The Billings Outpost

2 leaders are gone



Two great Montanans left us recently to go on to a greater place.

Joe Mazurek was a wise and insightful peacemaker. His passing was not unexpected, but his legacy for fairness and gentle persuasion will live on in the memory of all those who had the good fortune to work with him in the political process of our state.

Jim McGarvey was a brave and gallant fighter. He could sometimes be unkind to the King’s English, but never to a loyal friend. Montana’s legendary union leader, he was the true friend of working class people, and never forgot his common roots in the “sacred city” of Butte. He’ll be fighting for “the little guy” in spirit and by example as long as his memory lives.

I knew them both, very well, for more than 40 years. While college students, Joe and I first met while lobbying the legislature to lower the voting age. We later served together in the Legislature where I saw him perform public duty countless times with no expectation of receiving credit or even recognition for his dedicated service.

Joe was the furthest thing from a phony or a glad-hander. When a job had to be done, he was there to do it. His courage was in his integrity. He wouldn’t be manipulated. It simply wasn’t his nature to take the low road. He was a straight arrow and the whole Legislature knew it, and that is what gave him great influence in working out the compromises and getting to the solutions the legislative process requires.

I met Jim McGarvey soon after I met Joe Mazurek, and I became Jim’s lifelong friend by extending a simple human kindness to him. In the years that followed I whitewater rafted with him, snowmobiled with him, and on four-wheelers we challenged some perilous high country trails together. When I inquired about just what he had in mind when he invited me on one of his excursions, he didn’t exactly set my mind at ease by responding, “Well, it’s not fun if you can’t get killed doing it.”

When I received the call from his son, Tim, I sensed what was coming, but wouldn’t have been surprised if the cause had been from a death-defying accident.

Though quintessentially different, they were similarly monumental in the shadows they cast over Montana. There are empty places in Montana’s Big Skyline where Joe and Jim once stood tall.

Our federal Constitution, which they equally revered, contains a provision that prohibits the granting of titles of nobility to any citizen of our Republic. By their accomplishments and examples, though, both Joe and Jim were noble men. The wise peacemaker could honorably and skillfully bring others together, but could also boldly stand his ground against corrupting influence or dishonesty. The two-fisted fighter wouldn’t back down from a fight, but he long endured as a leader because he knew when it was time to settle, perhaps to fight again.

Now Joe and Jim are looking down on us from celestial heights beyond Montana’s Big Sky. Jim is still on guard against injustice and special privilege, and not fearful of bringing his views directly to the attention of his creator. Joe pretty much agrees with Jim, but is keeping his powder dry so he can be well positioned to work things out if necessary. That’s how they worked here on earth. We need Joes and Jims now more than ever before in my memory.

Take heed, young leaders. Look to the examples of Joe Mazurek and Jim McGarvey. We shouldn’t have to go to heaven to get good government.

Bob Brown is a former Montana secretary of state and State Senate president.

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 September 2012 10:55

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A river still runs through it



        Montana is a composite; its identity defined by the beholder.  The journalist Joe Howard saw it as “high, wide, and handsome;” the historian Harry Fritz as “a land of contrast;” and K. Ross Tootle described “an uncommon land.”

            East to west, Montana’s landforms vary from an occasional saline, wind-whipped desert to lush wheat fields to unexpected snow-clad peaks.  The engines of our economy are advanced by solitary artists and oil and gas roughnecks, by bankers, bailers, and bartenders.  The author Wally Stegner reminded us that out this way we have “more fry cooks than farmers.”

            The state’s many facets range from harsh and ugly to serene and beautiful.  Our public attitudes are often pitiless as a winter’s mountain storm, but just likely to be gentle as a summer’s late evening breeze.

            Our political preferences amble from the psychotic to the rational.  From the calm progressive wisdom of Senator Mike Mansfield to the far right-wing exceptionalism of, you pick a name, perhaps John Trochman.  In short, our state has those who maintain and nurture the idea of community and others who eagerly paste stickers on their car bumpers: “I love my country, it’s the government I fear.”

            Recently I again watched the movie A River Runs Through It on its 20th anniversary and I was struck by its presentation of one Montana—the state of civility, community, family, clean rivers and a belief in ourselves.  I recalled that only a few years following the original release of the movie, we and people throughout the nation listened and watched reports about the Montana Freemen.  That group of self-identified religious-patriots was located in eastern Montana with like-minded believers in northern Idaho.  The Freemen reflected a different Montana, one that rejected government and held for individual sovereignty, believing that the nation’s founders invested all authority with the individual rather than “the people.”  The actions of the Freemen, a small group of anguished people near Jordon, Mont., precipitated necessary action by local, state, and federal government—including the FBI.

            Individual Freemen were well stocked with arms and ammunition, and were attempting to enrich themselves through bogus check-writing, legal briefs, false warrants and liens; most notably they refused to pay taxes.  That ploy earned the group the moniker Freeloaders from many Montanans.  Others were titillated by the anti-government attitude; the last holdouts in the last best place.  That theater of illegality played out over three months and eventually these social outsiders caved in, were tried, prosecuted, and imprisoned.

            So, that particular Montana river, running over with distrust and conspiracy, also runs through us carrying absurdity and danger.  Which river defines us—Norman Maclean’s or the Freeman’s?  Are we a people of hope and generosity who appreciate the land and our place on it or are we isolated, angry and suspicious?  Do we love the land or hate it?  Do we trust or tremble at the idea of government?

            It has been said that Montana may be an oasis, but it is not an island.  What do we seek to be?  Are we a frustrated people, angry at government, satisfied in our self-made isolation or are we a large-minded community of gregarious, generous people eager to improve the lot of each by pulling together as “the people.”

Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana.  After his retirement, he returned to Montana and taught at The University of Montana.




Last Updated on Monday, 13 August 2012 08:32

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Soot standard would save lives



Most of us don’t need to look far to find someone we know and love who has lung disease. Perhaps it’s a grandmother with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or a child with asthma.

For all of these people, particle pollution makes breathing even more difficult. On days when air is bad, those with COPD may need supplemental oxygen. People with asthma may need to take extra medicine and stay indoors. Poor air quality days can send those with lung diseases to emergency rooms.  Even in Montana’s Big Sky, there are days in some of our communities when it’s hard to catch a breath.

A long-awaited proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would provide some much-needed relief by setting stronger limits on airborne particles, or “soot.” Sources of particle pollution include diesel exhaust, wood smoke, fly ash and coal-fired power plants.

 The proposed limits, called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, ensure that everyone in the nation is protected based on the most current public health science.  The EPA proposes to update the standards for particle pollution because the existing ones no longer reflect the current research. In fact, these standards now provide a false sense of security for those living in communities that meet them.

Particle pollution – a highly toxic blend of soot, metals, acids, dirt and aerosols – kills.  Multiple, long-term, multi-city studies conducted in the U.S. and internationally give some of the strongest evidence that particle pollution can shorten life.

These and other studies show that even modest spikes in soot levels can send children, older adults, people with diabetes and those with lung and heart diseases to the emergency room or hospital.  We now have ample, well-vetted scientific evidence that confirms thousands of deaths, not to mention heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks could be prevented every year if the standards were strengthened.

A 2011 analysis, published in a report called Sick of Soot, concluded that adopting an annual standard of 11 μg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 μg/m3, would lead to the cleanup of pollution that would spare as many as 35,700 lives every year.  Meeting those standards would also prevent 1.4 million asthma attacks, and more than 23,000 emergency room and hospital visits.

Particle pollution has been linked to permanent lung tissue and airway damage, low birth weight, and lung cancer, in addition to its ability to cut lives short. Those most vulnerable among us suffer the most, and need the EPA to act swiftly by setting a standard that protects public health.

Children especially need EPA’s protection, as their lungs are still developing and will not stop growing until they reach early adulthood. We’re now seeing that the lungs of young people who grow up exposed to unhealthy levels of soot and air pollution often do not develop as they should, which can cause a lifetime of respiratory ailments.

Others paying a higher physical cost for breathing soot pollution are lower-income families. They frequently live in communities or work where air pollution, often from nearby smokestacks or crowded freeways, exceeds safe levels. A more protective standard will ensure that the sources that pollute their homes will have to clean up. 

As we have seen since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, big polluters can be counted on to continue to try to thwart any healthy air advances that may require them to clean up.  They like to say that the evidence is lacking.  The fact is, we have roughly 10,000 studies all pointing to the need for more protection for everyone from particle pollution.  

We have a chance to set the record straight and tell EPA that we want more protection from this lethal pollutant.

The EPA can and must set more protective particle pollution standards. However, without strong public support, the present, unhealthy standards will remain and the people we know who have lung disease, and millions more like them, will continue to suffer. 

Kim Davitt is the Initiatives Manager for the American Lung Association in Montana. She is based in Missoula.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 August 2012 08:02

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Go local in banking


By Martin Olsson

My, how time flies.  It has been four years since the financial crises of 2008, wherein all Montanans became familiar with the federal government’s “too big to fail” policies.   The Federal Reserve has stated that the 2008 financial crises demonstrated that many of the large banking firms were too large, too levered, and too interconnected and, as a result, posed a tremendous threat to America’s financial stability.  Further, economists have noted that the implicit government backing of too big to fail institutions encouraged excessive risk taking and damaged healthy competition in the financial market place.

Despite steps taken by Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent financial institutions from growing once again to ‘too big to fail sizes’, incredibly, the United States banking industry is now more concentrated than ever.  In 2012, half of the industry’s assets are held by a mere five financial institutions with combined assets that equate to 58% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).  The combined assets of our country’s ten largest depository institutions equate to 65% of the banking industry’s assets and 75% of this nation’s GDP.

Community banks in Montana, like the one I work at, and elsewhere are part of the solution to this financial concentration problem.  How?

First, Community banks, which are locally owned and main-street oriented, are working with Montana’s congressional delegation and federal regulators to reform the present financial model that: (1) allows large financial institutions to combine retail banking with high risk investment banking;  and (2) then provides those institutions with an implicit taxpayer-backed guarantee against poor decision making and financial failures.  Among the proposals advocated by Montana’s community banks are proposals to increase capital and liquidity requirements for the largest financial institutions, to require annual, comprehensive stress tests for institutions with assets over $10 billion, and to implement early remediation programs at financially distressed institutions.  Stress testing of large banks in 2008 would have helped to identify those institutions that were overexposed to derivatives and to subprime mortgages.  If implemented, these proposals will stabilize our financial system, discourage the largest financial institutions from growing even larger, and mitigate to some extent their funding advantage over community banks

Second, since 2008, Montana’s community banks have undertaken an effort to remind Montana residents to’ go local’ in their shopping, their dining, and in their banking.  Local banks are a safe haven from impersonal bank and risky investment practices that resulted in the 2008 financial crises.  Not a single Montana community bank has failed since 2008; and, as local small businesses themselves, Montana’s community banks invest prudently and put the customer first because they know that, unlike the national banks, they are not going to be bailed out by the federal government for engaging in poor business practices. 

As stated, until such time as Congress sees the writing on the wall and splits investment banking from traditional deposit banking, and until such time as Congress determines that it is poor public policy to allow the largest financial institutions to place the burdens of their risk taking on the average American taxpayer, community banks serve as the best answer to ‘too big to fail’ policies.  At the same time, community banks are beneficial to Montana’s economy because they provide the capital for small communities to prosper.  Despite challenging economic times, community banks continue to fund nearly 60% of all small businesses under $1 million and provide the loans used by Montana’s families to finance the purchase of their homes, to buy a car, and to obtain a college degree.

Change begins at home.  By banking with a community bank, you will both realize the convenience that comes from working with your local banker and keep your money in the community where it will be put to work on behalf of your friends and neighbors.  To locate the community bank located closest to you, visit the community bank locator at and simply type in your zip code.  Information on Montana’s Independent Banks can be found by visiting

Martin Olsson is president of the Montana Independent Bankers Association.  The MIB represents over thirty Montana community banks located throughout the State of Montana.  Martin serves as President/CEO of Eagle Bank and as a director for the  Salish and Kootenai Bancorporation.  He and his wife Vickie live in Polson.


Last Updated on Sunday, 12 August 2012 17:14

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Who are real radicals on environmental issues?



I’m a radical environmentalist. I’m not sure what that means, but it must be true. Certainly, I’m a member of organizations that have been labeled “radical.”

In fact, the term has appeared widely. I would guess that the majority of Montana Republicans and even many Democrats consider Montana Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation and other mainstream organizations hotbeds of radical environmentalism.

In order to make some sense of the term, I have had to parse its components: “radical” and “environmentalist.”

Radicals can be found in mathematics and in medicine, but I assume that in this instance “radical” refers to extremism. Radicals are wild-eyed, ravening creatures who clamor to destroy established institutions and who even practice violence.

And an environmentalist, I gather, is someone, usually from California or New York (strangely, never my native Utah), who cares about what is termed “nature,” as if “nature” is separate from “culture” or humanity.

Certainly, “nature” has no consumer value. It consists of air, water, topsoil, golden eagles, and sunlight.

It can even be dangerous, as is the case with wolves, bison and Lyme disease. To favor nature over the economy is a sort of ultimate American blasphemy. As “job creators” (a.k.a. the wealthy) are often aligned with those who would convert nature into money, and as one must worship “job creators” and pay them tribute, to oppose them is unthinkable. 

Putting our two words together, then, in the moniker “radical environmentalist” is an insult. And it also hints at an absurdity. What sense does it make to practice violence in the service of peace or favor animals (especially evil ones like wolves) over humans?

Perhaps there are such modern-day John Muirs with bazookas and grenades. I have never met them. Some individuals claiming association with the nebulous Earth Liberation Front may take pride in their radical vision, and may, in fact, vandalize property.

But consistently pairing “radical” and “environmentalist” in referring to bird watchers and growers of community gardens is as ridiculous as consistently pairing “fascist” and “conservative” when referring to pro-life activists, the Chamber of Commerce or Rep. Dennis Rehberg.  

Widespread use of a term like “radical environmentalist” must trip off the lips of so many because they want to excoriate rather than debate. Instead of refuting the complexities of climate change science, denying the clear reality of mass extinction, and justifying the well-researched health problems associated with industrial processes, they have decided it would be easier to demonize the opposition. 

Unlike the portrait of environmentalists as a radicals, the people (mostly Westerners) I have met who would gladly label themselves “tree huggers” work through legal channels, political movements, scientific research and education to make the case that culture and nature are not separate and that in conserving nature we, not so paradoxically at all, help humanity.

Perhaps industrialists and CEOs, whom we now revere as “job creators,” are the true radicals. What have their largely unregulated activities brought? A deep recession, growing pollution, and an increasing gap between rich and poor.

For example, tar sands extraction, beloved of industrialists as a job-creating machine, is set to scour out a swath of land at least the size of Florida and will, according to a Cornell study, result in few high-paying jobs and perhaps even in job loss.

Better, say the industrialists, to rip into Canada, though, than into some “foreign” nation where they don’t even like us. Multinational corporate “entities” who profit from such devastation — are not they the true radicals?

Last winter, I walked in Two Moon Park along the Yellowstone River. Months after oil from the broken pipeline upstream had been “cleaned up” or “dispersed,” beautiful petroleum rainbows shone as the sun hit plates of ice accumulating near the shore. The river had been violated and was still being violated.

I could, I suppose, dismiss such pollution if I believed mild instances of destruction were the price we pay for good jobs, excellent and useful goods, and education that will someday help us find a non-lethal way to make our living on the earth. But we’re not even getting those anymore.

Montana Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups take a variety of non-radical, law-abiding approaches to stop this country from becoming a net exporter of natural resources at the expense of our land and people. Not everyone has to agree with everything they do (I don’t), but mindless insults cheapen the industrialist cause without answering the true issues. To call someone a “radical environmentalist” (or simply to imply that all environmentalists are wild-eyed fanatics) may, in fact, promote a radical industrialist agenda.

At any rate, I prefer the old-fashioned term “conservationist.”


Cara Chamberlain teaches English at Rocky Mountain College.


Last Updated on Friday, 03 August 2012 12:47

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