Friday Quick Takes: Zinke Self- Promotion, Warming Math, Future Morality, and Aldous Huxley

Ryan Zinke went on Fox News for a hard-hitting interview last night where he suggested once again that President Obama jeopardized the lives of American servicemen and women (and their families). Zinke said:

“When you say that this is a specific team to a task like this, you know, you put the team, you put the dependents, the whole community, I think, in jeopardy.

Perhaps Mr. Zinke should have thought of that before calling every media outlet in Montana to confirm that Navy SEAL Team 6 was responsible within 24 hours of bin Laden’s death. I can’t even wrap my brain around the level of despicable hypocrisy on display here.

The next time someone suggest that human-caused global warming is a myth because of a cold Montana day in July, you may want to respond with this, from Bill McKibben’s article Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math in the August issue of Rolling Stone:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

In an article arguing that the gay marriage debate in the United States is over, Michael Kinsley cites philosopher Anthony Appiah, who lists three criteria for finding a belief that may seem harmless today, but indefensible in a generation:

First, “a particular practice is destined for future condemnation” if the argument against it has been building for a while. “The case against slavery didn’t emerge in a blinding moment of moral clarity.” Second, the defenders of current practice “invoke tradition, human nature or necessity” rather than morality. Third, the defenders engage in “strategic ignorance.” We might say they are in denial about “the evils in which they’re complicit.”

I have a number of ideas for practices that will seem indefensible in a generation, but my guess is that our vast prison system’s dependence on drug-related crimes is a likely policy we’ll be unable to defend in the future. Any thoughts from the rest of you?

The Atlantic has posted a fascinating Mike Wallace interview with British author Aldous Huxley who is best known for his novel Brave New World. One passage from the novel about a dystopian future certainly resonates today:

All that is needed is money and a candidate who can be coached to look sincere; political principles and plans for specific action have come to lose most of their importance. The personality of the candidate, the way he is projected by the advertising experts, are the things that really matter.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • I might be pointing out the obvious: unlimited corporate and union campaign contributions will, without a shred of a doubt, seem indefensible in a generation.

    What I’d hope for the most is that opportunism and political self-interest no longer outweigh the data, nor peer-reviewed science in wildlife and land/resource conservation policy-making agenda. I think I’m SOL.

  • yep, climate change is becoming harder for people to deny. too bad we don’t have politicians willing to take politically risky positions against the Keystone pipeline in this state (I’m looking at you Brian, Jon, Kim…)

    • It’s amazing to me that the trends lines for public opinion about climate changes are going the other direction. Fewer Americans believe humans are responsible than they did ten years ago.

      Simply an amazing example of money trumping science.

      • the change required of us is too massive and scary for people to accept. I remember reading Alexander Cockburn’s skepticism about climate change and thinking, whew, someone from the left is skeptical, so maybe there’s something to it. maybe it really is just natural solar activity, and we haven’t reached the tipping point of increasingly inhospitable weather that will imperil our ability as a species to continue living on this planet.

        • The change that is required is only scary for the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries who will rightfully go out of business.

          The true cost of their energy is now higher than solar and wind, especially when you take into account the fact that they are destroying the planet. The only thing that keeps them in business are the generous corporate welfare and tax cuts they get compliments of the taxpayers. Plus they still practice fraudulent accounting by not paying for the pollution they create.

          If we stopped our expensive oil war mongering and diverted that money to renewable energy, we could have solar panels and residential wind mills on every house within five years.

          If the government would require all new cars be hybrid or electric, we could end our dependency on foreign oil within ten years.

          • Even with a ~50% subsidy rate, the payback period for solar power is roughly equivalent to an AP1000 reactor. In the cost/kWh comparison nuclear power averages $0.04 and solar $.10-0.20, which means solar is, on average, four times as expensive as nuclear energy. Another important point in considering the cost analysis: neither solar nor wind can meet peak baseload requirements (in certain places they obviously can–wind in MT maybe, but definitely not solar). Solar power has a capacity factor of about 20%, wind can range from 20-40%, and nuclear power from 70-90%. Because of their low capacity factors both solar and wind are often backed-up by natural gas (to meet load requirements), which means they’re not actually so “renewable” after all. Nine times out of 10 the company that owns the cells or farm deems it a prominent source of renewable energy because of subsidy incentives.

            You are also wrong in noting that nuke industry doesn’t pay for the waste it creates; it has paid roughly $34 billion to the government (in compliance with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act) that should have been met by the gov’t’s production of a geological repository. Unfortunately, the Bush Era resulted in the monies being funneled elsewhere, and now the waste is in the hands of the gov’t, not the nuke industry.

            Study fact before you start spewing libertarian rhetoric. There is progressive conversation to be had for renewable energy, but it doesn’t come from blacklisting what we have in place for alternatives that can’t meet the consumer’s demand on their own. I imagine you drive your car to work everyday. A good place to start would be there.

            • Thank you, Mal. You got to this one before I did. It simply amazes me how much misinformation is out there about nuclear power. As a former Reactor Operator, it gals me to no end when the anti-nuc people spew hate and discontent without a shread of actual information.

  • Actually, Obama does put our soldiers lives at risk, just as Dubya did before him. They both waged illegal, imperialist, genocidal, ecocidal, wars OF terror to control Middle East oil.

    To get at Iran’s oil, Obama is on the verge of starting WWIII in Syria, where Russia has their naval fleet stationed to protect their ally, so he is risking the lives of everyone on the planet.

    The failed and corrupt two party system is making third party candidates look better every day. Stop voting out of fear for the lesser of two evil fascist political parties and start voting your conscious.

  • Actually consumers keep big oil in business. Read Pat Murphy’s Plan C, tough choices aren’t what our society is good at any more…

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