By Evelyn Pyburn

Remember when some folks were resistant to the installation of “smart meters” that made monitoring electrical usage so easy? Remember their “paranoid” concerns about how smart meters might be eventually adopted to control people’s use of electricity? You know — Big Brother stepping in and declaring that you could only use so much electricity a day and if you consumed more they would be able to shut you off. Silly of those tin-hat people to think that government would do such a thing, right?

Despite the fact that Big Brother was already coercing manufactures of appliances into making more expensive, ostensibly more energy-efficient appliances, regardless of what consumers wanted, most people pointed to the nay-sayers and made fun of them as being paranoid conspiracy kooks.

That wasn’t very long ago.

One has to wonder how “off” the paranoia was given the most recent news about six states that have adopted restrictions prohibiting gamers from being able to use, or even purchasing, high-end games that use a lot of energy.  Hmmm, isn’t that what the tin-hat people were worried about— government regulating power consumption? Government controlling lives.

People looking to buy and ship to California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont or Washington, an Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming Desktop from Dell’s website are informed that their orders cannot be fulfilled, because those states will not permit its shipment. (Yes, we are talking about in the US, ostensibly a country of free minds, free choices and free markets.)

According to Dell, the restraints are being coerced by the implementation of laws like California’s “Energy Commission (CEC) Tier 2” mandatory energy efficiency standards for PCs—including desktops, AIOs, and mobile gaming systems.

The regulations require desktop computers and mobile gaming systems manufactured on or after July 1, 2021, to comply with so-called Tier 2 performance requirements, which limit annual energy consumption to no more than 75 kWh/year.

Does that mean if you use more energy than that, the power will be cut off from your home?  What if you use more energy than what is deemed acceptable for your size of household by some future edict of government? Will your power be shut off? How else can government expect to enforce such restrictions?

To be in compliance with the Tier 2 requirements, desktop computers with an ES of 250 or less must have an annual energy consumption of less than 50 kWh/year, while those with an ES score of between 250 and 425 have a cap of 60 kWh/year. How soon before other states adopt such restrictions?

In 2016, California became the first U.S. state to approve “energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors,” with claims it would save 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and, of course, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  This is how this “scientific” scare is used to control the activities of citizens.

This is what the “global warming initiative” looks like. This is why they have such an abiding interest in this one aspect of “science.”

Being able to control people is the impetus of the Left’s interest in science as it pertains to climate change. Their attack on our use of energy would make one believe we are running out of energy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only way we are running out of energy is because of political policies that prohibit and inhibit its production, distribution and use – and, yes, even innovation. It has nothing to do with the science of it all and potential impacts, it’s about being able to control you and me.

There is much science, good and bad, that has profound effects on our lives, about which there is almost no publicity  – in fact, most Left science zealots don’t even know about it. Most “science” is  not conducive as leverage to scare citizens into political compliance so there is no interest in it.

COVID-19 is a great example of what stimulates the scientific curiosity of the Left. There are other diseases and other issues of science that pose risks to human beings, but about which we hear not a word.

Sadly some advancing technology is becoming a handy tool to wield control.  “Smart meters” are a great tool. They are a wonderful innovation for efficiencies and cost savings, but these six states are blatantly demonstrating they are also a tool that if used perversely can intimidate and bully people for political causes about which we know not.

The tools could still be used and the threat of losing control of our lives because of them could be mostly mitigated if citizens (consumers) were allowed the choice of whether they want them. Most people would opt in, but just the possibility of saying no to them – even in the future – would mitigate Big Brother’s power.

Just as no one should be forced to wear a mask, take a vaccine, keep silent, go to church or not go to church, eat beef or not eat beef – no one should be coerced into whether they want a tool attached to their home that could be used by government or anyone else to monitor their use of energy or to curb their use of energy if the powers- that -be deem it.

By Evelyn Pyburn

I must admit that I marvel at the emergence of garage sales in our society. They are a blend of a unique social and culture experience, an economical means of saving and bartering, a manifestation of recycling, a form of entertainment and learning, and they developed as a spontaneous system which has no written rules, but which everyone understands. Garage sales are a marvelous invention which no one invented. They are an amazing improvisation of people imbued with an understanding of the market place and who believe in creating their own opportunities. They are a marvelous American manifestation.

The hours to expect to see garage sales has commonly become accepted as Friday and Saturday. Seldom are Garage Sales evident on any other days. That is just the way it is and everyone just knows it.

Bartering is usually expected and accepted as part of the process. Just as cash is the preferred means of exchange, although some rare individuals will accept checks. All that just is, because it is what makes the most sense.

While garage sales – sometimes referred to as yard sales – are most often an eclectic array of used –and sometimes very used goods, such as antiques — household goods, tools, clothes, books and sports equipment or other domestic items – one is not surprised to sometimes find new goods, as well as sales of arts and crafts, baked goods, plants or the products of someone’s hobby.

Going to Garage Sales in the neighborhood is a great way to spend a relaxing morning, or to find adventure in an afternoon. To find just the perfect thing you need at an incredible bargain, is better than winning the lottery. Or to find something you never knew you needed but which adds a new measure of joy in your life, makes for great fun.

Now having said all that, I have to ask why so many Garage Sale producers do not know they have to make the address on the signs they post BIG. Really big! Even the professional signs which are sold to Garage Salers seem not to get the fact that the address has to be big enough to be easily read from across the street traveling at 25 mph. The manufactured signs usually have the words “Garage Sale” plenty big enough to read but the space left to write the address limits the size to such that one has to get out of the vehicle and get within a couple feet of it to read it, or to travel with binoculars as part of the required equipment to go Garage Saling.

The fact of the matter is the words “Garage Sale” are unnecessary. All one needs is the address. Part of the amazing thing about Garage Sales is that just seeing a sign taped to a street post with just an address says all that needs to be said. For some amazing reason everyone knows it is directions to a Garage Sale. In fact just an occasional arrow pointing the way is often enough.

The last point, that a few people – very few  — need to be told is to take down your signs when done – for a number of reasons – the most important of course is the courtesy of not allowing it to become litter in the neighborhood. But also one needs to make room for the next Garage Sale to put up signs and to avoid confusion. Another reason which underscores the most amazing thing about Garage Sales, is that if everyone failed to take down old signs the first thing you know city officials would find an excuse to regulate the whole process or worse to outlaw Garage Sales – something they would be inclined to do simply because so many people enjoy them.

Think about that. What can you do within city limits that doesn’t have some kind of regulations imposed on it. Garage Saling is one if not the only thing that has escaped the attention of those who want to govern everyone’s life. That in itself is absolutely astounding!

According to the Tax Foundation: The combined state and federal capital gains tax rate in California would rise from the current 37.1 percent to 56.7 percent under President Biden’s American Families Plan. Nationwide, the combined average capital gains tax rate would amount to an estimated 48.4 percent under the president’s proposal, with the top federal tax rate increasing to 43.4 percent. That compares to the current combined average rate of about 29 percent.

By Evelyn Pyburn

I was pretty young when I first heard the axiom that you cannot legislate morality, which is to say that you cannot force people to believe in something about which they are not intellectually convinced. I have never encountered anything to make me consider that to be untrue.
So it makes sense that the best way to convince people about a preferred approach to life is to persuade them. It is to understand that using force brings about only a façade of change that really achieves nothing except to generate smoldering resentment and the certainty of future violence.
So, why are so many people trying to FORCE others to accept specific ideas and beliefs? What are they thinking? Just because they have a club – most often the force of government — to make others act as though they agree, do they honestly believe they have changed minds? Do they really think they are achieving a societal improvement?
Using force is but to concede that one lacks the ability to address the mind, and more disturbingly it is an admission that they are without moral compunction about using force against others.
Our forefathers believed that it is unjust, barbaric and uncivilized to force individuals against their will. With the insight that force is an injustice that leads to conflict, violence and wars, they crafted a Constitution that established, not just the sovereignty of a nation, but the sovereignty of the individual citizen.
At its core this is what the founding was all about: to advance a process and a means of civil conduct based upon persuasion and recognizing the individual citizen as supreme to any group. It is to understand that a group is but an illusion. It does not exist without its individual constituents, each of which are distinct and unique, and each with a mind as their basic means of survival. To address the mind and abandon the use of force against the innocent individual — that is the aim of the Constitution.
That had never happened before nor since. If it is lost in the United States we may never be able to reclaim such liberty again.
When they speak of the “shot heard round the world,” it was this idea that so rocked the world and continues to do so. And, it is “the very idea of it” that aggravates the would-be tyrants of the day who attempt to utilize every form of deceit, bullying and violence to coerce others to relinquish this liberty – to relinquish their minds.
To the opposition’s everlasting chagrin, they dare not admit that it is still this idea which at core draws so many people to our gates. People from around the world want the individual liberty promised in our Constitution. While it is true that when they get here, they often stand with the progressives’ goal to eliminate individual choice, that is but a bizarre paradox that comes of the deceit of its adversaries – and truth be told it may not be as pervasive as many believe.
The adversaries cannot admit that freedom of choice is what immigrants want, nor dare they admit its amazing triumph in building the most successful country in the world. And, they do not even attempt to dissuade by manner of reason its preference, because it is undeniable that no country or body of people will treat each other with respect and civility unless it comes from the hearts and minds of each. However could one dispute that?
But further, how stupid is it to think that you can physically force someone to change their mind? Think about that! Maybe you can keep them from talking about what is on their minds by physical restraints. Maybe you can put them in prison for writing about it, or acting upon what they think. Yes, there are all kinds of shackles and clubs you can use to coerce other human beings … but you cannot change their minds by employing force. The only way to change a mind is by appealing to it with reason, new ideas or perhaps even emotional appeals. The only alternative is to use a club or the point of a gun to coerce their actions.
Because it is so reasonable, ”the very idea” holds strong, despite full- out assaults from a hundred different fronts.
So in recognizing Independence Day, understand that at its core, this is what it is all about – your personal freedom. And while so many other beneficiaries of this most precious right shun recognition of this holiday in preference to celebrations aimed at dividing our citizens and to further advance misinformation about the true nature of the “very idea”, know that the freedom it holds is a fragile gift which requires above all else that you understand and celebrate it.

by Evelyn Pyburn

I can still see it as clearly as if it were yesterday. The view from the second floor window of my high school, looking across the sprawling lawn and street, into the gravel parking lot. It was pretty much full of vehicles – mostly rather dusty, very used, older pickups of every make and color, the vehicles of teenage boys.

Standing there looking out the window —which I often did waiting for the after-lunch bell to ring — so common place was one of the things I could see, that I never once thought about it. It was something that if it existed for just one moment today it would generate absolute hysteria. Whatever my 16-year-old mind dwelt upon in those days, it never focused on the fact that in the back of every window of almost every one of those pickups was a gun rack with at least one gun hanging very visibly, for all the world to see. And every bit as amazing was the fact that probably not a single vehicle was locked.

As perilous a situation as one might be inclined to see it today, it is indeed astonishing that I do not recall a single problem ever occurring in school because of the guns or even because of the unlocked vehicles.

The fact is most high school boys either owned a gun or had access to at least one family-owned gun. Never was there any attention, that I can recall, paid to the fact that there were guns on the school grounds or anywhere else. As far as I know there were no school boards making rules about them or protocols in handbooks, but then we didn’t have any handbooks either.

It might have been considered a natural thing for a kid to show off a new gun to a friend, but I cannot recall ever seeing any such interactions nor conversations among the guys about guns, except for the occasional question of “Hey, do you want to go shoot gophers after school?”

If anything very significant had happened one would know, it was a small town where everyone knew most everyone else and not much excitement ever happened.

It was also very common, especially in the summer, to see two or three boys walking out of town toward the hills with guns swung over their shoulders going out to target practice or shoot gophers… although those two things were often considered the same.

Also, I grew up with three brothers and tons of frequently- visiting cousins on the farm, and all through our growing-up years, even though there was a gun rack in the living room with numerous guns and ammunition in a drawer below, and we were often with no adult supervision, never do I recall anyone wanting to fool with the guns. Not that they were model little boys, they simply were never interested.

They all knew how to shoot and what a gun was for. They did enjoy going hunting occasionally but they never viewed the guns as play things. So when I think about what life was like “way back then” I realize that whatever the issue is about when debating whether guns should be on campuses or school grounds, today, it has absolutely nothing to do with guns.

This is not to say I don’t “get” people’s concerns nowadays, it is to say that I realize we are talking about the wrong problem.

What has changed so much that the thought of young people having easy access to guns is alarming when it was never alarming before?

These kids weren’t saints, some were noted trouble-makers, but none of those troubles ever involved guns.

Nothing about guns has changed so we have to be more honest about the real problem. The change is in what we teach our children and the philosophical premises upon which they are raised.

When you think about it like that, the issue is far more terrifying than when you thought it was just about guns.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Many on the Left (Democrats, Progressives, Socialists or whatever term is acceptable) must be quite forlorn nowadays because of how rapidly they are losing ground on multiple fronts— policy and political  strongholds which took them years and decades to establish are being quietly and subtly eroded– with  gun control being at the forefront.

Actually, there are probably some who aren’t forlorn. There are many who are sublimely unaware of what is happening, since it is not readily reported in mainstream media, and with so much censorship of alternative views, the stilted perspective keeps many people in a never-never land.

But, bit by bit. One little report after another, state by state, the losses to the Left mount as state legislatures step up to do what they were always intended to do – protect their citizens from federal overreach.

So it is that 19 states have wiped out almost all gun control measures, returning to a level of citizen ownership and gun possession that hasn’t been seen in a century. The right of citizens to own and carry guns in the US has been strengthened to a point that even the most optimistic gun- right advocates must be astounded.

This and many other liberties are being reclaimed by state legislatures who are exercising their Constitutional powers and authority, as well as reclaiming the rights of their citizens. And they are doing so for a wide range of issues. This is all happening in such a sweeping manner because 38 states are now Red, which in itself has to be seen as a massive repudiation of the progressive agenda.

Their push back has brought forward state laws that have empowered private education, strengthened private property rights, reduced taxes and regulations, unleashed business growth, secured voting processes, fortified law enforcement and challenged legalized abortion. They have also disempowered health departments and local governments, while lifting up the civil liberties of individual citizens to a degree that has surely left many who have noticed, astonished at how quickly and easily it happened once the people and their lawmakers decided to take action.

In just Montana—

— our state legislature has pushed back on federal land seizures through federal monument programs by requiring approval of such efforts by the state legislature, a huge step in protecting private property rights.

—education freedom has been enhanced with increased tax credits for contributions to private school to $200,000.

—the Governor was given more power to appoint judges.

—the power of health officers and unelected bureraucrats was removed.

— the Governor’s power to declare unending emergencies was ended.

—business owners can no longer be subjugated to serve as an extension of law enforcement.

— doctors and dentists may, do business one-on-on with patients, just like a real free market.

—assured that those who vote are eligible to vote.

—and there were also a host of changes in tax law and regulations that unleashed much business and economic activity… the list could go on…

The weight and breadth of the flip flop has to have some Progressives — who were watching in smug satisfaction the orchestrated riots and defunded police, cowed and masked citizens, crumbling economies and generally confident about what they thought they had achieved –  standing in stunned silent. No matter what they thought was their success in seizing power this is most certainly not what they expected.

Of course, the battles are not over, the Left is turning to the only means they have at the moment to fight back – the courts, which remain stacked against the citizens and very pro-government. But, that is not an easy path, even for the Left, because they have to file cases in every state against many aspects of each of hundreds of new laws enacted by the states. 

So while this is no claim to victory it is to hearten anyone who – living in a desert of no honest news reporting – sees only the bad news and haven’t noticed the minimized reports that have pelted us almost daily as state’s have tweaked laws to regain power and restore freedom. This is what we the people can do, but we need to keep it up.

By Evelyn Pyburn

In gathering up the latest on some of the actions of the state legislature, some observations just couldn’t be avoided….

One positive that will hopefully emerge from the COVID crisis is the understanding that state and federal laws in general are barriers to efficient, prompt and affordable health care. That President Trump and now the Montana state legislature has interceded to eliminate many of the bureaucratic barriers to healthcare is nothing but good. But, let’s be honest, it’s been the health industry establishment in collaboration with government, that has long stood in the way of faster and more affordable health care processes in the quest to sustain the bottom line for the industry. Now that the establishment has gained some control over the technology, the industry is less guarded about its use, but one has to admit there’s been a lot of unnecessary foot-dragging that surely had the consequences of greater suffering, maybe even death, and certainly greater costs to consumers. Long before now, they should have let the market prevail and many should be ashamed that they did not.

Kind of along those same lines – who knew? How many people really realized that a law was needed to  to allow a doctor and patient to do business?  Surely that must come as a surprise to many – this is a free country after all – or is it? When government has a law that allows the consumer to use a service only if it is through an insurance company… or a law that won’t let the provider of a service transact directly with their patient, then whatever is going on is something far removed from freedom – and most certainly isn’t a free market at work. Someone said that the passage of SB 101 was nothing more than common sense. It is shocking that that even has to be said.  Whatever group of protectionists is responsible for this restraint should be ashamed.

Another group who should be ashamed is anyone who takes action to allow or believes it is in any way justifiable to make a life-altering decision for a child by changing their gender. It really isn’t about the nature of the action as much as it is about the grave responsibility of raising a child. Mutalating a child should be considered reprehensible, even if it is just to pierce a baby’s ears or give them a tattoo. It is not only a violation of their body but of what should be that child’s right to decide what they want to do with their body.  To impose such a decision is cruel and totally indifferent about the future of that little human being. Such a decision should be that of a mature, self-responsible, fully- compehending adult. One would think that the role of any state legislator would be first and foremost to protect the child’s rights even when others fail to do so. But apparently some of them will also fail such a child.

Those opposed to the legislature striping local health officers and boards of much of their power claimed that doing so would risk placing politics over science. One can hardly disagree that politcs is indeed a very real possibility given this past year – and in fact most people— no matter where they stand on issues— would have to agree that the status quo was no deterrent to politics impacting decisions. In fact, it was hard to determine where science ended and politics began – and therein is the problem with government interceding in decisions that should be left up to the individual citizen. In a day and age where almost every scientist in the country is dependent upon government largess to fund research and their livelihoods, there can be no rational way not to believe at the very outset all science is a compromised field. And, when it becomes standard practice to censor communications, news, books and public discourse in order to silence one side or another, one can safely conclude that there is nothing but politics at play and every citizen should be afraid – very afraid. Unless you want to concede that you are property of the government, then there is only one solution to this dilemma – every citizen has to have access to ALL information and must be free to make decisions for themselves. No government intervention! –

Such a novel idea! – we should found a country based on that concept.

So how does a guy feel really good about being able to beat a girl? Try as hard as they might, a  transgender guy posing as a woman, still has all of nature’s  accouterments that generally make him stronger than a woman. This is not a matter of political whim, it’s a fact of nature. (To expect people to believe otherwise is actually rather insulting.) The real solution, if we are to accept without thought, that there should be no separation between a transgender man and women in competing athletics is to neutralize the whole purpose for having separate competitions at all.  If they are to compete as if they are the same then what is the point? What is really most perplexing about the whole debate is that we are all expected to hang our brains on a hook behind the door in analyzing the issue, and to cheer like idiots as though there is some great achievement when a man beats out a bunch of girls.

By Evelyn Pyburn

If we the citizens of the US are to have free speech, without which there is no freedom, then we must create a decentralized web. Everyone can play a role in that.

I must admit, I quite naively was excited about the possibilities of the internet and communications technology when I first came to understand what they could do. Understanding that there is nothing more important to advance freedom than the free flow of information, I thought this would be the unleashing of the world. This would allow freedom to spread like wildfire because for the first time in history information would be readily available to all.

Goes to show, how little I understood all of the potential for the new technology. And, it also goes to show (along with many more recent events) my naiveté about how quickly people would fall into line at the first crack of the whip.

The fact is the power of free markets to push back against the media giants is all in our hands… the market through competition gives us unimaginable opportunity to undermine even the most powerful corporations. We just have to do it.

While it is important to reverse the law that absolves media giants of all accountability (yes, our Congress granted them that), more important is to have a decentralized web which offers consumers options. And, that’s a matter of “voting with your feet”.

For example, free-speech alternatives to Facebook and Twitter include Gab, Spreely, MeWe, Minds and Parler. Uncensored alternatives to YouTube include Bitchute, Rumble, Brighteon,, and Thinkspot.

As more and more people with differing points of view — media, public health, political watchdogs, civil rights advocates and investigative journalists — are censored and de-platformed —they are moving to other web options and creating other competitive information communities. Each citizen may join them and each citizen has the opportunity to participate in what is really a very practical freedom movement.

And, there are a lot of other things happening to address this attack on our freedom of speech. We just don’t hear about them so much because, of course, the media does not report that kind of news. There are cybersecurity experts and billionaire philanthropists who are right now working to preserve personal freedoms and liberties, and – according to some “unapproved” reports – they are re-doing the entire internet by implementing a strategy proposed by Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the “world wide web” graphical interface, 30 years ago. He did not license his technology and so delivered the “world wide web” free of charge to the world.

You can safeguard your online privacy by encrypting your text messages, which keeps them from becoming data mining fodder. Download the Signal or Telegram app and/or use a virtual private network (VPN) on your desktop, laptop and mobile devices.

Telegram has grown in popularity, as many who have been banned on other social media platforms have migrated there. In addition to encrypting your text messages, the app also allows you to subscribe to channels for “Read-only” messages that can be sent to your phone from any channel to which you subscribe.

For searches, check out DuckDuckGo and SwissCows – they do not collect and store your data. For a browser, consider Brave or Opera. From a security perspective, Opera is far superior to Google Chrome and even includes a free VPN service. For encrypted email, sign up with ProtonMail. As for online document sharing, Digital Trends has published an article listing a number of alternatives to Google Docs.

Lastly, if you care about privacy and free speech, stop using any and all Google products, including all its search engines, browser, advertising, email service, Google docs, Google Home devices, Fitbit and Android phones. There are alternatives to all of them.

Google was among the first – like 20 years ago —to eagerly go to China to advise the dictators on how to control their citizens’ use of new communications technology, and how to best use new technology to intercept and censor news to their citizens from around the world.

It’s true that finding alternatives is inconvenient. And, it may be that alternatives are not as effective, but they will probably get more effective as more people use them. But no matter the inconvenience or whatever sacrifices may be necessary, it’s a small price — very small price, indeed — to have to pay to stand up to tyranny and to do your part to fight for freedom.

We are in a battle – a worldwide battle – for freedom, every bit as much as were our forefathers 300 years ago …and just like then, we all have a role to play. When considering its potential imposition upon you, envision the blood trails in the snow from the frozen feet of Revolutionary War soldiers, most of whom did not have coats or shoes, as they crossed the Delaware River in the dead of night during a blizzard on Christmas Eve, to do battle for the freedom for you to be inconvenienced.

No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.” Montana Law

By Evelyn Pyburn

Mid-March we recognize National Sunshine week – it is a time to focus on the importance of open public meetings and public document availability.

Montana is at the leading edge when it comes to having good public information laws. Our public information requirements are more stringent than federal laws or the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but sadly Montana does not lead the way in complying with those laws. A (2019) study conducted by Logicull ranked the State of Montana among the least compliant with our own laws.

Having spent many years reporting on a wide variety of public entities, I know without doubt, that there is nothing more important to assure sound, honest government than shining light on all that happens in government. The Bill of Rights and honest democratic elections are very important, but even those things cannot be assured unless the public is informed about what government is doing.  Checks and balances in how government is structured is also important, but even that can be useless if there is no “sunshine” on all proceedings and decisions.

Just think about it. How can citizens be expected to vote on candidates and issues if they do not have accurate information? Without unfettered information the idea of democratic elections is but a charade (something that should be just as readily understood when information and communication platforms are being censored).

I have learned a lot in observing how public bodies function and I have seen how devastating a lack of transparency can be, most especially those serving in a public capacity, who are often responsible for violating the law. In fact, I would refuse to serve on a public body that was not open in order to protect myself from the consequences.  Not unlike other aspects of life, avoiding truth has a way of boomeranging sooner or later, and often in ways least anticipated and most unpleasant.

Most people do not realize how powerful our laws make our citizens, and that they do have the right to know – they have the right to be powerful in their own defense! The fact that an informed citizenry is a powerful citizenry is the primary reason that public officials hide information. That alone should convince one about how important the right to know is.

One of the most amazing experiences I ever had involved informing people about their right to know. It happened during my earliest years as a reporter when I wasn’t all that confident about things. My editor, as a matter of routine, gave all reporters business cards with the Montana public information law printed on it. At a meeting in Belgrade, Montana, a newly formed garbage district board wanted to hold a meeting to do things contrary to what the public wanted. There was standing room only in the meeting room and the board was frustrated in its efforts to ignore that public, and so arbitrarily decided they could avoid the problem by moving to another room.

Everyone in the room sat dejected about not being able to be part of the meeting. I knew the board was violating law, but I was timid about speaking up. I pulled out my handy little card thinking about what to do. The gentleman sitting next to me glanced over and began avidly reading it. I passed him the card so he could better read it. He then passed the card to the next guy, and then got up and followed the board members down the hall. The next guy, after reading the card, did likewise. And, one after another, as the card was passed along, everyone followed suit. It was a thrilling moment, as I saw firsthand the power of knowledge.

A lot of the public believes that open meetings and public documents are made available only to the media. Nothing could be further from the truth. Media has traditionally been the defender of those rights but they apply to absolutely everyone and everyone should view themselves as having an important role to play in assuring that every government official and agency complies with public information laws.

Unfortunately, in pursuing public information you should expect push back.  FOIA advocacy groups report that not only can one expect it but “When it comes to compliance with open records laws, the barriers put up to obstruct requests (or lack thereof), and the general difficulty of making government records public, States vary wildly.”

“Come back tomorrow,” is a common put off aimed at discouraging. But you should know that information generally should be available during reasonable, regular business hours.

You cannot be required to explain why you want the information, nor for that matter do you even have to identify yourself.

While a government employee may declare they have to get approval of a supervisor, that is not a requirement of law. Public information is public information, and fundamentally it is every government employee’s obligation to provide it.

While it is commonly accepted that you can be charged for costs involved, such as copying charges, the charges must be true costs. You cannot, for example, be charged an outrageous per hour cost pertaining to the amount of time a bureaucrat spends getting the information.

Having said that, many FOIA advocates believe there should be no charge at all by government to produce information to citizens… in fact, providing public information should not only be part of their regular duties but a top priority. The Montana legislature, however, did pass a law allowing for agencies to ask citizens to reimburse for costs.

There is a limiting provision to Montana’s public information laws and that is to protect the individual’s right to privacy. As one can imagine in an  attempt to strike a balance between the public’s right to know and an individual’s right to privacy, the competing provisions often lead to conflict. But court cases in Montana have quite often strengthened the citizen’s right to know.

So while a government employee’s personal information regarding health or address, family, religion, etc. is not public information, that they are a government employee, their job description, salary and benefits, or job performance are all public information. In fact one Montana court case concluded that even the job evaluation of a school superintendent should be open to the public and the results should be a matter of public record. Another case concluded that even an insurance company’s nondisclosure requirements in a settlement with the county was not valid – the settlement has to be a matter of public record.

Government quite often likes to claim that they can’t provide information such as who holds licenses or permits and their addresses or incomes, etc. on the grounds that it is private information but at that point there emerges a quandary, because since government is requiring the information or the fees or otherwise exercising control, it is a public concern. But, it is also private information. The fact of the matter is the individual’s privacy has indeed been violated, but it has been violated by government, and the public’s right to know should not be sacrificed because government has over-reached what its authority should be.

As government gains more and more power and over-reaches on a routine basis with no checks, this is likely to become an increasing dilemma and stands as a potential threat to the very fundamentals of freedom of information. There is only one thing that stands in the way of losing this most important of citizen rights and that is you and me using that right and demanding its adherence.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Good grief. One can hardly imagine why anyone in the US can doubt the quality and dependability of services and products from the private sector – most especially when one compares it to how government performs. And, yet it is we have legislators and professionals and other leaders pushing back against private medical schools simply because they are “for profit.” Really!?

Following announcements by two private companies that intend to launch medical schools in Montana – one in Billings and another in Great Falls – comments emerged in the media from some people who were outraged at the very idea of “for profit” medical schools, including a Republican state legislator– Ed Buttrey, (R) – HD21 of Great Falls a Realtor also sits on the board of Benefis Healthcare.

With people like Mr. Buttrey refusing to defend “for profit” free markets, there’s no need for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to advocate for socialism. The situation fully demonstrates why so many people, especially the young, believe that socialism is a better system than free markets. It’s not because of what people like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez says, but what people like Mr. Buttrey fail to say.

For decades and decades our political leaders, who say they believe in the efficacy of free markets (ie. “for profits”), while campaigning, fail to support them once elected and even more damaging fail to explain what makes them better. Not only have they failed to make the case but so have our public schools and so have many parents, truth be told.

In fact, one could ask where are the voices of all the other political leaders and free marketers in this state who claim to support “for profits”? Where are the voices we need to explain why the “for profit” motive has proven to be a miraculous thing.

It’s been reported that “Benefis’ Dr. Patrick Galvas and Great Falls legislator Ed Buttrey slammed” the “business model” of the school proposed for Billings because it is a “for profit” entity, while the one proposed from Great Falls is a “non-profit.”

“In our opinion, medical education is not the place for the profit-driven motivations of a Wall Street-owned, for-profit medical school,” Galvas and Buttrey wrote.

So maybe that’s all this is about – a very self-serving effort to malign the competition. It’s an act of protectionism. That is in truth why most anti-market legislation emerges and what stands behind almost all the regulations that undermine free markets – established businesses attempting to protect themselves from competition.

This is a country where “for profit” is a good thing. Where “for profit” has built the strongest economy in all history, providing the highest standard of living average citizens have ever known, and in fact providing the world with phenomenal new technology and innovations beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. IT HAPPENED BECAUSE OF “FOR PROFIT” ENTERPRISES!

And, you don’t think a profit motive can incentivize a quality medical school? Making a profit is a far more wholesome incentive than climbing the political ladder, which is the primary incentive that permeates almost all government “enterprises” or bureaucracies. In exactly what discipline does government out-perform private business?

In fact our entire medical industry could do with a very healthy dose of free market competition and the injection of creative entrepreneurship. Our shortage of doctors is nothing new – we have been experiencing this shortage for decades and nothing changes. The reasons have primarily to do with the fact that the system is not market driven. The shortage of doctors is all about politics and power structures and the kind of “profits” that come much more easily to that system than to the private market. The medical industry is totally ensnarled in red tape and regulations… it is one of the least free markets in the country, hence we have not only a shortage of doctors but runaway medical costs.

Questioning the efficacy of education organizations because they hope to make a profit is nonsense.

We heard for years and years and years that private schools couldn’t compete with public or government schools. We don’t hear that much anymore. Not that there aren’t those who resist private education but it’s not because private schools aren’t good. There is no longer any question that not only are they good but most often are better. Do you know where President Obama’s girls went to school?

Or let’s look at the post office. There too we heard over and over again that we had to have a government run post office because the private sector could never do what the post office does. Nor, would anyone want to because they couldn’t make a profit. Have you heard of UPS? If there was no threat of the private sector delivering the mail…and maybe doing it better … there would be no laws against delivering first class mail.

The same is true about aerospace and only government could send up rockets. Many may not know, but at one time that too was illegal. Could I introduce you to SpaceX and Elon Musk or any of a dozen other companies?

Given the true history of the profit motive and the history of how “for profit” has built the greatest economic system ever and the highest ever standard of living for the common man, maybe it’s time to learn and understand why it works. And, to make sure our children know.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Several times my husband mentioned that I needed to listen to this guy on the radio but I didn’t listen much to the radio except when traveling in the car, so that’s when it happened. I even remember what street we were on when I first heard Rush Limbaugh. We were on Central Avenue near the bowling alley. He took my breath away, so astounded I was. It was a burst of sunshine in what I had not fully realized was a gray and cloudy day.

I was astounded that this guy was speaking so forthrightly, right out loud in public! My first reaction was to be concerned for his safety and I said as much to my husband.

The fact is, politically correct speech was in full sway even in the 80s  – and suddenly here was someone loudly speaking truth. What he was saying was little more than the common sense most people already knew, but the fact he was speaking it— so publically – that was the greatness that everyone immediately recognized  – – most especially those who disagreed.

During the week after hearing about Rush’s death, over and over we heard or read stories as people recalled exactly where they were when they first heard Rush Limbaugh.  Think about that. It wasn’t like an earthshaking event such as the assassination of the President or landing on the moon, this was a guy talking on the radio. It was Rush shaking things up.

So phenomenal was he that tens of millions of people immediately took note upon first hearing him. Why would that be? As brilliant as he was or as talented as he was, that wouldn’t have been so evident in just a few minutes – what people heard was a brave man speaking his mind. So rare was that, that it was profoundly noteworthy.

For all of Rush Limbaugh’s talent and innovation and brilliance, what always impressed me most was his courage.  It’s become clear to me over the years that more so than brilliance, talent or hard work, by far the most rare human attribute is courage – to have the internal strength and integrity to speak the truth as you see it. 

Such is a very sad and disturbing reality to have to concede, because of course, in a supposedly free country, everyone should feel comfortable speaking their minds. But, over the years, silencing of free expression, especially of conservative or freedom-oriented ideas, has escalated. But for 32 years, Rush Limbaugh was never daunted. He never faltered in speaking ever louder, every day.

Rush very seldom had a guest. While he often gave reasons for that, one reason we all knew was that most guests would only dilute the program. Seldom could any guest put forth more compelling, interesting and knowledgeable conversation than could Rush. Whenever I was listening I was always waiting for some unique bit of insight about events of the day, and he usually had it.

One of the most profound insights— about which he came to frequently remind us— was that he was not really the target of those who attacked him and hated him. He was a proxy for all of us in his audience, and for all who dared to have a point view that differed from the politically correct.  Over the years the truth of that insight only broadened as it has become more and more inherent in most political opposition from the establishment, Left or Right.

The fact that there are tens of millions of people who loved him and appreciated him is why the Left hated Rush and why they could never admit his greatness, as they can seldom admit any great achievements. Over the last few months, Rush reiterated many times that the political establishment is well aware of those millions and that they fear us.

Given the amazing political events we have seen unfold over the past couple of years, including the wide ranging efforts to disrupt and end public discourse, one can hardly refute the point. There’s only one reason to silence the millions and that is because you cannot intellectually refute their ideas, and because you know that if disseminated those ideas would prevail. For such people the only course of action is to use force to keep people from speaking and thinking.

One of the biggest mistakes the political establishment ever made was to end the “Fairness Doctrine.” That’s what gave us Rush Limbaugh and unleashed free speech and the free reign of ideas within the realm of public broadcasting.

Under the grip of federal regulations radio served little purpose other than listening to music. In requiring radio stations to guarantee opposite points of view, there became no points of view except those considered “settled truths,” which were regularly pushed at us in the news propagated by the only three television networks allowed. No one would take on the financial cost or legal liability of allowing public discourse.  Just think where we would be now if it were not for radio, now that most other communication and venues have been shut down.

Many have talked, this past week, about how inspiring Rush was, far more so than to talk about politics.  Everything about Rush was a lesson and an inspiration. He was a real live testament to what he believed about free will and the strength of free markets. His passion, innovation, talent and most of all his commitment to his beliefs, not only helped him build a fortune from the bottom up, but he, as many have said, saved the radio industry through that innovation and determination. In forging that path he made way for opportunities and success for the thousands who followed in the industry. This was indeed a free market at work and it is that freedom of choice which stands threatened once again.

Rush was always upbeat and positive, which not only made listening to him a bright spot in the day, but inspired his listeners to persevere. Many times he would advise, “follow your passion,” which at root was what it all was about, most especially the politics. An individual cannot follow their passion unless they have the freedom to do so and that is fundamentally what the US Constitution and free markets are all about – individual freedom to choose and to live. Rush was doing just that every day before our very eyes.

But for all of that, we would know nothing about Rush — there would have been no saving of an industry and no inspiration, knowledge or understanding of politics or of life, if there had not first come the actions of one brave man. That is his legend and the legacy — having the courage to speak.

It is the challenge of each one of us to continue that legacy.