Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pipeline partiality

Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM

The Washington Post recently published an article on the friendly relationship between the U.S. State Department and TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott. According to a series of emails discovered through a Freedom of Information Act Request, the State Department has shown unfair bias in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In one such email, State Department official Marja Verloop writes “Go Paul!” about Elliott’s announcement that he has secured Sen. Max Baucus’s support for the pipeline.

The email exchange even indicates an understanding between TransCanada and the State Department that TransCanada would be able to apply for an operating pressure increase once the pipeline is built. Verloop even relayed the understanding to her boss, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, in an email stating “TransCanada is comfortable and on board.”

The State Department is obviously not in a position to make a fair decision on this project. The decision-making authority should be transferred to an agency without a bias in favor of the pipeline.

Janet McMillan


Who can take the heat?

Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Most of us know that our government is in disastrous financial shape, which should be of great concern to all of us. An intelligent person prepares for the worst and hopes for the best. Our situation reminds me of the logo that Simon Black, the author of “Sovereign Man,” an economic newsletter, has on his letterhead: “There are two ways to sleep good at night...Be ignorant or be prepared.”

I am concerned about our country’s future, not so much for myself at my age, even though I do expect to live for some time yet, but for our children and grandchildren, both yours and mine. In light of today’s economic problems, I believe that Mr. Black’s slogan is very appropriate. My question is, Why are so many uninformed? Are they simply blasé as to what is happening around them and living in a dream world? Or is it low intelligence and the inability to comprehend?

For those of us aware of this devastating situation, we better do what we can to help others realize that in order to survive, some planning has to be done. We know that Congress sends money to all of the states for various programs and we know that those dollars, if there are any next year, will be greatly reduced. So what does that mean to us here in Montana? It means that we must be sure that each candidate in next year’s election has the principals and philosophy needed to cut the “waste” and do what’s necessary to keep Montana in good financial shape—and search for ways to create jobs for Montanans. Also, the candidates must be willing to take the heat, because doing what is both right and necessary won’t be easy.

Fred Carl, Sr.


Comment on Carlyle

Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM

There has been a lot of coverage regarding the proposed sale of Mountain Water to the Carlyle Group, and many local water users have told the Public Service Commission and the Missoula City Council how they feel about the deal.

While water users appreciate Mayor John Engen and the Clark Fork Coalition’s efforts on behalf of our water resources, some feel that their agreement with the Carlyle Group is not strong enough to ensure that Missoula will have a clear opportunity to purchase the utility from Carlyle in the future, especially since the agreement is not legally binding.

The PSC will make its decision on the proposed sale in the coming weeks. Please write them immediately and ask that they put strong, enforceable conditions on the proposed sale should they decide to approve it. Provisions such as a “right of first refusal” for the city and/or a Missoula utility co-operative and “ring-fencing” requirements, as proposed by the Montana Consumer Council, are absolutely necessary to protect our community. Missoula water users want solid assurance that the ownership of the Mountain Water utility can be brought home in the next five years.

To access the PSC online comment form, go to: comments/

Susan Stubblefield


Evoking Kent State

Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Does anyone really believe that thousands of people in cities all over the country are spending weeks carrying signs and sleeping in the parks because they want to hang out and be cool, as Fox News would lead us to believe? We have seen demonstrations like this before with respect to war, but never with respect to the economy. They come from every background, are of all ages and are simply fed up. Many are desperate. They are sick to the core of wealthy bankers, corporate CEOs and Wall Street fat cats flooding election coffers to keep politicians in place who really do not give a whit about the poor and unemployed.

If ever we needed our elected officials to stand together, it was in support of President Obama’s comprehensive jobs bill. It took courage for Democratic senators to stand behind the president and vote for this legislation. Democrats rose to the occasion—all except two: John Tester of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. More concerned about reelection than about doing the right thing, these two let us down when we needed them the most.

In the August 23, 2010 issue of Newsweek, an article titled “The Best Countries in the World” reported on an extensive survey that included the aid of an advisory board made up of Nobel laureates and renowned academics from around the world. The survey chose five categories of national well-being—education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness and political environment—and compiled metrics within these categories against which they rated 100 nations. Of the 10 countries of the world that finished ahead of the U.S. in overall ranking, the U.S. may have more billionaires than all of them put together. Could this explain why 64 percent of all people surveyed about Obama’s jobs bill felt that the small additional tax on multimillionaires and closing a few corporate tax loopholes was not only fair, but long, long overdue?

So maybe we might want to start listening to those thousands of people demonstrating in our cities all over the country, before the last vestiges of hope completely disappear. Many have already given up on the system. Do we really want to wait until peaceful demonstrations turn into rioting and, once again, we call out the National Guard to shoot our college students? We have seen this nightmare play out before. It was bad enough returning home after my second tour in Vietnam, but watching as the carnage unfolded at Kent State University was simply unbearable. I do not think that as a nation we can survive that again.

Jim Lockwood


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The sacrifice of a river

Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I want to commend Brad Tyer for authoring such a well-researched, unbiased, rational piece of work (see “The legacy of the poisoned Clark Fork,” Oct. 6, 2011). I just really appreciated how Tyer explained how sometimes, in the attempt to create something, in this particular case copper, which runs our cell phones and computers, etc., sacrifices must be made.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The sacrifice of an entire river drainage might be a little extreme, to say the least, and in the future we should definitely—and I’m sure that we will through improved technology and science—be more aware of the consequences. I would venture to bet that Marcus Daly had no idea what the consequences of his actions were going to be. There are those, myself included, who would say, “Bullshit, the greedy bastard couldn’t have cared less”—and that may be true, as we have seen the same attitude portrayed many times throughout history, but we don’t know that for sure.

My education and much of my working experience were in the field of forestry. I used to be a pretty avid “paint it, cut it, burn it and plant it” (or let it naturally regenerate) type of dude, but that attitude has mellowed considerably through time. I have seen a number of areas where trees never should have been taken off the hillside, or the logging prescription was wrong in one way or another. I have witnessed the long-term aftereffects of such actions. I know that many of these actions were the result of pressure put on the managing agency by greedy lobbying interests to “get the cut out.” But I am also pretty sure that a lot of those same actions were the result of sheer ignorance. Man does not know for sure what is going to happen 120 years from now!

Anyway, thank you for pretty much making that point, whether you intended to or not. Many of the Independent’s readers, I’m sure, have never bothered to consider that. Good job!

Randy Richards


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Tester’s bill is back

Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As a college student at the University of Montana who has spent my whole life hiking, climbing and exploring the secluded wilderness of Montana, Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is an essential stepping-stone toward protecting this freedom. With the FJRA’s most recent inclusion in the Senate’s Interior Department appropriations bill, we have a chance to move forward.

This legislation would protect around 700,000 acres of Montana’s backcountry as wilderness. Not only this, but it would allocate money toward improving damaged streams and wildlife habitat. Also, recreation and protection areas will permanently guarantee the use of non-motorized mountain bikes.

Designating many wilderness study areas as pure wilderness areas, allowing them lasting protection from development and machinery during a time when motorized use is becoming more and more common, would bolster conservation efforts. National environmental laws that are already in place would remain untouched, and logging will not take place on inventoried roadless lands in the backcountry.

For those of us who live in Montana and enjoy the countless activities available through our amazing landscape, Tester’s bill provides a way to ensure that Montana’s wilderness is afforded the protection it needs.

Willow Coefield


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Fixing a “big lie”

Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 4:00 AM

When Missoula voters receive their ballots in a few days, they will have an opportunity to express their opinion on one of the most consequential issues of our time: whether corporations should have the civil rights of human beings.

At the time that the U.S. Constitution was drafted, business organizations did not exist in the corporate form that is now so common. The current form evolved as a way to encourage private investment by limiting the liability of an investor. This was an ingenious innovation that undoubtedly spurred economic development throughout the world, to the benefit of all. The law recognized these entities as “persons” for the purpose of allowing them to initiate lawsuits and to be sued themselves. While the law recognized corporations as “artificial persons,” it did not automatically bestow upon corporations the rights of human beings.

Then a peculiar event occurred. In an obscure tax collection case brought by Santa Clara County against the Southern Pacific Railroad, one of the justices of the Supreme Court made an offhand reference to corporations being protected “as persons” under the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

From this seed of thought, a body of law has grown that has extended many human civil rights to corporations. The most recent embodiment of this dangerous development is the Citizens United case. This case rejected a federal prohibition against “electioneering communication” by corporations. The court held that the prohibition was an unconstitutional infringement on the “free speech” rights of a corporation. The court reasoned that under the U.S. Constitution, all corporations have the same rights as human beings to speak, express and advocate their point of view on political issues, including election advocacy.

None of us wish to restrict the rights of all citizens to speak and be heard on political issues. The free expression of all ideas is essential if we are to be able to understand and evaluate which of these ideas make the most sense and which do not. But when the political discourse is dominated by only a few voices, then the rest cannot be heard. And as George Orwell observed, a “big lie” repeated over and over again, with great conviction, will sometimes be viewed as the truth.

The protection against the big lie comes from a robust and critical expression of contrary opinions. This is what we need in order to function well in a democracy. But when corporations with unrestricted advertising budgets enter the election process to advocate a point of view that benefits only the corporation, the opinions of human beings in this country are stifled. Our society is diminished by the result. This is why it is now so important to help our Supreme Court correct the error of its ways.

We can take an important step in this direction this fall. When you receive your ballot, vote to urge our state and federal legislators to amend the U. S. Constitution to provide that civil rights belong only to human beings, and that corporations are not human beings for the purpose of enjoying these rights.

Jon Ellingson

Ron Erickson

Jason Wiener

Cynthia Wolken


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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hate drop

Posted on Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Earlier this month, Missoula and the University of Montana were defiled with racist messages that disturbed and offended many community members. The stickers and fliers containing the racist messages specifically targeted American Indians and African Americans. The press reported that the fliers sported the name of a well-known white supremacist organization, the Montana Creators. The Montana Creators are a subset of the Creativity Movement, an anti-Semitic and racist group that believes people of color are inferior “mud races.”

As you’d suspect, Missoulians have been wondering who is responsible for the literature drop. We have a pretty good idea. One of my staffers was in Missoula the weekend of September 17 and happened to observe a few Billings “Creators” hanging out near a gas station. These activists routinely brag about conducting similar literature drops in Yellowstone County. While we can’t say for sure, it seems like more than a coincidence that “Creator” literature was found in Missoula that weekend.

The Billings “Creators” probably took their hate on the road in an attempt to make their presence in Missoula larger than it really is. We appreciate all the calls we’ve received from community members regarding the literature. It’s clear that our members in Missoula, along with the community at large, are committed to standing against the “Creator” agenda and keeping Missoula a welcoming place.

Travis McAdam

Montana Human Rights Network


Fair punishment

Posted on Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Charge the streaker as a sexual offender? That is dumb and a waste of time. How about blow up the picture of the streaker and post it all over town? Now that is what I call punishment. Love your cover.

Alex Gallego


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