Archive for December, 2009

by Pete Talbot

Hypocrites are the worst. Sen. Larry Craig railing against gays and then trying to get sex in a Twin Cities airport men’s room. Rep. Mark Foley, chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, who sends sexually explicit emails to House pages. Conservative Sen. David Vitter and S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford … and on and on.

So Sen. Max Baucus pales in comparison. He’s never been an in-your-face family values guy. And if the time line he lays out is true, his indiscretion occurred while both parties were separated from their respective spouses.

But still, to advance the name of your lover for Montana’s U.S. Attorney? To quote a Washington Post columnist: “boneheaded.”

In some respects, this scandal is almost refreshing. Hey, Max is a human being, not just an automaton for the banking, insurance and health care industries. You see, I hold Max accountable for much more egregious behavior:

– His lame health care bill (Howard Dean called it “the worst piece of health care legislation I’ve seen in 30 years.”).

– His vote to repeal the estate tax.

– His cop out on cap-and-trade.

– His Bush tax-cuts-for-the-rich.

– His Medicare prescription drug vote.

– His “aye” on the bankruptcy bill.

– His Iraq War complacency.

– His 70 percent approval rating from the Chamber of Commerce.

All the while saying he’s doing “what’s right for Montana.”

So this latest is just the icing on the cake. And it’s another slap in the face to Montanans.

(UPDATE: Daily Kos sheds some more light on the subject. Hat tip to David Crisp at Billings Blog.)


by jhwygirl

I understand a taxpayer – any taxpayer, all taxpayers – having concerns with making sure they are getting the most for their tax bill, certainly. If you going pay taxes – and there isn’t any way to avoid them other than death, right? – then the government better not be throwing the cash away, right? Condon’s just wanting to make sure that its tax dollars are being spent to provide it its services its paying for, right?

Which is why I’m concerned about my taxpayer dollars being dedicated purely to the Condon area’s succession follies.

How much did it cost to hold that joint meeting up there last night? Gas, travel, lights,…staff, overtime.

How many staff hours have been spent on this? Are we keeping track? How much is that cost? What about all that paperwork?

If they get 50% of everyone’s signature on the petition for secession, most of the cost is on Missoula County. Missoula has said that they’re then going to do a financial study. How much is that going to cost? Then there’s a county-wide election. How much is that going to cost?

In all that studying, may be they should be studying that too.

Bet the leaders of this circus are a bunch of conservative small-government type, too.

by jhwygirl

I won’t belabor you all with how I feel about about exempt wells, except to say that I believe the exemption to be an affront to senior private property rights across the entire state.

How it has gone on for so long – and considering the general reaction, statewide, to just the term “zoning” – boggles my mind. It’s one example of many, though, where the accusations of being “anti-business” or “anti-industry” (as in land development or real estate) win out over the rights of the individual property rights.

The Montana Association of Realtors have spent their hundreds of thousands of dollars well in Helena and around the state – their lobbyists have been extremely well at shutting down any real legislation to address these wells and they’ve poured money into candidates that wouldn’t dream of voting to halt or reduce the exemption.

Via The Button Valley Bugle, word comes that the Clark Fork Coalition and four other senior water rights holders, all from three different watersheds, have filed a petition for a ruling declaring invalid the convoluted administrative rule which has resulted in the 200,000+ wells that were exempt from review (and 1,000’s more being drilled every year – even in closed basins!) They are also requesting that a new rule be implemented that complies with both the Montana Constitution and Montana Code regarding water rights.

The group is represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, who has its Northern Rockies Office in Helena.

Here’s a link to the petition. It nicely lays out the history, the convoluted rule which results in the well free-for-all and the obligations under the law in comparison to what is actually taking place.

by jhwygirl

The U.S. has 57,000 troops in Afghanistan, and we’re going to add 30,000 more – many of which will be deployed by Christmas – all for an estimated 100 al Qaeda?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be working on al Qaeda – Lord knows I’ve long made the distinction between the war in Iraq (which I didn’t support) and the war in Afghanistan (which I saw with some purpose) – but they’re down to 100 guys holed up on the border? Considerably neutralized already, lacking buildings or bases?

Obviously, the good news that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country. No bases. No buildings to launch attacks on either us or our allies.

Now the problem is, the next step in this is the sanctuaries across the border. But I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban and I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling.

That, from Obama’s national security adviser and NATO’s former supreme allied commander in Europe, General James Jones.

A thousand Army Rangers can’t take care of that? Or even 2,000? What about the Marines?

Oh, how government loves the war machine. One big ole’ stimulus package, wrapped up under the guise of patriotism and democracy.

And speaking of democracy – I can’t help but wonder how committed the newly re-elected President Karzai is to democracy. It’s one thing to finish the job, it’s a whole other thing to make pals with someone who doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends – or at least enough to get him elected fair-and-square.

Human rights? Women’s rights? Shouldn’t we expect those things from democracies?

This sure is starting to look like some other country’s war to me. Either that or, like I said, those 100 al Qaeda holed up there in those caves must be some real badasses.


by jhwygirl

In this previous post, there is commentator that apparently thinks that the only factor important in deciding what to do with Otter Creek is how much tax revenue it will generate for a school district. The assumption has a number of flaws, not the least which is drawing out an example based upon two completely different tax-structured states.

There are other factors that have been listed here, and I won’t bore you with a rehashing of them.

What I will offer is a story that is repeated over and over throughout the United States in communities where mining occurs. The story I offer though, is here in Montana.

Montana and the Land Board should not forget the $25 million payout settlement to 57 plaintiffs in Colstrip that had their water poisoned and their wells ruined. By an industry and a corporation that refused to acknowledge its transgression up until the bitter end of a judge’s gavel. By and industry and a corporation that stood by denial because they could and because they knew that they had far more money than the plaintiffs and no matter what it cost them to fight it, it was worth the odds of doing so because they could outgun the plaintiffs (Montana citizens) and hope that they’d either die off of run out of $?

Is Montana for sale to the highest bidder (and that’s not really what we are talking about here given that there is only the adjacent landowner bidding on this coal)? Are Montana’s citizens on their own to deal with the aftermath? Because it doesn’t appear much was done upfront to protect Colstrip from the damage? They had to find their own attorney? What exactly were the criminal penalties for damaging a whole town’s water?

Because that is the question here: How much of Montana is for sale? Our heart and soul? And water and environment? And how little will we sell it off for in an unknown and bloated coal market?

by jhwygirl

Anniversary or special dates are all unique – some are on a particular day of the week (Thanksgiving, for example), while others are a particular day (July 4th, for example).

Two years ago on Wednesday, December 5th, Forrest Clayton Salcido was murdered at the California Street Bridge. His lifeless body was found the next morning, and by Friday two local teens were arraigned for his death.

Little has changed since that night two years ago. The situation may actually be worse. Every night hundreds of homeless fend for themselves on the streets of Montana. They are cold, they are tired and they are hungry. They are also easy targets for random tragic acts of violence. Many of them are veterans – but in today’s economy, they can be homeless single parents with children, just as easily as they can be teens that have been bounced from home to home, until they, too, are finally homeless.

Day in and day out, a wide assortment of agencies here in Missoula work to assist. The Poverello is surpassing the number of beds it has nightly. Red Cross, Salvation Army….3:16 Mission – local churches and probably a number of individuals also add to the number of beds.

Other places aren’t as fortunate. Today I came upon a situation in Hamilton, and for this particular situation (a single father), I found nothing available to him there to address his immediate situation.

The basic human need of shelter should know no denial. This isn’t politics – it’s humanity.

Below is a repost of my thoughts from last year. Please join me tomorrow night (December 2nd) to light a candle for Forrest Clayton Salcido and the other scores of homeless who will be sleeping somewhere other than a warm dry bed. They are not invisible, nor are they forgotten.

One year ago tomorrow December 5th, Forrest Clayton Salcido was brutally stomped to death – murdered – for no excuse other than being somewhere at the wrong time, and encountering the worse of human kind.

Salcido, 56, was a Navy veteran of the Vietnam war. He was known as a kind and gentle soul, who was more comfortable – despite family in the area – braving the elements and shunning the rat race. He had worked for years at the Evans mill after leaving the service, and later MRL when the mill closed.

I had met Forrest, briefly, in mid-October, while home in mid-day for lunch. He was rooting through the dumpsters, collecting aluminum cans – and had huge bags tied to his bike. I waved and said hello, and ran inside and grabbed my recycling cans to give to him. It was a Wednesday. We struck up a conversation. He was pleasant and sociable – and other than the more-than-usual amount of necessities he had tied to his bike, one might never have known he was living on the street. As we parted, I asked him if he collected cans regularly, and he said he did it every Wednesday because (if I remember correctly) Pacific Recycling paid double for aluminum.

So I started collecting the cans at work. I missed the next week, but the following I left them out the back door in the morning, and they were gone when I got home. I mighta got another two batches out there for him – but later there was another that wasn’t picked up.

Forrest was murdered on a Wednesday.

A week later, when I saw this story in the paper, I got sick to my stomach all over. I say all over, because as I had read the coverage of his senseless murder that previous week, I had been sicked to think that someone would meet such a horrible end for nothing other than ‘I’m having a bad day’ reasoning.

But there was his picture. Forrest Clayton Salcido was the guy I had struck up a conversation with just what seemed just a few short weeks ago. I knew then why that bag of cans was still sitting out the door.

Months and months later – maybe it was spring this year? – I found another guy reaching through the dumpsters nearby for aluminum. It was a Wednesday. He’s a military veteran also. Pleasant, sociable – his hobby is race cars. He stops by every Wednesday to bring another veteran who is a neighbor a warm lunch or dinner meal and a visit of conversation. I occasionally take that same neighbor a meal (on the rare occasion I cook something that he can eat – he likes my stew and my chicken and dumplings), but not nearly enough.

I try every week to get my workplace’s cans brought home with me on Tuesdays, and set them out there for my neighbor’s friend to pick up. Remembering Forrest Clayton Salcido reminds me to do it – and for a year now, I don’t think there’s been a Wednesday, whether I get the cans out there or not, that I don’t think of Forrest.

Forrest’s death opened the ugly door to the realities of life that homeless people face amongst our oh-so-civil world. On any given night in Missoula, more than 500 are homeless. A canvas done in 2008 turned up 906 homeless people in Missoula County. Nationally, more than 1 in 4 homeless are military veterans. The VA estimates that 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. 400,000 will be homeless during the course of a year. 11% of Montana’s population are military veterans. Is this how we treat the men who sacrifice so much to defend our freedom? Councilman Jon Wilkins spoke eloquently about just this issue on Veteran’s Day last month. If you didn’t see it then, you should read it now.

His murder also shed some more undesirable light on the ugly violence that is here in Missoula – that many choose or refuse to acknowledge. Salcido’s murderers were an 18-year old Hellgate High senior and a 20-year old friend. What environment – what community – unwittingly fostered a situation that created such monsters? That may be tough to hear – but this paragraph and the paragraph above it are all questions we should be asking ourselves.


I believe I will make a trip down to the bridge tomorrow at darkness and light a candle for Forrest.

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