Monday, March 26, 2007

Fading Green

In this week's Montana Green Bulletin, Paul Stephens asks, "Is there a future for the Green Party?" His answer:

Apparently not in Montana. If young people aren't organizing and joining, we are as doomed as the Communist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World. There are, of course, a few hundred dedicated, middle-aged (or older) adults in the United States who still believe in the Green Party, its values, and its future prospects. California, Wisconsin, Maine, New York, Missouri, and a few other states still have active parties fielding candidates, but it's probably safe to say that there's no hope for the Green Party in Montana.

To me it seems that there is real sentiment for a third party in this country, but none of the available flavors -- Green, Libertarian, Constitution -- seem to satisfy. What would it take?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nur Englisch

Both Idaho houses have passed and sent to the governor a classically stupid piece of legislation: declaring English the state's official language.

Of all the dumb things government sticks its nose into, surely the dumbest by far is trying to dictate the languages people speak. Language has a power of its own, subservient to no government. If English can't hold its own without official government sanction, then no legislation can save it. And if English can hold its own, then no legislation is needed.

If the Legislature would include useful provisions -- say, for example, criminal prosecution of people who use pronouns that don't match antecedents -- then I could get behind this bill. But the bill does not abridge American freedom to butcher our native tongue. It abridges only the freedom to speak another.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Here's hoping

Every presidential election I stake my bet on some darkhorse candidate, hoping that he (sorry, no women have made the cut yet) will emerge as the nation's great hope. Usually the candidate turns out to be a disappointment, or his campaign goes nowhere, but I keep trying because the major party choices always seem so uniformly dismal.

It's pretty much the same strategy I use on our almost annual visits to the horse races at MetraPark. I like to pick a horse somewhere in the 8-to-1 to 12-to-1 odds range, and I always bet $2 to win, never to place or show. It has worked pretty well at the races -- the last two times we have gone, I won enough on my first bet to cover the cost of the day -- but it has never worked out for president. Horse races are more honest, and horses are generally of higher character.

But I keep betting. This year my money is on Bill Richardson, the Democratic governor from New Mexico. I don't know enough about him yet to say that I would even vote for him, but I like what I've seen and heard: He has cut taxes, he sounds reasonable (and willing to fight) on immigration, he presumably understands Western concerns, and he mostly makes sense on the war.

Two things this week increased my hope that he will turn out to be a good bet. One was his support for medical marijuana legislation. Putting human suffering and freedom above the White House's holy war: what a concept. The other was a speech I saw on C-SPAN that Richardson gave to some college students. It wasn't what he said that impressed me -- it was fairly standard political boilerplate -- nor the way he presented himeself -- slightly rumpled, a bit less articulate than I have seen him in TV interviews, and given to a lot of arm waving.

What I liked was what he did when a student asked him a question he couldn't answer. With C-SPAN's mikes, I couldn't make out exactly what the question was, but it had something to do with some action by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Richardson said he hadn't heard anything about it. He asked an aide if he knew anything about it. He said something like, "You'd think we'd know since that's our neighboring state." He then turned back to the student and asked, "What do you think about it?"

On rare occasions, I've heard candidates admit to not knowing something. On even rarer ones, I've seen candidates promise to have somebody on the staff look into a question. But I have never seen a candidate turn back to the questioner and ask for advice. Richardson didn't treat the questioner like a student to be patronized, a voter to be wooed or, worse yet, a meaningless obstacle blocking the view of the national C-SPAN audience. He treated the student like a citizen who might be able to advise the governor on something he should know.

That's a quality I wouldn't mind seeing in the White House.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Throwing strikes

Jim Phelps stopped by The Outpost on Friday to pick up a couple of back issues on a topic of public interest. If you don't Phelps, you should. He is 91 now and still active in pursuing civic and environmental goals.

He's one of those old-school guys, shaped by the Depression and World War II, who seem to have everything right: tough, brimming with integrity, selfless, full of life. I'm not sure they make people like that anymore, and it will be a sad day when the last of them are gone.

Phelps, looking frail, had no complaints about his age or health. "I feel like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter," he said. "I don't know how long I can keep it up, but I'm just enjoying every pitch."

Hell of a guy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What's righter

At long last, What's Right in Montana is taking steps to clear up the disaster that its comments section has become. Judging from the comments on this post, it has a ways to go.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

O'Reilly saves Montana

Bill O'Reilly just blasted The Billings Gazette for this "ups and downs" item (third one down). O'Reilly called the item "blatantly dishonest" and said he was perfectly aware that the Montana Legislature meets only every two years but that it can meet in special session at any time.

"Until we got on their case, the state of Montana was dragging its feet," O'Reilly said.

Personally, I wish we had dragged a little harder.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Defending Gore

In comments below, "Frank Dugas" concludes that because I defended Al Gore against a specific second-rate piece of journalism, I am obliged to defend him under all circumstances. Why Dugas thinks that I don't know. But I hate to make a guest to the site look silly, so I will play along.

Gore has taken a beating over the last week over reports that his house uses way more electricity than the average house. The charge is not that Gore wastes energy, but that he is a hypocrite for urging others to save.

I'm not too interested in the question of how big a polluter Gore might be. Supposedly, he buys green energy and carbon offsets. Arguably, his use of electricity in the pursuit of persuading others to quit using so much is electricity well spent. But others can take up those arguments.

Let's focus instead on hypocrisy, a trait that appears to be part and parcel of modern life. Jesus told the rich man to go and sell all he had and give it to the poor. But few rich people who claim to believe in Jesus follow that advice. Warbloggers praise war to the heavens, so long as other lives are at risk. Dedicated greens drive cars to get to wilderness. Shop America first believers spend their dollars buying Chinese-made goods at Wal-Mart. I criticize the consolidated beef industry but munch on Big Macs. We all bear our little hypocrisies.

Where along that spectrum does Gore fit? Not much worse than average, I suspect. I wasn't the only viewer of "An Inconvenient Truth" struck by how modest the proposed solutions appeared to be compared to the enormity of the problem. Gore never asked much more of anybody than that they turn off lights when not in use, support green power and ride a bicycle when feasible. Indeed, Robert Samuelson has credibly argued that nothing we are likely to do about global warming is likely to help much.

Compare Gore's hypocrisy to that of global warming skeptics who seem to believe that they can burn as much energy as they want so long as they refuse to acknowledge that there's any problem. Like all of us, Gore has to answer for the difference between what he claims to believe and what he practices. But will those who foster willful ignorance get off any easier?

UPDATE: Wulfgar has much more here and here.

UPDATE 2: Asked about Ann Coulter's "faggot" bomb at CPAC, Sean Hannity responded:

You know, no other person is responsible for what a person says except that person. And so, if they have a problem with what Ann Coulter says, blame Ann Coulter. You can't blame somebody else for what she said. So I didn't see it.

Hannity, of course, loves to berate Democrats and liberals by demanding that they defend the remarks of other Democrats and liberals. It's one of his major rhetorical devices. That's hypocrisy in big boots.