Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Never has, never will

Posted on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 3:03 PM

It is understandable that individuals, like Nancy de Pastino, and advocacy groups like her "Moms Demand Action" are seeking solutions to the problem of gun violence in the wake of the horrifying Sandy Hook tragedy (see "Strength in numbers," Feb. 21). It is also understandable that individuals and groups who deeply value their family's gun heritage, the shooting sports and the right to use guns for self-protection are defending against possible reactionary laws that may come from this recent tragedy.

The buyback program that is being instituted by de Pastino and the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center is a non-controversial way to get some guns out of the hands of some people—people who are currently in need of food more than they are in need of a firearm. And this can make a lot of people feel better knowing they are participating in this gesture of reducing guns among the local populace. But will it have the effect of reducing gun violence?

Unfortunately, the groups that form around big issues and "fight against" things like drug abuse, teen pregnancy, terrorism, poverty, mental illness, drunk driving and gun violence have been largely unsuccessful in preventing or reducing these conditions despite their claims. I have often wondered why these groups, so well intentioned to bring about positive change, do not succeed in bringing about the change they work so hard for. I have come to the conclusion that it is because, as Albert Einstein said, "we cannot solve the problems of this world at the same level of thinking at which they were created."

Still it is important for us to take notice of what is not working and instigate new ideas that could resolve these unwanted conditions. But, I know for a fact that reactionary measures motivated primarily by anger and fear will never produce the desired results. Never has and never will.

Of course, anger and fear are natural reactions to a violent mass shooting. In fact, most humans, gun lovers, gun haters and everyone in between, probably had the same initial reaction to this tragic news. After the shock, horror and heartbreak, most of us started the natural process of trying to make sense of the senseless. We asked "why did he do it?" and "how could this have happened?" And then we started formulating hypothesis and some of us came up with reasons why it happened and in keeping with human nature, we started pointing fingers and blaming something or someone or some other group of people for the tragedy.

It's natural to want to do something so that we can feel "safe" and "in control" again in the face of something so terrifying and so out of control. Our fear for ourselves, our children and for our collective future motivates us to do something that we personally believe will help reduce the likelihood of a similar tragedy happening to ourselves or others.

Some gun enthusiasts and proponents of gun rights want teachers to be trained and allowed to carry guns into schools in order to dissuade mentally unstable people who may be fantasizing about becoming the next famous mass murderer. Gun enthusiasts often blame the violent entertainment industry, the general acceptance of the moral decline in society, the fact that more children are being raised in single parent families than traditional two parent families and other societal ills as the breeding ground for mentally unstable individuals who then commit violent deeds.

Some people who are not enthusiastic about guns want to try enacting more laws to limit who can have a gun and where guns are and aren't "allowed" in order to prevent or reduce gun violence. Gun control proponents blame the NRA and gun manufacturers for blocking what they consider to be "common sense" laws and rules that they believe would have the effect of reducing gun violence, such as outlawing certain type of guns and ammunition as well as penalizing and holding gun manufacturers and retailers responsible for gun deaths.

Unfortunately, in the process of trying to solve the universally agreed upon problem of gun violence, we angrily blame and attack whoever or whatever we believe is responsible for the problem. Until or unless we eliminate all these guns in our heads aimed at other people who want the same thing that we do but who hold different views, we will not solve the problem of gun violence—or any other social problems for that matter.

I fully support the goal of ending gun violence as do individuals on both sides of the gun debate. But until we realize that gun violence is not wrought by guns, but is wrought by desperate individuals who have lost their way, who have lost their connection to something bigger—to the whole of humanity and to themselves—and until we each see our own part in that larger dilemma, we will continue the fruitless debating, blaming and finger pointing and miss the solution altogether.

Wendy Mair


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Political poetry

Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 3:51 PM

The Democrats say we have to reduce the deficit. The Republicans say we have to reduce the deficit. The Independents say we have to reduce the deficit. Isn't it wonderful how they all agree?

Some jobs and benefits will be cut, say the Democrats. Some jobs and benefits will be cut, say the Republicans. Some jobs and benefits will be cut, say the Independents. Isn't it wonderful how they all agree?

The Democrats say everyone will feel some pain. The Independents say everyone will feel some pain. The Republicans say everyone except the Super rich and corporations will feel some pain. It isn't any wonder that they disagree!

How come only the Republicans are smart enough to know that you don't ask the major source of your campaign funds to participate in reducing the deficit?

Peter Daniels



Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 3:50 PM

The U.S. Constitution established our democratic republic. Working well, it treats residents with fairness and respect. Justice for all we are promised. Marijuana has been trying hard to ruin the way we promised to be. For 80 years our government has punished adults for possession or use of marijuana. Jail time, fines, loss of family and jobs, a criminal record—all of it for doing nothing against anyone.

Marijuana has been used for 6,000 years to relieve muscle aches and pains. Is that bad? Adult use does not mean abuse. An adult's desire to use marijuana should not require anyone's permission. It does not cause the trouble alarmists claim it does. An adult can buy alcohol—our worst troublemaker and killer and abuser—at a grocery store. They can buy junk food and tobacco at the grocery store, as well. And they are known to cause considerable health problems. Alcohol abuse kills thousands per year. It's also known to be relevant in rapes, beatings, family abuse, divorce, loss of jobs and crimes of all kinds. Any comparison between marijuana and booze does not exist.

Punishing adults for use of marijuana is what bullies do. My 64 years around alcohol abuse has shown our government attacks the trouble and ignores the problem. They go both ways with our biggest troublemaker.

Lon LaBelle

Thompson Falls

Stay on it

Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 3:49 PM

Those of us who remember the Yellowstone Pipeline Company petroleum pipeline easement renewal process through the Flathead Indian Reservation in the mid-1990s would not be surprised by the actions of Exxon relating to the 2011 Yellowstone River spill (see "Oiled, soiled and spoiled," Feb. 7). Between 1986 and 1992, at least 71 leak or spill incidents happened along the pipeline route from Billings to Spokane. Major spills occurred on the reservation and weren't seriously addressed until the easement was due for renewal.

At a meeting that I attended while serving as a Missoula County Commissioner, it was apparent that the tribal issues were either not understood or ignore by pipeline officials. Instead, they focused on company-suggested compensation to the tribe for the proposed new easement. Tribal Chairman Mickey Pablo made numerous attempts to encourage Yellowstone to address the concerns of the tribe which included adequate cleanup of past spills, restoration of damaged areas, new safeguards to prevent future incidents and sensitivity to tribal sacred areas where the pipeline crossed or abutted.

Rather than address those issues in a way that would satisfy the tribe, the company continued to sweeten the compensation offer to no avail. Unsatisfied and believing the company was not negotiating in good faith, it was ordered to cease operations through the reservation. Raising the compensation package once more without addressing the tribal issues failed and the company closed the pipeline and began truck-hauling, then rail-hauling its products around the reservation. That process continues to this day.

Exxon and Conoco are controllers of the Yellowstone pipeline. Until state and federal governments exercise the same courage as the tribe did in the 1990s, we will continue to see more incidents like the Yellowstone River spill. Whether or not regulatory processes are in place, we need to emphasize the responsibilities and liabilities of resource developers who have been successful in blaming agencies and regulators for their mistakes. Clearly the highest levels of expertise in resource development reside with the industries rather than the regulators. The Exxon Valdez, the Deepwater Horizon, the Amoco Cadiz, the Yellowstone River spill and the Flathead Reservation spills to name only a few in the recent past should remind us all, particularly those in the industry, that more needs to be done. I hope the Independent does its share by continual investigations in this area.

Michael Kennedy


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rally in orange

Posted on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 3:09 PM

For those of you who have not heard, Rep. Ellie Hill from Missoula has introduced a bill, HB 235, which would allow corner-crossing in Montana (see “Sportsmen seek definitive answer on corner-crossing,” Jan. 30). Corner-crossing is when a person comes to a corner where four parcels meet and steps over the corner onto another property. For example, as I am facing the junction of these four parcels, the parcel I am standing on is public property while the parcels to my right and left are private property, but the parcel directly in front of me is also public property. HB 235 would allow me to step from the public property over the junction onto the other parcel of public property. This bill would only allow for foot traffic.

Currently, there is no statute allowing corner-crossing and the legality is a gray area. By placing a statute into law specifically allowing corner-crossing, the gray area is removed and people will be able to access public land from public land. There are estimates that corner-crossing could possibly allow access to over one million acres of public land in Montana!

There are those who claim corner-crossing violates their private property rights and constitutes a “taking.” The Goetz law firm in Bozeman, who successfully argued the Stream Access Law in the Supreme Court, has issued a memorandum on HB 235 wherein the last paragraph states: “For the reasons set forth herein, HB 235, if passed into law, will not constitute a taking and is constitutional under the Montana and Federal Constitutions.”

In 2005, a legislator brought forth a bill to allow corner-crossing that never made it out of committee. Times have changed and with today’s technology thru the use of GPS and the associated landownership software/chips, a person can find the actual “corner” where the parcels meet. This was not the case in 2005.

This is not just an issue impacting hunters, but also fisherman, hikers and bird watchers. Recreational hiking in Montana is prevalent throughout the state. Think about the opportunities to legally hike on the vast amount of public land which currently is not legally open. Many of these parcels are in the National Forest with beautiful landscapes, small streams and a variety of wildlife and birds.

HB 235 was defeated in the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 30. Rep. Hill is now going to try and “blast” it out of committee by requesting a vote on the House Floor. She needs 60 out of 100 votes to make this happen. This “blast” motion is going to take place on Monday, Feb. 18, which is the President’s Day holiday. There is a rally scheduled on that day, at the Capitol. Though we cannot testify at the hearing, which will start at 1 p.m., we can be in the gallery showing our support for HB 235 and letting the legislators see how important this bill is to Montana. All those wishing to attend, need to be at the Capital by 12:15. Please wear a hunter orange vest.

We are arranging for a bus to take us—for free—to and from Missoula and Helena. If you are interested in being on the bus, please email to reserve space.

If you support the concept of accessing public lands from adjacent public lands, please contact every legislator you know from both parties with your thoughts and, if possible, be at the Capitol at 12:15 on Feb. 18.

Robert Wood

Montana Sportsmen Alliance


Max is the man

Posted on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 3:08 PM

“Know your farmer”? How about “Know your pharmacist”?

Dan Brooks’ conspiracy theory regarding Sen. Baucus and corporate pharma (see “Friends with benefits,” Jan. 31) ignores the complex challenges faced by health care providers to maintain service access and affordability for all Montanans across a vast and sparsely populated state; challenges that Sen. Baucus understands well.

The conspiracy du jour relates to bundling treatment services for Medicare patients whereby a provider is essentially granted a monopoly to serve a number of clients at a maximum cost per person, thereby incentivizing cost-effective care. With respect to kidney dialysis, services are bundled in Montana but are only available in 12 clinics throughout the entire state.

The “Amgen windfall,” according to Brooks, occurs because Sen. Baucus delayed implementation of a bill that would have added to the bundle of dialysis services an oral drug named Sensipar, and thus subject the drug to Medicare price controls. Sensipar is currently available from any local, independent or grocery store pharmacist, through mail order or online. Had oral drugs been added to the bundle of services, Medicare dialysis patients could only fill their prescription through one of the 12 dialysis clinics.

In other words, without further regulation, patients would now be required to drive 50 - 100 miles or more each way to reach one of the 12 dialysis clinics in the state to fill a prescription for a drug currently available from their pharmacist of choice, all in an effort to save tax dollars.

But at what expense? To fill a prescription, the patient/taxpayer, we hope, owns a vehicle and can afford the gas and drive safely to that clinic and home again. If not, what about the cost of missed medication? Add increased energy use and thus energy dependence, impacted air quality and unnecessary traffic. Delete consumer choice, convenience and safety.

Finally, bundling oral drugs currently available from a local rural pharmacist effectively undermines if not outsources one more job from rural Montana to our larger urban centers. All this for a drug that will soon be generic.

Consumer choice, safety and community sustainability are essential Montana values. To allow further study of any bill that affects these values is indeed “smart policy”. Thanks Max!

Patricia Kent

Director of housing and development

Western Montana Mental Health Center


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Help me understand

Posted on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 1:41 PM

Why would an issue in Montana cause someone in Lebanon Junction, Ky., to suffer sleepless nights and a heavy heart? Let me explain.

Once I had a wolf in my house. It wasn't a wild wolf, it was a tame wolf recovering after I splinted a nasty fracture of his forearm, but it was a wolf nonetheless. Though stoic, as many wild animals are, I knew him well, and could tell he was in pain. He was snappy, and trying to stay immobile—and this was after his shattered leg had been splinted. There is nothing about pain and fear that require higher levels of thinking.

I find myself thinking about this wolf often during this, the first trapping season after the reintroduced wolves have been deemed recovered. I am, quite honestly, appalled that anyone would willingly inflict the kind of pain I saw in that wolf on any creature for any reason. Of course, a trapped wolf is also frantic, distraught and desperate, as well as in pain. I think. I don't actually know.

I try very hard to understand the reasoning for leghold traps. I am guessing it is something to do with self-sufficiency values, respect for a way of life and living off the land. I am a smallholder farmer myself, and have had livestock killed by predators—chickens, goats, geese, turkeys. I don't like it one bit, so I get that.

So I'm writing a letter to the folk in Montana: I don't get it, help me understand. Why are you allowing leghold trapping? I'd actually like to hear. I'd really like to get it stopped, but maybe there's something I don't know.

Chris Albert

Lebanon Junction, Ky.

Oregon's mistake

Posted on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 1:41 PM

I'm told that assisted suicide will again be an issue in the Montana Legislature this session. I am a doctor in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. A few years ago, I was caring for a 76-year-old man who presented with a sore on his arm, eventually diagnosed as cancer. I referred him to specialists for evaluation and therapy. I had known this patient and his wife for over a decade. He was an avid hiker, a popular hobby here in Oregon, and as his disease progressed, he was less able to do this activity, becoming depressed, which was documented in his chart.

During this time, my patient expressed a wish for assisted suicide to one of the specialists. Rather than take the time to address his depression, or ask me, as his primary care physician, to talk with him, she called me and asked me to be the "second opinion" for his suicide. She told me that barbiturate overdoses "work very well" for patients like this, and that she had done this many times before.

I told her that assisted suicide was not appropriate for this patient and that I did not concur. I was very concerned about my patient's mental state and told her that addressing his underlying issues would be better than simply giving him a lethal prescription. Unfortunately, my concerns were ignored, and two weeks later my depressed patient was dead from an overdose prescribed by this doctor.

Under Oregon's law, I was not able to protect my patient. If assisted suicide becomes legal in Montana, you may not be able to protect your friends or family members.

I urge you to contact your legislators to tell them to keep assisted suicide out of Montana. Don't make Oregon's mistake.

Charles J. Bentz

Portland, Ore.

Magic mining

Posted on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 1:39 PM

It's alchemy! The University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research recently released two different studies on behalf of coal development in Montana, and they prove the bureau has to believe in alchemy, the ancient art of transforming an ordinary material like straw into gold, because they take the economic costs of coal and magically transform them into benefits.

For example, UM's bureau says that mining the Otter Creek will "help create a more productive, prosperous, and populous state economy," but all the costs of mining the pristine area around Otter Creek in Montana disappear in their reports.

To haul the coal out, the Tongue River Railroad will have to be built. This will slice through ranching operations up and down the Tongue River, disturbing wildlife habitat and ranching operations. Selling coal to China will also dramatically increase railroad traffic across Montana, splitting cities like Billings and Missoula in half, harming downtown businesses.

Once the coal is burned in China, the emissions from it return to us in Montana faster than we send it over, according to Steve Running, a climatologist at UM. These emissions will include toxic mercury, which will harm the brain development of children across the state, and carbon dioxide, which will cause climate change and harm agriculture.

Surly these costs matter, but coal mining is magic. These costs all disappear in the UM reports. Thomas Power and Donovan Power have written an eviscerating rebuttal of the coal reports, and you can read it at

Wade Sikorski


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