Thursday, December 29, 2011

It’s wretcherous

Posted on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Drinking a beer with friends after a day of early-season skiing at Snowbowl, someone asked, “How are conditions?”

A simultaneous “wretched” and “treacherous” were heard. Thus a new ski-condition was termed: “wretcherous.”

As that was the situation, we all needed to promote the utmost atmosphere of safety. To me, that means the owners of Snowbowl should take the lead and their mountain manager should follow closely. The rest of us, some with years of experience, must be heard when we voice concerns over safety and management policies. Participants at all levels must be looked out for and must look out for one another. We each have a voice and we should be allowed, if not encouraged, to state our views, which ultimately, hopefully, will see that we all have a safe and happy season.

Mike McGovern


Would the lynx worry about you?

Posted on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 4:00 AM

How can we make Snowbowl the envy of the greenies? Very simple! Let Snowbowl have unlimited expansion. If we can get all the skiers in Missoula to go to Snowbowl, think of all the fuel that would be saved and the C02 that wouldn’t be in the air. As for destroying the lynx habitat, as a trapper I know lynx habitat and this is not it. And the lynx is not close to being endangered, so don’t worry about it. They are doing just fine.

Mike Dey


Tester’s fine in my book

Posted on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 4:00 AM

In February, Congressman Denny Rehberg announced that in 2012 he would be seeking Senator Jon Tester’s seat in the U.S. Senate. While Tester is actively working to prevent post office closures all over rural Montana, striving to help these communities maintain essential services as well as a sense of identity in an uncertain future, Denny Rehberg is playing politics with the public lands of Montana.

With his eye on the Senate seat, Rehberg has sought blockage of Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, bipartisan legislation that allows greater latitude for timber harvests, designates substantial tracts of land as protected wilderness and facilitates effective public lands management through local stakeholder involvement. The FJRA without question will lead to a more localized and responsive form of management of public lands.

Instead, Rehberg has decided to rally behind HR1505, legislation which endows the Department of Homeland Security with the authority to control all federal lands within 100 miles of the United States border. The bill would allow bureaucrats exempt from judicial review to make decisions regarding some of this state’s public treasures, like Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. This contradicts not only Rehberg’s stated philosophies of reducing the scope of government, but also flies in the face of the stated wishes of his constituents. Let him know.

Adam Tew


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Unfair to Tester

Posted on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I know this newspaper can do better at covering Montana politics than what we read in last week’s “Etc.” column. As we prepare for one of the most important elections in Montana history, readers deserve to know what separates Sen. Jon Tester and the guy who wants his job, Congressman Dennis Rehberg. The differences couldn’t be starker.

Unfortunately, last week’s Etc. column took the easy way out. Instead of thoughtful political analysis, readers got a disappointing glimpse of Jon Tester’s record. The Independent then editorialized on its own incomplete picture of Jon’s hard work.

Since the Etc. column criticized Jon’s 44 pieces of legislation this year, yet failed to illuminate them, allow me to fill in a few missing pieces. Jon wrote and passed the only jobs bill signed into law this year, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which passed both the House and Senate with unanimous support. He introduced legislation to add the “death of a child” to the Family Medical Leave Act. He got the U.S. Postal Service to delay closing any mail facilities in Montana. The crop insurance program Jon created to expand the production of camelina biofuel kicked into gear a few weeks ago. And President Obama just signed into law Jon’s bill to make the American Legion more accessible to younger veterans.

I don’t expect the Independent to write a story every time Jon Tester sends a press release. But if this publication is going to make light of “Car Collector Appreciation Day” or Jon’s role in getting ESPN to air football games, I would expect it to have shared more of Jon’s substantive record over the past year.

As for Jon’s refusal to give up on his popular Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, he’ll continue pushing his responsible Montana jobs bill because thousands of Montanans expect no less of him. Jon’s bill is a balanced, made-in-Montana solution to a problem that Congressman Rehberg has refused to address during his 35 years in politics. Now Congressman Rehberg admits he asked his party bosses to prevent a vote on the bill because he knows it would hurt his own senate chances.

So what is Congressman Rehberg responsible for? Very little, actually, unless you count trying to decimate Planned Parenthood, Head Start and Jobs Corps earlier this year. Or calling student financial aid “the welfare of the 21st century.” Or suing Billings firefighters. Or trying to take undue credit for Jon’s legislation (I don’t call that “bickering”; I call it setting the record straight—something newspapers should be doing). Congressman Rehberg has a long list of irresponsible decisions that have only hurt Montana.

In November of 2012, let’s hope for an outcome determined by facts and illumination. I look forward to more of that in these pages.

Aaron Murphy,Communications Director

Montanans for Tester

Unfair to burlesque dancer

Posted on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I enjoy reading the Independent. The reporting is spot-on and all events, whether popular or not, are reported in a fair and non-judgmental manner. You do an excellent job. However, an opportunity to portray a time-honored artistic profession was missed in your recent article by Erika Fredrickson [“The big tease,” Dec. 15].

Having seen the Cigarette Girls Burlesque troop many times and been a supporter for as long as they’ve been in existence, I was deeply disappointed in the manner in which they were portrayed. The first mistake was the unflattering picture of Miss Birdie La Rouge. It almost appears the intent was to embarrass her.

I am also disappointed to read in the first paragraph a reference to “pasties” and what was probably an off-the-cuff comment made by La Rouge about the removal process. There are many trade secrets performers probably work hard at keeping from being made public. It’s my guess this description was one of them. The women in this troop have a lot of hurdles to overcome by public misconceptions of their craft. That was a private piece of information that was not necessary to reveal in your article. I believe you owe The Cigarette Girls an apology, in particular Miss La Rouge. She is a beautiful girl and deserves more than the horrible photograph the Independent printed.

Donna Rose


Unfair to real country music

Posted on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 4:00 AM

In this week’s spotlight “Low places” [Dec. 15], we’re informed that Garth Brooks “is a gateway to great country music” and that Waylon Jennings is “full of it” for calling Brooks out on his watered-down, nauseating brand of (pop) country music. The writer implies that the mundane consistency of Garth’s music career is somehow superior to Waylon’s transformation from commercial country singer to pioneer of the outlaw country movement. In essence, he is telling us that an adherence to crappy commercial values is to be celebrated over the striving for artistic integrity. A dubious proposition, no?

If Garth Brooks is a gateway to great country music, then McDonald’s is a gateway to weight loss and Sunset Boulevard is a gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. If anything, the front door of whoever wrote this Spotlight is a gateway to Fairy Land.

We’re also told that Garth will be heard at any decent bonfire party. Let it here be known that if anyone comes to a bonfire party of my own, singing or playing anything by Garth Brooks, they will quickly find themselves cast into the conflagration. As the flames dance over their obnoxious body, cleansing and purifying them of their grievous offense, they will be welcome to sing along as I strum my guitar and croon the chorus of an old country favorite. The horns will blast away, signaling the bravado and triumph of the victor, and this country music phony will be awakened to the true power of REAL country music: “I fell into a burning ring of fire. / I went down, down, down, / and the flames went higher. / And it burned, burned, burned, / the ring of fire. / The ring of fire...”

Michael Shaw


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Biting criticism

Posted on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I take exception to the statement in the article “Paying deerly” in the Dec. 8, 2011 Independent, saying I have “no formal scientific training.” I graduated with a B.A. in science and education. Because I had a double major, I have the equivalent of six years of college credits rather than just four. I also worked in the nursery of a large hospital in Denver for eight months, giving me the opportunity to observe “normal asymmetry” (not the same as birth defects) on between 1,200 and 1,500 human newborns. As a wildlife rehabber for 45-plus years, I have closely observed the anatomy of over 500 newborns of a variety of Montana mammal species, wild and domestic, and have necropsied several hundred mammals and birds.

Our 2011 study Observations of brachygnathia superior in wild ruminants in Western Montana, by three biologists, one with a Ph.D., and myself, is available online. For this study, the amount of underbite, overbite or normal contact of the lower incisors with the premaxillary pad was quantified, with measurements.

Our 2002 study Genital abnormalities in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in west-central Montana: Pesticide exposure as a possible cause, was done by three biologists, two with Ph.D.s, and myself.

I am not “charting” these malformations alone, as the Independent’s article insinuates.

Here is my response to Dr. Foresman’s statement that “because there’s a lot of variability in nature, the malformations Hoy is charting might result from natural processes, anomalies or injuries, especially in roadkill”: First, natural processes include the disruption of cellular signaling and cellular growth during fetal development. Second, my medical dictionary defines “anomalies” as birth defects. And third, injuries incurred after it is born, how an animal dies or that it is dead do not in any way affect the presence or absence of developmental malformations/birth defects, which an animal has at birth.

Interestingly, the mountain goat pictured in an advertisement on page 24 of the Dec. 1 Independent has an underbite, apparently not observed by government biologists. The lower lip is clearly forward of the upper lip, opposite of normal.

Judy Hoy


Destroying democracy

Posted on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I was at Partnership Health Center recently, waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I picked up Newsweek, partly because there was a picture of President Obama on the cover. I turned to the cover article and began reading an amazingly balanced and rational overview of the president’s accomplishments so far. The article mentioned that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was still in effect, which prompted me to turn to the cover for the date. The issue of Newsweek I was reading was from November 2, 2009, and the article was a review of the things that the president had accomplished in his first year in office.

The article describes our system of government as one based on compromises and checks and balances. The pace it moves at is slow. Presidents are not dictators but (hopefully) leaders, and are limited in their choices for change.

There was a quote from the article in large bold print on the page. I want to share it with others, because it summarizes many of the issues talked about in the article. “If the American people want the president to be more like the Barack Obama they elected, perhaps they should start being more like the voters who elected him.”

Not since the time before the Civil War have we had people in our government who wanted to destroy our system of democracy. These individuals are not interested in compromise. They are not interested in the people who work at McDonald’s or clean the office buildings they work in, who teach in our public schools, who work in mines, factories and retail stores. They are not interested in helping disabled people or supporting children who have had no advantages or chances to succeed. These people often call themselves Christians but apparently are reading a Bible I fail to recognize. They vigorously oppose methods to prevent unwanted children but have no desire to assist these children when they are born. They have access to the latest technology and so feel that the postal service is no longer needed.

Our planet and country are at risk. If we continue on our course, our future is in doubt. I hope that people will have the wisdom and understanding to realize that the stakes are high now, and these problems will affect us all. Please consider these things as our elections near.

Rachel López


Bah humbug budget

Posted on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 4:00 AM

On Capitol Hill, in the waning hours of 2011, Rep. Denny Rehberg’s controversial proposal to slash funds from family planning clinics is just one more needless attack on the middle class and poor that is gridlocking Congress. The cuts are part of Rehberg’s fiscal year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill introduced earlier this fall. These clinics serve low-income and underinsured women and their families, screen for cancer and other diseases, and provide basic health services. One recent study found that 17.3 percent of Montanans have no health insurance, 7.7 percent are unemployed and 14.6 percent live below the poverty level. Yet Rehberg’s plan would further reduce access to health care for poor and low-income families.

Why does Montana’s congressman refuse to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes, and instead decimate the programs that help the poor, who have no other means of support? It’s a “bah humbug” budget that reminds me of A Christmas Carol, in which stingy Ebenezer Scrooge groused that Tiny Tim’s health was not Scrooge’s problem.

’Tis the season of giving. For all the Emily and Bob Cratchit families today in our country, let’s urge Rehberg to stop behaving like Scrooge and give a little.

God bless us with health care, every one!

Mary Ann Dunwell


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Baucus, Rehberg behind Post Office failure

Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 4:00 AM

People wondering why the U.S. Postal Service is in financial trouble today need look no further than Montana’s congressional delegation. Sen. Max Baucus, former Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg, along with most of their peers in Congress, voted in favor of H.R. 6407, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, which created the onerous mandate to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future postal retirees for 75 years over a 10-year period, costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion annually. This requirement is unheard of in private industry or any other government agency, local, state or federal. It was, in fact, a poison pill designed to destroy the Postal Service as we know it.

We are now seeing the fallout from this legislation. The Postal Service’s budget, which would have been revenue-neutral without this requirement even in today’s down market, is nearly $15 billion in the red after five years. Given the legal mandate to continue this disastrous course, top management says it is struggling to find ways of reducing costs without significantly affecting service. It has already closed dozens of processing centers and curtailed services it could easily sacrifice. Now comes the painful part, which is the closure of 252 more processing centers, including several in Montana, two of which are in Missoula and Kalispell. When these centers are closed, western Montana’s mail will be shipped to Spokane for route sorting.

The Postal Service predicts its best-case scenario will save $1.2 million by closing our processing center. Missoula will pay dearly for this. Twenty-eight employees will be laid off. We’ll lose overnight first-class service in Montana; it will be downgraded to two to three days or more, depending on the weather. We’ll lose vital access to markets and services such as newspaper and medication delivery, absentee voting and direct mailing, among countless others. And we’ll lose one of the bits of fabric that holds a community together.

I attended last week’s information and feedback session for the regional postal managers to make their case for elimination of Missoula’s processing center and for Missoulians to respond with their concerns. The managers presented a bean-counter PowerPoint detailing the financial and logistical reasoning for the proposed closure. Absent from this analysis was the increased carbon footprint generated by transporting our mail to Spokane and back or the direct economic impacts of the change in service to western Montanans. Also missing were projected losses of the post office customer base and their impact on revenue.

Most outrageously, representatives from Baucus’s and Rehberg’s offices testified on behalf of Montana postal customers. However, they failed to acknowledge their part in H.R. 6407 and no one else held them to account. Stating that the postal service’s hands were tied by law, John DiPeri, the regional manager, seemed to have no more imagination than his bosses. Rather than suggest the repeal of this bill, which largely is the source of today’s problem, he simply acknowledged the constraints caused by this legislation and recommended that we write higher-ups and our representatives in Congress to express our concerns about the specific cuts proposed.

The larger issue is that our public institutions are under an insidious attack by ideologues who want to set the government up for failure. As funding for our important institutions is withdrawn, long-esteemed programs will fail one after another, providing ever more proof that government does not work. Make no mistake, our national parks and other public treasures will soon be up for sale to the lowest bidder.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, however, has recently proposed the Postal Service Protection Act, which, if enacted, will restore solvency to the Postal Service by repealing the pre-funding requirement and enabling the Postal Service to expand the services it offers to create new sources of revenue. Anyone who cares about the services the post office provides, please write to Sens. Baucus and Tester and Rep. Rehberg to urge them to embrace Sen. Sanders’ plan to correct the mistake of 2006.

Without imagination and decisive action, the finest and most efficient postal service in the world will decline to the point it cannot provide service at any price.

John Snively


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