take road trips around my state (Washington) and elsewhere (Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico) and see similar conditions."

I live in central Washington. In the past 10-15 years, - -
family/small apple orchards - GONE!
family/small asparagus farms - GONE!
family/small juice grape vineyards - GONE!

I don't know how much longer the big farms will be able to operate without sufficient ROI.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 8:37 PM on May 9, 2005

Yeah, that's just the thing. the BIG farms. Used to be the small farms were what made America great, then too many people thinking about 'bigger is better'. Now we find out too late that it was all just smoke and mirrors.
I really feel for you JJF, my sister and her boyfriend are out in Yakima and had a really tough time of it finding work in the past couple of years. They're employed now, but the jobs they have to do are not the best . . .
posted by mk1gti at 9:21 PM on May 9, 2005

I spent 6 years of my childhood in Worthington, Nobles County, Minnesota with a family whose otherwise fairly stable financial base (mom was a professor at the community college) had been squandered on a divorce. I'm not trying to spread a sob story or anything, but I knew the meth fiends, and I understand why they do it. I didn't have a car or computer in 1999, and I lived in a crappy, depopulating, poor town whose biggest claim to fame is interning the body of the guy who presided over the largest mass hanging in American history, and we definitely weren't the worst off. Thanks to mom's job I had health care and a steady income. The worst part was knowing that it didn't have to be this way, 'cause mom was paying dad's back taxes and child support out the ass. I would have taken drugs if I could have afforded them, but luckily I left when I was 16. Stories like this are tragic, but they help me cope and remind me I'm not crazy. American rural poverty is a horrible place, and it does things to you if you don't know there's a better world beyond it.

On another note, now that I'm in China, I can't tell you how uncanny it all is. There's just something about a lack of options, cultural depth (not saying China isn't deep, but it's modern culture is about 20 years old and the cool subversive stuff that makes American culture fun gets squashed before it gets out of the door - for the love of god the best selling Chinese rap is about tourist traps in Beijing and how much the artist loves his parents) and opportunity that changes people and societies fundamentally, but I'll be damned if I can name it. I mean, it's right there though. The football squad is wearing suits and buzzcuts now, the cheerleaders hang off their arms in knee-high fuck me boots and pink-tinted sunglasses with a month's income's worth of make-up in their Hello Kitty backpack. You can hear couples screaming at each other sometimes if you walk by the old hutongs outside my building. There's systemic, subtle peer pressure to conform (the universal "are you cold"'s when I wear my Kurt Cobain jeans). The migrant workers tearing up the street I live on sleep in a big tent erected behind one of the barriers and nobody talks to them and they have their own regional dialects. The people in the neighborhood are afraid of them and remind the kids to stay away from them, kind of like the Hispanic and Lao communities in Worthington. And there's a shady massage parlor downstairs whose girls never seem to be out of their halter tops and orange spandex pants when they come out in the daytime to get food at the lunch produce market. They live and work in the massage parlor, and they're poor and from far away. They're probably a lot like Dick's girls. College students, who aren't allowed to leave their dorms after 11, are bored and sometimes take all night "road trips" to Beijing on the train (Tianjin is about an hour and a half from BJ) where all they do is wander around and eat at restaurants. Nobody's starving here in Tianjin either, but "the grinding boredom and uselessness that one feels... the lack of anything to do with one's life, the lack of opportunity, the lack of a future" exists here too in the petty power struggles (3 neighborhood boys caught shoplifting, now parents of kids are heckled, ignored and messed with) and the teary-eyed dreams of leaving China I'm subjected to on a daily basis (America is "Minneapolis" or "New York" or "not Montana" to a lot of Chinese 20-somethings). Social ceilings in the developing world are something to think about, and there are probably some useful development policies in the example of rural America for the rest of the world.
posted by saysthis at 3:41 AM on May 10, 2005

interring, idjit.
posted by saysthis at 4:06 AM on May 10, 2005

Most rural areas in the US are facing times just as hard as the 1930's, but nobody says much because unlike then, the US population is mostly urban/suburban. My wife and I were lucky to leave the area we grew up in. It's changed so much in the last 10 years. There is still hope, but it's dwindled. Schools close, mom and pop stores go under, farms close down, houses sit empty or become meth shops. Not only is meth readily available to the poor in rural area, it becomes a major export. Lots of open space, little law enforcement, and quick access to the major interstates that pass through (but never stop).

That said, I'd still think about moving back to the sticks, but there is no way to hope to earn a living. My inlawas have been out of work for months now (I'm worried they'll want to move to the city and live with us), my parents at least have their farm, but that feeds them, but offers no real hope of any sort of retirement without selling everything.

Yet these poor folks are still willing to send their sons over to Iraq and vote for W. If the Democrats really hope to win in '06 and '08, I think these states might be a good place to start.
posted by Numenorian at 7:27 AM on May 10, 2005

The thing is, how to craft a message that poor crackheads in the sticks can understand.

I think the winning theme would be 'jobs, jobs, jobs.' Along with moving jobs out of the cities and into the rural areas, embracing the rural areas, being proud of them rather than reviling them, breaking up the large farms and corporations in favor of smaller, more regional businesses that are going to provide jobs in their communities rather than shipping them overseas.
It seems that big business aspires to the lowest common denominators in prices, wages, health coverage, re-investing in the community, etc. This is why jobs move overseas because they can 'buy it cheaper elsewhere (wages, benefits, etc.). What if we had a society where everyone had an opportunity and no one was left behind? Just something to think about. . .
posted by mk1gti at 9:59 AM on May 10, 2005

In another age -- not so long ago in a place like the Flathead Valley -- Dasen’s involvement with so many young women would have brought forth a storm of infuriated brothers, cousins, fathers or grandfathers.

Got to wonder if this isn't just because he's been hiding out in Arizona. This guy could still have a kneecapping in his future.
posted by Mitheral at 10:09 AM on May 10, 2005

mk1gti wrote; Along with moving jobs out of the cities and into the rural areas

Move jobs out of the cities? Detroit and Flint probably have about the same unemployment rate as Kalispell.

The jobs that are left are in the suburbs. The cities and the rural areas are ignored and left to wither.

Thank you, saysthis. I'm a city person, and it is easy to forget how bad it can be out in the sticks when I'm wondering while driving down the road if the local working girl I haven't seen in a few days is dead or in jail. The tone of what those girls were going through sounds very, very familiar.
posted by QIbHom at 2:54 PM on May 10, 2005

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