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Fish bait in your hair?

Guys like to kill stuff. There is an unspoken macho thrill to blasting an unwitting animal with a high-powered rifle to provide yourself and your family with fresh un-hydrolized protein sustenance. But guys, in general, don’t get a thrill from ripping the skin from the dead animal and draping it over their bodies. Women, on the other hand, have always found a fascination in adorning their bodies with various parts of dead animals.

Whether it is a mink stole, a fox cape, alligator shoes or a feathered hat, there has always been a certain allure or glamour in clothing the female form in various beastly body parts. In the latest expression of this fashion compulsion, women are hanging dead chicken parts in their hair. Specifically, long feathers from genetically-modified roosters, dyed in various fluorescent colors and various lengths, some over a foot long, are found adorning flowing locks coast to coast.

Chicken breeders, of course were not prescient in seeing this coming fashion statement. The chickens were originally bred to serve the fly-tying market. The long, thin feathers from rooster capes are perfect, costly and long-sought after by folks who like to wrap them around extremely sharp hooks to fool animals with brains the size of a chick pea into believing that they are chomping down on a delicious insect lunch. Now, with the entirely new market as women’s hair accessories, fly tiers are having an increasingly hard time finding the desirable feathers. This shortage has the fly fishing world in a uproar. It’s fashionista versus fly caster in an ever-escalating war of words.

And of course PETA has felt obliged to chime in with their “A Trend Worth Killing For?” campaign.

Upon first glance, feather hair extensions might seem innocent enough, but they are in fact the reason that many roosters lose their lives.

There are even fake rooster feather alternatives coming to the market now so you can feel better about yourself while wearing your synthetic, non-feather hair extensions to the local KFC.

Wow! Nice tail!

I mean, c’mon folks, we’re talking road kill here! We all know that the average life of a new women’s style craze is about as long as the career of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. In a few months the mania will die down, the novelty will wear off and by next summer, women will be wearing pig snouts or possum feet and you will be able to go back to tying your favorite fluffy Royal Wulff. So just chill guys. Go fishing. In the mean time, most of the guys I fish with are not above slamming on the brakes on a lonely stretch of highway to pluck a few tail feathers from a rotting grouse carcass. Tie different patterns for a while. Try a soft-hackle Hare’s Ear. The fish won’t know the difference. Tell your wife how stunning she looks with chartreuse chicken feathers poking out of her noggin. Is this whole kerfuffle really worth upsetting the entire balance of nature?

Canadian oil boom could create oil boom boom.

A new study by an engineering professor at the University of Nebraska finds that “the worst-case spill scenarios contemplated by TransCanada, the company behind a proposed 2,000-mile pipeline linking oil deposits in Canada to the American Gulf Coast, are grossly underestimated — and that hundreds of rivers, streams and aquifers are vulnerable to toxic oil contamination”

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline could carry a half-billion barrels of oil across more than 300 miles of Montana every day, crossing hundreds of streams and rivers. If you thought the Exxon oil spill on the Yellowstone River was a disaster, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The review of methods used by TransCanada to estimate the number and severity of spills from this future pipeline finds many errors, some intentional and some just dumb.

For example, at the proposed Yellowstone River crossing of the XL pipeline, the nearest upstream shut-off valve would be two miles away. The nearest valve on the pipe downstream from the crossing would be nearly fourteen miles away and nearly 800 feet higher than the crossing. Professor Stansbury projects a worst-case scenario for a pipeline breach at the Yellowstone crossing of 1.2 million gallons of  oil  released. That’s assuming that 80% of the oil between the two valves drains from the high points into the river. If the upstream valve were to fail during the spill, the estimated release increases to 7 million gallons of oil in the river. For comparison, the Exxon spill is estimated at 42,000 gallons.

In Yellowstone County, the Billings Gazette reports;

Almost 600 people have been working around the clock since the pipe burst near Laurel on July 1, using almost 33,000 feet of boom and 16,000 absorbent pads to clean up oil collecting along the river banks, according to an ExxonMobil news release.

As reported yesterday, spill  workers have so far retrieved about 1% of each barrel spilled or 378 gallons of oil. Estimates are that only 10-15% of the spilled oil will ever be collected.

Nevertheless, as the Vancouver Sun reports; “Montana remains keen on Keystone pipeline despite recent spill“. Our intrepid Governor, Brian “Schweitzer says he has also been assured by TransCanada that it will stop any spill quickly with automatic shutdown valves installed along the line.” Crude oil from the Canadian oil sands is more corrosive and leak-prone than conventional oil and would be transported at higher temperatures and pressures. Casey Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council noted “I think whenever you are dealing with a whole new pipeline system transporting what for the United States is a relatively new form of oil, you need a closer examination of the safety aspects,” she said. “One would hope that the Yellowstone River spill would provide that wakeup call for Montana.” The already existing section of the Keystone pipeline has had 11 minor spills in the last 12 months as well as a 25,000 gallon spill in North Dakota in May. The U.S. Department of State has until  November to approve the TransCanada pipeline.

If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved by the State Department, the smart move might be a hefty investment in companies that manufacture oil booms and absorbent pads for cleaning up spills.

The worst is over?

The EPA is reporting that water downstream from the Exxon Yellowstone River spill “…showed no detectable levels of toxic petroleum chemicals”. In layman’s terms what that really means is that, at high flows the oil spreads less destruction over a larger area. That’s not to say there is no health impact however,

Montana environmental officials told Reuters that in the week since the spill at least five people have been treated at local hospital emergency rooms for symptoms including dizziness and respiratory distress after being exposed to fumes from oil.

Let’s also not forget that CNN reported last year that the vast majority of those who helped clean up the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska are now dead.

In fact, the expert that CNN had on said that the life expectancy for those who worked to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill is only about 51 years.

And, of course, the cleanup is going along swimmingly. Steve Merritt, EPA on-scene coordinator, reports that, more than a week  after the spill “… about 1 percent of the content of each barrel was oil, meaning 9 barrels — roughly 378 gallons — of oil have been collected.” For reference, that’s 378 gallons out of 42,000. Or less than one gallon of oil collected for every single cleanup worker on the river. And,

“We haven’t seen 99 percent of the riverbank yet,” Bob Gibson, a spokesman for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told the Billings Gazette on Friday.

Transparency Denied

Oh Boy! This is what the farmers and ranchers downstream from Billings have been waiting for, a turf war…

Montana withdraws from oil spill cleanup over ‘lack of transparency’

If we can just get the State of Montana, Exxon Mobil and the EPA to quit talking to each other, we can double the cleanup cost and halve the effectiveness.

It’s really bad. We had to move [150 goats] all the way up to where our house is basically – the two pastures that we have up by our house and the only ones that didn’t get flooded. So we can’t use the majority of our farm right now. We can’t cut hay. We can’t graze our animals. It’s really bad.”

Hey, sorry but “those guys” aren’t playing nice. “They’re telling our Department of Environmental Quality officials that the documents that we’re sharing are not public documents, and I have said we will not be involved in an organization like that, so we’re pulling out.””  So There!

Hey, wait. Are these guys in Montana? Is this guy the Governor of Montana? And Exxon Mobil is telling the Governor of the state what they are going to do? Umm… I’m sorry, but there seems to be something wrong with this picture. Right from the start, Exxon has lied to the public, lied to the landowners and lied to the state. First they said they had to shut the pipeline down because of high water. Then when the flow went up, they decided that it was okay to open the line because they were losing revenue. They said pipe was 5-8 feet below the river, then when the state said that wasn’t deep enough, they decided that it was really 12 feet down. Turns out that was not “exactly” true either. “A DOT spokesman on Thursday clarified the 12-foot figure as applying to the section of pipeline beneath the bank of the river.” Seems like everything these guys have said so far needs “clarification”.

So, we know they are going to lie to us. We know they will do everything they can to limit the liability of the company. We know they won’t really clean up more than a fraction of the oil. So, we’ll just pick up our marbles and go home. We won’t talk to the bastards. We’ll do our own testing. We’ll spend tax dollars that we probably will never get back from Exxon because they just aren’t nice people.

“The state will no longer have a presence at the Crowne Plaza because Exxon Mobil tells us they can’t respect the open government laws we have in Montana,” Schweitzer told The Associated Press. “I can’t allow state employees to be in meetings at the Crowne Plaza talking about this cleanup without having it open.”

Excuse me, but is this the State of Exxon or the State of Montana? Do we really give a hoot whether these guys “respect” our laws or not? Doesn’t Governor Brian have one of his folksy sayings to cover this situation like maybe, “There ain’t nobody gonna blow smoke up the south side of this north-facing governor.”

Just fix the damn problem! If Exxon doesn’t like the way we do it in Montana, that’s just too damn bad. It ain’t their call.

“And let us not forget our most important asset in Montana that is our quality of life.” – Governor Brian Schweitzer

Hypocrites In The Halls

If you strongly believe, like me, that the Republican attack on the middle class is based more on their own private pocketbook issues than on ideology and practicality, you should read the new report from The Policy Institute based in Helena,

PROFILES IN HYPOCRISY: Montana Legislators Assail Government Spending While Benefitting from Farm Subsidy Programs

The report looks at current legislators who are busy passing legislation nullifying federal laws, refusing federal money and denouncing federal mandates and law enforcement in Montana while sucking at the public teat. Between 1995 and 2009, some 33 of our legislators have been on the receiving end of lucrative federal farm subsidies. Many of those have received payments of more than a half million dollars. Of those 33 current legislators, 30 of the beneficiaries were Republicans and 3 were Democrats.

Clearly, not all taxpayer funding is as evil as they would have us believe. They don’t seem to have a problem with taxpayers paying for their health care or with meeting for a few minutes on Saturday morning so they get pay for the entire day while they are trying to cut funding for your kids education, take away your health care or your right to a healthy environment.

The Federal government paid out a little over $3 billion in farm subsidies to Montana over the period studied. 73% of the subsidies went to eastern counties and 27% to the west.

Per individual, Western Montana legislators benefited more from farm subsidy programs from 1995-2009 than Eastern
Montana legislators. The farms and ranches of Western Montana legislators who participated in farm subsidy programs
from 1995-2009 received an average of $265,973.00 per operation. Those of Eastern Montana legislators received an
average of $194,244.21 per operation.

Some of the big winners in the federal farm subsidy lottery were;

  • Rep. Janna Taylor R-Dayton: $1,017,491.00“The pay plan for the state workers comes to committee this week. I will try to reduce the healthcare benefit. The unions will be unhappy so I might not be able to get this done.”
  • Rep. Austin Knudson R-Culbertson: $705,941.00“Like most Montanans, I was raised not to spend outside my budget. I want to see to it that Helena does the same, because Helena, like Washington D.C., has a spending problem.”
  • Sen. Bruce Tutvedt R-Kalispell: $643,063.00“To have better government we need more legislators with business and budgeting experience to expedite the principals [sic] of smaller and more efficient government. The budget cannot continue to increase at the present rate. It’s unsustainable.”
  • Rep. Lee Randall R-Broadus: $507,674.00 “(I don’t see eye to eye with) people that would rather take your hard-earned dollar through taxes so they can spend it the way they deem fit. The same people that believe more government is the answer to our problems.”

Yes, these are just some of the hypocrites that we elected and sent to Helena. They believe that federal money is only a bad thing when it benefits you and not them. I encourage you to look over the report and share it with your friends and neighbors.

EPA No Way!

Joe Read R-Ronan is the sponsor of House Bill 550. You remember the esteemed Conservative thinker Joe Read? He’s also the sponsor of the “global warming is beneficial for Montana” bill. That bill died for some strange reason. Here’s Stephen Colbert’s take on that issue. Anyway, HB-550 is another one of those whacky, unconstitutional “nullification” bills that seem to be favored in this legislature. This bill would direct Montana state agencies to not comply with any federal regulation of greenhouse gases under the 10th amendment, I guess because global warming is really a good thing anyway.

Notwithstanding the provisions of Title 2, chapter 1, part 4, an agency of this state, as defined in 2-18-101, may not implement or enforce in any way any federal regulation, rule, or policy implementing a federal greenhouse gas regulatory program.

the Constitution of the United States was meant and understood not to grant Congress general police powers or the power to regulate the internal affairs of the states or their people, and these internal affairs include the regulation of greenhouse gases produced by biological, mechanical, or chemical processes, including refuse and agricultural operations

Because we all know that We, the citizens of Montana, own our agricultural operations and all gases produced thereby, not to mention all the gases including air that happen to be over the state at any given time. Not that the bill deals with a Montana plan to regulate greenhouse gases, it just forbids the Feds from doing so. This is a stupid bill by a stupid legislator that takes up valuable time and money that the legislature should be using for the benefit of the folks who elected them, but then nobody has ever accused Republicans of being overly bright.

Just by way of a bit of background, EPA has recently released a study of the effectiveness of regulating air quality and the Clean Air Act over the last thirty years. This chart lists some of the benefits of cleaner air. Not that any of our state legislators would or could read anything having to do with science, but I would hazard a guess that they approve of 160,000 American deaths and 230 babies per year as acceptable collateral damage in the battle for state sovereignty.

According to this study, the direct benefits from the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments are estimated to reach almost $2 trillion for the year 2020, a figure that dwarfs the direct costs of implementation ($65 billion).

Saving lives and saving money has never impressed ideological clowns. But let me leave you with a final quick quote by the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Power subcommittee that pretty much illustrates the kind of idiocy we are being forced to deal with.

This is a much broader issue than the health of the American people and lungs and emphysema; it’s how can we balance that in the global marketplace for jobs.
– Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Chair, House Energy and Power subcommittee

Stream Access for the few

Let’s talk crazy people. Why is it that even though the will of Montana citizens has been made abundantly clear through the ballot process, there is always some dope, or dopes in the legislature who think they know better? We passed I-161 to eliminate outfitter-sponsored non-resident big game licenses. Unhappy outfitters corralled Larry Jent D-Bozeman to say that we didn’t really mean to vote that way so he sponsored SB-118 to nullify our wishes.

We passed, and overwhelmingly support, a medical marijuana law. Several GOP lawmakers think they know better than we do what is good for Montana so, Mike Milburn R-Cascade floats HB-161 to repeal the law that we, the people of Montana, just authorized.

The vast majority of Montana citizens support our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. Well, Dan Kennedy R-Laurel thinks we’re just too stupid or whacked out on medical marijuana to know what we really want, so he is sponsoring HB-292 to make the Montana Environmental Policy Act more polluter friendly.

So, what about HB-309? Twenty-six years ago the citizens of this great state passed our stream access law to guarantee that Montana anglers would have access to the waters of our state. That has not stopped various landowner and business interests from trying to lock up our waters for private benefit. After all, we are only voters, we don’t know what is best for the state. The latest affront to our legal rights is HB-309 sponsored by Jeff Welborn R-Dillon at the behest of rich ranchers with no input from Montana fishermen. This bill would lock up many of Montana’s best angling waters by calling them irrigation ditches. Like to fish the Bitterroot River? Sorry, within the language of the bill, it could be classified as an irrigation ditch and off limits to fishing.

Any stream that receives waters diverted for irrigation can be classified as private water under HB-309. What water do you fish in Montana that is not used at some point for irrigation? The bill redefines what a ditch is under law and would include many natural waterways that happen to exist in an irrigated valley. This bill is one more end run by wealthy landowners, many from out of state, to lock up some of our best fishing streams as private preserves. The bill has nothing to do with irrigation or trespassing. The original law already contains protections for landowners.

Call or write your representative today and let them know that HB-309 stinks. Just because we vote, doesn’t automatically mean we are stupid, but many of our legislators are way to easily bought or duped by folks who think we don’t really mean what we say. Our stream access law is one of our most valuable rights as citizens of the Treasure State. Don’t let the GOP screw it up for the benefit of rich landowners!

Find contact information for your representative here.