Thursday, May 30, 2013

Customer service

Posted on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 4:00 AM

During a commencement speech at Ohio State University on May 5, President Barack Obama said, “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Five days later, Lois Lerner, a lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service, admitted that agents of that most feared of institutions had illegally targeted Obama’s political enemies for extraordinary scrutiny. So much for that “sinister entity” Obama said did not exist. Is this tyranny? You be the judge.

When the Lerner revelations came to light, Obama claimed outrage. He told us that he would look into the problem and punish those responsible. A few days later the temporary IRS Commissioner, Steven Miller, retired a month early with full benefits. Some punishment!

Meanwhile, Sarah Hall Ingram, the person who was actually in charge of the IRS agents responsible for the wrongdoing has been promoted to head the newly created IRS section which will control our financial and medical records under Obamacare. Does she deserve our trust?

Considering that Sen. Jon Tester was the 60th vote for Obamacare, which created these 16,500 new IRS agents, and allowing that Sen. Max Baucus has called Obamacare a “train wreck,” I have a question which every Montanan should ask Sen. Tester: What are you doing to see to it that this multitude of new IRS agents will treat each citizen of Montana with dignity and fairness? During testimony before Congress, outgoing IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said that the targeting of Obama’s political enemies was nothing more than a simple case of “horrible customer service.” Notwithstanding Miller’s assertion, Montanans can plainly see that the most invasive and onerous of federal agencies, the IRS, has been used to punish those who disagree with this president. Most Montanans did not vote for Obama. Are we to expect “horrible customer service” for our health care as a result?

Bob Faulkner


Suicide parties?

Posted on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I am a lawyer from Washington state quoted in Alex Sakariassen’s article about assisted suicide, or “aid in dying” (see “Cowardice to courage,” April 11). I am writing to urge your readers to not make Washington’s mistake by allowing assisted suicide/euthanasia to become part of your state’s legal fabric. Once in place, this “trend” is not controllable. The deaths at issue may be anything but peaceful.

In 2008, we voted for a law to legalize assisted suicide for persons predicted to have less than six months to live. By 2011, there were newspaper proposals to expand that law to direct euthanasia for non-terminal persons. In 2012, a friend sent me this article suggesting euthanasia for people unable to afford their own care, which would be involuntary euthanasia. In my law practice, I have had two clients whose parents signed up for the lethal dose.

In one case, one side of the family wanted the parent to take the lethal dose while the other did not. The parent spent the last months of his life traumatized and/or struggling over the decision of whether or not to kill himself. My client was also traumatized. The parent did not take the lethal dose and died a natural death.

In the other case, the parent reportedly refused to take the lethal dose at his first suicide party (“I’m going to bed. You’re not killing me”) and was high on alcohol the next night when he took the dose at a second party. The person who told this to my client then recanted, apparently concerned about his own criminal liability. My client did not want to pursue the matter further. As a lawyer, I couldn’t help but notice that if the parent’s much younger wife had divorced him, he would have got the house. This way, she got everything.

Don’t make our mistake.

Margaret Dore

Seattle, Wash.

Horse reproduction

Posted on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I will spare you an analysis of Ari LeVaux’s outrageously flawed argumentation (see “Harvesting horses,” May 16) of simply selling (killing) “used-up” horses to curb an alleged horse overpopulation, and instead thank him for the opportunity to present a real solution—birth control for horses (and deer).

Ari was only correct about one thing: There is absolutely no need for the BLM to waste taxpayers’ money on cruel and senseless round-ups of horses, holding them indefinitely while much better, cheaper and humane solutions exist.

Horses, just like urban deer, do not need to (nor should they) be killed just because there are “too many” of them—after all, this is a human-caused problem that requires a scientific and ethically-sound solution. Ordering a death sentence to horses (or senselessly killing urban deer like the town of Helena has been doing) does not work because of the compensatory rebound effect, where wild animals will increase reproduction once others have been killed and removed, and more habitat and food sources become available.

The real solution, which is available right here in our backyard, is a vaccine that targets reproduction of wildlife. Nearly three-decade-long research has shown that the vaccine porcine zona pellucid, or PZP, has been successfully controlling reproduction in members of over 85 species, including free roaming horses, deer and African elephants, who otherwise would have been killed due to an alleged overpopulation.

The wild and free roaming horses in the Pryor Mountains have been successfully managed with PZP for many years now, and so have other free-roaming horse populations, including Assateague Island National Seashore. PZP treatment can be administered with darts and it is 95 percent effective in horses, safe even in pregnant mares and its effect is reversible within five years of treatment.

Jay Kirkpatrick, one of two leading scientists in wildlife fertility control, is with the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana. He can be contacted at

Anja Heister


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Real possibility

Posted on Wed, May 22, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Have you ever heard of Otter Creek? If not, you may want to know what is happening in eastern Montana and how it will impact those of us who live near railroad tracks in different communities across the state.

Otter Creek is one of many projects that is part of a scheme by coal companies to export Montana and Wyoming coal to Asia. If these projects come to fruition, we can expect train traffic through Montana to increase substantially—imagine at least a doubling of trains each day. This should concern all of us. I live on the Northern Pacific in Belgrade and literally from my front door to the outside railroad tie it is only 280 feet. The average rail car is about 65 feet. If there was a derailment, it is a real possibility that I could have a rail car in my living room.

The tracks cut my town in two. I live on one side of the tracks and the police, fire station, post office, and schools are located on the other side. The potential length of the coal trains could exceed one mile. The current wait for trains is eight to 10 minutes with approximately 18 trains per day. With the increase in coal trains, individuals and businesses could potentially waste several hours a day waiting to cross the tracks.

My sleep is interrupted by the train horns on a regular basis and I can't leave my windows open in the summer because of the noise. In Billings, the city paid $1.47 million for a quiet zone around the hospitals. The taxpayers paid for this.

Get informed and speak out, this is going to affect you. More information can be obtained by going to

Jeannie Brown


Horses have feelings

Posted on Wed, May 22, 2013 at 1:49 PM

With regard to Ari LeVaux's "Harvesting horses" column (May 16), I hope that his idea remains no more than a "Flash in the Pan."

While the euphemistic phrase "harvesting" sounds amenable, the brutal slaughter of horses for human ends is anything but. There is no humane way to kill horses on a large scale, such as is done at knackeries. The conditions at the slaughterhouses are horrific for the horses (and humans)such "harvesting" of the animals is nothing like the harvesting of fruits, grains and vegetables. It should go without saying that horses are not plants. They are sentient creatures who feel pain, fear and loss. People rightly object to their slaughter, as they would object to the slaughter of their pets.

If there are too many horses, it's because people have bred too many horses. If there are too many abandoned horses, it's because people view animals as objects that really have no worth in and of themselves. Breeders should be held responsible for the lives they've helped create, while owners should realize they've taken on a 10-30 year financial commitment. And if you make your living off the backs of animals, you should consider them more similar to human capital instead of merely as livestock. Livestock are living beings that are treated as property. Animals are neither machines nor plants, and they should not be treated as such.

The horse-racing industry destroys thousands of horses for human entertainment; they overbreed to get winners and if their "athletes" don't win, they have them killed—that is, if the doping doesn't get them first. We don't need a horse-racing industry, just as we no longer need horse-drawn carriages in cities. And, instead of getting rewarded for their years of involuntary service, LeVaux is saying that these working animals should then have to sacrifice their very lives? What a betrayal. I'm reminded of the tree in The Giving Tree who gave everything to a rather ungrateful person and of Boxer in Animal Farm who is used up and sent to slaughter because it was financially prudent. We humans seem to expect animals to conform to our expectations of them and have little to no regard for them as fellow creatures who deserve much better treatment than we give them.

As for the "wild" horses roaming the land, are we incapable of coming up with something better than killing them? And if they are an invasive species, what are we? We dumped them there. We created the problem, and we should be able to come up with a more humane solution than shipping them off to slaughterhouses. The horse management issue is really a people management issue. And if overpopulation is the problem, perhaps we should look to our own overpopulation and overuse of limited resources before getting rid of extra animals.

There may be too many horses, just as there are too many cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. And while, unfortunately, as in most of these cases, the animals are already suffering, they should not be killed because they are not to blame. We are. This is an ethical problem more than a financial one and should be handled as such. We need to be creative in caring for these animals, and we need to educate people about the problem and what they can do about it. What we don't need to do is add horse to our menu.

Cathy Reich


Never give up

Posted on Wed, May 22, 2013 at 1:48 PM

I am saddened, sickened and outraged by the decision of the Supreme Court regarding my cousin Kim Nees' murder (see "No redemption," May 16). Barry Beach, Centurion Ministries, Montanans for Justice and several key witnesses have proven Barry's innocence. The state of Montana has done nothing to prove his guilt and have nothing to go off of other than a false confession. The state refuses to test the bloody palm print, footprints and other physical evidence.

I have stood behind Barry throughout the years and have had high hopes that the state would finally go after those who are responsible for killing Kim. It has been my opinion and that of many others that this is nothing more than a political cover-up. This is a grave injustice not only to Barry and Kim but also the state of Montana. I will continue to support Barry and will never give up hope that those responsible are held accountable.

Glena Nees Lockman


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Appalling testimony

Posted on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 4:00 AM

This letter responds to Alex Sakariassen’s article about the physician who admitted during a legislative hearing to assisting three suicides (see “Cowardice to courage,” April 11). I was at that hearing and I was appalled with the doctor’s testimony and his goal to legalize assisted suicide. Doctors and nurses abuse the power they already have to cause patient deaths. We should not give them more power to cause death by legalizing assisted suicide.

My mother, Sharon Moe, was diagnosed with cancer in February. After her surgery, we were told that she may be able to live for six months to two years. She was placed back in the care of a nursing facility where hospice began to care for her.

My mother was adamant that she wanted to live and told the hospice nurse that she wanted to stay on a continual feeding tube. Hospice scared her into taking it off. Hospice also placed a pain patch on her when she wasn’t in pain. They overrode my power of attorney to do this. My mother died on March 9 due to the effects of pain medication, dehydration and starvation caused by hospice. I have since learned of other people with similar experiences. I was disappointed to see House Bill 505 fail. Its enactment would have clarified that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. Its passage would have helped stop a bad situation from getting worse.

Mike Moe

Great Falls

New questions

Posted on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 4:00 AM

It is really alarming to me that the focus of the recent mass shootings has been on gun control instead of the broader and more relevant subject of “What the hell is wrong with people?” And I don’t mean the people pulling the triggers. I mean the people arguing about what to do and holding everyone and everything, including inanimate objects, responsible while not removing the beams from their own eyes.

Each time I hear about another one of these tragedies my first thought is always, “What drove this person to such a tragic desperate act?” and, “What is going on? Why is there so much violence in our country?” Focusing on the instrument that was used to commit a crime instead of focusing on the person who committed it makes no sense. Focusing on laws to regulate inanimate objects instead of focusing on all the human factors that contributed to and led up to the person’s actions does not help solve this problem.

A gun doesn’t decide to hurt and kill people. A person decides that. Only a desperate, alienated, deeply hurt person who feels powerless to change their life and who believes they have nothing to lose would commit such atrocities. Each one of these tragedies should be a wake-up call for all of us. None of us are excluded from this problem. We need to stop reacting with anger, blame and frenzied debates about laws. Instead, we should be asking, “What are the messages in these desperate acts? What are we, as a society, missing? What are the factors that come together and congeal within someone to motivate them to make that kind of horrifying decision? What are the signs and symptoms of a person who feels that desperate and that alone? And how can we intervene in that process? How can we help desperate people before they reach the point of carrying out horrifying tragedies?”

The National Rifle Association, gun manufacturers and gun rights activists need to stop going into defensive modes and start having heart-to-heart conversations about the bigger picture of what is going on and asking sincerely, “What can we do to stem this tragic tide?” Those who line up on the other side of the debate and automatically start demanding stricter gun control laws need to let go of their reactionary anger and their need to blame someone or something else (guns, faulty gun laws, the gun industry and the NRA) and their simple-minded Band-Aid level solutions that simply keep them in a frenzy of “do-good-ed-ness” and prevent them from looking at the root of the problem.

All the ridiculous statistics that people throw around to support their side of the gun debate only make both sides even guiltier of distracting everyone from the real problem, and hence the real solution.

We are spending far too much energy focused on the completely wrong thing! We are spending too much time blaming each other (gun rights groups versus gun control groups) and not enough time really talking about the human factor and about the solutions that might really work to help reduce gun violence in America.

Wendy Mair


Hardly legendary

Posted on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I must take exception to Gabriel Furshong’s stunt to paint Montana Sen. Max Baucus as an unrelenting conservationist (see “Lasting impression,” May 2). It might be true that Baucus used some back door sway to protect Montana’s wild areas, such as his creation of the Montana Legacy Project. But Max never publicly stood up against big money to protect the frontal assault threatening the rivers we fish, the roadless lands we hunt and the wide-open spaces that animals like the grizzly and the bull trout need to survive.

Both Baucus and Pat Williams agreed on a bill in 1988 that would protect 1.4 million acres out of 6.2 million acres available for protection, hardly legendary. The majority of that acreage was high-altitude country, not prime habitat where Montanans hunt and fish, or where the grizzly bear roams. I am not alone as a Montanan in remembering that we were short-changed then, as we are short-changed now with Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

Montana is a special place. That’s why we live here. Not to use really big words, but in the continental United States, Montana has more habitat to offer than any other, except our sister state Idaho. As Montanans we have a responsibility to represent ourselves as protectors of these last remaining precious lands. I would be inspired as a citizen of Montana to see my elected officials buck the trend of bowing down to the big-money interests of other states and say, “Hey, here in Montana these lands mean more to us than anything—so back off, or we’re gonna kick your ass.”

While this sort of rugged language may be abrupt and lost to the rest of the country, we know what it means here in Montana. Before I see Baucus or Williams or Tester touted as behind-the-scenes gurus of environmental integrity I would have liked to see them stand up for Montana’s wild country, against all odds, and say enough is enough, no more horse trading. Protect it all, no matter the fallout.

That sort of action earns a public lands legacy. Max Baucus’ contribution is not worthy, no matter what his public-relations team says.

Josh Mahan


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Circus act

Posted on Wed, May 8, 2013 at 2:29 PM

"Those PETA people come out every year and beat up on us. But they don't seem to make any difference. They're like flies at a picnic." That's what Barry Hartman, speaking for the Western Montana Shrine Club and circus, said in a recent Independent article (see "Circus sparks controversy," April 25). He is wrong on three counts: many of us aren't PETA members; our peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights is for animals, not against Shriners; and globally, activists working to end circus animal cruelty are making a difference. Great Britain is the latest country to impose a full or partial ban on circus animal acts. A sponsoring Parliamentarian said, "This is a victory for animal welfare and common sense—and proves that politicians who have belief, stick to their principles and persevere despite hostile opposition, can still shape events."

Those words also apply to ordinary, compassionate citizens who stand up for animals by reaching out to circus-goers with the truth. And like flies at a picnic, we're persistent and plentiful.

Eyewitness accounts from attendees at one Saturday performance maintained that an uncooperative tiger was hit in the head with a whip handle. Broken elephants were also forced to give rides to paying customers. Yet Missoula County Public Schools endorses this abuse by distributing circus tickets to students. The trustees heard our testimony at their March board meeting. They were asked to reconsider the practice, or to distribute an age-appropriate informational piece along with tickets. No response was forthcoming. The University of Montana's Adams Center capitalizes on circus cruelty. Given our increased understanding of animal sentience and the egregious mental and physical suffering inherent in traveling circuses, it's time to start asking these institutions: "Why?"

No one denies the Shriners' philanthropy. But harming one species to help another is uncharitable—and unnecessary. When they offer an animal-free circus, I'll gladly purchase a ticket.

Kathleen Stachowski


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