Friday, June 24, 2005

Mary's rebuttal

My great friend, Mary, responded to my last blog posting with some excellent points that I wanted to share.

Firstly, let it be noted that the article I linked to regarding the Kyoto agreement was not an article written by reporters for the Washington Post, but rather a letter to the editor from the Senior VP and Chief Economist of the American Council for Capital Formation, a conservative organization that tends to favor big business, and whose board of directors includes people from several big businesses who would probably stand to lose big if the U.S. signed on to the Kyoto agreement. It was written in response to an editorial written by the Washington Post which said (among other things) that "the White House may soon be the last institution in Washington that doesn't believe that the threat of climate change requires something more than new adjectives." They pointed to the discovery that a White House official had doctored environmental reports in order to downplay the role of pollution in global warming. This official then retired and (suspiciously) got hired by Exxon. The editorial was mostly focused on supporting legislation to allow Congress to continually re-evaluate the caps on greenhouse gases. I haven't done much research on the topic, but it seems pretty reasonable to me. While I think that the Washington Post often goes out of their way, both in editorials and news articles, to cast Bush in a bad light, I also think it's commendable that they are willing to print a critical letter to the editor, even when it's from such an obviously biased source.

Let it also be noted that my blog posting was written late at night after a week of not much sleep. Most of my other comments were (relatively) well-thought-out, but the Kyoto agreement comments were pretty much off-the-cuff, and I definitely should have dug in a little deeper before making any comments. So thanks, Mary for keeping me in check. You've certainly done more research regarding the Kyoto Protocol and environmentalism in general than I probably ever will, and I welcome your insights.

I do take exception, however, to the implication that I think we should "be allowed to have our own dirty secrets." The point of my posting, as a whole, was to say that I think the world's priorities are pretty messed up. I absolutely do not think we should turn a blind eye to the dealings of our own government. As Jesus said, we oughtn't to be so intent on telling our neighbors about the specks of dust in their eyes that we ignore the beams in our own eyes. But neither do I think it is right that the people all over the world are so very focused on the motes in America's eye that they ignore everything good that America has done. Don't get me wrong--we had ought to strive for perfection. As Jesus pointed out, a shepherd will leave all of his sheep to go and find the one which is lost. We do need to focus on our blemishes, so that we can work on scrubbing them out, but we oughtn't to magnify them to the point of distortion.

Once while I was in the bathroom of a hotel, I noticed they had this nifty little mirror on a swivel arm so that women could see their faces better as they primped themselves. Looking in that mirror, I felt like a blossoming teenager again, self-conscious about every pimple on my face. Then I looked in the regular mirror and realized that I hadn't become ugly overnight; this mirror was just shaped in such a way that I could clearly see every pore on my face. I felt sorry for girls that used that sort of mirror on a regular basis, because it magnified every imperfection to the point that it gave the user a grossly distorted view of themselves.

Looking around in today's world, that is what I see happening to America. We are not perfect, by any means. There are a lot of people who do a lot of selfish, greedy, perverted, and intolerant things. But we've been put under this magnifying glass, and we've made ourselves pretty darn transparent when compared to just about any nation at any other time in history. As a result, we see in ourselves (and the world sees in us) so very many imperfections that it seems at times impossible to feel good about ourselves. But when I study history and gain a more realistic perspective of the world we live in, I can't help but marvel at all that we've got going for us as Americans. I realize that even if a lot of people allow greed and sloth and hatred and perversity to govern their lives, that number dwarfs in comparison to the number of good, upstanding, hard-working, and generous citizens in the United States. And I strongly object to anyone that claims that Americans work to increase the level of liberty in "just the [situations] that make our lives easier."

And you're right, Mary, that the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction were never found by coalition forces. Despite the fact that the world was convinced at the time that Saddam was hiding--if not actively producing--chemical and/or biological weapons, it has now become evident that by the time we invaded, he'd gotten rid of them in one way or another. But there was never any question whether he had them in the first place, or whether he'd be willing to use them. He had them, and he used them on his own citizens, which is what prompted the U.N. to require a full disclosure of the locations of his remaining weapons. It was his lack of full disclosure that prompted the U.N. to warn him of dire consequences if he did not comply. If nobody did anything when he continued to ignore these warnings, then how could anybody in the world respect the warnings of the United Nations? This is where I see irony in the comments made by these U.N. experts, after the United States has proven the hard way that it's not always right to "take well-founded allegations as proven in the absence of a clear explanation by government." And now they are worried about acting immediately or else "we won't have any credibility left."

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Mary. I hope you'll continue to do so in the future. It's definitely a blessing to have friends who "approach things from a different perspective and belief system." It makes me examine my own beliefs more closely, which is always a good thing.


Mary said...

I didn't understand the context of the editorial from the Washington Post. Yes it is commendable that they would post something contrary to what they themselves believe. I'm glad you've now posted both sides of the editorial.

I apologize for the implications or offense of the other half of the post. To me, I saw the logic pattern as this: "Saddam had weapons. The UN did nothing for 10 years. The US has prisoners. The UN shouldn't do anything for 10 years."

My hope is that by seeing the logic I was objecting to, you'll understand what I was saying. But yes, I see the irony, and how I missed that the first time around.

I'll agree that the US is often under the magnifing glass of other countries, but I think in many respects it is our own actions that have caused the countries to inspect us so closely. You are right, many of our blemishes are grossly exaggerated, however, we still have the blemish. While perfection seems impossible therefore not a reasonable goal. I disagree, I think the US should do everything in its power to do better. I don't see that happening with Guantanamo (did I spell that right?) Bay. I see the US as trying to cover up their blemishes, rather than remove them.

Level of liberty. That's interesting. We've worked hard to liberate the Iraqis. They, for the most part either are liberated, or have fought the soliders tooth and nail. I question, why Iraq? There are atrocities going on all over the world? To me the answer seems fairly obvious... Oil. Sudan currently has much war and other problems. Pakistan has many problems, particularly with human rights. The New York times has some excellent articles about a woman who has been standing up to her gang rapists (who raped her because her brother allegedly had an affair), and how the president of that country kidnapped her, won't let her out of the country because of the fear that she will give pakistan a bad name. There are many places like this. Why so much focus on Iraq, if we are really trying to improve human rights, lets try to improve human rights. But don't tell me (Mr. Bush) that you are trying to improve human rights, and then only help those humans who can help you get oil. So yes, in many ways I do believe that Bush improves the level of liberty in "just the [situations] that make our [mostly his] lives easier."


Yeah, I see where you were coming from. Remember, I specifically said we should strive for perfection; whether it's reasonable or not, that ought to be our goal. But with the limits that we have, I think that certain goals are more important than others.

It is certainly possible that Sudan needs liberation more than Iraq. In that sense, I think oil did influence Bush's decision. If we were to go into Sudan and set them up with a democracy, I think we'd have to be there a lot longer, and spend a lot more money than we're going to spend on Iraq. Once they get the oil infrastructure up and running again, that place is going to have a pretty substantial stream of income. Iraq is fortunate enough to have a whole lot of something that the world is willing to pay for right now, and it has a good chance of giving their economy the boost that it will need for them to become self-sufficient within years, rather than decades. Too many people say "We went there for the oil" as if we're going to steal all their oil as soon as we quell the uprising. I wouldn't pretend that we were just so moved in our hearts that we decided to rush off and save those poor Iraqis, whatever the cost. But I don't think that we ever hoped to get rich off of Iraqi oil, either.

On the whole, Sudan sounds like an awful mess, even compared to Iraq, and while Bush and his administration have been pretty vocal about trying to get Sudan to shape up, I don't think that there's any chance that the U.S. could impose order there from a distance. As much as some people like to call Iraq a quagmire, I don't think it would hold a candle to what Sudan would be like.

But we do need to keep an eye on the situation there, and many other places in the world. I do remember reading about that woman you mentioned. I think she recently had her travel ban lifted, right?

On the topic of Guantanamo, I think I'm going to write another blog posting to discuss the situation there.

Mary said...

I don't think anyone believed that we'd all get rich and just siphon off the oil from Iraq... but it sure would be nice to have a steady stream of oil from another country we are well established in. Think of it as protecting a form of assests.

I think the UN, and the world as a collective whole would better appreciate Bush's actions in Iraq, if he also supported libertarian missions in other parts of the world where the liberty doesn't come with a nice perk. Bush needs to do something without alterior motives. Sudan and Pakistan are just examples where I believe he could improve his world image.

The woman in Pakistan, well she was released by her kidnappers, but she isn't allowed to travel to the US yet. They said "you can go if you allow us (the Pakistani Govt.) to control exactly where you go, what you say, and who you talk to." She didn't go for that. So to my knowledge, she stays in Pakistan.


What, specifically, do you think Bush should do about Pakistan and Sudan?

mary said...

Without re-researching Sudan (its been a few weeks, and I'm getting rusty on those issues), it's hard to give specific instructions. Pakistan on the other hand, is a lot easier.

First, Pressure the president to let the woman travel. Tell him He is the one giving Pakistan a bad image, not her.

Then, Depending how dictorial we want to become will depend on how we do this: Help them reconstruct their judicial system, and the penal code in general. Raping the sister for the sexual conduct of the Brother, I (and most of the world) do not think that is an appropriate punishment!

Encourage the women to have equal rights.

Start schools to educate the children.

Things like that. I could give better reasons for everything, but I need to get back to work pretty soon.

I know bush would find opposition here at home! People would be outraged to learn that bush spent money on schools overseas, without putting money into our own failing schools. But I don't think Bush would have to get EVERY child in to a school to make a difference.

And Honestly, Bush himself wouldn't even need to do this, but rather encourage the public to do so. Perhaps encourage every state to start and fund a school in an overseas country. Sure, that would only be 50 or so schools, but That's 50 or so more schools! How many more children would benefit? How would the future of politics be affected? IF I were a little kid somewhere and the US gave my neighborhood a school, and now I could learn. I would really like the US, because they would be giving me an opportunity that neither my parents nor my government could provide.

There will always be something good to do, the trick is in getting it started.

Another brilliant Idea:
During the 3 months of school that teachers have off, have the US govt. pay their plane ticket to some country, where they then teach during their off time. Have the community take care of where the teacher will live. and the teacher has to take care of their own food. If I were a teacher, and had the opportunity to travel to another country for 2-3 months, and all I had to take care of was my food! I'd jump at the chance! Perhaps not Pakistan, but there are less-risk countries that need education just as badly!

I don't see bush as promoting almost any programs that are this self-less. He's the president, if he says something, people start moving. But he won't say anything, and that makes me mad.


Interesting ideas. I disagree with some of what you say, though. I responded with my opinions in a new blog posting here.

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