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Our readers speak out

Friday, May 9, 2003

Judicial nominees deserve scrutiny I am writing in response to the letter written by Tim Adams (April 26). Mr. Adams blasts those who support Baucus' filibuster of Estrada by implying that the Democrats work against nominees who do not support the right to choose or other civil rights is somehow radical.

People like Adams complain that Democrats are slowing down judicial nominations and there are so many vacancies. Funny, but I didn't hear them complain when more than half of President Bill Clinton's Court of Appeals nominees in 1999 and 2000 were never confirmed by the Republican Senate. More than one-fifth of his nominees never even got the courtesy of a hearing. In contrast, last year the Democratic-led Senate confirmed judicial nominees at a rate double that of the Republican Senate in previous years.

The ultra-conservative and anti-choice Senate Judiciary Chair, Orrin Hatch, said during the Clinton era that "The Senate has an obligation to prevent judges it finds unacceptable from being confirmed … nothing is more important to a judge's job than how thinks about the law and the Constitution."

For the first time, I completely agree with Sen. Hatch.

Bush has nominated over 100 different judges. Many have had hearings and been confirmed. There are those that have been scrutinized due to their legal records on fundamental rights and freedoms.

Carolyn Kuhl, the nominee for the Ninth Circuit, which includes Montana, dismissed a breast cancer patient's claim that her privacy had been violated when her physician permitted a male drug company salesperson to watch as he had the woman disrobe from the waist up and examined her. She ruled, "it cannot be said that there was a reasonable expectation of privacy". Do we want people like that judging the privacy concerns of Montanans?

Morgan Sheets


Rehberg votes against private property rights We were very disappointed with U.S. Rep. Dennis Rehberg's recent vote against private property rights.

In mid-April, he voted against an important provision requiring coalbed methane developers to reach access agreements with surface landowners before drilling for federal oil or gas.

He stated that he thought such "split estate" issues should be dealt with at the state level. The problem with that approach is that states can do nothing about federal minerals any more than about federal lands. It is Congress' job to make sure federal minerals are leased responsibly with due respect to private agricultural property and uses.

We hope Rehberg will work with Sens. Baucus and Burns to add surface-owner protections when the energy bill is considered in the U.S. Senate in May.

Steve and Jeanne Charter


Change needed in bison management Why is the Montana Department of Livestock chasing and harassing newborn bison calves and pregnant females on the Horse Butte Peninsula north of West Yellowstone? The grazing allotment for that area has been canceled and, therefore, there will be no free ranging cattle there anymore. The only cattle that will be in the Horse Butte area will be fenced and kept separated from any bison, which is, with the present technology, the only way to truly prevent the transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle. This gives the livestock industry the 100 percent protection from the disease that they have been asking for.

The MTDOL's reason behind the present hazing is that they are just following the Bison Management Plan. It is a shame that they are not following the spirit of cooperation that the state and federal agencies showed when the plan was signed in December of 2000. This is an adaptive management plan that needs to be changed to allow these bison on public lands adjacent to Yellowstone Park. The same situation has existed in another corner of the our state above Gardiner in the Eagle Creek area. In this section of Montana, there is a rancher with approximately 20 head of cattle that are fenced on private property and surrounded by public lands containing free-roaming bison. It is one of the few safe havens for bison leaving Yellowstone Park.

I hope that the state and federal agencies can meet soon and change management of bison in the Horse Butte area. There is no room for double standards and inconsistencies. With tourism becoming more important to Montana's economy, we need to protect some of the last wild buffalo in America. Let's make them an asset to our state, not a detriment that will continue to tarnish Montana's image.

George Nell


Americans more critical of government critics Lately it seems that a person cannot express thoughts that question our president or the war without having their intellect insulted. Examples such as the boycotting of the Dixie Chicks and, more locally, a recent letter from Ted M. Grant come to mind.

In the process of attempting to give Iraqis the freedom to criticize their government, we are losing the right to challenge our own. Isn't debate as American as apple pie? Isn't a key part of debate that each party get a fair amount of time, uninterrupted to speak their mind?

A poll shown in Time magazine's May 5 issue showed that 60 percent of voters like the direction the country is heading. That means that 40 percent of U.S. citizens are being scorned for having opinions. Our nation is at a crossroads and when the dust settles we will be a new country. The only question is what kind of country you want to be.

Charlie Smillie


Cigarette tax hike hits smokers hard I would like to thank the legislators for the increase on cigarettes. A carton of Roger cigarettes went from $14.85 to $20.90. That cut about $25 more out of our monthly grocery budget, which was already low. But that's OK, I needed to lose weight anyhow.

Dick Fletcher