Thursday, June 25, 2009

Still dangerous

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 11:43 AM

A recent article in the Independent discussed how former members of the Montana Freemen were unhappy about revelations that Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Teller, had studied under Freemen leaders in 1996 (see "Finding Freemen," June 11, 2009). The people interviewed repeated the "poor Freemen" rhetoric that was common during the 1990s from the anti-government group's allies. Make no mistake about it: The Montana Freemen were a domestic terrorist group and invented what is now called "paper terrorism." They filed fraudulent liens against the property of local elected officials. They formed "common-law courts," which they often convened by taking over county courthouses, and issued bogus subpoenas for statewide elected officials. They defrauded banks and credit card companies of over a million dollars. They also threatened to hang local sheriffs and offered bounties on employees of the criminal justice system. These criminal activities led to their 81-day standoff with federal authorities.

Despite all of this, allies tried to portray the "poor Freemen" as innocent victims of the federal government, instead of criminals who, by the standoff, already faced over 50 federal and state criminal charges. We understand that occasionally good people get caught up in these groups due to what is happening in their lives. For instance, the Clark family gravitated to the Montana Freemen when their family farm faced foreclosure. However, the majority of people who join radical groups do so because they find the ideology appealing.

The motivation for joining the Freemen does not absolve individuals from the criminal activities in which they engaged. Instead of following the law, the Montana Freemen hitched their horses to LeRoy Schweitzer, who at the time was already a well-known fugitive and tax protestor. People involved with the Freemen shouldn't be surprised that anti-government activists like Roeder continue to be tied to them. The Freemen conducted "classes" whereby they taught over 800 people to not pay their taxes and how to use bogus checks to defraud banks and the government. These "students" came from all over the country, learned the Freemen tactics, and took those practices home to their communities.

Some of those interviewed in the article made it sound like the practices of the Montana Freemen are a distant part of the past. That couldn't be further from the truth. While incarcerated, LeRoy Schweitzer has taught his fellow inmates how to engage in "paper terrorism," according to a 2001 Associated Press article. The other "common law" practices the Montana Freemen helped create continue to circulate and be modified in anti-government circles to this day. The Montana Freemen continue to show up in the media for a reason—their checkered legacy remains relevant today.

Travis McAdam, Montana Human Rights Network, Helena

Larger agenda

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 11:43 AM

I would like to thank all the medical personnel and staff at the Blue Mountain Clinic for continuing to provide quality reproductive services, including abortion. They are courageous folks who face the risk of violence every day simply by going to work.

In the wake of the cold-blooded murder of Dr. George Tiller, those of us who support legal abortion must redouble our efforts to make clinics safe for both the providers and their clients.

This was not an isolated killing of a single abortion doctor. It's part of an ongoing, organized effort to incite violence against abortion providers. We must demand that action be taken against the very real terrorist threat perpetrated by American right-wing extremists like Randall Terry and his followers. We must demand that those who incite violence against abortion providers, like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must demand that the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, passed in 1994 to make violence against abortion providers a federal crime, be rigorously enforced. We must stand up and proclaim our majority support for the right of access to safe, legalized abortion or lose that right to murderous fanatics who won't stop at closing down the few remaining abortion clinics. Their agenda is much larger than that.

Robin Spaziani, Missoula

Family ties

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 11:37 AM

As a member of the family that originally owned most of Huey Lewis' land, I was very interested in your article about him (see "Deep cut," June 18, 2009).

The Flanagins bought the land and built the original farmhouse in the late 1800s. When my grandfather took over running the farm, his parents built a smaller place nearby. Grandpa sold the big house, barn and his half of the land in the early 1950s. Since then, that part of the property has been broken up with different folks in the house and others in newer houses built near the barn. My great aunt raised her family in that smaller house and lived there well into her 80s. Huey befriended her and bought her land and buildings when she needed to move into a nursing home. Aunt Phyllis died about a year afterward. Huey's caretaker was at her funeral and invited us to come for a visit to see the work they had done on the land. (I never took him up on that offer!)

I don't know anything about the controversial slough, but do know that we flood irrigated the land using ditches. I also know that Huey treated my aunt kindly and with dignity. My aunt's daughter shared that hunters and folks fishing often stopped to ask permission to cross her land as they headed to the river. Personally, I would rather Huey own the land than see it more chopped up and with houses.

Susan Flanagin, Missoula

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hungry for facts

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 11:26 AM

I am appalled at the fight against organic foods! For over 15 years we have known that organic foods are healthier and more nutritious than genetically modified foods and food grown with pesticides. And yet the American Dietetic Association and a few state governments are denying the facts. According to the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993, "Organically grown apples, wheat, sweet corn, potatoes and pears were examined over a two year period and were 63% higher in calcium, 73% higher in iron, 118% higher in magnesium, 178% higher in molybdenum, 91% higher in phosphorus, 125% higher in potassium and 60% higher in zinc than conventionally grown produce." In addition, organic meats were not only found to be leaner, but also have about five times the omega-3s.

The American Dietetic Association's website claims, "Nutritionally there is no evidence that organic produce is better or safer than conventionally grown produce." This is unacceptable coming from the largest organization of food and nutritional professionals who claim they are "improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy."

At the same time, some state governments are banning the use of WIC food stamps to be used on organics, saying that they are too expensive and not proven to be more nutritious, even though scientists and doctors are continually warning women and children about the health hazards of pesticides, genetically modified foods and antibiotics in our diet. In a letter from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine they write, "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health," but they are still used and sold without labeling.

The only way to protect oneself from the harmful effects of modern food production is to buy organic. According to the Pesticide Action Network North America, when on a conventional diet, we are exposed to over 70 pesticide-related pollutants on a daily basis. It's no wonder cancer rates are so high!

Ashley Holtorf, Missoula

Biz buzz

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 11:26 AM

Small businesses generate 79 percent of the net new jobs in America. But when it comes to health care, they get the short end of the stick. Those businesses who can afford to offer coverage pay 18 percent more than larger businesses for the same coverage. Not only are prices constantly going up, they're completely unpredictable. The cost of coverage skyrockets whenever an employee comes down with an expensive illness like cancer or has a serious car accident. President Obama's health care plan would offer small businesses a choice of plans through a national or regional purchasing pool, without today's unpredictable prices. And he'd offer substantial tax credits to help small businesses to offer coverage who can't afford it today. Our state's small businesses can't wait any longer for health reform. It's time that Congress act.

Alexis Illyn, Outreach Director, MontPIRG, Missoula

Almost funny

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 11:25 AM

The "Cap and Trade FAQ" by Lissa Harris (see "Up in smoke," June 4, 2009) was timely and covers an issue of great importance, but too little understood. Yes, the system proposed is a "vast, rickety Rube Goldberg contraption, complete with ramps and gears and pulleys and suspended buckets of water."

To assume that this is accidental, however, would be a mistake. It will do exactly what it is designed to do: give the appearance of doing something when it isn't. Or, more accurately, do things very differently from what the public would reasonably expect. If this weren't the most serious crisis to ever face our species, it might be humorous.

Wall Street and the oil companies will love it. The oil companies, because it will give the appearance of something being done while not changing anything. Wall Street, because it will be a new source of money for them—a new bubble to get rich off of. The carbon offsets side of the system, which Harris properly criticizes, was covered in a June Scientific American article, which concludes that the system is hopelessly flawed.

Harris does miss the mark with this statement: "The grim fact is, nobody knows for sure how much carbon reduction we'll need in order to avoid the most dire global warming scenario." Actually, there are those who know quite well. Columbia's Center for Climate Systems Research, for instance, concluded in a publication last year that a maximum carbon dioxide level to prevent runaway global warming is 350 parts per million (ppm). We are now at 385. If we begin immediately to reduce emissions and sequestration of carbon (mostly through reforestation and modified agricultural practices) we can lower the figure to below the 350 ppm figure.

How bad can it get? We don't know and we shouldn't try to find out. It all depends on how much methane will be released from the ocean floor and from receding glaciers and permafrost, and how fast. Certainly, most cities and most agricultural areas would be lost. It would be a grim planet, even for Wall Street brokers and oil company executives.

Harold Young, St. Ignatius
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