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.
How to free up money for 'free stuff'
How do these high-minded socialists expect to pay for free medical care, free college, infrastructure and a green jobs program? We need to pay for endless war and corporate welfare; how can we afford to help the people?
We need to give rich people and corporations tax breaks because all that money will trickle down to us. Can't you see all that money filling your pocket? We need to keep the prisons full so corporations can have an endless supply of slave labor.
Here is how we pay for all that free stuff that will help the people:
1. End the wars. The only people helped by these wars are defense contractors and oil interests.
2. End empire. We don't need only God knows how many military bases in only God knows how many countries. I'm sure the NSA also knows.
3. Tax the rich. These parasites did not earn their money. They made their money off of our labor or their daddies died.
4. End the drug war and stop giving money to private prisons. The concept of corporations warehousing humans is gross.
5. Invest in a green infrastructure and leave the carbon based economy. We may already be too late.
Legislation needed to stop youth e-nicotine epidemic
Thank you to the Helena City Commission for taking action recently against Big Tobacco targeting youth with sweet-flavored nicotine products like Juuls and other e-cigarettes.
The commission's action to prohibit open display, self-serve access to all tobacco and nicotine products in businesses open to minors will help protect Helena kids. Prohibiting the sale of sweet flavored products, packaged like candy, in such businesses would have been a stronger step, but this action is still important and helpful.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced it is considering prohibiting sales of flavored nicotine products in businesses that sell to youth. This is very encouraging news.
We can't wait for federal action that might be long delayed, or never happen, however. As we prepare for the 2019 Legislative Session, my colleagues and I are working on policies that will help better protect all Montana kids from dangerous nicotine addiction.
Again, we can't wait. In a report issued in mid-November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings showing that use of e-cigarettes by high schoolers has increased by an astounding 78 percent within just the last year. We are losing ground, at astonishing rate, in preventing our kids from becoming addicted to nicotine. I encourage Montana lawmakers and the Montanans we serve to work together to stop this growing epidemic.
Democratic Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell represents Montana House District 84, Helena/East Helena in the State Legislature.
Legislation would implement effective Alzheimer's interventions
This November, during National Family Caregivers Month, we honor the more than 49,000 Montanans caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Last year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, caregivers of Montanans with Alzheimer’s or other dementia provided an estimated 56 million hours of unpaid assistance valued at $713 million.
This Thanksgiving weekend, my grandmother’s nearly 20-year journey with Alzheimer’s came to an end. She passed away surrounded by family, a handful of the many caregivers who sacrifice so much for their loved ones. A former nurse, she donated her brain to research, joined clinical trials and planned for this journey. With the benefit of early diagnosis, Grandma lived and passed away with dignity.
Before the end of 2018, Congress has a chance to stand with us by passing the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act (S. 2076/H.R. 4256). The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act would create an Alzheimer’s public health infrastructure across the country to implement effective Alzheimer's interventions including increasing early detection and diagnosis, reducing risk and preventing avoidable hospitalizations.
Please join me in thanking Congressman Gianforte and Sen. Tester for cosponsoring this important piece of legislation. I urge Senator Daines to do the same.
Nicholas R. Hart
New city manager subject brings up many questions
Sitting round the circle of the square coffee cup one morning, the subject of the new city manager arose. Now, being so close to the end of the midterm elections, I would reckon why this came up.
The IR’s story, if we understood right, says the lady is from California and graduated from a liberal California University with a degree in Latin American studies. She has a good record and is now working in Yakima, Washington.
I say the topic came up because of it being so close to the election in which the Democrats berated the Republicans as not being from Montana and so do not have Montana values. With that being said, I wonder what values this potential city manager will bring with her, being from California — maybe values many in Montana will not care for. Being that the east coast and west coast values are close, does the city of Helena really want these?
They said more details have to be worked out — fine — like moving expenses. Why is it someone making $150,000 a year cannot move herself, but someone making far less can?
I wonder what some of the other details are, or will the taxpayers just get to pay it, no questions asked?
Latin American Studies — an interesting degree for being in Montana. And why are some so giddy about it? Which leads to the idea: well, maybe this council and mayor desire to turn Helena into a sanctuary city. Time will tell if Montana values will stay.
Thoughts from around the circle of the square coffee cup.
Charlie P. Hull Jr.
Strategic action needed now to stifle climate change
We used to say that climate change would impact our kids and grandkids, but we are experiencing worsening, terrible impacts now. Our nation is reeling from some of the most destructive and tragic wildfires on record, and many communities still haven’t recovered from the massive hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast and southeastern states a few months ago.
In the latest National Climate Assessment, expert scientists tell us that we can expect these types of wildfires and storms to become more common and more intense in the future, unless we ratchet down carbon pollution. Here in Montana, warming waters, reduced winter snowpack, and extended smoke seasons also pose serious threats to our state’s tourism economy and our way of life.
We have to act strategically, with urgency, to stifle climate change. It’s time to generate 100 percent of our energy from clean sources and adopt transportation modes that give off zero emissions. It’s up to all of us -- from our elected officials, to the companies we buy from, to our families -- to study what the scientists say in the report, roll up our sleeves, and solve this existential challenge for our country.
Suspend Health Insurance Tax provision
Out of concern for my fellow small-businesses owners, I sincerely hope that U.S. Sen. Jon Tester will help ensure the HIT (Health Insurance Tax provision of the Affordable Care Act) is suspended for 2020.
I have been in business since 1977 and have seen many businesses similar to mine come and go. I don't want our remaining small businesses to incur higher costs because of the HIT.
Our health insurance went up by about 20 percent recently, and we would struggle quite a bit if it increased further. I don't mind paying my fair share, but if the HIT is left in effect for 2020, it's going to hurt the small business sector overall.
Meanwhile, big corporations are not affected by the HIT at all. This tax is singling out the small business sector, and attacking it. That's not right.
I look forward to seeing our senator work with his colleagues to delay the HIT again for 2020. This needs to be done now, before Congress goes into winter recess.
Thankful for Zinke's steps to preserve Badger Two-Medicine
The Badger Two-Medicine on the Rocky Mountain Front is a sacred area for the Blackfeet tribe and one of Montana’s most spectacular landscapes. Last week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took an important step forward in protecting this part of Montana’s heritage when he moved to have the Department of Interior appeal a federal court ruling reinstating oil and gas leases in the Badger.
For decades, conservationists, hunters and the Blackfeet tribe have sought to protect the Badger-Two Medicine from oil and gas development. Oil and gas leases issued in the 1980s have long cast a dark cloud over the Badger and we applaud Secretary Zinke’s decision to have these leases terminated.
Montana sportsmen and sportswomen have long defended the Badger, not only for its recreational opportunities, but for the habitat it provides to the wildlife we care about, including elk, grizzly bear, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. We have also joined with the Blackfeet in seeking federal protection for the cultural and spiritual values of the area.
With Secretary Zinke’s help, this wonderful legacy is one step closer to securing the protection its needs for this and future generations.
Dave Chadwick is executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation, and lives in Helena. Tom France is regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, and lives in Missoula.
The University of Montana is doing it right
This is a comment on the recent op-ed by Lewis Schneller: “UM should downsize administration before slashing academic programs.”
Schneller did not provide any data to support his assumptions, and his well-intended piece illustrates a form of “knee-jerkism” that all too often becomes part of the “conventional wisdom.”
When I was growing up in Montana, for decades the knee-jerk reaction every time the state faced a budget crisis was to eliminate one of the units of the university system. That was put to rest in the 1970s, thanks to the intervention of U.S. Sen. Mike Mansfield.
Still haunting faculty, students and the public wherever colleges and universities are located is the knee-jerkism based on an unexamined assumption that such institutions are inevitably top-heavy with administrators. This may or may not be true, but it is testable.
As an out-of-the-loop retiree, I do not have data on faculty-administration ratios for the various parts of the Montana University System, or how they compare on that measure with their regional and national peers, so I, too, will speak generally – with perhaps more relevant experience.
Often university administrative positions increase in response to state and federal reporting requirements, student needs (such as counseling) beyond the classroom, economic development activities in partnership with communities and states, an increase in maintenance of buildings and grounds, the pressing needs (in light of inadequate state funding) for staff to raise philanthropic money and for management of research projects as the faculty matures in its ability to attract such external support. There are other things I could mention, but I have space limitations. Which of these functions would Mr. Schneller cripple or eliminate?
Another need – a critical one – for a university facing enrollment decline is to increase and improve administrative staff assigned to student recruitment, admission and retention. I understand that the University of Montana, for example, has had significantly fewer staff in this area than has Montana State University over the past decade. Perhaps the results are obvious.
I have complete confidence in President Bodnar and his colleagues to do the right thing to get us through this crisis.
Lawrence K. Pettit is a UM alumnus. He has taught at Penn State and Montana State, and was the first Montana Commissioner of Higher Education. Later he served as a university system chancellor in Texas, president of a multi-campus university in Illinois, and president of a public university in Pennsylvania. He is retired and lives in Helena.
Trump puts himself before America
Enough! Who the heck does Mr. Trump think he is? King Donald?
Chief Justice Roberts, in an unprecedented, historic statement, rebuked Mr. Trump’s outrageous comments concerning our judicial process. From someone who admits he doesn’t read much, and therefore is not educated as an attorney, Mr. Trump, in a followup tweet, has the gall to instruct Chief Justice Roberts in his erroneous thinking. It is apparent, again, that Mr. Trump doesn’t understand, but more importantly, value our legal system. His continuous attacks on the freedom of the press also show how unfit he is to lead our country. Amendment II is all he knows of the Constitution of the United States, and that is only because his base demands it. He could care less about his own ignorance or the truth, it’s all about pleasing his base and staying in power. His need to always be right, to feel powerful, to be front and center, is relentless.
His decision to stand with Saudi Arabia’s explanation over our CIA’s assessment regarding the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who resided in our county, is disgusting. We should not be surprised, he favors many despots – Russian, North Korean, Venezuelan – all who could care less about American democracy. His explanation that it’s always "America First" is a smokescreen. It has always been and will always be about Trump first.
On a positive note, I am very thankful that the majority of Montanans re-elected Sen. Tester. A dozen trips/rallies, by Trump and company, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, did not sway Montana voters. I guess Mr. Trump’s grudge against Sen. Tester, and his voracious need for adulation, did not produce his desired result. He really doesn’t know Montanans.
Who are we as a nation?
An editorial by E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post caught my eye today (Nov. 26). He points out how favorably President Trump views autocratic governments, with his willingness to overlook the Saudi leader's involvement in the killing and dismembering of a vocal critic. Perhaps in the dog-eat-dog world that Trump lives in all is forgiven for the sake of the almighty dollar, putting aside any form of moral accountability.
Some might say, as Ted Cruz does, it’s just hating the president so get over it. However, this is the same senator who in 2016 labeled Trump as a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen” and a “serial philanderer.”
Has the Republican party swung so far to the right that this kind of about face is now somehow OK?
Who are we as a nation? In my nearly 60 years I have never witnessed anything close to the divide we see these days. Our motto used to be "E Pluribus Unum," out of many one, now it seems to have devolved into “We’ve got ours now get out and don’t come back.”
World's refugees could solve worker shortage problem
Reading your lead story this morning (Nov. 23) over Thanksgiving leftovers, I am struck again by an obvious solution that meets the needs of understaffed Montana businesses and the world's refugees.
Millions of people are fleeing for their lives. So many would like to come to "the land of the free." We are desperate for willing workers. What if we all got our needs met? All non-native Americans came as immigrants. Our ancestors came here with the drive and energy to build better lives for themselves. The vast majority of refugees want to become hard working employees and business owners. We need an infusion of energy that America was built on.
Helena must encourage and permit low-cost housing. Compassionate hosts will step up to help transition people to their new lives.
Let us help our economy and give people the chance to live the American dream by welcoming them to our state and country.