Friday, March 30, 2007


The Ecology of Politics

You have to go "uh oh" when you hear a freshman politician say something like this:

I’m afraid that people, even elected officials, make decisions they are not qualified to make ... [T]here’s no process requiring a legislator to demonstrate even a basic command of an issue before he or she steps forward to vote on it. Their votes can have far-reaching consequences and they owe it to their constituents to be educated.
He also laments that "there is no peer-review process in citizen politics; no establishment of baseline facts; no arbiter who says that what an elected official says is truth or fiction ... no reprimand for speaking hearsay or gleaning one’s information from the tall tales that swirl in taverns and are later proved to be mythology."

This is, of course, the glaring fly in the ointment of democracy: the people who serve as the peer-reviewers of politicians are the mass of people who populate those very taverns and take their mythology as ... well ... scripture.

Fortunately, unlike so many of his colleagues, State Representative Mike Phillips of Montana appears to have the tools to do what his constituents may not be prepared to do.

By profession, Phillips is a trained wildlife biologist and former civil servant who helped to successfully usher wolves back to the Southeastern U.S. (red wolves) and Yellowstone National Park (gray). He studied grizzlies in the Alaskan Far North, worked under the mentorship of famed wolf biologist L. David Mech, and spent most of his life in the field, on the ground, talking to local residents about the value of wildlife in their lives.
He seems to be learning fast. I'll leave it to you to read of his first few months among the wild politicos:

... the legislator who wants to spend $200,000 in taxpayer funds to have Montana help a private group join a lawsuit to hasten the removal of wolves from the protected species list, an action that the Fish and Wildlife Service already is pursuing ...

... the lawmaker whose website starts off "CAUTION: RAMBLINGS OF A CONSERVATIVE COW DOCTOR" (containing perhaps the scariest picture of a vet in the universe) and who says that the idea that carbon dioxide emissions are a cause of global climate warming is "the biggest hoax of the last 30 years" ...
All I can say, Mike, is, when you are done there, a wolf pack on a hunt is gonna seem like a litter of day old kittens.

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