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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Opinion & Editorial

Guest Comment

Arizona law jeopardizes civil liberties

by David A. Merrick, Chairman, Libertarian Party of Ravalli County

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." So states the message given to all living on the seven continents within or across the seven seas denoted by the seven spikes on the crown of the Statue of Liberty, which stands on her own island, "lighting the way for a world in search of freedom."

I certainly agree with a recent letter to the editor by Claire L. Kelly that the Arizona State legislature has enacted legislation that is a danger to the civil liberties of its citizens and visitors to the state of Arizona if enforced.

However, I believe that she is somewhat misinformed that Tea Partiers and libertarians are the cause.

It tends to be the case when there is unrest within society, and when those "in charge" or those supposedly "in control" are faced with an angry citizenry that fingers larger-than-those-seen-at-sporting-events begin safely but loudly pointing at what they consider a threat to their "charge" and "control."

Throughout history this has been the case. Consider the era called the "Dark Ages." When the church officials feared a challenge to their stated tenants and control of pertinent knowledge, all who challenged them were labeled heretics and dealt with humbling confessions or worse. Before and during the American Revolution, those who wanted to keep their security as defended by the king (known as "Tories"), referred to those who wanted their individual freedom as troublemakers and terrorists. In the past century, specifically citing the "Great Depression," the "authoritative" pointing fingers blamed unregulated capitalism as the culprit, which caused the economic downturn.

This diverted attention away from the Federal Reserve Bank that was established sixteen years previously for the specific purpose to avoid permanently the bothersome economic downturns, which plagued society on occasion.

Now, in this century, the collapse in the economy has been blamed on those radical libertarians and capitalists once again by those elected officials, again diverting attention away from the Federal Reserve Bank, which legally controls the money supply.

The question is this: How many libertarians or true laissez-faire capitalists are in positions of authority? With possibly the exception of U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, there are virtually none. I am not familiar with the Arizona Legislature but if this recent law is any indicator there doesn't seem to be any there either.

Though one does not need to be a member of the Libertarian Party to be a defender of life, civil liberties, and the property and wealth earned by the talents of life and liberty, the Libertarian Party has chosen the Statue of Liberty as its symbol and is a defender of these tenants. It is with this in mind that I applaud Claire Kelly in her defense of civil liberties.

Letters to the Editor

County put on notice

Dear Editor,

Open letter to Ravalli County:

It’s unfortunate that circumstances had to bring themselves to this point. Can City and County officials understand that violating protected rights of U.S. citizens in the Bitterroot Valley must end, now? Ravalli Commissioners tried to send me a warning letter, so now I am sending the “I warned you” letter.

The freedom to speak, assemble, and petition governments in your county resulted in law enforcement misconduct, false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation, and malicious prosecution. Your law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors violated our rights, targeted to disrupt livelihoods, and seize our liberties under the banner of the United States flag. That practice ends now.

Inappropriate cooperation of public officials must end. Under the color of government authority, the constitutional liability mounted. As you read this, a $4 million civil rights lawsuit has been filed against lead Defendant Sheriff Chris Hoffman, and several of his deputies alleging conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights. Public oaths aren’t to protect fellow officials; they’re to uphold our constitutional rights. The public needs to be free of your constitutional oath infidelities. These infidelities cost Ravalli County plenty, we certainly hope it also costs the Commissioners, the Sheriff, and the County Attorney their well paid elected positions. It is time George Corn and Chris Hoffman got the ultimate referendum: voted out of office by us all.

Justice, based wholeheartedly on due process, and equal protection will soon be established in our valley when the bullying of protected rights end.

Congratulations, collaborators and elected officials; that was one expensive habit you enjoyed. Just because your job involved a go-along rule, the long standing tradition of targeting individuals indiscriminately violates both the Montana and U.S. Constitutions. A few court filings will quickly influence this county into flying straight; Ravalli County cannot afford not to.

Michael Spreadbury

Some clarity on DUI

Dear Editor,

An old study, which I read in the early 1960’s, discovered that judgment is the first ability to be compromised as one begins to consume alcohol. What that means, of course, is that once one has started consuming alcohol they become increasingly less capable of determining their fitness to drive an automobile. While it is often said that alcohol slows reaction time, may I suggest that if we were at a pistol range or hunting with someone who was consuming alcohol, we would be much more concerned about judgment than reaction time.

The implication of the above for DUI is obvious. When one decides to drive to a location where they intend to drink alcohol, they are, at that moment, also deciding to drive home under some measure of alcoholic influence. The alcohol consumed will impact both their judgment about their ability to drive and their actual ability to operate the vehicle.

True, we all have some idea of how various quantities of alcohol affect us. However, it is also the case that the impact a given amount of alcohol has on us varies with our state at the time. If you leave home driving your car with the intention to consume alcohol at your destination, you are without excuse. Driving under the influence of any amount of alcohol is totally unnecessary and, depending on the amount, may be grossly irresponsible.

The above does not exclude the alcoholic. Alcoholism is at once more complex and less complex than is commonly understood, but the alcoholic is not a bullet devoid of all choice.

Robert Gairing, Ph.D.

Grateful for second chance

Dear Editor,

Three years ago this coming summer, I came to the attention of Ravalli County law enforcement and subsequently to the attention of all its citizens, including Judge Langton, Attorney Reed Mandelko, Probation Officer Brad Englebretson, and Counselor Jim Mason.

One summer night as I entered East Side Highway in Corvallis in my pickup truck, a Ravalli County deputy sheriff signaled for me to pull over. I panicked. I was on parole with Wisconsin authorities, I had been drinking. I could see years of prison in front of me. So I decided to run. The high speed chase that resulted took us all the way north almost to Stevensville on windy back roads. I u-turned at a roadblock and headed back in the direction that took me there. Five minutes later, I hit the ditch, a fence, electric boxes and came to a stop.

The top headline in the next day’s Ravalli Republic reported these details. I was in big trouble. That I had lost my freedom was all I could comprehend. But, I was in bigger trouble than I ever realized. Anyone reading that story would have given me up as a dead duck.

But to my surprise, Ravalli County has some wonderful people who have more patience, willingness to look at all sides, and the heart to give me a chance for guidance that I truly needed. A number of my lawn maintenance business clients contacted me and offered aid. Then my AA support group also stepped up to the plate. And my sister stood loyally by my side and went to bat for me.

In the end, I was, miraculously it seemed, given another chance by Judge Jeffrey Langton, Attorney Reed Mandelko, Probation Officer Brad Englebretson, and Counselor Jim Mason. Anyone reading the news reports would have thought that nobody in his right mind would have trusted me to see any light.

Through sentencing by the judge, I was sent to a comprehensive, live-in drug and alcohol rehabilitation halfway house. There, I learned through self examination that I had fallen through many cracks in my life from childhood on. I was able to confront these unrecognized problems and disabilities and move forward to truly love myself.

Since those troubled days, with my new outlook and support, I have been able to return to and maintain my lawn maintenance business, I paid my fines and the cost of my rehabilitation program, I have been invited to be a role model for troubled youth, I am now a secretary of my Alcoholics Anonymous branch, I am now a Lutheran church member, I help many citizens in need – giving rides to the airport, running errands, going the extra mile whenever I have the chance.

Who would have thought, reading those headlines three years ago, that I would be here to give my thanks to you all – and to God the most.

Todd Schiffman

Vanek should withdraw

Dear Editor,

I respectfully suggest Ravalli sheriff candidate, Vanek, withdraw from the race, based on the unfavorable reports that continue to surface in his background checks.  

He and his wife need to get their personal and financial affairs in order in anticipation of the arrival of a new baby.  His alleged training skills might be put to better use as a government contract employee for the Iraqi police, as did Jay Printz a couple of years ago.

Dave Hurtt

Candidate not getting fair shake

Dear Editor,

As I was reading the Ravalii Republic for Monday, May 10, I was angered and saddened about the article on the front page. Here we go again with the printing of your entire life for all to see. I understand that you need to know as much as you can about a person running for a public office. I just don't understand why you drag them through the mud. I guess if you beat someone up enough they will go away. I don't think so in this case.

Why do you find it necessary to print all the financial information about the Vaneks? I don't see anything about the Hoffmans or any other candidate that is running for office. I'm sure there is not one person or elected official that hasn't had financial troubles at one time or another in their life. There are so many good people in this valley that have lost a lot because of economy. Maybe they are not running for Sheriff, but why continue to smear people with this kind of reporting.

The whole process of running for office has become a joke. If you are going to run for office, be ready to have your name and reputation ruined by the people who don't like you. Has this campaign become an “I will get even with you” race?

Just remember the old saying, "what goes around, comes around.”

Terry Perkins

Support for Hoffman

Dear Editor,

On June 8th, Ravalli County voters will be asked to go to the polls and cast their votes for our county sheriff. I ask the voters to remember they are selecting a sheriff, not a deputy. Let me explain. There are several rank positions between deputy and sheriff, typically deputy, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, commander, assistant sheriff, undersheriff and sheriff.

The position of Sheriff is much the same as a CEO of a business, dealing with budgets, personnel issues, firsthand interaction with our local politicians, resource allocation and coordination of the various departments within the Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff is also the overseer of the county's jails, and the Sheriff maintains security for our county's court system. During times of large or small disasters the County Sheriff is the ranking law enforcement officer in charge. So when I vote for our Sheriff, I want to vote for the candidate with most experience as a leader, not deputy. This is why I asked the question at the Stevensville community meeting of Mr. Vanek about his experience and the highest rank he held after 20 years.

A sheriff has a lot of power because he is elected by the citizens of the county he resides in. The Sheriff answers directly to the voters (thank God) unlike a police chief who is hired by or appointed by a city council, mayor or city manager.

Every business or law enforcement department has personnel problems or some sort of ongoing political or employee tension and back biting. Sorry, it is human nature, it's unpleasant, but it's a fact of life.

When a Sheriff, any Sheriff, has problems within their department they most often are not free to discuss these problems with the public because of civil service privacy protection laws. If our Sheriff has personnel problems within the department he is not free to discuss them and what the public usually ends up hearing are leaks, bits and pieces and only part of the story.

I am a retired Captain of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Reserves and I moved here from a large city, San Diego, California. I came because I wanted to experience small town life. I do not want a Sheriff who has in mind running our Sheriff's Department like a large impersonal city department.

Our Sheriff does the best he can with the budget he is given by our County Commissioners. This Sheriff's Department must grow, 26 deputies divided up among all of the functions the department must perform is ridiculous.

A good sheriff does the best job he can with the resources he is given. The Sheriff shouldn't be competing in a popularity contest or bending to the will of a crowd. A good Sheriff, a good leader will stand his ground and follow the U.S. Constitution. As Sheriff, Chris Hoffman stood next to me at a community meeting in April 2009 and said he would.

Fred Fowler

Ray of hope in dismal times

Dear Editor,

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 21st birthday party of a young University of Montana student. The party theme was a wine tasting (very controlled, including designated drivers). As dinner was about to be served one young woman moved to the end of the table, bowed her head and folded her hands. Her sorority sisters around the table did the same. They then proceeded to sing their evening dinner prayer. The sincerity and reverence they displayed made this brief moment one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my 78 years of life.

I thought of that moment as I drove home to my little place in the foothills of the Sapphire Mountains. I thought of it while considering our permissive society that is doing its best to legalize a mind-altering drug (which according to a recent newspaper report cost the user $225.00 an ounce). I wondered how many puffs in an ounce? I wondered, will our insurance companies participate in the cost since it requires a prescription? Does the $225.00 include a tobacco tax? Surely our astute politicians would not overtook a new source of revenue as significant as that might be.

I started thinking about our politicians and their influence on our young people. Maybe I am getting old, but I can't remember a time when we have had so many unethical politicians at all levels of government. It was a short step from my reflections on politicians to the example set by our local university president. Can you imagine the audacity of a man that accepts a $75,000 a year increase in salary while imposing a salary freeze on all other university employees and tuition increases for struggling students? As this salary increase was considered I don't recall any discussion that in addition to his salary the UM also provides him with a splendid home. I wondered what dollar amount was placed on that benefit. Was it claimed as earned income and taxed appropriately?

By now I was almost home, and I thought again of the self-confidence the young women had demonstrated. Maybe theirs would be the generation that would revitalize the honor and integrity of our great country. I will certainly pray for their success.

Living alone I have developed the habit of asking the Lord to be my dinner companion, thanking him for allowing me to live in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley and describing to him the scenic wonders I have observed throughout the day. I suspect now that I may have to be less demanding of his time, since he would surely prefer to go to the Delta Gamma house at the UM to hear the beautiful ladies sing their dinner prayer.

Dick Owings

Public education falling behind

Dear Editor,

The future of this country depends on us providing an education for the children growing up in the present that will prepare them for living in the future. Right now the public education system is not even keeping up with the knowledge and information we have gained in the present. If we expect the United States to compete globally we need to invest in the education of our children today. We also need to provide them with the building blocks that will allow them to continue to learn as improvements in the sciences, technology, and medicine occur as well as in preparing them to deal with the challenges we will face as a nation and as a world. It is imperative that we act now. We can no longer sit by and hope for the best in the future. We have to prepare for it.

Learning is an ongoing process in life and with advances in science, technology, and medicine happening at the rapid pace they are happening right now and more than likely even more rapidly in the future, there is no room for compromise in the quality of education that our children will receive. If you were to look at these advances on a timeline, you would see that in the last ten years we have made advances equal to the advances of the 25 to 30 years before them and this trend is only going to continue on a more rapid scale. As we gain more and more knowledge, the speed at which knowledge is gained will only grow exponentially, meaning that the same 25 to 30 years of knowledge we gained in the last 10 years will only take 5 to 7 years in the future. This means we can no longer afford to let our children fall behind.

Our education system has to become more aggressive in preparing our children for the future. Children have many more capabilities to learn with the tools we presently have to teach them. The internet is full of knowledge and must be used in the teaching of our children. The interest and the ability to want to seek out new knowledge and understand more things, has got to be instilled in the children of today right now! We cannot wait and we must ensure this happens. If we don’t, this country will fall behind and we won’t be able to compete globally. It will not matter how advanced the technology of today is if we don’t have the people to prepare for the future and continue the growth of knowledge available in the future.

Extra money spent wisely on education now will ensure we can compete but if we don’t spend the money and don’t invest in the future, we most certainly are doomed.

Gregory W. Russ

Chemical nightmare continues

Dear Editor,

Two things happened recently, of which people should be aware. We had a "mud rain." Radar pictures showed dust blowing from fields in Washington and Oregon, coming to Western Montana, mixing with moisture directly over us and falling on us as "mud rain." Dust from the various fields contains high levels of a mixture of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and fertilizers.

On May 6, a very important 200-page report by the President's Cancer Panel was released. It states the "proportion of cancer cases caused by environmental exposures has been grossly underestimated.” The panel cited "a growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer," saying “children are especially vulnerable."

Oddly, the American Cancer Society immediately disagreed with the PCP report, stating cigarette smoking is the most common cause of cancer, in addition to obesity and diabetes. The ACS apparently does not track the wild birds and wild and domestic mammals with cancers or bother to read studies. In the last three years, rehabbers have received a number of young birds less than 4 weeks old, and 8% of all birds received, with multiple tumors in the body, face, or throat. On 42 measured white-tailed deer fawns born 2008-2009, 75% had underbite.

In studies done on horse foals, sheep, goats, calves, pigs, rodents, birds and amphibians exposed to chemicals, multiple symptoms of Congenital Fetal Hypothyroidism (CFH) are listed. Those include a propensity to be obese at birth, have diabetes, underbite, underdeveloped male genitalia and other health problems, many of which cause mortality. The two most commonly listed causes of CFH are exposure to chemicals or to radiation during fetal development.

A heads up to the ACS – neither the wild birds, our study animal, white-tailed deer nor any other wild animals have been observed smoking cigarettes.

Evidence strongly suggests the ACS either have their collective heads in the sand or “somewhere else,” or they are being paid off by the chemical companies.

Judy Hoy

Thanks from Pantry Partners

Dear Editor,

Pantry Partners Food Bank would like to thank everyone who participated in the Post Office Mother’s Day food drive that was held on May 8th. We received 3714 pounds of food. Stevensville donated 2419 lbs., Victor 500 lbs., and Florence 788 lbs.

We would also like to thank James and Angela Marble's three daughters for thinking of others and taking their wonderful spirit a step forward. These young ladies held a bake sale on First Friday, May 7th. They baked and sold cookies (and pumpkin bread donated by a neighbor) to raise money for Pantry Partners. Our food bank was presented with $100.28! The generosity shown by the residents in Stevensville, Victor and Florence along with the giving spirit of these thoughtful girls enables us to continue to assist those in need in North Ravalli County. Thanks to all.

Kathy Belke, Board President
Pantry Partners Food Bank, Inc.

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