The Billings Outpost

Ignoring climate change

The U.S. is experiencing extreme weather and giant fires to the extent that in just one week of this summer, 2,500 weather-related records were broken. Still, the meteorologists hardly dare mention “climate change,” and certainly not “manmade climate change.”

The Heartland Institute’s 25-year mission, funded by the likes of ExxonMobil, has done its dirty work well. Seventy percent of Republicans now believe mankind’s excessive production of carbon has nothing to do with climate change. The Democrats simply don’t talk about it.  Broadcasting corporations invented “clean coal,” and they stand firmly with fossil fuel corporations.

In Montana, both of our senators support further development of fossil fuel and the Keystone XL pipeline. Even Obama quivers in the face of big energy. Our Yellowstone County commissioners don’t object to 60 trains a day through Billings; instead they pass a resolution in support of fossil fuel development “for jobs and American’s energy security,” they all say.

No one seems to notice that the energy produced will go directly into the world market, ending up mostly in China and India, where it will rapidly become part of our earth’s atmosphere, causing even more deadly weather. Do they really think that the oil giants would willingly give the U.S. some kind of a break?

This situation is the Montana Mistral, the cold wind from the north, bringing death. But it is not politically correct to talk about it.  Where has all the courage gone? Away with the melting glaciers.

Joan Hurdle



Last Updated on Friday, 20 July 2012 10:11

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Sad bunch of choices

In Valerie Harms’ July 5 letter to the editor, “Women’s Rights Slipping,” she cited several examples of repulsive Republican idiocy, which shouldn’t be excoriated or minimized any more or less than repulsive Democratic idiocy. She is justifiably upset that rules protecting women are being ignored.

What she is ignoring, however, is the social rebellion of the 1960s, which created a philosophy of “I can do what I want, I can say what I want and my responsibility and respect toward others are minimal.”

But that philosophy doesn’t work if applied to all forms of freedom. If someone shoots their mouth off, with no regard for anyone else, people rush to defend the freedom of expression, which of course they wouldn’t do if someone shot their gun off with no regard for anyone else.

But the entertainment industry, run mainly by men, reinforces this “1960s Rebellion Theory” (which doesn’t work) through lyrics and movies.  Entertainers glorify profanity, vulgarity and verbal abuse. They portray women as sexual objects, still.

The men who believe this “1960s Rebellion” philosophy respond only to threats.

They don’t want to infuriate the Muslim extremists because they themselves would become a target. They don’t appeal to a “raging bigot crowd” because they believe there would be a unified minority response.

They do, however, infuriate Christians. And they do appeal to a “raging hormone crowd” because they believe women won’t respond in a unified manner. And the courts aren’t a threat — they’re too slow.

So, one solution option is a cultural consciousness raising that injects more individual responsibility and respect into their philosophy, which probably won’t happen.

Or, we can arm women, encourage militancy and make them a threat to these boneheads.

Or, we can wait till the end of the next “Ice Age” and hope that the people who believe in this philosophy grow brain cells. What a sad bunch of choices!

Jack Mackenzie



Last Updated on Friday, 20 July 2012 10:10

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Be sure to register to vote

Dear Citizens:

Parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents: Take action! Make sure anyone born before Nov. 6, 1994, registers to vote this fall. Help young people become part of the democratic process. Voting is the single most powerful political act that we have in this great country. Those between 18 and 30 years old are frequently in transition: living in dorms or between apartments, for example.

So I demystified the process of voter registration:

Register by going to! Or print an application from online; just Google “Montana Voter Registration.” It’s easy to find the application form, or pick up applications from the county courthouse.

The new voter completes the form, then snail mails it to the address on the form, or hand delivers it.

Young people are so accustomed to electronic communication that final steps, such as snail mail, needing a stamp, or hand delivery, might necessitate your help.

In case of a change of address, ballots are forwarded.

Registration closes Oct. 9. One caveat: ballots are not mailed until the 18th birthday of the person registering, so if the future voter was born between Oct. 8 and Nov. 6, 1994, he or she will have to pick up a ballot in person from the county courthouse between Oct. 8 and Nov. 6.

Each vote makes a huge difference in Montana, due to our sparse population. Many candidates have won or lost by a few votes. Cut this letter out. USE IT!

Pester those “Young ‘Uns” to take part! Thank you for your time.

Bess Lovec



Last Updated on Friday, 20 July 2012 10:10

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Racism shows

The racial slurs directed at the president and others as displayed on Dave Hurtt’s mobile outhouse around Missoula conjure up Republican Party history that many would rather forget. Labeled as Obama’s Presidential Library, this is typical of the low-life racist culture where I grew up in the deep South, and reminded me of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy used to win the presidency in 1968.

Democrats, led by President Lyndon Johnson, out of a sense of justice, but with an eye to future black votes, had enacted the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1964 and 1965. At that time, the majority of Southerners were Democrats, many racist to the bone. Republicans of the day, though few and far between, actually included a few liberals and moderates.

Passage of these two laws precipitated, over the next several years, a mass exodus of Southerners from the Democratic Party. All it took was a few choice code words from Tricky Dick about “states’ rights” and “federal takeover” while Republican operatives on the ground spread the word that Republicans, if elected, would “keep the N … s in their place.”

Literally millions flocked to the Republican Party – and not just in the South. While this happened over 40 years ago, it started the party’s slide to extreme conservatism. Many of these converted Republicans, and their descendants, are still around. Except now, they have rebranded themselves as social conservatives or as Tea Party activists. And they call themselves the party of Abraham Lincoln?

Auzie Blevins



Last Updated on Friday, 20 July 2012 10:09

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Restrict mercury emissions

In his guest column in the June 21 Outpost (“Montana shouldn’t have to pay for EPA mistake”), Sen. Ed Walker, R-Billings, warned of dire consequences if Montana adopts the Environmental Protection Agency’s nationwide regulations limiting mercury from coal-fired power plants: Our electricity rates will skyrocket, power plants will shut down (they won’t have time to comply), and the reliability of our electric grid will be compromised. Furthermore, he argues that the EPA’s regulations are redundant and will do little to improve our health or the environment.

Sen. Walker does a disservice when he exaggerates and oversimplifies a complex issue. Montanans will likely see little change in their electric rates because of national regulations, nor will they see any power plant closures. The benefits to people and the environment will far outweigh the costs.

Let’s look at what we’re dealing with. Mercury occurs in the earth’s crust and is naturally released into the air by forest fires and volcanoes, but about two-thirds of the mercury in our air comes from human activities, and most of that comes from burning coal.

Airborne mercury eventually ends up in soil, lakes, rivers, and oceans. It’s ingested by microorganisms, and converted to methyl mercury, a potent neurotoxin that concentrates as it moves up the food chain from tiny invertebrates to large fish. When we eat those fish, the methyl mercury binds with proteins in our bodies and moves across the blood-brain barrier and placenta. In adults, it affects balance, coordination, memory, and concentration. But it particularly imperils the brain development of fetuses and can compromise the ability of infants and young children to walk, talk, read, write and learn.

Today, 12 percent of women of child-bearing age in the U.S. have dangerous mercury levels in their blood, and each year over 400,000 infants are born with mercury levels high enough to cause measurable brain damage.

In 1999, U.S. coal-burning emitted about 48 tons of mercury into the air, or just over 2.4 percent of the global man-made emissions. Coal advocates ask why the U.S. should spend millions reducing such a relatively small amount.

However, the toxicity of mercury compounds is extreme. One 70th of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate a 20-acre lake so the fish are not safe to eat. The Colstrip Steam Electric Station in southeast Montana emitted about 1,490 pounds of mercury in 2009 and was ranked the worst mercury polluter in the Western states.

The EPA’s new regulations are long overdue. Although their implementation will not be cheap, the financial benefits will certainly outweigh the costs. The regulations are expected to prevent up to 11,000 deaths annually and save average Americans $3-$9 in health costs for every dollar spent retrofitting. 

And power plants have had plenty of time to comply. Congress charged the EPA with controlling mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants back in 1990. Delays and litigation prevented the regulations from being enacted until now – 22 years later.

Meanwhile in 2006, many states (including Montana) decided to regulate their own mercury emissions. These regulations required most plants to reduce their mercury by 2010. Did enacting these regulations cause Montana’s electrical grid to collapse? Hardly. NorthWestern Energy’s residential supply rates stayed about the same. No power plants closed, and our electricity supply remained stable. The effects of EPA’s regulations will probably be similar.

Only a few old coal-fired power plants (Colstrip units 1 and 2) may need retrofitting to meet the national standard. Since NorthWestern’s portfolio is made up of many sources (coal, gas, wind, and hydro), the retrofit of two units is unlikely to cause big changes. In addition, most of NorthWestern’s electrical supply is purchased under long-term contracts, with fixed rates, which also protects consumers from extreme fluctuations.

Perhaps a more important issue is whether to mine and sell Montana coal to China. Once that coal is burned and the mercury airborne, it can be carried in plumes 20,000 feet high and wafted back to the western U.S. in surprisingly little time (five to 10 days).

So, if you care about the quality of our air and water and the rights and health of our unborn children, you should firmly support the EPA’s national regulations on mercury emissions.

Anne Greene



Last Updated on Friday, 13 July 2012 00:06

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Vote for Kennedy

I am writing to all veterans, senior citizens, middle class citizens and people on Medicare and Medicaid. We need to support Commissioner Bill Kennedy and re-elect him for Yellowstone County commissioner.

Commissioner Kennedy is one of the big promoters of the Purple Heart Memorial, the Veterans Cemetery in Laurel, and the Big Sky Honor Flights. He is a big supporter to veterans.

Commissioner Kennedy has done so much for senior citizens and other people on Medicare and Medicaid. There has never been a Republican who has done more for veterans and Yellowstone County senior citizens than Commissioner Bill Kennedy.

I hope you will look at all the things that Commissioner Kennedy has done for veterans, senior citizens, people on Medicare and Medicaid and other deserving citizens of Yellowstone County and give him your support by voting for him in November.

Ron Kuneff



Last Updated on Friday, 13 July 2012 00:05

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