The Billings Outpost

Organic food study misses point about pesticides


By ARI LEVAUX - @arilevaux

The way headlines broke around a recent Stanford study comparing organic and conventionally grown foods, you’d think organic had been left for dead.

The New York Times, for example, announced that “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce.” Maybe the doubt was inferred from the meta-study’s lukewarm synopsis: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Now wait a minute. It’s true that ideologues can attribute positive benefits to whatever they want, but organic food has never been seriously touted as more nutritious or vitamin-rich than conventional food. Nor is it the cure for HIV, or the preferred food of unicorns.

Organic has always been defined by what it isn’t, and its first rule of organic food is that it’s free of things like “pesticide residues” and “antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” The study confirms what organic supporters have long purported to be the case: organic food is less adulterated by things you don’t want in your food.

The organic watchdog group Cornucupia Institute called the Stanford study “biased” in a Sept. 12 press release, which also raised questions about the study’s funding. Several of the authors are fellows and affiliates of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, which has received funding from big-ag companies including Cargill.

The study synthesized the results of 237 previously conducted studies that had compared nutrient and pesticide residue levels in organic and conventional food. While residue levels were compared with the EPA’s allowable levels (they mostly complied), Cornucopia complained that it did not discuss any of the specific dangers posed by pesticides, such as a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics that found children with organophosphate pesticides in their systems were more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Another organophosphate pesticide is chlorpyrifos, also poses a risk to the brains of children, especially via prenatal exposure. Once widely used as a residential roach-killer, chlorpyrifos was banned for home use by the EPA in 2001. The chemical is still permitted for agricultural use on fruit trees and vegetables, and is known by its Dow trade name Lorsban. According to the EPA, 10 million pounds of it is applied annually in the U.S.

The regulation of chlorpyrifos, like that of most chemicals, has not been consistent over the years. It is now more strictly controlled than it used to be, and it’s possible that someday it will be more heavily regulated than it is today.

In fact, the EPA announced in July that it plans to require reductions in chlorpyrifos application rates and apply additional rules designed to protect children and other bystanders from exposure in agricultural applications and others. The agency expects to make a final decision in 2014, with implementation to follow sometime after that. Until then, families in rural towns where farm workers live will continue to expose their children to doses of a neurotoxin that we’re pretty sure will soon be illegal.

Chlorpyrifos has recently been found to stunt development more in males than females. A study conducted in New York City and published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology found that while both boy and girl IQ scores were lower following exposure, boys’ brains were especially affected.

The study used umbilical cord blood drawn at birth to assess exposure levels in babies born before and after the EPA’s 2001 ban on residential use of chlorpyrifos, and as expected exposure levels dropped following the ban. It isn’t known why boy brains are more vulnerable to the chemical - part of the picture may be that boy brains seem to be more sensitive at young ages in general.

Lead, for example, also affects infant boy brains more adversely. Also, studies done with rats show that chlorpyrifos lowers testosterone, which in humans could lead to a drop in male IQ, as the hormone is crucial to male brain development.

Clearly, we’re still learning about the effects of chlorpyrifos on people, not to mention untargeted organisms like amphibians, or the ecosystems these creatures belong to. Chlorpyrifos is just one of more than 1,400 pesticides regulated by the EPA.

While the danger of any given pesticide is constant, how it’s regulated is changeable. Unfortunately, lobbyists and political appointees who might be neither concerned nor educated about pesticides can have undue influence over if, when, and how they’re used. Given our slowly evolving scientific understanding of pesticide chemicals, and the glacial pace of political change, the Stanford study results support the idea that eating organic reduces exposure to things we may someday realize are bad for us, as well as things that we now know are bad, like chicken and pork contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Had the Stanford study shown higher nutrient levels in organic food, you could be sure the organic industry would be parading those results like the Greeks dragging Hector’s body around Troy. But if differences in nutrient content is what we want to look for, in my opinion we should compare nutrient levels of food grown on small, crop-diverse family farms with food grown in large monocultures.

The Stanford study compared the nutrient levels largely between organic factory farms and conventional factory farms. I’d like to see factory farm versus family farm. Practices common on small, integrated farms – like composting, crop rotation, and mulching – tend to build richer-than-average soil. It would be interesting to compare nutrition levels in small farms that do these things with large farms that don’t.

Still, nutrient levels are just one part of the debate on sustainable and fair agriculture. To many in the sustainable-food movement, factory-farmed organic, such as what you get at Whole Foods, is an imperfect compromise. As a wise farmer once told me, “most Big Organic food is still grown by exploited brown people on massive monocultures – just without chemicals.”

The Stanford report concludes with the kind of self-contradictory statement that embodies the general confusion the study has generated. The evidence does not suggest marked health benefits from consuming organic versus conventional foods, although organic produce may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and organic chicken and pork may reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In other words, organic isn’t any better, but it might be less worse. Well, alright. But if the Stanford team’s idea of health includes pesticide residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria in my system, I’d hate to meet its criteria for sick.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 10:23

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American Lung Association

November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Month. COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States (behind heart disease and cancer) and kills more than 120,000 American each year. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, lung diseases characterized by an obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing.

More than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD and an additional 12 million are likely to have the disease and not know it.

In recent years, more women than men have died from COPD. The death rate among women has nearly tripled from 1980 to 2005.

In Montana it is estimated that 47,115 people have COPD. The number of people with COPD is increasing and diagnosis can help treatment and management of the disease. Signs and symptoms of COPD include:

• Constant coughing, sometimes called “smoker’s cough.”

• Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities.

• Producing a lot of sputum (also called phlegm or mucus).

• Feeling like you can’t breathe or take a deep breath.

• Wheezing.

These symptoms are often ignored or dismissed as normal signs of aging, or of being out of shape, which explains why so many people remain undiagnosed.

Although COPD can’t be cured, people at risk of COPD, especially current and former smokers with COPD symptoms, should consult their physicians about a simple breathing test called spirometry in order to diagnose the disease.

With approximately one in five Americans over the age of 45 suffering from COPD, it is likely that we each know someone who has the symptoms. The primary cause of COPD is the inhalation of cigarette smoke. Other causes include exposure to occupational dust particles and chemicals, as well as a rare genetic mutation called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.

There are treatment and resources available for those diagnosed with COPD. If diagnosed with COPD, the American Lung Association is ready to help with information and support for those with COPD and their loved ones.

We are here to help people with COPD quit smoking, learn personal management techniques, improve communication with their doctor, and become more physically active, which along with the proper medication, can make a big difference in one’s quality of life.

Once diagnosed:

• If you’re a smoker – quit now! The American Lung Association has a Freedom from Smoking on-line program to

• Take any medicine you’re prescribed exactly as instructed. If you are having problems, talk with your healthcare provider about possible solutions.

• Get active! Keep as physically fit as possible and discuss pulmonary rehabilitation with your physician. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you rebuild strength and reduce shortness of breath.

• Educate yourself. Trained health professionals are available on the American Lung Association help line (1-800-LUNG-USA) and online support at

• Get Support. Controlling COPD is easier as a team effort. Ask for and get support from those who love you. Ask your doctor or respiratory therapist if there is a Better Breathers Club or support group in your community.

• Clean air will help your ability to breathe. Make sure indoor and outdoor air quality is at healthy levels by checking wood smoke, pollution and other environmental factors.

You can advocate for strong Clean Air Act standards by participating in a national call-in day to President Obama on Dec. 4 (call (202) 456-1111) or find out information about sending in comments about a strong particulate pollution standard on the American Lung Association’s Healthy Air page at

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 10:21

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Hunting season poses dilemma for hunter

By ARI LeVAUX - @arilevaux
ari-hunting 2colful
Photo by Ari LeVaux - Moral quandary or just good eating? Hunters have to decide.

The difference between hunting and shooting animals Hunting animals can mean a lot of things, from freezer filling to sport killing. As a meat hunter, I’m looking for a year’s worth of protein, with or without antlers. Hunting season is a beautiful, invigorating part of my annual routine that gets my ass up and outside early and often. While I don’t hunt for the thrill of killing, the post-kill posing or for big racks, as a hunter I’m lumped together with everyone else who shoots guns at animals.

I don’t mind being associated with the interior decorators and stuffed-animal collectors, assuming the trophy hunters in question actually eat their meat. But I’m less into being grouped with those who shoot “varmints,” or supposed pest animals, for fun, and other practitioners of sport killing. Perhaps “animal shooting” would be more descriptive than hunting of what they do.

But semantics can’t change the fact that I shop at the same gear stores as the sport killers, and we share space at the range and in the field as well. We respect each others’ safety by following safe shooting etiquette. I’ll even listen politely at the gas station if some proud killer has a story to tell. A friend who took me on my first elk hunting trip is a varmint hunter. We had a great time together, but remained worlds apart with regard to how we really feel about shooting animals.

A seldom-discussed divide exists in the hunting community between those who hunt because they enjoy shooting at living targets, and those who hunt despite the killing part. There are also those who hunt as part of their overarching obsession with guns-after all, shooting at real, living things is what guns were designed for. In my experience, however, very little time spent hunting is spent actually killing. You can hunt hard for days or even weeks and come up empty, and I’m OK with that. It’s part of the process. And even when you are successful, the kill itself is about as fast as a speeding bullet.

Trophy hunters can at least decorate their homes with skulls, fur and bones, and bask in their glory. But with sport killers, generally, as soon as one animal is down it’s onto the next, like a gambler sitting at a slot machine.

Varmint hunters can generally shoot as many animals as they want, since the targeted animal is a legally ordained pest. Prairie dog hunters will drive hundreds of miles to explode the little critters with high-powered long-range rifles.

In fact, “explode” doesn’t do justice to what happens to a prairie dog hit with a .50 BMG (a very large bullet). “Vaporize” is closer to the point, like when a ripe peach collides with a baseball bat. The movie “Killing Coyote” has amazing footage of prairie dogs being instantaneously replaced with red mist by the slug of a high-caliber rifle.

I’m a rifle hunter, but not a lover of guns. But while I don’t love of guns, I do love my Ruger .270. It’s one of my most sacred possessions and best friends, and the annual journey we take together has given me some of my life’s best moments, as well as many freezers full of the best meat there is.

Medical research has found several benefits to wild game, as distinct from feedlot-raised livestock, but many of these discoveries have yet to permeate standard dietary practices. You’ve probably seen endless reports linking red meat to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other such so-called diseases of civilization. But until very recently, few of these studies have distinguished between an Oscar Meyer wiener and Wilbur the pig, never mind Bambi.

A 2010 Harvard School of Public Health meta-study found a clear correlation between diseases of civilization and processed red meat, but the correlation with unprocessed meat was weak. The take-home message, not surprisingly, is that whole cuts of meat are better for you than meat that’s been adulterated in all sorts of ways.

But in the Harvard study, both the processed and unprocessed meats were status-quo grain- and soy-fed cattle grown on feedlots. By contrast, wild game is the ultimate unprocessed meat, from the ground up. These animals consume no processed feeds, which in addition to their questionable main ingredients can also contain anything from antibiotics to candy to concrete mix.

While I wait for scientific consensus on the relative health benefits and risks of wild game versus livestock, I’m going to continue to follow my gut and eat game. It feels right, it tastes good, and the tidbits we have learned thus far are encouraging.

From an environmental standpoint, hunting your own is one of the few defensible approaches to eating meat. Growing food to feed livestock, we all know, is a terribly inefficient use of land and water. Now that humans have killed off most deer predators and replaced much of their habitat with farmland full of tasty crops, deer populations have exploded like rats in the city. Taking your share does farmers a favor.

Hunted meat is the only meat I want to eat. Pulling the trigger may not be my favorite part of preparing the daily meal, but neither is doing the dishes. It’s all part of the package of eating well.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:38

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Scientists looking at changes in Antarctica ice

Photo by Jay Rotella, MSU Bozeman A mother Weddell seal with her pup in front of Mt. Erebus in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. The tagged mother and pup are both part of MSU’s long-term study of population dynamics in Weddell seals in Erebus Bay, Antarctica.By EVELYN BOSWELL - MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Montana State University ecologists who have returned to Antarctica for another season had to adapt to dramatic changes in the sea ice last year.

Now they have published a paper that says the Weddell seals they monitor had to deal with some dramatic changes in ice in recent years, too. In fact, the seals handled the adverse conditions well and suffered less than the Emperor penguins in that region.

The paper was published Sept. 26 in the international journal, “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.”

Lead author was Thierry Chambert, a doctoral student supervised by co-authors Bob Garrott and Jay Rotella in the MSU ecology department. Rotella and Garrott have just received a National Science Foundation grant for $867,272 that will extend their long-term study by five more years.

Last year, the researchers encountered unusually thin ice that was three feet thick instead of the usual 12 to 16 feet, Garrott said. Large cracks and active breaks threatened snowmobile travel. As a result, the faculty members and students moved their base camp to a safer spot and set up emergency camps around their study area. When they couldn’t cross the ice on snowmobiles, they flew by helicopter.

In the course of their work, Rotella said the researchers saw how the Weddell seals faced their own challenges from massive icebergs that broke off and dramatically changed sea-ice conditions in a number of recent years.

Using data from 29 years, the team was able to compare seal numbers, as well as rates of pup production and adult survival, from before, during, and after the iceberg event, to learn how the seals fared.

The number of seals they observed and the number of pups that were born during the peak of the iceberg event were down to unprecedented low numbers, but monitoring showed that, “the seals, in fact, handled the event quite well,” Rotella said.

He explained that the seals were able to maintain high survival rates by lowering their breeding efforts during the years of iceberg presence. They tended to avoid breeding colonies when sea-ice conditions were particularly unfavorable.

The Emperor penguins, however, continued their normal activities during the worst of the iceberg event. The result was dramatic with dying penguins, as well as breeding failures, Rotella said. He noted that moving ice crushed eggs and even some adults at the peak of the iceberg event.

Exhaustion and starvation might also have been an issue for penguins that walked across the ice from open water to their nesting colonies.

“These results reveal that, depending on their ecology, different species can suffer different impacts from an extreme environmental disturbance,” said Rotella, the new leader of the Weddell seal study.

“The results also reveal the importance of having long-term data to evaluate possible effects,” Rotella continued.

“Without the data, we couldn’t have known whether this extreme environmental event had extreme consequences for the seals or not. Fortunately for the seals, it did not. We learned that the seals were quite capable of riding out the massive changes in ice conditions as long as they didn’t persist too long.”

Rotella said the relationship between thinner ice and icebergs is outside of his field of expertise, but he said that ice provides protection from predators like orcas and leopard seals. It also serves as a platform for Weddell seals in the first few weeks of their lives when they have little fat for staying warm in the water and can’t swim well yet. When the ice is thinner, predators have better access to the breeding areas used by penguins and Weddell seals for rearing their young. It is also easier for storms to shatter the ice sheets and for the area to have open water.

No one knows what this season will bring for sea-ice conditions, but the MSU researchers said they hope it isn’t a repeat of last year.

“That was very challenging,” Garrott said. “We really don’t know what the ice conditions are like this year until we get down there.”

This year’s field season runs from about Oct. 10 to mid-December, with Rotella going down for the first half of the season and Garrott for the second half. Mary Lynn Price, a video journalist who has joined the group for the past two seasons, will be there for three weeks in the middle, with her stay overlapping Rotella’s and Garrott’s.

Price will again produce a variety of videos and other materials that will be available to the public. For more information, go to the video blog at and the YouTube channel at

This will be the 45th season for the study that Garrott and Rotella took over around 2001 from Don Siniff at the University of Minnesota. Initiated by Siniff, the study is one of the longer running animal population studies and the longest marine mammal study in the southern hemisphere. It not only focuses on changes in the Weddell seal population, but it yields broader information about the workings of the marine environment. The study incorporates information on sea ice, fish, ecosystem dynamics, climate change, and even the Antarctic toothfish, which is marketed in U.S. restaurants as Chilean sea bass.

The MSU study concentrates on pups and adult breeding females that live in the Ross Sea, which is the most pristine ocean left in the world and the only marine system whose top predators – including the Weddell seal – still flourish.

The researchers start the season by weighing and tagging every pup when it’s about two days old. Later in the season, they visit every colony in their study, collecting genetic samples and recording every tag they find. Weddell seals are relatively gentle for being a top predator in the ecosystem, but they can weigh over 1,000 pounds and have a set of teeth like a bear’s, Garrott has said in the past.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:32

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Panel debates initiative aimed at corporations


By ADRIAN JAWORT - For The Outpost

“If we succeed in passing I-166, we can send a clear message across the United States and hopefully move it forward,” said James Ellis when talking about the proposed Prohibition on Corporate Contributions and Expenditures in Montana Elections Act.

Ellis, a Montana State University Billings student, was part of a panel discussion that included C.B. Pearson from the Stand with Montanans group that wrote Initiative 166, MSU Billings assistant professor of public administration Paul Pope, and Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings. The event was hosted by MSU Billings at the College of Education.

More than 32,000 signatures were collected to put I-166 on this year’s 2012 ballot. The initiative states in Section 3: “(a) that the people of Montana regard money as property, not speech; (b) that the people of Montana regard the rights under the United States Constitution as rights of human beings, not rights of corporations.”

Since 1912, Montana had laws to limit corporate money and to lessen their influence on elections. Montana law, however, contrasted with the 2010 Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, which essentially decided it was unconstitutional for Congress to limit corporate or union expenditures for elections because that would limit free speech.

In October 2010, the Montana Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in a Montana case, the American Tradition Partnership Inc. vs. Attorney General of Montana, to continue a ban on corporations from spending on political campaigns. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled in favor of ATP on June 25 of this year.

ATP is “dedicated to fighting environmental extremism and promoting responsible development and management of land, water, and natural resources,” according to its website at

To override the Supreme Court, supporters of the ban on corporate speech and influence aim to eventually pass a constitutional amendment making it explicitly clear that corporations can be regulated because they’re not people.

While talking about his proposed People’s Rights Amendment, Congressman Jim McGovern said about his own proposed 28th Amendment: “Corporations are not people. They do not breathe. They do not have children. They do not die in war. They are artificial entities which we the people create and, as such, we govern them, not the other way around.”

Ellis noted that adding an amendment would be a monumental task since it would need two-thirds support in both the Congress and Senate. “It’s a very difficult and lengthy process, and it’ll take years,” he said. “However, the public is on our side. We have a fighting chance, at least, to restore democracy.”

To compound potential obstacles to I-166 and other similar propositions, Pearson said, “We will spend tens of thousands of dollars defending this from shady groups who won’t expose whose financing them.”

Pope, who’s also taught constitutional law for last five years, said founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay and George Washington all railed against too much financial influence in campaigns.

With the unlimited amounts of money being poured into elections by corporations with deep pocketbooks, Pope said, speech has become quantified. “Speech is considered one of the quintessential elements of a free democracy,” he said. “If speech is money, then those with more money get more speech. This is establishing an unequal access, and you automatically make speech an unequal right.”

To illustrate the influence, a frustrated Rick Santorum said about Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s money influence in early April, “The only way he’s been successful is winning the primaries is by just bludgeoning his opponents by an overwhelming money advantage — something he’s not going to have in the general election.”

At the time of Santorum’s remark, Romney’s campaign and so-called super PAC outspent all three of the other remaining Republican candidates combined in television ads, $53 million to $27 million, according to the SMG Delta tracking firm. Santorum, who was narrowly defeated in some state races, spent $9 million and won six states.

Peterson dissented from the three panelists in support of I-166. He said it didn’t have neutral language, considering that the Citizens United and the Western Tradition Supreme Court decisions didn’t actually have the words “corporation” in them. The word “corporation” is prevalent throughout the I-166 proposition, however.

Aside from just corporations, Peterson said, entities like conservation and environmental groups are also allowed to donate freely to political causes, so what Citizens United actually did was “level the playing field.”

He said, “It’s a purposeless act to pass I-166,” noting it’ll merely be a symbolic vote since it’s already been overridden by the Supreme Court. Quoting Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, Peterson said I-166 is like “doing what a young man learns early in Montana not to do on a windy way.”

Also calling the initiative a waste of resources, Peterson said the proposed law will do exactly nothing. “What will the Supreme Court do again? Throw it out.”

C.B. Pearson said that Montana is a small business state. As a result, “I don’t know of any Montana corporation that is significantly involved in this election using corporate dollars. But I know of a lot of out-of-state money coming in through surrogates and all sorts of organizations, and it’s impacting all elections up and down the table,” he said.

Noting Colorado also has a similar proposition this year in regards to banning corporate spending in elections, Pearson said, “Now, we need a rebellion and prairie fire to clean up our political system, and I think it starts with I-166.”

Responding to Peterson’s comments, Pearson said most of the money being used to “level the playing field” has been spent on negative ads. “In Montana, we’re used to eyeball-to-eyeball contact. You know your neighbor and expect to see your U.S. senator,” he said. “Now, we have millions of dollars coming in from out-of-state basically telling us about who our candidates supposedly are, and that’s not the Montana way.”

While agreeing that Peterson had a point in noting that I-166 would be nonbinding, “The beauty of our democracy is that we can vote and send a message,” Ellis said. “It is the one way we can as states get together and overrule something that is unjust, unfair and a threat to our democracy in a very peaceful way.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 11:05

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Still time to register



There are a few deadlines and details to keep in mind as Election Day approaches in Montana. Tuesday was the last day for regular voter registration. Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund executive director Theresa Keaveny says there are other opportunities, though, including on Election Day.

Her organization is encouraging people to register to vote and be sure to cast ballots at a polling place, or by mail. 

She says there are a lot of decisions beyond presidential: county commissioners, state legislative positions, some state offices and governor.

“So much is at stake,” she said. “Decision-makers will define policies related to education, clean water, renewable energy and taxation.”

Polling location changes have been made since some people last cast a ballot in 2010. Keaveny says be sure to check before heading to a voting booth, since several counties consolidated locations.

“In Yellowstone and Gallatin County, for example, polling places have consolidated to the county fairgrounds, or in Billings, to MetraPark. That means there are fewer places for people to go and vote, but people could also sign up to vote by mail.”

She says late voter registration opened Wednesday, which is done in-person at county election offices, and registration is even available on Nov. 6, Election Day, at designated county election offices.

She added that another option is to vote by mail. Details on how that works, plus applications, can be found at

Last Updated on Friday, 12 October 2012 11:08

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Bullock, Hill race offers voters clear choices


By BROOKS JOHNSON - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

Say goodbye to bolo ties.

Whoever replaces Gov. Brian Schweitzer after November’s election will be making an executive neckwear change. But that may be one of the few areas in which the candidates agree.

The race featuring piles of out-of-state money pits Attorney General Steve Bullock, the Democrat, against former Congressman Rick Hill, the Republican. Throw in Libertarian candidate Ron Vandevender and independent Bill Coate and you’ve got the cast of Montana Governor 2012.

The major-party rivals say they offer voters a clear choice.

“This election represents a crossroads,” Bullock said in an interview. “The congressman is looking backwards, and I think there’s great things ahead of us.”

Hill sees it differently.

“Our agenda is focused on unleashing the private sector,” Hill said. “(Bullock’s) focus is on expanding the public sector.”

But it’s not that simple, of course.

Difference on issues

Hill and Bullock differ on issues ranging from abortion to tax reform and unions.

Hill defines himself as “pro-life” and believes life begins at conception. He supports the statewide ballot measure that would require doctors to notify parents when girls under 16 seek abortions.

Bullock supports abortion rights and opposes the parental notification measure as government intrusion into a woman’s private healthcare decisions.

The two differ on public education too. Hill’s plan would revise tenure laws to reward good teachers and replace bad ones. He would promote charter schools and allow tax breaks for foundations that support scholarships for students attending private schools.

He also supports a change in the way Montana pays for education. Hill said he would eliminate statewide property taxes for K-12 schools and replace the lost money with revenue from oil, gas and coal development.

Bullock, whose mother and stepfather were public school teachers, has criticized Hill’s support for school choice. He argues for keeping taxpayers invested in K-12 schools to ensure a stable funding. He also supports a freeze in college tuition.

Both candidates support developing Montana’s natural resources, but Hill said he will push harder. He questions his rival’s enthusiasm by pointing toward Bullock’s vote against accepting Arch Coal’s winning bid to develop state-owned coal in southeast Montana’s Otter Creek area.

Bullock, a member of the board that oversees state-owned lands, defends that vote, saying the bid was too low. But he added that he’s voted for other leases that were in the state’s interest to support.

“And we’ll continue making sure we’re not selling our resources at bargain basement prices,” he told a Helena audience last month.

When it comes to health care, well, you’ve seen the ads. Hill is quick to tie his opponent to the controversial federal Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. Hill points repeatedly to Bullock’s refusal to join mostly Republican attorneys general in 26 states who unsuccessfully challenged the law in federal court.

Joining that effort would have wasted Montana’s time and money, Bullock said. He stops short of advocating the Affordable Care Act, but added, “We’re paying too much and getting too little. We need to challenge every cost and start paying for results and not just repeated tests.”

On tax reform, Bullock made a stir earlier this year with his plan to refund Montana taxpayers $400 as a direct stimulus. The money would come from the state’s current surplus. Hill calls that a “one-time gimmick” and supports permanent cuts in property taxes and replacing the lost money with revenue from energy development.

The two also clash over unions, with Hill saying he would support a right-to-work law, forbidding unions from making membership a condition of employment. Bullock promised to veto right-to-work legislation.

Different journeys

Hill and Bullock have taken different paths to get where they are today.

Bullock was born in Missoula 46 years ago and raised in Helena. He received his law degree from Columbia University’s School of Law in New York and returned to Montana.

His first government job came in 1996 as chief legal counsel to Democratic Secretary of State Mike Cooney, and he was chief deputy attorney general from 1997 to 2001. He practiced law and taught in Washington, D.C., before returning to Helena in 2005. He became attorney general in 2008 by defeating Republican Tim Fox.

Among the achievements he lists are increasing Montana’s minimum wage, strengthening recreational access to public lands and waterways, a tougher law on drunk driving, and a prescription drug registry to thwart doctor shopping by drug addicts.

Hill’s journey began in Grand Rapids, Mich. He graduated from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota in 1968 and moved to Montana shortly afterward. Now retired, Hill has built several businesses and advised many others.

He entered public life in 1993 as a lobbyist for Gov. Marc Racicot and served as volunteer chairman of the State Worker’s Compensation Board. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1996 and 1998 but declined to run again due to vision problems that he says have since been corrected.

Since leaving Congress, the 65-year-old has earned a law degree – not to practice law, he said, but to understand how to make better laws. With experience in insurance and real estate investment, he said he is the candidate of business.

Achievements he touts include reorganizing Montana’s worker’s compensation system, which faced a large deficit the early 1990s. The solution required payroll contributions from workers and employers. As a congressman, he supported welfare reform and helped Montana obtain the rights to federal coal in the Otter Creek area in exchange for halting a proposed gold mine near Yellowstone National Park.

Third-party hopefuls

As the race heads to the wire, undecided voters may make the difference. A Lee newspapers poll in mid-September found that 11 percent of those surveyed had yet to make a choice.

Vying with Bullock and Hill for that last chunk of votes are two third-party candidates.

Libertarian Ron Vandevender, who lives near Craig, opposes federal intrusion and is a staunch supporter of property rights. He supports cutting business taxes, establishing co-ops, and developing industrial hemp.

Independent Bill Coate, a Marine Corps veteran who lives in Helena, says the two-party system is broken. He’s campaigning for tax cuts, more energy development, fewer government regulation and less waste.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 11:01

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U.S. House race keeping low profile in Montana


By ALEXANDRA SCHWIER - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

As Montana yards fills with campaign signs, as canvassers crisscross neighborhoods in support of gubernatorial candidates, and as TV ads take turns blasting U.S. Senate candidates, the names Kim Gillan and Steve Daines rarely appear on the political radar.

The two candidates for the state’s sole U.S. House seat remain largely unknown to voters as Election Day draws near. According to Montana State University political scientist David Parker, only about 20 to 30 percent of voters can identify Democrat Gillan and her Republican rival Daines.

Gillan, who trails Daines in money, has had to rely on traditional methods to get her name out.

“I’ve traveled 1,000 miles in the last two and half days, meeting with different groups,” Gillan said.

Despite the challenges of running a grassroots campaign, she said it has advantages in a state like Montana where “people like to meet you, they like to shake your hand and they really aren’t going to be 100 percent trustful with someone they know from television.”

Although Daines has run many more ads than Gillan, he stresses the same kind of message about his campaign.

“We have had a chance to travel to all 56 counties in this state,” he said, “and I have had the chance to sit around with cups of coffee and having conversations about what matters to Montanans.”

Different messages

But campaign strategy is where the similarities between Gillan and Daines end.

For Daines, his message to voters is he will fight to rein in an out-of-control national government that has created a sense of “uncertainty” in the country.

“We don’t know what the tax code is going to be like next year,” he said. “You talk to the farmers, the ranchers, our small community bankers, and boy, one of the No. 1 issues is the regulations coming out of Washington.”

Gillan is campaigning on a pledge to reduce the partisanship in Washington while advocating what she calls Montana’s culture of “helping your neighbor.” This includes proposing government investment in key services like education and health care.

She argues that Daines’ support of the budget proposal put forward by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan would benefit the wealthy at the expense of critical services like Medicare and Social Security.

“In Montana we are all about fairness — everyone is always willing to pitch in and do their part, whether it’s helping a neighbor or solving a community problem,” she said. “I don’t feel that the Ryan budget does that at all. It basically places the burden on hard-working families, senior citizens and the middle class. And you know what? Most of Montanans are not millionaires.”

Daines said his belief in cutting the size of government is about being fair to future generations.

“We have four kids, two in college and two in high school, and they are going to inherit this debt,” he said. “And it is up to this generation to start moving in a path back to fiscal sanity, and fiscal sustainability.”

The role of experience

Daines, who is 50 and vice president at the high-tech company RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, said he formed many of his political opinions based on what he learned in the business world.

“Twenty-eight years in business and you understand the importance of problem solving and the importance of efficiency, because if you don’t become efficient, you don’t run a business well, and you are out of business. And I think some of those principles could be applied to leadership in Washington,” he said.

Although Gillan, 60, stresses her experience running a training program at MSU Billings, she points to her 17 years in the state Legislature as what best qualifies her for Congress. On the trail, she cites passage of her legislation to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism through insurance companies as proof that she can work with lawmakers from both parties.

“Simply put, people know my reputation precedes me,” she said. “I’ll stand up to anyone if it’s going to hurt Montana.”

Both campaigns have focused heavily on how and when the reach of the federal government ought to affect Montanans.

The centerpieces of Daines’ campaign are scaling back regulations that hurt job growth and fighting large federal programs like the Affordable Care Act, which aims to expand the number of Americans with health insurance.

Gillan, who supports the new health care law, said Daines opposes government action that could help thousands of Montanans access health insurance but supports expanding the reach of the federal government into controversial social issues.

“I’ve always been a long term supporter of a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “If you are going to talk about less government then we want less government in making those very personal and private decisions.”

On the issue of abortion, Daines said his position is not about the role of government but about core values.

“I think this gets back to the issue of defending the rights of those who can’t defend themselves and that’s a fundamental value we had in our Constitution - that we defend the rights of the individual,” he said.

Voters will weigh these two starkly different visions of the role of the federal government on Nov. 6, deciding between Daines’ vision of reduced spending and smaller deficits or Gillian’s call to support education and job training.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:44

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Modernize interior with simple steps

(StatePoint) Once-upon-a-time you loved the look of your living space, but now it feels so last-century. If this sounds like you, consider injecting new energy into your home by making a few high-impact changes without a high-roller budget.

Clever use of colors in combination with smart lighting can enliven rooms so they give off a more compelling, modern vibe without the need for costly remodeling projects or expensive furniture.

Color transformations

Color both soothes and stirs the senses. Accent walls are a great way to introduce bold color and contrast, infusing a room with a sense of adventure, playfulness or drama.

Bring vitality to any room in the home by painting one wall a vivid shade to frame a focal point such as a dramatic piece of artwork.

Accent walls are usually solid with no doors or windows, unless there is something special about these features you want to highlight, such as a spectacular view or interesting architecture.

If you find yourself intimidated by vibrant colors, use neutral tones on your primary walls with a darker, more intense shade on your accent wall. Popular paint colors this year include fiery, orange-infused reds, watery blues, lush greens and earthy neutrals.

Lighting at its Best

Lighting is one of the most dramatic areas where things are changing in home décor.

Not only are new bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs offering greater energy efficiency, light fixture styles and lamp styles are also changing.

Remember those recessed lights so popular years ago? Depending on how they are used today, they may make a home look outdated. Kichler Lighting’s Director of Trends and Training, Jeff Dross, suggests replacing this older style with contemporary semi-flush fixtures. He also recommends swapping outdated chandeliers, especially of the old brass variety, with a series of modern pendant lights.

“Nothing makes a tasteful statement of modern simplicity better than a row of pendant lights over a kitchen island or above a dining room table,” Dross says.

For the bathroom, use wall sconces placed on each side of the mirror for evenly lighting the face.

“Wall sconces add visual interest to the bath and even make daily tasks like shaving and make-up application easier,” Dross says.

For bedrooms, living rooms and family rooms choose strong bold shapes for your table and floor lamps.

Pillow Power

Match decorative accessories like pillows and lamps to your accent wall color, incorporating the color – or shades of it – into a variety of textures. Framed photos, an interesting vase or impressive plant will stand out well against an accent wall, making the perfect focal point.

A buffet lamp (a smaller version of a table lamp) adds ambience and makes an ideal accent. 

For more information on modern home design, visit or join Kichler’s experts in discussing the latest lighting products and trends on Twitter and Facebook.

Giving your home an up-to-date look doesn’t need to break the bank or your back. Simple tweaks can give your interiors a much-needed face lift.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 September 2012 23:00

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Varying cultures, materials inspire log cabin’s design

BIG TIMBER — When Jackie den Boer built her Montana getaway cabin five years ago, she had one “must have” in terms of location: “I wanted a place where I could sit on the porch and not hear a single manmade sound,” said den Boer.

Her exact location, which den Boer will only say is “where the prairie meets the Rockies,” provides the privacy, wildlife and only the natural symphonies of sound she was seeking. She shared the tale of how her dream retreat embodies an eclectic Montana-meets-the-world confluence of styles and materials.

Its path to construction and completion shows den Boer’s ingenuity and appreciation of reusing available materials. The 17-by-70 foot home was built in part from the abandoned barn and farmhouse of a 1900-era homestead.

The goal was to create a pioneer-style cabin, placed to take advantage of the mountain views. “The barn was dismantled and restacked as the cabin, using the original barn wood and dimensions,” said den Boer. “The farmhouse had to be razed, but we were able to save the oak and fir floors and some beams, which we used in building the new house.”

The rugged exterior is capped by a metal roof whose inspiration came from half a world away: den Boer’s business trips to Japan. “These were the kind of uniform cover roofs I saw in Japan, but which is very different for Montana,” she explained. She traveled across the state collecting corrugated metal sheets to add to the ones found on the old homestead.

“There’s a simplicity to the lines that is very distinctive, but the style is also practical. Snow falls off the high-slope and it can withstand even 100mph winds, she exclaimed.”

When it came to a heating choice, her eyes turned back to Finland. She had spent a summer working in Helsinki, so she was already familiar with Tulikivi soapstone fireplaces when she had one installed in her Livingston home.

Plus, she absolutely loves soapstone. (She’s been collecting carved soapstone miniatures since the 1960s.) “I purchased my first Tulikivi from Ron Pihl at Warmstone Fireplaces & Designs in Livingston, Montana, seven years ago. Then, met with him again when choosing my cabin heat source,” den Boer said. “Plus, I wanted a radiant heat source to look more like Montana than Scandinavian, to keep the pioneer cabin look intact.”

Pihl added, “I was able to custom design a unit that was just the style Jackie wanted, with a soapstone bench on the unit that complements the soapstone in the kitchen and bath.”

Den Boer concluded with one other advantage of owning a wood-burning Tulikivi, aside from its radiant long-lasting heat, “I don’t even have to listen to a fuel truck coming up my road.”

For more information on Warmstone Fireplaces & Designs visit

The Tulikivi Group comprises the Tulikivi Corporation, which is a listed family

enterprise, and its subsidiaries. The Tulikivi Group is the world’s largest

manufacturer of heat-retaining fireplaces. Tulikivi has three product groups:

Fireplaces, Saunas and Interior & Design. Tulikivi and its customers value

wellbeing, interior design and the benefits of bioenergy. Tulikivi’s net sales

are roughly EUR 60 million, of which exports account for about half. Tulikivi

employs over 400 people. For more information about Tulikivi, please visit or follow them on Facebook at

Tulikivi. For the nearest distributor, call 800-843-3473.

Look for Tulikivi on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 September 2012 22:59

Hits: 16097

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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