Thursday, January 28, 2010

Uncivil questionnaire

Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I am both concerned and dismayed by the growing threat posed by the group who have authored the “Questionnaire for Sheriffs and County Commissioners” (see “Patriot petition,” Jan. 21, 2010). This is no true questionnaire, but rather a proclamation of intent set forth by a disruptive, malevolent group whose purported goals and actions border on sedition. This body of malcontent agitators is a spin-off from the organization Celebrating Conservatism, which is in effect an incubator for extremism in the Bitterroot Valley. When discussing this extremist activity with a former Hamilton city councilman, I was taken aback to hear him assert that “militia groups are endemic” to the Bitterroot. Why is that, and is this something the rest of us care to invite or accept?

Frankly, I consider this group’s behavior uncivil, intimidating, and a clear display of what happens when the deliberately intellectually disenfranchised permit themselves to be misguided and misled. The militia movement is neither generic nor easily dismissed as a “comic” subject. Their tendency to extreme anti-government ideology, combined with their paranoid-delusional conspiracy theories and fascination with weaponry and paramilitary structure, predictably result in militia members acting out in ways that underscore and justify the concerns expressed by public officials, law enforcement, and the general public. 

I thought it might prove informative to review some of the traits common to extremist groups: name calling and labeling; irresponsible sweeping generalizations (simple answers to complex issues); inadequate proof for assertions; advocacy of double standards; tendency to view opponents or critics as essentially evil; tendency toward argument by intimidation; use of slogans, buzzwords, and thought-stopping clichés; assumption of moral or other superiority over others; doomsday thinking; a belief that doing bad things in the service of a “good” cause is permissible; an emphasis on emotional responses, with less importance placed on reasoning and logical analysis; a tendency to believe in far-reaching conspiracy theories; inclination toward “groupthink;” and the use of supernatural rationale for their beliefs and actions, such as God is on their side.

Do these character traits sound like something this community would care to see proliferate, to grow to become the norm? Or do you find the notion distressing? Mona Docteur, the self-proclaimed leader of Celebrating Conservatism, appears to love her time in the limelight, strutting around the stage with a handgun strapped to her hip. As a veteran of two combat tours, as an individual who has personally zipped many more bodies into body bags than the number of people who signed this absurd “Questionnaire,” I’m here to tell you that it’s only a fool who thinks there is anything glorious about armed conflict.

Richard T. Landry

Hamilton

CO2 and climate change

Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 4:00 AM

In the global climate change debate (see “Climate unchanged,” Dec. 31, 2009), little is said about the adverse effects of high levels of carbon dioxide on all who breathe oxygen. Because CO2 reacts with the oxygen in the atmosphere, as the amount of carbon dioxide in the air we breathe goes up, the oxygen level goes down. Both the atmospheric oxygen and the oxygen levels in the world’s oceans are decreasing and this is shown by simple measurements.

Atmospheric CO2 levels are easily measured and have been measured for decades. The measurements show that CO2 is increasing. If CO2 levels continue to rise, oxygen deficiency will occur, especially to those who are most sensitive, the young and the old.

According to a recent comprehensive study of fossil forms from the ocean bottom, we now have the highest levels of carbon dioxide in the last 2.1 million years. In spite of major climate shifts during that time, the carbon dioxide level remained amazingly constant until recently. That fact makes today’s carbon dioxide level of 385 ppm look even more unnatural and strongly indicates recent human activities are having a very serious effect. The debate over whether the climate is becoming warmer because of natural cycles or because of human caused effects is somewhat irrelevant with regard to the future of life as we know it. Increasing CO2 levels can and will have a disastrous effect.

Our own survival should be our ultimate reason for cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Our CO2 problems require immediate action and solutions. Let’s work with Sens. Baucus and Tester to pass strong clean energy legislation out of the Senate early in 2010. Let our congressional offices know you are ready for action to lower CO2 levels before it is too late.

Judy Hoy

Stevensville

Haiti and clean energy

Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 4:00 AM

With the recent devastation in Haiti, all hearts are heavy and saddened (see “Right place, right time,” Jan. 21, 2010). This goes for our children as well. I am a mother of two boys, and recently as I was driving them to school, my oldest son was asking questions about it. He is a beautiful child who tends to look for the positive lesson in everything. After expressing sadness (mostly for the children there) he told me that maybe this is a good reminder to take really good care of our Mother Earth. He is always pushing my husband and me to be better when it comes to our planet and all on it, which brings me to the purpose for my letter.

I believe, even in this terribly sad time, to keep in the front of our mind just how important care for our environment is. Clean energy is in the forefront of this movement, and it will do far more than clean up this Earth that we will be leaving to our children and theirs. It will also assist in creating jobs, and comprehensive energy and climate policy will save American families an average of $900 a year by 2030. Comprehensive climate and energy policies can save businesses nearly $130 billion a year by 2030. We can save American households $1,050 a year by 2020 and $4,400 a year by 2030 through energy efficiency.

As a mother who is trying to make ends meet while still upholding the wishes of my children to care for the planet they will be raising their families on, these statistics look good. In fact, the benefits of a clean energy economy are clear, the cost of doing nothing is too high. Now is the time to assist with life saving, cleanup and rebuilding in Haiti. Still, through our time of grief, and even while we assist those in their devastation and struggle, please, don’t put down this movement. Our children are counting on us.

Beth Schreiber

Stevensville

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pray for understanding

Posted on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I was distressed to read that the Montana Catholic Conference (MCC) is “already working on a plan” to counter the Montana Supreme Court’s recent ruling on physician-assisted death (see “Fight to the end,” Jan. 7, 2010). I assumed that this was just another case of well-intentioned but misguided, believers trying to “save souls” by enforcing their own morals on everyone, believers and non-believers alike (and for the record, I count myself among the former group). But just to make sure I was getting both sides, I decided to check out what the MCC had to say about why they were opposed to allowing the terminally ill to end their own suffering. Now I’m even more distressed. Not only does the MCC oppose physician-assisted death, they don’t even know what it is.

To wit, their official statement points to the fact that Montana has the third highest suicide rate in the nation and mentions that the state has hired a “Suicide Prevention Officer” and has a “Suicide Prevention Plan.” So, apparently, the MCC can’t see any difference between a distraught individual overcome by a temporary state of hopelessness and a terminally ill patient with no prospects but excruciating pain for the rest of their life.

Further on, Bishop Michael W. Warfel is quoted as saying, “vulnerable populations…can very easily be manipulated into accepting a prescribed death if they feel they are a financial or emotional burden to their families. Proper health care should address the problem, not accept prearranged death as the appropriate solution.” I say, what an incredible slander against the entire medical profession! Is he actually suggesting that trained doctors will “manipulate” otherwise normal patients into offing themselves?

The MCC’s statement on the ruling declares, “Catholic teaching upholds the dignity and inherent worth of every life,” but it’s difficult to see how telling someone they must suffer for as long as we can keep them alive is respecting that person’s dignity. As Hebrew University professor Ze’ev W. Falk points out, “The Jewish belief that human beings were created Imago Dei does not necessarily exclude the possibility that they can end their lives. On the contrary, just because of this belief, death may be preferable to certain situations, which might be seen as desecration of God’s image in the world.” One would think that a priest would be hip to the difference between an eternal soul and a transient body and know that the “dignity and inherent worth” lie in the former and not the latter. Perhaps this is overly subtle metaphysics for the MCC, but really it’s a pretty basic concept.

I am greatly disheartened that the Catholic church has decided to throw its weight behind the cause of needlessly prolonged suffering. If the MCC gets its way, it won’t mean that terminally ill patients won’t continue to make the choice to end their lives, only that more of them will have to take the route of Janet Murdock (self-starvation) or my friend’s mother who, lacking a medical alternative, finally decided to end her years of battling MS with the tried-and-true method of a .45 discharged into the roof of her mouth.

She was a good Irish Catholic woman, and though it’s too late to ask her now, I bet both she and her children who found her the next morning would have much preferred something a little more dignified. So let’s all hope the Supreme Court decision sticks and that the MCC doesn’t get its way. Let’s all hope…and pray.

Josh Davis

Missoula

Emotional baggage

Posted on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I respect and applaud Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s perspectives on solving the wild horse crisis. All wildlife will suffer if we continue to manage wild horses according to the status quo.

Wild horse herds are flourishing. Some people feel we must give them more space but land is a limited commodity. There’s only so much to go around, and elk, deer and other wildlife, as well as farmers and ranchers, are already using our dwindling open landscapes.

The concept of harvesting wild horses is an emotional topic for people who don’t understand or subscribe to the concept of how “culling some will strengthen the whole.” But that concept helped make America a world leader in wildlife conservation. There is no logical reason why populations of wild horses cannot be managed in the same way as elk and deer.

The American rancher is not the boogey man, either. He works hard to make the land provide us with sustenance and his herds graze the land for its own good as well.

Secretary Salazar offers possible solutions such as fertility control and more sanctuaries. These may work in some areas but would prolong the inevitable problem of too much competition for too little habitat.

Remedies cannot be based on emotion. We must use common sense. We don’t live in a zoo. Wild things need wild places but since man lives here too, and in greater and greater numbers, there has to be a balance. Only a balance will work.

M. David Allen

President and CEO

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Missoula

Seeking Denny’s support

Posted on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I first learned how to fly-fish on the Gallatin River in the late ’50s and still today, 50 years later, Montana remains a fisherman’s paradise. I’m writing because I want it to stay that way.

After attending two “town hall” meetings hosted by Rep. Denny Rehberg on Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, and listening to the pros and cons put forward by different advocates, I was quite amazed at the compromises made by both the environmentalists and members of the timber industry for a bill that would take into consideration the wants of both sides.

I would like to thank Rep. Rehberg for holding the meetings around the state and giving people a chance to express their opinions on this piece of legislation. I would also hope that Rep. Rehberg will give his support to Sens. Baucus and Tester in getting this incredibly important bill through Congress so that our future generations may enjoy the incredible beauty provided by the wilderness as well as the jobs provided by the lumber industry. 

Finally, I would like to request that the congressman schedule a similar type of meeting in Missoula, where the recent closing of Smurfit-Stone and several other lumber companies have given Missoula an economic blow unlike any experienced by any other city in Montana.

Once again, thank you congressman for your interest in our opinions of this bill.

Robin Poole

Missoula

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Source material

Posted on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 2:43 PM

I'd like to respond to Bob Berwyn's account of what transpired in regards to his column on Vail Resorts (see "Snow job," Jan. 7, 2010). First rule of journalism: Get all of the facts and verify those facts. Since Bob was at the center of this situation, I think perhaps it's difficult for him to be objective about everything.

Vail Resorts in no way threatened or asked for Bob Berwyn to be dismissed. We simply expressed disappointment when very serious allegations about us were made and we had not been contacted beforehand for comment. Since CEO Rob Katz and all of us have worked with Bob many times and thought we had a relationship whereby we could call one another when there was an issue, we thought there was nothing wrong to call him and Summit Daily News publisher Jim Morgan to express our disappointment. Bob knows full well that happens every day at every newspaper across the country. We expect the media to hold us accountable, and they do, but that also means that anyone should be able to hold the media accountable, especially when balance and fairness are at issue. We work with journalists every day across Colorado, the country and the globe. There have been many stories written or broadcasted about us that we may not have liked or agreed with, but never have we threatened someone's position because of our disappointment.

Second, we do not exaggerate snowfall totals. We adhere to the guidelines of measuring and reporting snowfall totals that Colorado Ski Country put together for all of the resorts and we are completely transparent with our reporting—after all, our web cams do not lie. We are unaware of any credible allegations of us misrepresenting snowfall. Furthermore, our guests and employees share real-time, accurate information about snow conditions through social media. Several of our employees did tweet from their personal accounts (which are completely transparent in their profiles about where they live) that our corporate offices were closing early during the big mid-October storm which shut down most of the Front Range for two days—when our ski resorts were not open for the winter. We, like many others in Colorado, enjoy celebrating snow. There's absolutely nothing inappropriate or disingenuous about that.

Third, our company advertises in numerous local, national and international publications and websites that often say things we don't like, but that in no way affects our advertising policy with them. What is of serious concern to us is not being treated fairly by misrepresenting facts (and not inclined to correct mistakes) or, even worse, not contacting us at all for comment on stories about us—and especially when this becomes a regular pattern of behavior over time, as was the case with Bob's reporting on stories about us. We hold the media accountable in the same way that we expect to be held accountable.

I have worked with Bob for a long time in my public relations capacity here at Vail Resorts and can name numerous instances, particularly in the past two years, where it seemed unimportant for him to contact us for comment on a story involving one of our resorts or company, in the interest of fairness and balance in reporting. I would encourage readers to consider the facts of this story, not just one person's account.

Kelly Ladyga

VP Corporate Communications

Vail Resorts

Vail, Colo.

Coal-d hearted

Posted on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 2:43 PM

This letter is to thank Denise Juneau for her vote against Otter Creek Mining (see "Coal in their stockings," Dec. 24, 2009). Her courage in letting her ancestral wisdom put the earth and seven future generations of inhabitants above corporate profits was...brave, refreshing, redeeming. There is not a single right word that comes to mind, because it is just the right thing to do and any word sounds awkward to those of us who embrace her wisdom.

It is unfortunate that other members of the Land Board who voted for this impending catastrophe do not share her insights. Even more, these democratically elected officials did not listen to the wise testimony of their constituents. Unconscionable! They did not listen to the ranchers, high school students, teachers and others opposed to the massive proposed coal mining who voiced their concerns about the long-term impacts on the land, the people and the water on rural agricultural life in the Tongue River. The students had the wisdom to cite global climate change, and the impact on their future and the future of the next generations. We the people with such forethought will not allow those we elect to sell out to such shortsightedness!

I hope that Denise Juneau considers running for governor. I for one would work tirelessly for her campaign. She stands with the strength of the likes of Jeannette Rankin as a woman of principle. She did not succumb to pressure from the profiteers unlike her Democratic colleagues on the Land Board. How could they be so coal-d hearted?

Again, thank you for your leadership!

Rita Jankowska-Bradley

Missoula

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Otter Creek history

Posted on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 3:16 PM

I attended the State Land Board Hearing on December 21 to watch a major decision regarding the future of Montana. The rationalization that emerged to cause four of the five board members to vote in favor of leasing Otter Creek Coal was that somebody was going to supply the coal, so why not us. After all, regulatory safeguards will protect us. It was, however, not possible to view the proceedings solely in the context of Otter Creek coal. There was more before the board than a simple decision to lease or not to lease coal.

The testimony relative to pollution, high-sodium coal, ruptured aquifers, tons of carbon emissions, destructive railroads and un-sustainability mounted as witnesses presented their views. The board's carefully crafted responses, however, caused my mind to drift back to the words of Charles "Buffalo" Jones, a 19th century commercial hide hunter: "Often while hunting these animals as a business, I fully realized the cruelty of slaying the poor creatures. Many times did I 'swear off,' and fully determine I would break my gun over a wagon-wheel when I arrived at camp...The next morning I would hear the guns of other hunters booming in all directions and would make up my mind that even if I did not kill any more, the buffalo would soon all be slain just the same."

In the winter of 1882-1883, ranch hands of Levi Howe shot the last buffalo on Horse Creek, a tributary to Otter Creek. In the summer of 1883, rancher Walt Alderson shot one lonely old bull near the Tongue River—the last of millions. This hearing was about the very same landscape—only deeper!

The majority presenting testimony pleaded for the current sustainable ranch economy, the people's fish and wildlife, and a healthy planet. The commercial boosters argued for jobs and revenue. They and the politicians promised that the Montana regulatory structure would protect us. The fact is the regulatory structure put in place over 35 years ago has been severely depleted by legislative erosion and a lack of regulatory resolve. Those original protections were enacted in a precious period in Montana history, a time when there were progressive politicians on both sides of the political aisle. That "golden moment" in history has been replaced, and the reliance on regulations may well be a misplaced hope.

I was struck by the testimony presented by Jeanie Alderson relative to the value of sustainable agriculture and the benefits of non-industrial landscapes. Her testimony returns the buffalo to the story, since it was her great-great-uncle Walt who shot that lonely bull above the Tongue River in 1883. It was her great- great-aunt Nannie who clipped the old bull's curly mane to stuff a pillow. The Alderson testimony was a dramatic demonstration of the conservation ethic that emerged and grew strong in our Montana culture, generation upon generation. It is a land ethic now held at the grassroots level in this state. It is an ethic that deserved better political representation than the single lonely vote of one board member.

For the Montana Land Board it is now the same "next morning" experienced by Charles "Buffalo" Jones. Four of the five could only "hear the guns" of other planetary polluters. Only one had the courage to "break my gun over a wagon-wheel" and stand on principle. Denise Juneau was that person when she voted "no" and told us why. They are words that warrant repetition. "We cannot vote as if we have blinders on and only see our present economic picture," she said. "We must take lessons from the past seven generations and also look forward and provide for the interests of the next seven generations." She only had one vote, but it keeps hope alive.

Jim Posewitz, Helena

Thank you, Juneau

Posted on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 3:13 PM

I want to publicly thank State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau for her "no" vote at the December Land Board hearing on leasing the Otter Creek coal tracts (see "Coal in their stockings," Dec. 24, 2009).

I am a former teacher in Birney, Ashland, Lame Deer and Sheridan, Wyo., and have lived and ranched in Birney for many years. I am familiar with the negative impacts of strip mining in this area and its relatively short-term effect of generating revenue, as opposed to the very long-term productivity of our present agricultural economy.

Throughout the entire process used by the Land Board, there has been no consideration of what coal strip mining would do to this area. Maybe this project would create jobs and produce tax revenues, but the costs of developing Otter Creek are enormous, and those costs have not yet been discussed. The productive agricultural economy of the area would be changed forever and critical aquifers would be destroyed with strip mining. Our area is not equipped to deal with the influx of new people who would bring a myriad of problems as has been seen in the Wyoming energy-boom areas. The Tongue River Railroad has its own set of problems that would take the costs of Otter Creek far beyond our local area.

This critical decision was about far more than generating money for the School Trust Fund. I appreciate Ms. Juneau's commitment to her role as a public official and her depth of understanding of all the issues involved. Thank you, Ms. Juneau, for your vote.

Nancy Carrel, Birney

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