The Billings Outpost

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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Coal to China

Amidst all of the enthusiasm spewing forth in favor of the Otter creek coal development – The University of Montana’s economics department, in an industry-financed study, being the latest – I wonder if there is any entity, agricultural organization, candidate for office, political party or public official in Montana who is the least bit concerned about Tongue River landowners facing federal condemnation of their land for a railroad that will facilitate shipping coal to China?

Wallace D. McRae

Rocker Six Cattle Co.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:29

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Stop micro unions

Imagine a workplace where each department is represented by a unique and independent union which each individually negotiates collective bargaining agreements separate from the others. It’s a workplace filled with conflict between departments, and an employer wrapped up in reams of red tape as he tries to negotiate with multiple unions. Not only does this situation sound wholly inefficient, it’s just plain ludicrous.

But this very situation can now exist on account of a new regulatory action by the National Labor Relations Board. Ignoring decades of thoughtful, bipartisan precedent, the Democratic-leaning board rammed through these new rules, which do not benefit the workers or employees, only Big Labor.

A regional NLRB director in New York City recently approved a micro-union application for employees at an NY retailer allowing the formation of separate unions for employees in the second floor Designer Shoe Department and in the fifth floor Contemporary Shoe Department. It may sound ridiculous, but this department store now has two separate unions representing employees doing nearly identical tasks.

Imagine the detrimental impact this could have on Montana employers if they suddenly are forced to negotiate with numerous bargaining units within one workplace. It will divide the workplace and add miles of new red tape which will further stunt job growth.

We can still fix this mistake, as recently new legislation to repeal the regulation was brought in the U.S. Senate, although Sen. Jon Tester, despite the obvious harm caused to Montana, has remained silent. Clearly, the millions he received from Big Labor have bought his allegiance.

This November we’ve got to send someone to D.C. who will stand up for Montana’s best interests.

Ervin Hanks



Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:28

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Women’s rights slipping

Not just women should be concerned that Republican legislators are proposing bills that take away their rights. Republicans, who rail against government interference with individual freedom, want to legislate our bodies.

Many bills concern Viagra. A flood of anti-woman legislation has hit the states and Congress. In rape cases, women are supposed to prove they were forced. How, pray tell, does one “prove” that when like being confronted by a bear, one tries to freeze or get out of the situation without causing worse consequences?

In Idaho state, Chuck Winder’s bill says that not even rape justifies getting an abortion. Rights are also being gutted in the work place. Vicious, sexual verbal abuse is trivialized. Police ignore victims of domestic violence.

A bill sponsor declares there is no pay gap between men and women’s salaries, and even if there was, men need money more because they have families to support. Yet if a man abandons his wife and child(ren), another bill equates single parenthood with child abuse and neglect — all the woman’s fault, not the man’s. In 1991 the Violence Against Women Act was passed as a bipartisan effort. It was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.  Now it is up for reauthorization and has become a political football — a disgrace.

Women’s rights are fragile; they must be vigilantly protected.

What has President Obama done? He created the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to enforce equal pay; he’s promoted workplace flexibility; he’s gotten rights for those who take care of the elderly and infirm; he promotes attracting women and girls to high-paying, high-skilled jobs; he supports women who breastfeed; his health care bill offers many provisions for women; he supports women business owners and veterans. The choice should be clear.

Valerie Harms



Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:28

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