Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fix it now

Posted on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Even if you are a fourth or fifth generation Montanan, your ancestor came from somewhere else to settle here. And his/her reason for doing so could be to start a new life in a new land, or to escape some type of discrimination, persecution or forced conscription.

My mother emigrated to the United States from Roseny, Hungary, along with a female guardian, when she was 15 years old. Her mother, my grandmother, was already a citizen of the United States, along with my step-grandfather. My mother spoke little English, but she did well for herself as a seamstress, working for May Company in Ohio. In those days, department stores did clothing alterations in ladies and menswear for their customers. She went on to marry my father, a utility company worker. In 1942, our family, which included three daughters, moved to California. My dad found work at Lockheed Aircraft Company building planes during WWII. He worked for Lockheed until he retired in the 1970s.

I am forever grateful that my mother came here as a scared 15-year-old, never having been on a ship before, and without a family member to support or guide her.

Since 1922, when my mother arrived, immigration laws have varied and changed and they need changing now. It is imperative that Congress finds a humanitarian way to accept foreigners who are seeking what my mother sought: to be with family and to live a better way of life, an opportunity for education, health and a decent living. By the way, my mother learned English, and became a citizen, because she was given the opportunity and education to do so.

Unless this crisis is fixed, I don't see how we can claim that America is exceptional.

Margie A. Gignac

Kalispell

Charged issue

Posted on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Recently, the Independent published a story about NorthWestern Energy's electricity supply costs (see "Sour taste," July 3), focusing on our 30 percent ownership in Colstrip 4 (which is NorthWestern's only owned coal resource serving our Montana customers). Some of what you're hearing about our recent interim (temporary) electric rate increase isn't accurate. The supply cost increase is not because of Colstrip—at least not to the extent that some quoted in the article may have led you to believe.

Even after our most recent temporary increase takes effect in July, customers will be paying less for electricity than in January. That's because electric rates have been declining for the past six months. Natural-gas prices have been dropping as part of a long-term trend. Price reductions don't usually make the headlines and because everyone's usage changes from month to month it can be difficult to notice the chances in supply prices.

We recently received approval for a temporary increase from the Montana Public Service Commission in a proceeding called an "electric supply tracker," which tracks changes in cost for electric supply. We received this temporary increase because our current energy supply rates didn't collect enough to cover our actual costs of purchasing electricity. This is the result of two main causes: the cost of purchasing power on the market was greater than the forecast of market prices, and we were replacing a portion of the generation that we would've normally received from our ownership interest in Colstrip. To be clear, both of these increases were based on actual costs tied to market purchases, with no profit to NorthWestern.

The electric supply tracker adjusts supply rates on a monthly basis, using a standard mathematical calculation that takes into account estimated future electricity supply costs over a 12-month period. These costs are then trued up every year at the end of June. When there are larger-than-usual changes in market conditions (up or down), there will be a significant variance to correct.

Several years ago, we were in a similar situation, but in reverse: We had a significant over-collection in rates, and NorthWestern trued-up the difference by increasing the credit to customers by several dollars which paid customers back, with interest.

This July, a typical customer using 750 kilowatt hours a month will go from a 27-cent deferred supply credit to a $4.03 charge to help make up this difference in actual costs, which will remain in place pending a final PSC decision on the case next spring, and until we true up our next tracker in June 2015. Some of this is related to the cost of purchasing replacement power while Colstrip Unit 4 was down last year, but it's difficult to estimate with any degree of accuracy exactly how much effect this had on the total under-collection, except that it was a relatively small portion of the overall amount we purchased in the market to serve customers.

We've also heard the criticism over the extended outage of Colstrip 4. We own 30 percent of Unit 4 Colstrip and receive our share of the power generation equally from both units 3 and 4. When we dedicated this asset to serve our customers in 2009, we estimated that it would be available 86 percent of the time. The recent outage was caused by contractor error during a scheduled overhaul and not due to the age of the plant. Although it first came online in 1986, Colstrip 4 is the newest large coal plant in the western U.S. Even with the outage, Colstrip 4 has been available 82 percent of time since 2009 and is relatively predictable. As a point of comparison, wind generation is typically available about 40 percent of the time and must be backed up by other generation, typically natural gas, for reliability since it is more unpredictable.

Right now, we own or have under long-term contract coal, natural gas, wind power generation and also have energy efficiency programs. If our proposed purchase from PPL of the hydroelectric facilities is approved, over half of our Montana customers' supply needs will be served with water and wind. We are assembling a diverse set of long-term resources that will operate well together to meet customer needs and to keep supply rates stable and as low as possible.

Claudia Rapkoch

Director

Corporate Communications

NorthWestern Energy

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fueling the fire

Posted on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Brian Leland’s editorial (see “Parade politics,” July 3) is an exercise in revisionist history filled with his skewed opinions. I was a lead organizer of the July 4, 2009, Bozeman Tea Party March on Main Street. Our rally drew over 2,000 people, compared to Brian’s stroll which drew barely 20.

Brian’s labeling us “a bunch of angry people carrying derogatory and racist signs” is not only silly, it’s a classic case of projection. The name of his group, the Coalition of Gay Green Loggers for Jesus, is an offense to gay people, environmentalists, loggers and people of faith. Few in Bozeman thought it was funny, including the liberal City Commissioner Jeff Rupp, who chastised Brian about it twice during a public meeting. As a son of Holocaust survivors, I (and my friends) would not permit signs denigrating others.

Brian, like many who cannot argue the facts, resorts to name-calling, belittlement, half-truths and outright lies. The fact that the nation is unsustainably in debt can’t be argued. We have over $17.5 trillion in national debt and an additional $121 trillion in unfunded liabilities. It’s the equivalent of $1.21 million of debt for every taxpayer. We are fighting to preserve our free enterprise system and our economic freedom because it promotes a healthier, more prosperous and a better quality life. We have taken on issues like protecting water rights of ranchers and farmers, promoting responsible energy development, reducing tax burdens and defending our right to privacy from an ever-intrusive federal government.

While Brian is left to selling T-shirts during art walks from his short claim to fame and writing opinion pieces based on misinformation, members of the Tea Party/Liberty movement have run successfully for office, established a statewide network of Tea Party groups and/or worked for other organizations. While Bozeman’s July 4, 2009, March on Main Street was a once in a lifetime event, we have continued to rally here and have also joined other Tea Party Independence Day celebrations in neighboring Park and Madison counties.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank Brian for his protest of our rally. Along with the city of Bozeman’s initial denial of our permit to close down Main Street and the local newspaper’s antagonist reporting, Brian’s attempt at mockery helped us draw many more people to our event. Ultimately, July 4, 2009, fueled our statewide movement which continues its work today in relentless pursuit of liberty. 

Henry Kriegel

Bozeman

Understand trade-offs

Posted on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Brian Leland’s column falsely characterized Tea Party July 4 celebrations as “angry people” carrying “racist signs”. He misrepresented the Bozeman Tea Party’s 2009 event, which was also contradicted by last Friday’s Missoula Patriots Tea Party event, cosponsored by my group, Americans For Prosperity-Montana. The left wasn’t there protesting, so there were nothing but happy people honoring American freedom and veterans with free live music, free food and free speech. For our event, we paid two permits plus put down a $1,000 deposit—free speech is expensive in Missoula.

Young Americans for Liberty Chairman Kendall Cotton urged civic involvement, and my comments highlighted military versus civilian branches of government. My comments also juxtaposed Leland’s notion that we should manipulate government rules to shut down the free speech of those we disagree with. Here’s a summary:

“Those who would deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves,” said Abraham Lincoln.

Freedom is my favorite topic. I even wear cardboard signs in local parades: “Will Work For Freedom.” However, freedom means different things to different people. But my freedom to practice values I cherish is only as secure as your freedom to do things you enjoy. We don’t all have common values, but we do need to all drink from the common cup of Freedom. If I let your freedom be sacrificed to the politically correct social gods, or the regulation-happy government gods, then my freedoms will no doubt be next. The downhill slide from Freedom is a very slippery slope I can’t naively think it’s going to magically stop just short of my pet passion.

Especially after the 9/11 tragedy, it’s perhaps too easy for us to sacrifice a little freedom for sake of greater societal security. But Franklin warned, “Those who’d trade freedom for security will soon find that they’ve lost both, and deserve neither.” Thankfully, most recognize the danger of trying to achieve societal safety by sacrificing our constitutional rights barring unwarranted search, seizure and snooping—the dangerous notion our own government can treat us all like criminals, just to catch the few who really are criminals. But, unfortunately, far fewer people recognize that we’re trading freedom for security every day in Helena and Washington. Why don’t we recognize it? Because the freedoms we’re sacrificing are not our own: We willingly sacrifice the rich guy’s freedom to keep and spend his own earnings so we can tax-and-spend it to make ourselves more secure in our government programs. We willingly sacrifice the landowner’s freedom to do what he wants with his own property, so we’re more secure in our environment.

I won’t go so far as to say there’s no place for government social programs or regulations. But what I am saying is that we at least need to recognize what’s happening; understand the trade-off—that increased societal security always comes at the expense of somebody’s freedom. There’s no such thing as a free lunch … because Freedom isn’t free.

We honor veterans on the Fourth of July because they’ve paid a high price in blood and sweat for decades so that we might remain free. Veterans know freedom isn’t free. The military as well as the civilian legislature that I served in are vital branches of government. But while those in uniform affect Freedom positively, I’m often saddened to see that those in my civilian branch of government almost always impact Freedom negatively.

While fighting forces have bled and died to gain and defend freedom, the politicians trade it off piecemeal daily. We regulate, legislate, restrict, register, rule, license, codify, certify, confiscate, reallocate, permit, penalize, subsidize, tax, take, bar, ban. And a little freedom slips away with every law we pass.

Walter Judd said Americans are too quick “to trade the freedom of the robin for the freedom of the canary. The canary is free from danger … the cat can’t get him. And free from hunger … his food is set there every day. But there he sits in his cage; while it’s the robin who is truly free.” Which do we want in Montana, the secure false “freedom” of the canary or the true Freedom of the robin? If we truly understood the trade-offs—that “freedom isn’t free” and that freedom is sacrificed incrementally each time we extract more “security” from government—I suspect we’d support leaders for Montana who take us down the path of Freedom.

Joe Balyeat

Director

Americans for Prosperity

Bozeman

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Beyond the party

Posted on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 3:03 PM

I am going to start with a bold statement: There are pro-choice Republicans in Montana. As the director of the only organization in Montana dedicated solely to reproductive freedom, I should know. Pro-choice Republicans are all over the state—in urban centers, college campuses, on ranches and in the oil fields. But one place they are increasingly absent from is the state legislature. Each legislative session we track choice-related bills and score every legislator on their votes. We make this information available publicly because we believe that an informed citizenry is essential to the advancement of social justice. A quick look at these legislative scorecards, however, reveal a partisan pattern when it comes to issues of not only abortion, but also contraceptives and sex education alike. I realize that this comes as no surprise to you, the reader—but, I argue that it should.

When it comes to reproductive healthcare, voters who identify with a party have widely varying opinions and stances. There are pro-choice Republicans who invoke a libertarian philosophy—believing that government should not be practicing medicine and that the "less government" mantra must also be applied to the body. There are pro-choice Republicans who personally, even morally, disagree with abortion, but who believe they do not have the authority to make that decision for anyone else. Other mixed-choice Republicans will support abortion to a certain stage of viability, in cases of rape or incest and some not at all—but they do support common sense preventative measures like contraceptives and sex education. Of course, it should be noted that, supporting preventative measures is the fiscally conservative thing to do.

Why then—if the citizenry has such varying ideas about abortion, contraceptives and sex education—do our scorecards reveal such stark partisan polarization? By the looks of it—pro-choice Republicans are simply not welcome in the legislative process. We have created a system where a candidate's stance on one issue can call her party loyalty into question. This is a system where moderates have been all but extinguished.

NARAL Pro-Choice Montana's role is to support and encourage pro-choice leaders. We do not work for any political party. That said, the reality of the political environment is such that we rarely have the honor of endorsing pro-choice Republicans. Although our values—privacy, freedom, autonomy and self-determination—are bipartisan, it takes a strong and committed Republican candidate to be outwardly pro-choice.

Don't we want a system where we choose to elect those candidates we believe will make the "right choices" at the legislature? If there is no moderate ground between partisan extremes, there are huge swaths of Montanans that are simply not being represented. I believe that the environment is such that candidates, today, fear retribution from within so badly, that they feel as though they must (at best) avoid the issue as much as possible or (at worst) take a stance against their better judgment.

We need more legislators who are willing to stand up to party doctrine and genuinely put the interests of Montanans first. .

Maggie Moran

Executive Director

NARAL Pro-Choice Montana

Helena

Open arms

Posted on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 3:01 PM

So Ryan Payne, the betrayed and suspicious ex-sniper, concludes that his government is among "the great oppressors of the world," heads south with his heavily armed "militia" buddies, supports a delusional rancher who has lost every court appearance as his cows illegally convert our public grass to his private cash, opposes legitimate public land regulations (but probably never submitted a formal comment on any government regulation), brags that "If they made one wrong move, every single BLM agent in that camp would've died" and then claims "the protection of divine Providence." (See "Freedom fighter," June 12.)

If the trend continues, Mr. Payne could be in fine company—with Jerad and Amanda Miller, who just killed two policemen and a Las Vegas Walmart shopper before killing themselves, as an apparent first strike to overthrow the government; Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 and injured more than 600 in his militia-inspired bombing attack on federal employees in Oklahoma City, and bragged about easily he could "wreak this kind of hell;" Ted Kaczynski, who killed three and injured 60 in 12 bombings to challenge "the system;" Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of killing three and injuring 264 at the Boston Marathon, allegedly to express his "grievances against the West, [and] distrust of law enforcement;" John Wilkes Booth, who killed one and celebrated "Sic simper tyrannis!; and a too-long list of others.

Of course, an arguably comparable list might include recognized American patriots who either supported or criticized government actions, including the founding fathers (and mothers), combat veterans (from Ethan Allen and Ulysses S. Grant to Alvin York, George Patton and Jessica Lynch), Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo and other civil rights fighters and martyrs, Medal of Honor recipients and others. Each took up arms, took a stand or put their life on the line to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," to save friend or stranger, or to right social wrongs.

And, not unlike extremists in the Middle East, the players on both lists (and both sides) are convinced that God is on their side. And, of course, that the "other side" has abandoned God and sides with Satan. Who knows what God really thinks?

I am very relieved that Mr. Payne and his colleagues didn't manage to shoot anyone. Or get shot up themselves. But history will judge whether he and others ready now to take up arms against a government they disagree with (as bad and good as it might be) belong with Timothy McVeigh and John Wilkes Booth or with Ethan Allen and Jessica Lynch. My bet is that, unless things change, Tim and John would welcome them with open arms.

Jim Pissot

Canmore, Canada

Thursday, June 26, 2014

We know better

Posted on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Coal was used in a long age of innocence and denial. Today we clearly know better—burning coal has negative side effects. What cannot be denied is it remains a powerful source of heat and energy.

When I was a boy in Missoula there were several outlets for coal to heat homes. We had a coal furnace. I remember the smoke from coal fires was black and did not smell good. After almost 20 years, coal and wood were banned from the city limits to help promote healthy breathing. Also the tee-pee burners were outlawed.

Last week I went over a long coal train on an overpass by the pulp mill. With the proposed building of Pacific sea ports—exclusively built to accommodate coal shipped to China—it was easy to visualize endless coal trains going west. It’s an ugly and obvious attempt for polluted profits from those at the top of the idea. We really do know better now.

Gary LeDeau

Arlee

A choice now

Posted on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:00 AM

You may have seen a TV ad in which I call out Congressman Steve Daines’ anti-women voting record. The story I share in the ad is very personal, one that may make some people uncomfortable, but it’s one that has shaped the way I look at how decisions affecting women’s health are made. Too often, rape survivors are silenced. We are silenced through the act of violence itself. We are silenced by our friends or family who don’t believe us or call us “martyrs” for daring to speak out. We are silenced by a judicial system that more often than not puts the victim on trial and not the criminal. We are silenced by fear, shame and social stigma.

We are also silenced by politicians who stand in the way of freedom of choice. Congressman Daines opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. He would even make rape victims into criminals if they choose to have an abortion. As a survivor, I am profoundly offended by the idea of a government official standing in the way of a decision as deeply personal as that. I, and the majority of Americans, believe that no government should have the power to tell its citizens what they may or may not do with their bodies. No government should have the power to tie the hands of trained, licensed medical professionals to provide care. The American Medical Association “strongly condemn(s) any interference by the government or other third parties that causes a physician to compromise his or her medical judgment as to what information or treatment is in the best interest of the patient.”

Congressman Daines doesn’t share those beliefs. He has voted repeatedly for some of the most aggressive anti-choice legislation in decades and sponsored a so-called “personhood” bill, which would grant all fertilized eggs full legal and constitutional rights, effectively criminalizing abortion. These personhood bills could make some forms of birth control illegal, open up miscarriages to criminal investigation, and prohibit in-vitro fertilization. You may recall Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remarks about abortion and pregnancy resulting from a “legitimate rape.” Daines tried to distance himself from Akin’s position, yet he still voted in support of the bill in question with no exception for victims of rape or incest. In 2012, “Daines noted that his position is the same as the national Republican Party’s platform: that abortion should be legal only to save the life of the mother.”

I was only 14 years old when I was raped. Like many other victims, I was ashamed and afraid of what people would say about me if they found out about it. Even if the abortion bans Daines supports included exceptions for victims of rape or incest, it still wouldn’t be enough to protect girls like me. Rape or incest exceptions usually include a police reporting requirement. Rape and sexual assault are some of the most underreported crimes in our nation with fewer than 35 percent reported to police (according to the U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey.) I was too afraid to tell even my closest friends or family; the idea of walking into a police station and telling a stranger behind bulletproof glass about what an older boy had forced me to do was too much to bear. These additional reporting requirements are an attempt to judge and shame women for being victims of violent crimes.

I didn’t have a choice about what happened to me when I was raped, but I should have a choice about what happens to me now. Montana women deserve the freedom and respect to make their own choices about their bodies. We deserve better than politicians deciding what we may do with our bodies. Abortion is a deeply personal decision for any woman. We are not in her shoes, and those decisions should be left to the woman with the counsel of her family, her doctor and her faith—not her congressman or senator.

Telling this story publicly took a lot of courage, but I’m not alone. One in four of your friends and family is also carrying a story of their own about sexual violence. Many of these stories are never uttered aloud. Think of those loved ones when you vote for our next senator because the elected leaders who share—or don’t share—these values are going to be deciding on laws that affect real people’s lives.

Melissa Barcroft

Helena

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thanks?

Posted on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 4:00 AM

This note is to say thanks for your well-written story, “Freedom Fighter” (June 12). The tradition at the Missoula Independent has been to malign people who are not Democrats. Your story did not do that. You largely stuck with the older journalists’ tradition of limiting stories to facts while avoiding opinion.

You did include material from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-wing extremist organization, though I think that this can be expected in the shadow of today’s mean-spirited political climate. During my own career I occasionally had to do the same.

You may be interested to note that the Montana Human Rights Network, an SPLC ally, labels folks like me as “dangerous, racist, anti-government patriots.” It does so without having knowingly met us or having gained knowledge of our demographics. This is what qualifies the wealthy MHRN as a hate group.

Thanks again for doing it right. That’s refreshing and it is the most honest and fair way.

John H. Wiegman

President

December First Society

Missoula

Rocky road

Posted on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 4:00 AM

My wife and I moved to the Bitterroot because of its vast and beautiful public lands. Each and every day we’re thankful and humbled.

All’s not perfect though. There are challenges and threats to the integrity of Bitterroot National Forest lands. Some are obvious, like noxious weeds. Others, like recreation, are more nuanced and contentious.

Recreational opportunities should exist across user groups, provided laws are followed and natural resources and wildlife aren’t jeopardized. This applies whether you’re fishing, hiking, hunting, ATVing, snowmobiling, whatever. Or if you’re rock climbing.

Right now the integrity of natural resources, wildlife and recreational parity is at risk in the Bitterroot’s Mill Creek Canyon due to uncontrolled, unsustainable sport rock climbing (see “On belay,” June 5). And laws are being broken.

I am absolutely not against rock climbing. I’ve climbed in awe-inspiring places like Joshua Tree and the Dolomites. But with any activity on National Forest lands, laws and ethics should be reasonably followed, and recreational desires shouldn’t trump resources or wildlife, nor ruin other folks’ experiences. Sadly that’s what’s happening in the Mill Canyon area.

My wife and I live near Mill, recreate there constantly, and have seen the dramatic changes firsthand: establishment of illegal, user-created climbers’ trails with frequent “maintenance;” erosion, trash, illegal gear caching, displacement of peregrines up-canyon, fewer mountain goats, suffocating parking issues, denuding of plant life and the innumerable climbing bolts, slings, ropes, etc. Mill’s become a trashed outdoor climbing gym in just a few years.

Folks have climbed in Mill Canyon for decades. This past climbing has generally been respectful, sustainable and ethical. But starting about 5 years ago, a handful of dedicated sport climbers have made it their mission to bolt-out Mill’s rock faces.

Things reached a head last summer after an article profiled the adventurous Mill climbing exploits of two climbers. In the article there were many incriminating admissions made—direct evidence of violations of the Code of Federal Regulations. Enough was enough, so we went as private citizens, unaffiliated with any organization, to BNF authorities. Others had complained too, including local climbers.

We met with District Ranger Dan Ritter. After investigating the matter, Ritter sent the climbers a letter outlining resource concerns (erosion, impacts on plants and wildlife) and CFR violations, including damaging natural features and constructing/maintaining a trail without authorization. The letter was essentially a “cease and desist” request. It demanded immediate cessation of permanent bolting, deemed illegal by BNF legal counsel.

In fairness, the legality of bolting on National Forest lands outside Wilderness is ambiguous. There seems to be no forest-wide policy. Citations have been issued for fixed anchor placement on other forests. It seems up to the individual forest’s discretion, based on their interpretation of the CFR—provided there are no significant adverse impacts related to the activity.

What’s clear in Mill is that resources are being damaged, violations of law are occurring, and wildlife is being displaced. Local homeowners are affected from the high-volume traffic, other recreationalists are impacted, and liability issues loom.

The sport climbers continue to be on a PR blitz and want the rest of us to overlook the negative impacts of unfettered, unsustainable climbing in a popular, wildlife-sensitive canyon. To this day, laws and ethics continue to be broken and marred; natural resources degraded. Where’s the accountability?

The BNF needs to get out in front on this burgeoning issue, take a leadership role and hold the responsible climbers accountable. Rock climbing in the Bitterroot can be ethical, fun, sustainable and legal. Is that too much to ask for?

Van Keele

Hamilton

Recent Comments

  • Re: Understand trade-offs

    • The sad part of these groups isn't about liberty but about being a republican controlled…

    • on July 17, 2014
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