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I was in no mood to pick on the Montana Legislature again, figuring that maybe if those of us in the peanut gallery gave them a break, they’d actually get something done in Helena.

But then a reader sent me a link to a video showing the whole painful debate over House Bill 513, Rep. Bob Wagner’s attempt to wean us off greenbacks and get back to gold and silver.

I couldn’t bear to watch the whole 50-minute debate, so I sped through parts of it, but I heard enough to make me think that the Legislature definitely needs to be picked on.

I mean, this debate took place last Tuesday, with the Legislature nearing the end of its regular 90-day session and even talking about adjourning early, though it has accomplished so little. It might not even be able to take meaningful action on medical cannabis, which had been considered one of its highest priorities.

And here was the House wasting nearly an hour and some millions of brain cells “debating” a gold-standard bill that never should have seen the light of day.

Not quite so simple

Rep. Michael More, R-Gallatin Gateway, echoing Wagner, R-Harrison, said it was simply a matter of adhering to the U.S. Constitution, which says that the states shall not “make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.”

“I cannot understand what the opposition to this bill is,” More said, adding a bit later that he was also at a loss to understand “how it has anything to do with party.”

Maybe he’s right. This isn’t purely a party issue. If it were, it would have passed the House, where the Republicans are in the majority. As it was, the bill fell on a 52-48 vote.

Apparently, enough senators knew this was about more than the Constitution. Maybe I shouldn’t indulge in conspiracy theories about conspiracy theorists, but the background behind Wagner’s bill is not that hard to find.

When Wagner’s bill was being considered in committee earlier this month, a star witness was Edwin Vieira of Virginia, who testified via speakerphone. I’m not sure what he told the committee, but in numerous writings and interviews on the web, Vieira makes it clear that a return to gold and silver is a way for states to prepare for the imminent collapse of the Federal Reserve and, by extension, the federal government.

Ready to rumble

That’s why he’s also a big fan of state militias (see HB278, another time-waster of a bill that would have created a Montana home guard). Vieira has said that states should keep gold and silver in vaults “controlled by the Militia.”

These bills and many more all seem to have been part of a far-right fantasy. In December, before the Legislature convened, the Montana Oath Keepers hosted a “Liberty Leadership” conference in Helena.

The conference focused on three objectives: sound money, based on silver and gold; the constitutional militia, which means having a militia in every municipality and county in Montana; and preparedness, educating Montanans on how to help each other “ride out the coming economic failure.”

Among the speakers was Chuck Baldwin, the former Constitution Party candidate for president who moved from Florida to the Kalispell area last summer, joining what he called “the Freedom Rush to Montana.” He is already making rumblings about wanting to be our next governor.

Baldwin could barely contain his excitement.

“If you are a freedom-minded individual, goose bumps ran up your spine just from reading the above summary,” he said. “I got goose bumps simply writing about it.”

I don’t know if Baldwin is going to start a Freedom Rush to Idaho or Wyoming now that all those silly bills are dead or dying, but let me be the first to bid him adieu if he does skedaddle.

How did such drivel ever come to waste so much time in Helena?

Rep. Bob Wagner might have the answer. Rising to address those who were attacking his gold-and-silver bill, he declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s easy to stand up and argue without facts.”

Amen, Bob, amen.

Contact Ed Kemmick at ekemmick@billingsgazette.com or 657-1293.

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