The Billings Outpost

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Shopping small contributes big

Every year, Gallup asks people how much confidence they have in various institutions.

The results aren’t surprising. Only 8 percent had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress. Big business scored 21 percent. That’s no better than TV news.

Small business, on the other hand, came in second with 67 percent of respondents considering it trustworthy. Only the U.S. military scored higher.

While politicians bicker with each other and Wall Street focuses on the 1 percent, Main Street remains the lifeblood of our economy and our communities.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for most of the jobs in this country, and small businesses create most of America’s net new jobs.

You probably don’t know the owner of a big department store, but there’s a good chance you know a few small-business owners. They’re our friends and neighbors. They’re among the most generous supporters of civic groups, local charities, youth sports, schools and virtually every other form of community activity.

Small businesses do a lot to help our community, and, on Nov. 28, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we’ll have an opportunity to thank them.

That’s because Nov. 28 is Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Black Friday.

Black Friday, of course, is when families to wake early, sit in traffic, compete with other drivers for decent parking spots, jostle with crowds and stand in line to buy things probably no one asked for or really wants.

Small Business Saturday is the opposite of that. Small Business Saturday is when you shop at small, locally owned businesses for things you simply can’t find at the mall, and instead of dealing with temporary workers who don’t know the merchandise, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing directly with the owner who cares very much about making you happy so you’ll come back time and again throughout the year.

The campaign to “shop small” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving started in 2010 as an effort to give small businesses — many struggling to get out of the red after a long recession — a much needed shot in the arm.

Since then, it has become a powerful movement to give back to the brick-and-mortar establishments that line our Main Streets and keep our communities vibrant.

When you shop local and shop small, you’re supporting your community. When you shop at a chain store, most of the money goes back to some corporate office somewhere else, but when you shop on Main Street, most of that money stays here at home.

This year, make a difference in your community. Shop local on Small Business Saturday.

Riley Johnson

National Federation of

Independent Business



Last Updated on Thursday, 26 November 2015 12:47

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Winning worse than losing?

Montana Republicans want U.S. Judge Brian Morris to declare the open primary unconstitutional so only registered Republicans can choose their candidates. After a favorable decision, Matthew Monforton (R-HD 69) suggests a special legislative session to enact a closed primary.

If legislators refuse to meet, Republicans will choose candidates in county and state conventions (unpopular among Republicans who’ll fund and organize these gatherings.) Grumbling is also noted among Republican voters who’d be locked out from nominating a presidential candidate.

But maybe the Legislature will convene a costly special session. Rep. Monforton says there are two more ways to make the primary constitutional. One is a nonpartisan, top-two primary system that is more “open” than Montana’s present primary. (Hypothetically in this primary, two Libertarians could scoop the major parties and face off in the general election.)

Sen. Fred Thomas (R-SD 44) has drafted a new “top-two primary” bill correcting constitutional flaws in his 2013 referendum. So why didn’t he introduce it during the regular session? Well, fellow Ravalli County Republicans were screaming for a closed primary.

Rep. Monforton’s second option tweaks the open primary so political parties can opt out. How easy! Yet no legislator requested such a bill this past session. Maybe they’re afraid of the voter retaliation that played out in 1985. The Democrats took a drubbing trying to “opt-out” of the open Presidential Preference Primary. The GOP trashed their hopes in a two-day floor debate killing all compromise amendments. The defense of the open primary gave the GOP enough voter-credibility to end the 20-year winning streak of Democratic governors. A GOP win in the courts this year could produce a loss at the 2016 election.

Carole Mackin


Last Updated on Thursday, 26 November 2015 12:46

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Beware of lawfare

Have you ever heard of the term lawfare? Lawfare is not a new word nor a new concept and is probably best defined as being the use of law as a weapon of war.

Lawfare is asserted by some to be the illegitimate use of domestic law with the intention of damaging an opponent. In other words, lawfare is the abuse of Western laws and judicial systems masterfully courted by propaganda (media warfare) to achieve political ends.

It commonly consists of negative manipulation of national human-rights laws to accomplish purposes other than, or contrary to, those lawful purposes for which they were enacted. The people of Montana (opponents) were witness to lawfare with the highly controversial Senate Bill 262 (water compact), signed into law on April 24.

The leaders of the Montana Legislature, namely the governor and the attorney general along with Department of Natural Resources and the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, led the charge. The compact declares federal jurisdiction over most of Western Montana’s future water uses among other unprecedented fundamentals.

The main compact sidebar selling points were “forever certainty” (yay) and the fear of forever and costly litigation (yuck). Forget about the common ground of historical and judicial facts found in the middle for the tribes and nontribal Montana residents.

Lawfare serves to silence and punish free speech, delegitimize the sovereignty of the United States of America and to hinder the ability of democracies to fight against federal encroachment. The ultimate goal of lawfare is to cause the participating public to no longer care! To no longer care is tantamount to accepting tyranny.

The people of Montana do care, will never forget and will never quit.   Lawfare exists and the only way to combat lawfare is head on, in the courts with a jury of your peers.

A big thank you to the Flathead Joint Board of Control for bringing forth a valid lawsuit in Lake County District Court challenging the validity of this compact.

David Passieri

St. Ignatius

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2015 19:49

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Volunteers needed

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations … .”

Many communities recognize our veterans every year on Veterans Day by holding parades or flag raising ceremonies. I would like to offer an opportunity to recognize and serve our nation’s veterans every day.

In Montana, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) donate vehicles to the Veterans Health Administration (VA). These vehicles are used to transport veterans who have no other means of transportation to and from VA approved appointments. Volunteers from across the state of Montana drive through all conditions to help veterans receive the care they have earned. 

VA Montana, in conjunction with DAV, needs more volunteer drivers. Many of our volunteers are veterans, who want to give back to their brothers and sisters. We also have volunteers who haven’t served in the armed forces, but want to help those who gave so much to our country.

We welcome licensed drivers, over 18 years old, who are interested in this program to contact Voluntary Service, VA Montana Health Care, at (406) 447-7345 to receive more information.

Let us remember and serve our veterans not only on Veterans Day, but every day.

Terrie Casey

VA Montana Health Care

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2015 19:48

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Talk about wacky

In the Oct. 29 Editor’s Notebook, David Crisp described Donald Trump’s plan to round up and deport 11 million border-ignoring, law-breaking criminals as “wacky.”

Fair enough.

In 1995 Sen. Dianne Feinstein said if she could have she would have banned guns, and said, “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn in your guns.”

Well, what if they didn’t?

The government would have to repeal the prohibition against ex-post facto laws and essentially suspend the Constitution to, today, round up 300 million guns from 100 million previously law-abiding and Constitution-abiding citizens. The idea must be that through this process they’ll get to the criminals eventually.

They would have to kill trees for search warrants. Oh right, they suspended the Constitution, my bad!

They would have to borrow billions of dollars to buy electric cars for the police so they wouldn’t pollute the environment while rounding up the 300 million guns, but, of course, the politicians would exempt themselves so they could ride around in their impressive, gas-guzzling limos.

If people are really sophisticated they’ve already spotted the reason behind the philosophy of politicians like Sen. Feinstein. The reason is they want the same procedures followed in any political corruption cases.

Instead of following clues and narrowing down the suspects to people in office and the people who want to influence them, they want to start the investigation with a waitress in Sandusky, Ohio, and then, through the process of elimination, check out all 330 million of us before finally getting to the politicians and other people involved.

Wacky! Thank you, Editor Crisp!

Jack MacKenzie


Last Updated on Thursday, 05 November 2015 11:54

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Best government money can buy

It recently came to light that Northwestern Energy charged customers at least $8.5 million after their coal-fired power plant at Colstrip broke down in 2013. The company passed along replacement power costs directly to us without going through the Public Service Commission.

Consumer protection groups are now objecting to this charge on the basis that it is unfair for ratepayers to bail out NWE for their poor decision-making. That’s sensible.

Why is it that the company bought a lemon for a plant yet ratepayers have to foot the bill? It’s not right, but I predict that Northwestern Energy is going to win this fight. This company gets the best government money can buy.

What most Montanans do not know is that NorthWestern Energy has legal guarantees in place that ensure that they will make the same profit whether their plants are running or not. The company also gets to bypass the regulatory process and transfer the entire cost of buying replacement power directly to customers while their plants are being repaired.

In other words, the company has little incentive to keeps its power generating facilities running and in fact it gets to “double dip” from customers when they break down.

You should be very concerned about this. In 2014 NWE purchased hydroelectric generating facilities from PPL for $900 million. The fact is, they’ve now bought very expensive generating facilities that ratepayers must assume the risk for repairing. How was this allowed to happen?

As many of us remember, Northwestern Energy bought the distribution sector of our power grid when the Montana Power Co. was broken up in the early ’90s.

Since NWE owned only poles and wires, it was not expected to bear any of the financial risk of power plants breaking down. A law was written such that NWE could pass outage costs directly to its customers. At that time, it kind of made sense.

Times have changed. Today, NorthWestern Energy owns many power plants yet is still allowed to utilize the same pass-through mechanism they had when they were just a distribution company. This is unfair. Plant outages are a risk that should impact a utility’s bottom line. Other states have developed cost-sharing mechanisms for when breakdowns occur, and even within our state Montana-Dakota Utilities shares outage costs because they are subject to different laws than Northwestern Energy.

Is it fair to have different laws for different companies? I don’t think so. We tried to do something about it.

During the last session, Rep. Randy Pinnoci and I (who rarely agreed on policy issues) introduced House Bill 189, which would have repealed the “special treatment” regulation regarding power outages that NWE employs to its advantage. The bill was vigorously opposed by the Northwestern Energy lobbyists and their voting bloc in the legislature. HB 189 was killed in committee and then stymied on the House floor when we attempted to bring it to a vote.

We all lost. Northwestern Energy won. Again.

Simply put, government in the U.S. should be by and for people, not by and for corporations.

Northwestern Energy has far, far too much influence on your legislature. Some of your elected officials are working for you on energy fairness issue, but we are still a minority. Keep that in mind when election season rolls around again. Make your voice heard.

Rep. Tom Woods


Last Updated on Thursday, 29 October 2015 22:15

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