The Helena Independent Record publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are this week's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Learn the story of the Battle of the Bulge from a Montana perspective
Two of Montana’s many veterans, Randy LeCocq and myself, will be telling the story of the Battle of the Bulge, from a Montana perspective at Helena’s Lewis and Clark Public Library, between 6 and 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19.
The Battle of the Bulge cost the lives of more than 25,000 U.S. soldiers, as they defeated the last German strategic offensive of World War II. We’ve walked and ridden the critical sectors of the battlefield, including Elsenborn Ridge, Malmedy, St. Vith and Bastogne. There will be a general discussion of our book, The Battle of the Bulge: A Montana Perspective, in which we tried to convey how our soldiers stopped a surprise steamroller attack, while operating in freezing conditions with enormous casualties, outnumbered at the points of attack by five to ten times their own strength.
We have gathered first impressions in the deep snow of winter, similar to the conditions during the actual fighting, and have located the actions of some Montanans caught up in the fighting. Hopefully, the relatives of them and of other Montanans who did the fighting will come for the hour discussion following the presentation.
It's time for Congress to return focus on land and water issues
Now that all the campaign ads have died down and the 2018 midterm election results are known, it’s important to highlight that even as divisive as some of the campaigns have been – the one issue that continues to unite us all is the importance of our public lands and reviving the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Despite the hopeful news of LWCF having a potential path to reauthorization and full funding that we have been hearing about, the program still is, in fact, expired. As a Montana business owner whose culture of work depends on our landscapes, our access to trails and recreation, and the opportunities awarded to my community by this fund, this is unacceptable.
LWCF should not have been allowed to expire in the first place, and with the lame-duck session ahead, securing the future of LWCF seems more critical now, than ever. LWCF has funded nearly $580 million worth of projects to communities across our state, in the form of community parks, recreation centers, fishing access sites, and the connection of checker-boarded swaths of public lands so that all Montanans have the opportunity to use them.
LWCF does not just support recreation-driven businesses. It supports businesses of all types whose clients and workforce are driven by our outdoors, and it fuels the creation of jobs that invite talented individuals seeking a quality position with a thriving business to come to Montana and be a part of our growing, innovative, diverse economy.
We can’t be complacent. We can’t rest on the "hope" that a public lands package will go through. We must act on the reality that this conservation program is expired until an act of Congress says otherwise. Our livelihoods and our jobs depend on us using our voices to tell our leaders in Congress that LWCF reauthorization and full funding must be a priority.
Helena High collecting old cellphones to raise funds to send soldiers calling cards
Helena High School American Welding Society Club is collecting old cellphones for Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc.
Please bring in your old cellphones to be recycled and the money from recycling, will help purchase calling cards for our soldiers.
We will be collecting phones until Jan. 31. You can drop all cellphones off at the Helena High School Main Office or at the Helena High School Welding Shop at 1300 Billings Ave. during school hours.
Blood donations make perfect present
As you choose the perfect presents this holiday season, we hope you will keep one final gift in mind — a donation to the American Red Cross.
Your gift helps us respond to disasters big and small here at home and across the country. This fall, 70 volunteers from our region provided help and hope to families devastated by hurricanes Florence and Michael and California’s wildfires.
In Montana, we helped families recover from spring flooding, house fires and other disasters.
Another way to give is by donating lifesaving blood. Every two seconds someone needs blood, and you can make sure those needs are met.
From Nov. 26-30, U.S. Bank will host the Week of Giving blood drives in Great Falls, Billings, Bozeman, Helena and Missoula. Visit www.redcrossblood.org to find a drive near you.
Lastly, make a new year’s resolution worth keeping by joining our volunteer team. Visit www.montanaredcross.org or call 800-272-6668 to learn more.
We would like to thank everyone who supported us this year with their time, talent and generosity. We simply couldn’t do it without you.
Montana Red Cross board member and assistant vice president and branch manager, U.S. Bank in Great Falls
Pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving and eat a plant-based meal
While President Trump is pardoning two turkeys for Thanksgiving, every one of us can exercise that same presidential power by choosing a non-violent Thanksgiving observance.
And here are some other good reasons:
• You can brag about pardoning a turkey - like Trump (or not).
• You will stay awake for your entire favorite football game.
• Your sensible vegetarian kid won't have to boycott the family dinner.
• Plant-based holiday roasts don’t have to carry government warning labels.
• You won’t have to call poultry hotline to keep your family out of the hospital.
• Your body will appreciate a holiday free from the fat, cholesterol and hormones.
• You won’t sweat the environment and food resources devastation guilt trip.
• You won’t spend a sleepless night wondering how the turkey lived and died.
Seriously, this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for our good fortune, health, and happiness with a life-affirming, cruelty-free feast of plant-based holiday roast, vegetables, fruits, and grains.
Our own dinner will feature a store-bought plant-based holiday roast, mashed potatoes, stuffed squash, candied yams, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. An internet search on "vegetarian Thanksgiving" is getting us more recipes than we could possibly use.
Montana: Proud and not for sale
An immense and heartfelt congratulations to Sen. Jon Tester for his re-election to the U.S. Senate. I am so proud of him and the Montanans who voted for him. Montana values stood up and prevailed against the highest form of corruption and the highest level of dark monies yet to be spent in a Montana election. Montana be proud!
Jon endured and outlasted the president’s four unprecedented “visits” to Montana, which were meant to target and attack Jon with lies and ugliness. All the while, Jon kept to the issues that concern all Montanans: access to affordable health care covering pre-existing conditions; caring for our veterans; funding public education; respecting and defending women’s rights; supporting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; work on a Farm Bill, which respects and protects Montana agriculture; and, protecting our cherished public lands from dark money and dark politicians who would sell our public lands out from under our hiking boots, riding boots, hunting boots, and fishing waders.
Montana is not for sale.
* According to Judicial Watch, Air Force One flies at the cost of $200,000.00 per hour paid by all American taxpayers.
Sponsors make it possible for students to experience Shakespeare
Last Wednesday, Nov. 7, 800 students from Helena High School and PAL attended Shakespeare in the Schools' brilliant production of Julius Caesar. Montana Shakespeare in the Schools is the educational outreach program from Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, and their mission is to "expose students to Shakespeare as he intended; in a live theatrical performance."
Their visit gave our students a rare opportunity to experience a professional theater performance, and to see a play many of them have read in class brought to life on stage by talented actors.
The MSIS season has many wonderful sponsors who make this possible, but Helena High would like to especially thank WalMart for helping to fund this fantastic opportunity for our students. It's amazing to see such incredible community support for the arts and for our kids.
Refreshing to see Montana voters keep Tester in office
Well its refreshing to see that Montana voters did the right thing and re-elected Jon Tester to another six year term. Thus, sending the carpet bagger, pretend rancher, Rosendale back to his current position. Albeit, he will run for governor in two years.
If only the voters would have not been duped into believing the corporate interests concerning Initiatives 186 and 185, we would all be better situated. Please don't be surprised when mines file bankruptcy and thus lay the burden on taxpayers to clean up their messes.
Furthermore, the Tea Party-dominated Legislature will let the current Medicaid provision sunset and that will leave 100,000 residents without health care. It's too bad so many of you believed the Bravo Sierra rhetoric concerning an unfunded mandate. Please, go back and re-visit your high school civics lessons and understand how the legislative process works. Many of you have been duped. Good news is we now have oversight over Darth Sidious.
Don't blame mental illness for gun violence
Too often we hear the refrain that the epidemic of firearm violence is due to untreated, poorly treated, or unrecognized mental illness. Emotional and psychiatric disorders often occur episodically and unpredictably. They occur around the world.
Yet, in other developed countries, there is not the firearm violence we experience in the USA. Unless we lock up every person who could have impulse control, anger issues, stress and thought disorders or depression, we will not be able to reduce firearm violence attributed conveniently to mental illness. The USA simply has too many unnecessary firearms.
A far better solution and one that is employed in every other developed country is to regulate firearm possession and reduce the easy availability of semi-automatic, high capacity, high muzzle energy weapons. Firearm proponents will argue wrongly that self-defense demands the easy access in home and marketplace to these weapons.
However, most firearms kept solely for self-defense are never used for that purpose. During the entire lifetime of only a very few civilians does that individual need to display or discharge a firearm in self-defense. Moreover, in far, far fewer situations does one need a high capacity, semi-automatic for these extremely rare acts of self-defense.
We need to reduce the tools of choice for the mass murders that are becoming a weekly event in the USA. Interested citizens should get educated about the Australian actions after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 and support effective firearm regulations, not ineffective criminalization of mental illness.
Jim Darcy school does an excellent job educating future American patriots
Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, the children, parents and teachers of Jim Darcy have honored all military Veterans with a respectable and patriotic celebration of Veteran’s Day.
Patriotism is not dead in Montana, nor is it on the wane! As I look back on this 8th day of November, I salute and give thanks for the Veterans Day program at Jim Darcy School. The children, teachers and, most of all, the parents, deserve a “well done” and kudos to all. The children have learned their history well and the teachers (and parents) have done an excellent job of teaching and educating our future generation of American patriots.
As this old combat Marine stood for our service hymn, I could not be prouder and more humbled by the young voices of our children signing “God Bless America.” I knew, at this time, that our country’s future leaders will be well educated and will become leaders in the future of our country.
This program was excellent. It drew some tears from the eyes of the veterans present as we looked at the children singing the patriotic songs.
Thank you, students, teachers and parents for a great performance in honor of our veterans.
James E. Heffernan
Impressive county voter turnout sent a message
I am impressed with Lewis and Clark County and our voters. I couldn't help but notice that the county had the largest turn out of registered voters in nearly a quarter century for a midterm election. Think about that for a second and think about the message we sent to politicians this week.
The message we all sent was:
1. You better straighten up and fly right
2. We the people demand civility, compassion, respect, dignity and caring among other things from our politicians.
This week's vote was billed as "the most important election of our lifetime." I beg to disagree, They are all important. Had we seen the enthusiasm in the election that we saw on Tuesday we as a country would not be in the mess we are today with Donald Trump.
Your vote counted. You as a voter made your voice heard and you exercised the final check and balance on our government which is the vote of the people. That's what the founding fathers envisioned. The true victory wasn't that the Democrats gained back some control or the Republicans held onto some control. The real victory is that democracy prevailed. I am impressed.
Reader questions the science behind transgender 'blockage'
The other day, an ex-Montana Supreme Court Justice wrote trying to convince us that science has proven that transgenders are the way they are because of some sort of blockage and other reasons. But science has been wrong before and could be wrong here.
First off, he claimed that there are some 1.3 million transgenders in America. How does he arrive at this figure? Are we to accept this figure because he was a judge at one time? Was there a survey asking everyone if they were transgender? If so, I must have missed it. Was the survey done by demographics of one area and then applied to the rest of the country? This could sure be way off.
Second, transgenders — some claim to feel threatened. No one that I know of will harm them. They may be leery of them, but harm? No.
Third, of kleptomaniacs — they just take things. Will they now be made a special group and have to face the consequences of stealing? What about habitual liars? Will they also be made a special group, and can now be in court?
Fourth, in the U.K. they are now questioning transgender I.D. in children who have been exposed to this transgender teaching. Transgender cases have risen some 4,000 percent in less than 10 years. Sounds like it is more of causing confusion among the children and not as science says a blockage of some kind.
Charlie P. Hull Jr.
Wage dispute a bad use of school district funds
As many IR readers may have already learned, I have made a legitimate and Department of Labor and Industry approved wage claim against the Helena Public Schools. Since the last IR report, there has been a scheduling teleconference where HPS attorneys and I were informed of a January hearing with four preliminary meetings also scheduled.
That means the HPS has hired a law firm which will bill HPS in the thousands of dollars in order to challenge (in my case) a $45 claim. Quite clearly, this is not very effective budget management.
It is more than just the money in this case. HPS has chosen to not pay its employees based on its own undocumented policy and/or imaginary disqualifications.
HPS is hurting for qualified guest teachers. Contracted teachers are being prevailed upon to cover gaps in classroom coverage, often giving up their prep periods to provide supervision. The point, here, is that HPS has better things to do than provide discouragement to its guest teacher corps than to single out and harass a couple of its guest teachers.
Give it up HPS. Pay your guest teachers. Pay any penalties – get out of this senseless effort to stiff your employees.
Van Diest helped put Helena on the map
I wanted to "chime in" on the resignation of Mike Van Diest at Carroll. The Saints not only are losing a proven leader, but a quality human being. I grew up around Mike and, as a sportscaster, I bragged about his accomplishments from Missoula to Philly, Florida and now San Diego. I bragged about being the friend of one of college football's winningest coaches ever, soon to be inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Fellow living legend Nick Saban, of Alabama, has six national championships, as does Mike.
Mike is the man who gave the school national recognition. Carroll has long been known as a "winning" academic institution and Mike gave it a little more class with his football juggernaut. I hope he wasn't "pushed out" by alumni or the school. That would be a travesty.
Treat him good, Helena, he helped put you on the map.
Compared to other democracies, 49 percent voter turnout is pitiful
I know that everyone is thankful that the Midterm Election is over, but it is an appropriate time to reflect on the rules that guide it. The turnout has been praised as record-breaking with 49 percent of the nation voting. That is pitiful when compared to other democracies around the world, such as Australia at 90 percent and most of Europe in the 70 percent range.
In Sweden, Germany, Canada and Australia you are automatically registered if you are a citizen, an efficient encouragement if you’re interested in public participation. Those supporting our current electoral system would claim that the myriad of rules regarding who can vote protects our democracy; however, the U.S. ranks last among all western democracies on election integrity.
I would guess that most Montanans would agree that the political campaigns go on way too long and are too expensive. The campaigns began in earnest a year ago and for the last six months television ads have dominated the airwaves. The U.S. Senate campaign in Montana cost $60 million and $5 billion was spent nationwide.
The longest campaign in Canadian history was 10 weeks long in 1926. All of this time and money did little to educate the electorate or improve the daily lives of the citizenry. The only ones benefiting from this system are the television stations and corporate lobbyists in Washington. Seventy-four percent of Americans favor limits on campaign spending. It is high time to take the money out of American elections and dramatically shorten the campaign season.
New trail not necessary
I am writing this letter today about a trail the Forest Service is building that is not needed. The trail will start somewhere near the Kading ranger station, it will go west and a little to the south, going to the top of a heavily timbered ridge to the west and south of Kading Grade. However, two perfectly good trails that have been there for many years already exist, and both trails come out at the same location as would the proposed new trail.
The established trails are Kading Grade, which comes out on top of the ridge, the other trail starts at the Kading Cabin and also comes out on top of the ridge. As you can see, the new trail is not needed when there are two established trails already in place. Kading Grade is an old stagecoach trail from Deer Lodge to Helena. The two established trails will be decommissioned by the Forest Service so the trails can’t be used at all by anybody.
Talk about having your cake and eating it too. I believe the name of the new trail is the High Divide Trail. The High Divide Group and the Forest Service are the stakeholders in wanting the new trail. In my opinion, it is a waste of time and taxpayer money when there are two trails in place. What the Forest Service needs to do is help maintain the two established trails.
Very few people know of this plan to build a new trail. The new trail is not needed for obvious reasons. From a concerned hunter, hiker and fisherman that loves to spend time in the upper Little Blackfoot drainage.
Mike J. Spotorno
Consider limiting campaign season
We are all suffering a hangover from the intense campaign activity of the past few months. A couple thoughts:
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Matt Rosendale spent nearly $60 million on their respective campaigns. That would have bought a lot of sewer, water, road and bridge infrastructure construction in Montana.
Congressional candidates should consider doing in the United States what many European countries do and limit the campaign season to a few months and also limiting the amount that can be spent in the effort.