Opinion

Commentary from a variety of Montana citizens expressing a range of viewpoints.

Views expressed by our commentators do not necessarily reflect the views of this station.

Suicide And Older Adults

Sep 4, 2014

Good evening. I’m Susan Kohler, CEO of Missoula Aging Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Missoula and Ravalli counties. Tonight my commentary is about suicide, a tragedy that has touched many of us personally. Although some find this topic uncomfortable, I hope to raise awareness of the importance of taking action and finding solutions. I’ll also tell you about an important summit on suicide prevention being held here next week.   

Political Debates Strengthen Our Democracy

Aug 28, 2014

In the United States and in Montana, the proper functioning of our democratic form of government requires an active and informed participation by the electorate.

Broad “participation” is essential to the American democratic election formula.  That is why GOP efforts at suppressing the vote across the nation, the subject of my commentary last month, is not just reprehensible, but also detrimental to the proper functioning of our system.

An Open Letter to Steve Daines:

Aug 28, 2014

Mark Twain once observed: ”A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  Our American Sage wasn’t wrong on that matter.  A recent example of Twain’s words was the wham-bam, thank you, ma’am destruction of one of Montana’s finest people — a man who had spent thirty-three years in service to  his country and this state.  Not once in the rush to judgment about this man, did someone of note stop to say, “Wait! Let’s look at the facts.”   

Justice At Risk

Aug 27, 2014

When we think of America's legal system, it seems we most often think of our criminal justice system and the protections it offers to hold criminals accountable while also shielding innocent citizens from governmental abuses. In some ways, the more remarkable part of our legal system may be our civil justice system and the contributions it and our constitutional right to trial by jury have made to consumer health and safety.

Green-Washing Coal Mining And Coal Exports

Aug 27, 2014

The Oregon Department of State Lands recently denied a permit to Ambre Energy for its proposed coal shipping port on the Columbia River at Boardman. That proposed Morrow Pacific coal port is the smallest of the three coal ports still under consideration in the Pacific Northwest to move Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asian markets.

Repower MT Road Trip

Aug 26, 2014

 A gold flash of lightning struck the valley and for just a moment the sky was the richest hue of purple. The thunder surrounded me. In the most peculiar way I was reminded of my childhood. Often, I drove down Las Vegas Boulevard seeing bright lights and flashes of gold.  On the road in Montana, things are much different though.
 

Preventing Suicide Is Everybody’s Business

Aug 20, 2014

Robin Williams’ suicide has rocked the nation.  How could someone with such talent, so universally beloved, not see life as worth living? 

Closer to home, too many of us in western Montana have lost family, friends and colleagues to suicide.  Their deaths leave a hole in our hearts and in the fabric of our community.  As we grieve the loss of a loved one to suicide, we agonize over whether we missed warning signs, and ask ourselves what more we could have done. 

The Need For Comprehensive Federal Forest Reforms

Aug 19, 2014

There has been quite a bit of opinion writing lately about whether members of congress should focus on place-based federal forestland pilots, or whether they should work to pass comprehensive federal forest reforms.

On the one hand, place-based efforts are homegrown initiatives that carve out temporary solutions to meet local needs, while a comprehensive reform package offers sweeping changes that land managers, timber companies and timber-dependent communities can rely on for the long-term.

I want to tell you a familiar story. A young man, we’ll call him Joe, he doesn't make a lot of money, has a toothache and needs to see a dentist, but doesn’t have dental insurance. In a lot of communities this guy is going to land in the emergency room, get some pain meds, maybe antibiotics, and then he’ll call all over town trying to find a dentist he can afford.

Word-Play As A Solution To Western Wildfires

Aug 15, 2014

The 2014 Western wildfire season got an early start with large fires in Washington and Oregon that left those living in Western Montana gagging on the resulting smoke that seemed to be continuously recycled through our valleys. As the summer progresses, we all have our fingers crossed that our own home-grown wildfires will not re-create the “nuclear winter” of thick smoke blocking out the sun at mid-day that we have had to live through in summers past.

Wilderness And Who We Are

Aug 13, 2014

Late July in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness area:  a sweeping cloak of flowers still silently blooms on a high alpine meadow.  Some are rare; all are beautiful.  There are few places like it, even in Montana.

Good Jobs Missoula

Aug 8, 2014

Everyone would like to see Missoula get more good jobs – jobs that pay well, offer good benefits, provide access to quality health care and a secure retirement.

Most people will say that the particular good jobs Missoula needs are in the high tech, manufacturing, natural resource extraction and construction sectors. Indeed, jobs in these sectors tend to offer workers most of the very things that define a “good job.”

All Of Montana’s Waters Need Protection

Aug 7, 2014

Montana’s rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands are an unmatched natural resource.  Our clean, cool waters support an abundance of fish and wildlife, they provide us with clean drinking water, and they give us a place to escape the heat on these August afternoons.

Fraud

Aug 7, 2014

Good evening. I’m Susan Kohler, CEO of Missoula Aging Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Missoula and Ravalli counties.  Do you know what is considered the “crime of the 21st century?” It is the scam—any scam—that targets people age 60 and older. Because we’re seeing a recent upsurge of reports about financial scams from older adults, their families and retirement facilities, tonight’s commentary is focused on one prevalent type, the telemarketing scam.  I hope the story and tips I share will help you to not fall victim to this crime.   

Montanans Should Be Grateful For The EPA

Aug 4, 2014

In today’s partisan climate it has become predictable sport to rail on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Montana legislators, industries, local government, chambers of commerce and, recently, Congressman Steve Daines, constantly pummel EPA. All because the agency is simply doing its job.

Democracy A Casualty Of Voter-Suppression Politics

Aug 1, 2014

If there's one thing that Americans and Montanans are proud of it's the fact that our form of government is a democracy.

We brag about that around the world and to ourselves.  Our whole belief in American exceptionalism is based substantially upon the fact that we are the oldest continually functioning democratic constitutional governmental structure in the world.

The fact that we have those free elections in our country is something we hold up as a model for the rest of the world to emulate.

Losing Carl

Jul 30, 2014

The men and women who fought in Viet Nam had an expression: “There’s no use talking about Viet Nam because if you weren’t there, you could never understand; and if you were there, there’s no need to talk about it.”  When I heard that said recently, the thought struck me that what was being said about Viet Nam could also be said about losing one’s life partner.  Only those who have suffered the loss can come close to understanding, Robert Frost’s narrator in “Home Burial says: “The nearest friends can go/ With anyone to death, comes so far short /They might as well not try to go at all.”    

Vilification Of The Comp Claimant

Jul 29, 2014

How often have you heard someone say something nasty about an injured worker? Was she accused of fraud? Did they suggest that she was faking her injury?

Those are some of the insults facing injured workers in Montana.

Hi, I’m Tom Murphy.

I’m an attorney from Great Falls, and I represent injured workers against insurance companies.

Worker's compensation is not a government program.

Worker’s compensation is insurance, and there are over 600 companies licensed to provide it in Montana.

The Voice Of The Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative 2014

Jul 25, 2014

Hello everyone! We five participants represent the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, which is usually called YSEALI. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and hosted by the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana.  It is an undergraduate program for student leaders from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, held over five weeks in Montana, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C.

Rural Call Completion Problems Persist

Jul 24, 2014

Have family and friends told you that they cannot get ahold of you on your phone? Did they say the phone rang and rang and rang, and no one answered?  Or maybe they said they heard a series of beeps or just dead air.  Yet you know you were home all evening and the telephone never rang.

Maybe you are a business owner experiencing an unusual drop in the number of incoming long distance calls. Perhaps you notice odd numbers on your caller ID or a pattern of malfunctioning faxes.

Well, it looks like the Forest Service has done it to themselves again.  By this I mean the recent Federal Register notice announcing the agency is undertaking the writing of national Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Water Quality Protection on National Forest System lands.

Kids Count – And They Need Our Help

Jul 24, 2014

It’s summer in Montana – that means so much to celebrate about living in beautiful Big Sky country:  our lakes and rivers, mountains and trails; glorious national parks, a festival a week to enjoy.  Montana is a great place to live.  So I feel almost guilty in dropping a wet-blanket fact:  Montana is a great place to live, depending on who you are.

Genes And Politics

Jul 16, 2014

Why do people vote the way they do?  If we are supposedly rational, self-interested beings, why, for example, do so many people dependent on government programs vote for Republican politicians so bent on eliminating their benefits?

Dear SCOTUS: Women Are People, Too

Jul 11, 2014

This week the Supreme Court ruled, again, that corporations are people – and essentially that women are not. In an impressive misuse of legal theory, a fundamental misunderstanding of science and anatomy, and a blatant disregard for the rights of women, the Supreme Court decided in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that “closely held” for-profit corporations have religious rights and can use them to prevent employees from getting the health care they need.

Wind, Wildlife and Weeds

Jul 11, 2014

Montanans have tremendous, untapped opportunity to produce clean and valuable wind energy from the windswept, wide-open spaces of eastern Montana. At the same time, growing concern about the long-term survival of sage grouse in Montana and across the West raises the potential for conflict between energy development and habitat protection.

Stream Access Primer

Jul 11, 2014
Flikr user: Mirrur Image (CC-BY-NC)

Now that the rivers have fallen, summer is heating up and recreationists are hitting the state’s streams and rivers in force, it’s not a bad time to review exactly what is legal and what isn’t regarding recreational access to the state’s waters. When the public hews to the law it better ensures that inevitable and tiresome attacks on Montana’s stream access laws by legislators, non-resident landowners and so-called free-market think tanks will continue to fail miserably.

The Honorable John Q. Corporation

Jul 3, 2014

Happy 4th of July – Independence Day – tomorrow.

But the old red, white and blue looks a little more tattered this year compared to the past.

For today, thanks in great part to the US Supreme Court, John Q. Citizen, the human being citizen who is the bedrock our unique experiment in self-governance, is being replaced by John Q. Corporation.

Corporate Religion

Jul 2, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court ended its term yesterday with a bang, again. We've just seen the Hobby Lobby case that grants some corporate entities the right to religious freedom under the First Amendment. I'm not sure the many people who decried the Court's granting personhood rights to corporate entities for political campaign spending in Citizens United saw this one coming – you could kind of understand a corporation speaking through its wallet, but a corporation gaining personhood to express a religious tenet based on the beliefs of its majority owners?

Hello, I’m Don Sterhan with the Montana Business Leadership Council, a non-profit organization aimed at educating Montanans about the importance of a healthy climate for business and industry to create more jobs, higher wages, and new opportunities.

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Last week, my family hosted a gathering at our home for friends both old and new.  I hadn’t seen our friend Joe in a while, and he asked how things were at the Mansfield Center.  Ironically, on that day, we were welcoming home two Missoula professionals returning from working with youth in Cambodia, and sending off 20 Montana high school students and two teachers for a program in Cambodia.  Things could not be better, on a day when we had such tangible expressions of our work to promote global understanding.

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