Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coordinated attack

Posted on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 4:00 AM

On June 9, the Ravalli County Commission wasted half an hour of taxpayers’ time and money giving a regrettably inadequate presentation on “coordination,” their far-right scheme to use truncated, Civil War-era interpretations of the Constitution to nullify federal laws and actions they don’t like. They have already contracted with the Texas-based industry front group American Stewards of Liberty for $150 an hour to aid them in their effort to advance this failed cause of the Confederacy by cherry-picking the word “coordination” out of mountains of federal regulations and claiming that this word means exactly what ASL, the Old South, and our commissioners say it means.

In Commissioner Kanenwisher’s own words at the June 9 meeting: “So what does ‘coordinate’ mean? Well, that’s what lawyers are for. And they decided that coordination means exactly what coordination means. In other words, ‘coordinate’ is a different form of the word ‘subordinate.’ So those two things mean different things.”

Translation: Our commissioners have now committed our county to pay ASL to fight the federal government with old school, militia-style county supremacy tenets. For context, remember this is the same commission that spent $200 for an “unfringed” flag because the old “fringed” one was deemed treasonous to their conspiracy-dependent supporters.

So how did the last three years of far-right, militia-style extremism in the Bitterroot pan out for us? Remember Celebrating Conservatism and the militia-masterminds our then-candidate, now-elected commissioners, invited into our community to school us on how to run their version of government? Here’s a partial rundown:

American Stewards of Liberty lawyer Fred Kelly Grant, who equates the American Revolution with the “rebellion” the South lost in the Civil War, and who wonders aloud whether we should not have another “rebellion” or “revolution.”

Flathead Liberty Bell’s Shaeffer Cox, who’s currently locked up in Fairbanks, Alaska, awaiting trial on state and federal charges of conspiring to murder judges and state troopers, and whose video, “The Solution,” admonishes viewers to “kill for liberty” and is required viewing for prospective Liberty Bell members.

Flathead Liberty Bell and Celebrating Conservatism, which circulated and published identical “2nd Amendment Declarations” last year, suggesting signers might decide to overthrow the government if they felt like it. Commissioner Suzy Foss signed this petition.

Montana’s Constitution Party, whose founder and former chair Michael Heit was involved with current militia fugitive David Burgert in a militia murder scheme in the Flathead dubbed Project 7. Most recently Heit was caught lying about his status as a Vietnam War veteran in order to obtain benefits.

Constitution Party presidential candidate and current Kalispell resident Chuck Baldwin, whose philosophy is encapsulated in his statement: “The South was right in the War between the States.”

Jury Nullification advocate Red Beckman, who declared that Jews deserved the Holocaust because they killed Jesus.

Remember, all three new commissioners as well as our new county attorney consorted with, curried favor with, and spring-boarded to power from those bizarre organizations and characters and have, to date, never disassociated themselves from them.

So what does this all mean for our fragile democratic processes we depend on to stay involved in local decision-making? Again, from Kanenwisher’s “coordination” presentation: “The primary and most effective conversations these federal agencies can have with the general public is through their local government. That’s the democratic process…Are you saying there’s not public comment in that? Well yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”

Translation: The new commissioners need to cut the public out in order to advance their extremist agenda. They want to replace years of public involvement in planning efforts with a shadow-government model, an ad hoc committee that they intend to stack with those of like mind. More simply put, they will give the power back to “We The People” by cutting us out. They will advance democracy by eliminating it. They will give us the vote by taking it away. We, of course, will like it because they—including a county treasurer who also couldn’t do her job—were elected.

The so-called Tea Party movement that lent the militia movements new steam after the election of our first non-white president is demonstrably riddled with extremists. Burgert, Cox, and Beckman are just some of them.

We demand that our commissioners and county attorney, as well as the new planning office manager, either publicly and irrevocably disassociate themselves with these far-right characters, supporters, and groups or spit out what they really intend, instead of wasting our time and money on any more disingenuous “presentations.”

Bill LaCroix

Coordinator, Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance

Hamilton

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Democracy needs a mechanic

Posted on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 4:00 AM

The national debt, now above $14 trillion, is equal to about 95 percent of our GDP. That’s up from 51 percent in 1988. Now every man, woman and child living in the United States owes nearly $50,000. The debt keeps accelerating as the federal government borrows about forty cents of every dollar it spends.

Only a few short decades ago, the Republicans held the line on both tax and spending increases. When the people wanted fiscal responsibility they sent in the Republicans. When they wanted expansion, they replaced them with Democrats.

The Democrats were the party of the accelerator and the Republicans the party of the break pedal. When both performed their expected roles the system worked pretty well. Now we have two accelerator parties. The Republicans are single-mindedly determined to speed things up by cutting taxes, the Democrats by the stimulus of spending.

The debt, caused by irresponsible tax cuts at a time of unsustainable spending, has resulted in a burden of interest payments that restrains the economy like driving with the emergency break on. As the engine struggles, the smell of trouble from under the hood is unmistakable.

Why aren’t the drivers paying attention? Well, they say they are, but they don’t act like it. Recently, House Speaker Boehner made it clear that in confronting the debt, no tax increases were acceptable to him and his fellow Republicans. In a related comment, House Minority Leader Pelosi said the Democrats were locked in against any change in the structure of Medicare.

With no changes, Medicare is on a collision course with insolvency by 2024. Real change in many government programs will have to be made to save them. Some will have to be reduced, some eliminated. Along with the necessary spending cuts, the inequitable Bush tax cuts will also need to be revisited. This is all anathema to the true believers in both parties, the Tea Party ideologues intimidating Boehner from the right, and the “gimme” groups pulling Pelosi’s strings from the left.

A political process can only deliver change when there is compromise. No compromise is necessary in a totalitarian state, where only one idea prevails. Where people are free, however, there are competing interests, and change must be worked out among them. The alternative to peaceful change by working within the system is violent change from outside it.

The United States has been the world’s great and shining example of the freedom, stability and opportunity that comes from a government by the consent of the governed. It would be sad indeed if we self-destructed because we couldn’t function within our own system.

Hammering out workable solutions in a democracy is never easy. But while core principles cannot be compromised, mere differences of opinion can be. Effective leaders know the difference. We want our politicians to be principled, but they can’t do their job standing (or perhaps hiding) behind some philosophical line in the sand rather than risking to step forward toward a solution. Hopefully the shadow of the looming economic crises will motivate critically necessary stepping across the line.

Churchill once joked that Americans always arrive at the right decision after they have exhausted all other options. If avoidance, denial, and delay are options we have certainly exhausted them. We are nearing a critical time in our nation’s history. We have to accept change and sacrifice. Americans have the foresight to know this and are tough enough to accept it. What we don’t know is if those in the driver’s seat are.

Bob Brown

Former Montana Secretary of State

Whitefish

Buy American

Posted on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I am sure you notice as do I that when you shop at Wal-Mart, Target, True Value, Ace, the mall, etc. that probably 90 percent or more of the products you buy are made outside the U.S.A. Foreign products are even encroaching into the grocery stores big time. Go to your local food store and look at all the fish and seafood—hardly any is from the U.S. nowadays. Almost all of our top-of-the-line seafood is bought by countries like Japan, and we in turn import junk fish and seafood from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.

If while you were away from your house for a few hours, a team came in and removed every item in your house that was not made in the U.S., what would you be left with? Probably your bed frame, mattress, sofa, sinks, fridge, toilet, and stove. Almost every electrical item including light fixtures and bulbs in your house would be gone. No computer, cell phone, TV, DVD player, hair dryer, toaster, microwave etc. And to top it off you wouldn’t have many clothes left either, and probably no shoes. Your house would be pretty much empty.

Between our government, unions, corporations, greed, and our desire for low cost products, we have driven millions of U.S. jobs out of the country. We have gone from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, and we are paying the price. We talk about being dependent on foreign oil, but we are even MORE dependent on foreign products. If all imports stopped tomorrow other than oil, we would be up a creek. The stores would be 90 percent empty in days. What does that tell you about our dependence on foreign countries?

If you are as sick of foreign products as I am, try to make a bit of a difference at least. If you have a choice between a U.S. product and one made across the pond, please buy the U.S. item even if it costs more. Tell business owners you would like to see more American products in their stores and patronize the ones that stock more U.S. products. We need to encourage more manufacturing and resource development in the U.S., and let our politicians know they need to provide a U.S. business climate that gives companies a chance to compete. A climate not overburdened with regulations, taxes, and union strong-arming. Can you imagine what it would do to our economy if we could only increase U.S. manufacturing and resource production by just 20 percent over the next five years? Buy and promote American Made products!

John Backs

St. Ignatius

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tell ’em you’re canoeing

Posted on Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Perhaps you’ve seen a jet boat whizzing by on the river this spring while you were fishing or walking along the banks. I certainly have. Despite the high ecological and recreational value of the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot Rivers, certain reaches of these rivers near Missoula give free reign to motorized watercraft.

Existing regulations allow motorized recreation users to pose risks to human safety and the health of our rivers. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is currently revising the rules that guide when and where motorized boats can be used on these rivers. As an avid angler and floater of these rivers, I think it’s important to weigh in on the decision-making process.

More and more motorized watercraft are using our nearby rivers. Along with this increase in motorized traffic comes a growing concern about how they impact our rivers. High-speed motorboats leave wakes, which can cause shoreline erosion and disrupt fish and wildlife. Plus, motorboats have a higher potential for polluting our waters with oil and gas. They also place other users, like anglers, swimmers, and non-motorized boaters at risk, especially during summer when there are literally hundreds of other users out on the water.

The proposed rule change by FWP is a step in the right direction, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting this common-sense proposal. All those interested in maintaining the recreational values of our treasured rivers should weigh in with FWP by going to http://fwp.mt.gov/recreation/publicComments/region2boatingRegs.html or calling 406-542-5500.

Wes Swaffar

Missoula

The big bad wolf

Posted on Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 4:00 AM

The environmentalists have worked for decades claiming to save certain species, but to the destruction of others. The wolf is the most prominent player in this charade. Deliberate reintroduction of the wolf followed by its over-protection has assured the destruction of the many species upon which these predators feed, key among them being elk, deer, and moose. In western states these have become truly endangered species along with domestic livestock. Meanwhile what is left of the wildlife flees, migrating to other regions, unfortunately likely followed by the wolves. We even see victim animals moving in with human populations basically for protection and survival. A recent example photo was of a mother moose with her newborn calf at the front doorstep of a home in town. Remaining elk have started gathering into massive herds for protection and better chances of survival. Moose are simply disappearing. Trained herd dogs now trigger stampedes rather than gentle management of cattle.

Climate change promoters are delighted to use these very complex phenomena as phony proof that, yes indeed, climate change is causing extensive changes in rural America. This, while conveniently ignoring the fact that very explainable behavior modification is occurring to adjust to rising numbers of predators. Wolves have upset the balance of nature, not climate change. And unfortunately the environmentalist organizations, the judges, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife know it. It is all, including the climate change concept, in accordance with a well-developed, carefully thought-out plan along with the Wildlands Project that has been in process of implementation for years.

Meanwhile, people who have their land locked up in conservation easements also suffer the consequences. Ranchers cannot survive this level of livestock loss, but find themselves unable to sell off their property as their conservation easement contract locks the land into livestock production and it cannot be subdivided. The ranch has thus been rendered useless with no prospective buyers willing to assume taxes and maintenance of a non-productive “wildlife preserve,” especially if only wolves will inhabit it.

The dominos are now rapidly falling for private property rights, prosperity, and rural America as we have known it. We will only be left with pleasant memories of farm and ranch life, cowboys riding herd on cattle, and farmers tending new crops of little calves, colts, and chickens. When American food production is eliminated from the landscape, the economic stability of the entire country will also be in jeopardy. Gone also will be the flocks of happy tourists arriving to enjoy beautiful mountain vistas for hiking, hunting, and fishing. They will remain captive in the congestion of concrete cities unless they’re willing to come armed to risk vacations in the wilds of the open spaces and to snuggle into their sleeping bags with firearms at their sides.

Clarice Fiala Ryan

Bigfork

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More than just neighbors

Posted on Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 4:00 AM

This letter is in response to Muth-Hillberry attorney Don Snavely’s comments that growth plans are the product of “a bunch of neighbors that get together and tell a bunch of other neighbors what to do with their property” (see “Neighbors’ fragile win,” June 2). Mr. Snavely neglected to mention that the public process involved in the Rattlesnake Comprehensive Plan included University of Montana students, many citizens groups, the Board of County Commissioners, former mayor Dan Kemmis, the Missoula City Council, Rattlesnake Middle School students, multiple neighborhood meetings, the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board, the Office of Community Development, the Missoula Public Works Department, and many city, county, state, and federal agencies as well as private organizations. It was signed off on by Mayor Kemmis and former county commissioners Fern Hart and Michael Kennedy.

The Montana Supreme Court’s decision against the Sonata Park development was unanimous and scathing. The Supreme Court recognizes that comprehensive growth plans allow neighborhoods to have a say in deciding how they will grow. We think that’s a good thing.

Harold and Jan Hoem

Missoula

Legislature abandons Montana values

Posted on Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 4:00 AM

The 2011 Montana Legislature adjourned more than one month ago, but the memory of that rocky road is still fresh in many minds. Those on the progressive end of the political spectrum knew it would be a rough go in this legislature for our values—including economic justice, fair taxation, corporate accountability, and environmental responsibility—but I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the assault these values would be under. During the session, far-right legislators like Rep. Janna Taylor, R-Dayton, and Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, said they were intent on “cutting spending,” even when proposals to do so made no logical sense (rejecting federal funds for health and human services), were against the will of the people (cuts to Healthy Montana Kids), and were especially cruel (cuts to personal services for seniors and people with disabilities). These same lawmakers were unwilling to support common-sense proposals that would have increased revenue to the state, such as House Bill 222, sponsored by Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula.

HB 222 would have required withholding of income tax at the time of sale on real estate sales of at least $250,000, but not if the seller was a Montana resident or business or if the property were a primary residence. This legislation would have collected a tax already on the books from wealthy out-of-staters who sell their expensive vacation homes in Montana. According to testimony by the Department of Revenue, these sellers are sometimes unaware of their tax obligation to the state but other times ignore attempts by the state to collect the tax after the sale has been finalized. Collecting the tax at the time of sale would address both of these scenarios.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, this law would have resulted in an increase in income tax collections of more than $3 million each year. HB 222 wasn’t a new tax. It simply provided increased enforcement of a current law. But the bill died in the House Taxation Committee, tabled under the leadership of chairman Rep. Mark Blasdel, R-Somers.

At the same time that conservatives were unwilling to help the Department of Revenue collect millions owed to the state through bills like HB 222, they were willing to give up many more millions by supporting measures like Senate Bill 372, a bill that reduced the business equipment tax in Montana. SB 372, sponsored by Tutvedt and signed by the governor in May, will reduce revenue to the state by more than $14 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, and even more in subsequent years.

Who are the biggest beneficiaries of the legislation? Conservatives would like you to think that small businesses in Montana will benefit most from this legislation. However, since the first $20,000 worth of business equipment is already exempt from taxation, it’s actually larger businesses that will benefit most. In fact, the largest beneficiaries of the bill will be multinational corporations doing business in Montana, like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. With big oil companies once again seeing record profits, this is hardly the time to offer them a tax break.

The tide seems to be turning in a progressive direction over the past few months. The pushback against an attack on collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin included tens of thousands of protestors in and around Madison. The recent election of democrat Kathy Hochul in a traditionally conservative district of New York State seems to bode well for progressives in 2012.

Like most Wisconsinites and New Yorkers, most Montanans aren’t interested in extreme far-right ideas. They know that the social progress gained in the not-so-distant past must be protected. Montana values include helping out a neighbor when times are tough and coming together as a community to make every citizen’s quality of life better. As Rep. Jon Sesso, D-Butte, said during the session, “A friend’s good fortune is a blessing.” Paul Wellstone put it this way: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Molly Severtson, executive director

The Policy Institute

Helena

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wilderness champion

Posted on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Between 1994 and 2008, there wasn’t a single hearing in the U.S. Senate on the management of Montana’s wilderness lands. This is Big Sky Country, home of Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. Montana is also home to the Bob Marshall, the Beartooths, and the largest National Forest in the lower 48 states—the wild Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest. Yet not even one hearing in 16 years.

However, during the short time span of 2009 and 2011, Sen. Jon Tester has managed to achieve two hearings on the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, a bill that would protect wilderness across western Montana. He has achieved this with unprecedented support from the timber industry and outdoors enthusiasts of all stripes.

In Montana, our wild lands are the envy of the world. The amount of tourists enjoying these magnificent places every year is proof. Political desire to recognize this treasure and ensure it for generations to come is the only aspect lacking. Tester has the will and he is representing Montana in a way it truly deserves.

Katie Zuck

Missoula

But CO2 is good!

Posted on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Carla Wise’s piece is just another leftist opinion lacking any scientific basis (see “Let gas prices rise,” May 19, 2011). CO2 isn’t a pollutant, and in fact is necessary for most life on Earth. Without CO2, which plants utilize for food, most life would die off. Increasing CO2 levels result in faster plant growth—essential for feeding the ever-growing human population.

Science shows that there’s no correlation between CO2 levels and global temperature (aside from the fact that CO2 levels rise many years after warming begins).

Alarmists evoke the usual bogeymen, such as thinning snowpacks. However, our snowpack is well above normal this year, and changes in sea surface temperatures portend a cooling trend for approximately the next 30 years. There’s been no statistically significant warming since 1995, even as carbon dioxide continues to pour into the atmosphere.

Periods of warming and cooling have been occurring for eons without the help of humans. In fact, scientific analysis of ice cores reveals that increases in atmospheric CO2 typically occur hundreds of years after warming begins, which shows that CO2 is not driving the warming.

Michael Mann’s faked “hockey stick” graph, which purported to show a stable climate until CO2 levels began rising, is scientific fraud. As one scientist declared, “Michael Mann is at Penn State, but he should be in the state pen.”

The ClimateGate emails revealed more science fraud at the highest levels of climate research. The data was changed to fit the preconceived notions of the ClimateGate conspirators, and the original, raw data was “lost.” How convenient.

Thus, climate change clearly isn’t caused or significantly contributed to by CO2, and it would be foolish to stop using oil and coal. Wind turbines and solar power are pretty much useless and won’t have any significant effect on climate anyway.

Roger Stang

Missoula

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