Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We still have the gas station

Posted on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As life-long residents of Moccasin, we feel burdened with the several errors in your recent article (see “Return to sender,” Nov. 17, 2011).

There aren’t that many buildings leaning toward collapse (maybe two, and the only one we could find boarded up is the house we grew up in, now owned by my sister). There just aren’t that many buildings.


The 90-year-old woman the story mentions is my mother. You reported that she was born in that house, has lived there all her life and has never driven a car, when in fact she was born in Lewistown, raised in Buffalo, graduated high school in Selah, Washington and lived and worked all over Washington State before meeting my father, Cecil Ashcraft. And she drove every car we ever owned.

Sure, that post office is convenient for our family, but its economic viability has long since been outlived. We had assumed that it would close once the current postmistress reached retirement age. It served the large farming population well for more than 100 years (my uncle worked the 100-plus-mile rural route for 26 of those years), but now there is no one to serve—kind of like my payphone business.


I am amazed at the number of people who know where Moccasin is. I am continually surprised by the number of people who relate to the Moccasin Pump as the only cheery spot on the road between Billings and Great Falls and the number of people who know the place, have lived here or own land in the Judith Basin. Anyone who has visited or driven through relates to that lit-up pump, and will surely remember it long after the post office is gone. It even made the cover of Montana Magazine years ago.

Joe Ashcroft

Ketchikan, Alaska

Repository wrangle

Posted on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 4:00 AM

On Monday, Nov. 28th, thanks to the Lincoln Community Council, a meeting will be held at the Lincoln Community Hall at 7:00 p.m. to give folks a chance to hear from the Department of Environmental Quality and the Forest Service about plans to clean up the Mike Horse mine tailings. It is the sincere hope of my neighbors and I that this meeting will start an open and transparent dialog regarding this difficult situation, and will ultimately result in a decision that will not only protect the Blackfoot River, but also the folks who live and own property in this valley. For those of us living adjacent to, or near Section 35, we hope you will plan on attending and lending your support.


Mike Grimes


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Set up by the feds

Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 4:00 AM

It wasn’t clear at the time, but when the federal government abruptly steamrolled dozens of medical marijuana providers in Montana in March, it marked the start of a radical national reversal in Obama administration policy.

It was President Obama himself, as a candidate in 2008, who promised to stop caring about legal medical marijuana operators in states like Montana. And it was Obama whose Justice Department in 2009 told U.S. attorneys to focus on other issues, and to leave alone those marijuana patients and providers who performed in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with their state’s laws.

But in its dramatic 2011 reversal of this policy, the federal government treated honorable Montanans as second-class citizens. Earlier this month, the feds gave California’s marijuana dispensaries 45 days of advance notice to shut down. In contrast, Montanans, all of them registered with the state health department to grow and dispense marijuana to legal patients, got zero warning of a federal policy change. They had been judged as legal, by all appearances, by state and local law enforcement officials, but unlike their many thousands of California counterparts, didn’t receive the courtesy of notice that the feds were about to reverse its policy. Why?

To add insult to injury, the federal government is now prosecuting these Montanans against whom local and state law enforcement officials had not acted. Indeed, some of those being targeted by federal law enforcement had maintained continuous and close relations with local law enforcement. They were proceeding professionally and had no interest in breaking the law. Now, instead, the nation’s taxpayers are funding a DEA witch-hunt that targets them in direct contradiction to Obama’s promises both as a candidate and in his initial policy actions once in office. Apparently, the DEA either didn’t get the memo or ignored it. Perhaps “Drug Czar” Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, needs to be replaced. We all know what repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result constitutes.

This situation in our state is simply unfair. It’s unfair because in effect the federal government set some of these people up—promising a new policy, then pulling the carpet out from under those who believed a new direction of hope and change was in the works.

It’s also cruel. It’s cruel because federal courts—in further contradiction to Obama’s promises—don’t allow any consideration of a person’s adherence to state and local law. The U.S. Attorney in Montana is pursuing prosecutions that won’t permit any fairness as to what is discussed in court. No mention of the state law or of compliance with it. No mention of meetings with local and state officials to ensure that compliance with the law was in place.

And who is being targeted by the federal government? It isn’t everyone. The party that unquestionably profited the most from Montana’s medical marijuana law, NorthWestern Energy, hasn’t been indicted. But NorthWestern was well aware of what many of the state’s caregivers were doing, visited their locations and helped upgrade their electrical infrastructure on a regular basis. The company is no less guilty of a “conspiracy to violate federal drug law” than were the legal Montana caregivers now in the government’s crosshairs.

And Montana banks are no less guilty of “money laundering” than the caregivers might be, either. Under federal law, to take money from a patient, deposit it in the bank and use it to pay the electricity bill constitutes “money laundering.” Don’t think for a second that banks whose clients had the word “cannabis” and “marijuana” in their business names didn’t know what was going on. Federal prosecutions are being very selective, for what seems to be political purposes, in who is targeted by the DEA.

This situation in Montana and elsewhere magnifies the counterproductive results of modern day prohibition and needs to end immediately. This is the sort of thing that weds Occupy Wall Street to the legions of Americans who know the so-called “war on drugs” has been a complete failure. Today’s prohibition effort repeats our history in alcohol prohibition, in demonizing drug addiction, and has enriched organized criminals while criminalizing average Americans seeking relief from pain and disease.

This all comes at tremendous cost to the treasury, with no impact on drug use or the problems it causes.

While I am personally a strong supporter of the Obama administration and Montana’s U.S. attorney, Mike Cotter, I am confused and disappointed. This administration has some serious explaining to do, not just to Montanans but to the voters in every medical marijuana state. Some of these states—like Michigan, Colorado, Washington and Oregon—are must-win states for Obama next year. Why are taxpayers now paying to persecute Americans who merely responded honestly to campaign promises and policy pronouncements of our president on medical marijuana?

William Strizich

Great Falls

Humbled by Wal-Mart

Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Kudos to Jamie Rogers for his piece “The witching hour” (Nov. 10, 2011). It sheds light on a phenomenon many of us know nothing about. I was deeply touched and stunned by the details of midnight shopping for economic reasons. Sometimes those of us living well need this sort of glimpse into another reality. Humbling.

Ann B. Nash

Bow, Wash.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Organic stands for something

Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 4:00 AM

What an interesting read on the life of Barry Flamm (see “Barry Flamm’s frontier,” Oct. 27, 2011).

Barry Flamm will be a guest speaker at the Montana Organic Association’s Great Organic Roundup, in Billings, December 9 and 10 at the Mansfield Health Education Center.

The Montana Organic Association is the voice of Montana’s organic community. It provides information, support, promotion and representation for those involved in organic production and distribution. Over 20 years ago, farmers and consumers went to the legislature to put into law a definition of “organic” so the word couldn’t be misused. That same group of people brought third-party organic certification to the state, and now Montana ranks first among all the states in the production of certified organic wheat and second in organic production of all grains, peas, lentils and flax.

The conference will highlight a series of roundtable discussions among the participants as well as the Department of Agriculture’s new Drift Watch Mapping Program and how to deal with the legal ramifications of chemical trespass, the creation of an organic seed co-op in Montana and the use of a seed oil press to create energy independence on the farm. Information about the conference can be found at

As was mentioned in the article, organic isn’t just a marketing tool. The organic seal stands for something: a rigorous process, full transparency and oversight. Barry Flamm devoted much of his energy to protecting the health of farmers, consumers and the environment through his commitment to organics. We appreciate the man’s dedication and perseverance and look forward to seeing him in Billings.

Lou Ann Crowley


Yes, preserve that guy’s rights

Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 4:00 AM

When I first moved to Missoula in the early 1970s, I was your standard long-haired, rock ’n’ roll playin’, bell-bottom wearin’, bleeding-heart suburban liberal pseudo-hippie. A former colleague of mine used to refer to it as being a “Sears Hippie.” Well, now it’s 2011. I shave my head to hide my gray hair, I still play rock ’n’ roll and I’m still a bleeding-heart liberal. (I’ve even taken the time to actually stop and hug a tree. It’s a pretty cool feeling.) However, as the years roll past I discover that I am slowly becoming—well, that guy who sits on the front porch in his rocking chair shouting things like “You kids get off my lawn!” and “Turn that crap down! You call that music!?” and of course, “Why, in my day...” In short, I am coming to grips with my inner curmudgeon and am beginning to embrace my ever-emerging inner conservative as well. Case in point:

Recently, I was driving west on Broadway past the Missoula County Courthouse where the local rebels and revolutionaries are “occupying Missoula.” Cool. Power to the people! Stick it to the man! Then I see a guy holding a sign that says, “How many soldiers died to fill your gas tank?”

My first response was, “Fuck you, you fear-guilt-shame-mongering asshole!”

Then I began to reflect. Was I only feeling my own guilt and shame at driving my used Subaru Outback during a time of war in the oil-rich Middle East? Nope. I was pissed. This guy was co-opting a message of corporate greed and writing un-researched gibberish on his placard of freedom.

Truth is, most of our oil imports come from Canada. And, other than the War of 1812 and the naval battles of the Great Lakes, I don’t think an American soldier has died at the hands of a Canadian in nearly two centuries.

So I continued driving on to Staples, where I purchased a few new printer cartridges, a piece of poster board and some shiny new black markers, and made up my own little sign. It read, “How many soldiers died so that we could occupy public lands?”

I went and set up camp in front of the courthouse. Within a few minutes I felt my butt getting numb from the cold and the rather unforgiving wooden bench. Then I began to weep openly as I thought about my sign. How many men, women and animals have given their lives so that I could make my little sign and sit there on public land speaking my piece? I was humbled. Deeply humbled.

My life is filled with blessings, living as I do in the greatest country this world has ever known. We’re on rocky footing right now, but I still walk into the Good Food Store, see the bounty and say “God bless America.” I’m still a socialist. Maybe a Democrat. Maybe a little bit of a Republican. Probably more of a Bull Moose Party kind of guy (kids, ask your parents; better yet, go to the library and learn about our 26th president). I’m also a conservative: conserve the constitution, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. Conserve our natural resources and forests and the beasts who dwell there. Conserve the arts that we may maintain some level of civil expression of our deepest selves. And conserve the rights of a young man whose expression of his First Amendment rights may have rubbed me the wrong way, but who still has the right to say that with which I may disagree with my whole being.

David Simmons


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vote for Pam

Posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I am extremely disappointed in your failure to endorse city councilwoman Pam Walzer for Ward 2 in the upcoming election [see “Endorsements 2011,” Oct. 27]. In your article, you failed to recognize the positive work Pam has done for the Missoula community. Pam has been a strong advocate for urban agriculture in Missoula, and will continue to work on policies that strengthen our city’s local food system and accessibility. By not endorsing Pam, you have jeopardized not only her chance for reelection, but the possibility of future work on good policy for a healthy food system.

Kate Sheridan


Vote for the referendum

Posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As a Missoula voter, I was excited to turn my ballot in today with a vote for the referendum. Corporations are not human beings and certainly do not have the same inalienable rights as you and I. It defies all logic and common sense for the U.S. Supreme Court to have declared that corporations are people with the right to pour money into our political campaigns and conceal their motives.

What’s next, Bank of America running for president, getting married and adopting?

I’m heartened that I can have my voice heard on his important issue. The movement to amend the Constitution has to start somewhere. Why not with you and me? Vote FOR the referendum!

Sue Kirchmyer


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