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Feb 16, 2011

What I’m Not, But Often Confused For

In my last post, I expressed my skepticism over Anthropogenic Global Climate Disruption. (That’s the newest term.) However, what I find interesting is some of the non-published comments that get sent my way, and the accusations that come with them.
While I am not promoting “raping mother earth,” I don’t have a problem with questioning the validity of Climate Change theory. This does not make what I say absolute in any way. Often I bring up points that don’t get talked about but seem significant in my mind.
However, I hope that I never promote the idea that I know the answer or that if you disagree with me then you are stupid. I’m simply stating why I question something and claim that I would like a clearer explanation because what I’ve heard thus far is akin to marketing scare-tactics with lots of science-you-can’t-understand-so-no-reason-to-let-you-examine-it excuses.
But please, I’m neither smart enough nor comically in-tune enough to claim I know anything for sure.
I sometimes get accused of having no compassion, too. This one stings me a bit, but I’ve grown some thicker skin over time. To this I reply that I think a common misunderstanding among those who perpetually disagree is the consensus of what their disagreement is.
In the example above, just because I am a skeptic of global warming does not mean that I’m am promoting pollution. Ironically, pollution is an issue I’m quite concerned about – and I wish the global warming angle of the green movement would move aside so we could address the pertinent parts of the problem, such as too-few recycling programs, toxic waste disposal procedures and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Those who know me well understand that I have a great concern for the world’s clean water supply.
But my point is the name-calling and red herrings that most disagreements turn into. Neither side really wants to listen or to address the problem. And both sides assume the other is extreme and ignorant, while the truth is each probably agrees about more than they disagree.
Perhaps religion is a good example of this – for what better topic of disagreement is there? The Christians and the Muslims think everyone is going to hell. The Jews no longer believe in hell after dying. And the Buddhists claim we are in a continuous process of dying. In the meantime, the atheists think they’re all a bunch of fools. Hard to get more contentious than that.
But I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis wrote when discussing the various cultures and religions of the world. While the explanations of origin may vary, in all cases the values and morals taught, the proper behaviors expected and the wisdom given were all quite similar. No religion or culture promoted lying, cowardice, swindling and murder.
The same is true for many of the social and political issues about which I choose to write. Neither liberal nor conservative want more violent crime. No one wants greed and corruption in our economy. We all would love to live in a peaceful world without war. Everyone agrees better education and healthcare reaching more people is a good idea. Nobody, not even me, thinks poisoning the earth is good.
But the devil’s in the details – not to hark back to religion. Although we tend to claim the other side doesn’t recognize the problem, that’s probably not true. It’s the method of resolving it where the debate occurs, at least when rational, solution-oriented people dispute. If someone is calling you a bleeding-heart liberal who doesn’t understand human nature, then don’t debate with them. Even though I would probably agree with their stance on the issue, I doubt they know why I do…or even why they do.
Thus, in this vein, allow me to be a little defensive concerning past, present and future accusations of what I am. I’d like to give a high-level summary of why I hold the stance I do on a few key issues. I won’t burden you with the detail, but I am willing to explain my position further for individuals who are curious of the reasons behind my premises.
Welfare: I don’t want anyone to be without basic necessities. I believe there is a minimum level of human dignity one should expect from society. However, the recent extension of payouts and removal of much accountability in the system give incentive to many capable people not to work and not to improve their condition. I believe in Lao Tzu’s perspective here. The goal should be to turn consumers into producers and not simply sustain the non-productive. Sometimes helping is enabling, and I feel we’ve erred too far on that side. And while I generally oppose governmental welfare, I am a huge proponent of private and personal charity. I also don't give cash to vagrants, but I do keep a stack of fast-food gift cards in my car to give away to the hungry.
Universal Healthcare: If a fiscally responsible plan could provide more medical care to more people than are currently treated as needed, and the quality of that service would be the same or better – then I’m all in for the plan. But that's the idealistic pitch rather than the reality, as I do the math. The current plan trades sick people into the healthy pool but exchanges more previously-covered people to the 'useless treatment' plan, doing more harm than good. Poorer medical coverage with a higher total cost, enforced by the IRS – that seems to be the existing plan. Worse yet, the administration of the system is in the power of a small oligarchy who have special medical privileges and who have no risk or accountability for the plan’s success or failure, which simply exacerbates the haves-versus-have-nots reason this issue exists.
Airport Security: Do I want passengers carrying weapons to hijack or explode planes? Of course not. But the response to the underwear bomber doesn’t match the threat. The new scanners do not detect explosive powders. Who sold the idea of taking naked pictures of people as security? Plus, the TSA has lied about how the machines work. Yes, it can and does store the image. That’s been demonstrated. But even if it hadn’t, think about it. How would they prosecute without one? How would they defend the probable cause position to perform a violation to the Fourth amendment without demonstrating that cause? I have no clue why these machines were placed into service. Capitalistic terror-profiteering? Ignorance of the technology? Unknown ulterior motive? Or perhaps just stupidity in general. But what I feel strongly on this topic is it has almost nothing to do with actually securing the safety of the passengers. And that’s what I wish we would focus on.
Global Warming (or whatever your favorite climate buzz-term is): So, let’s just say – I’m not pro-pollution and I don’t want to rape the planet. But more specifically, I seriously question the strength of the IPCC’s evidence and credibility. The scientists have been seriously wrong (and even manipulative) in several calculations. Doomsayers have been with us since recorded history, but all marine life didn’t die off in the twentieth century, England is still above sea-level and Phil Jones has still not released the data requested through the Freedom of Information. I don’t deny that global temperatures statistically changed, but I question whether this is due to mankind’s behavior or whether this is just a natural cyclical pattern, similar to seasons or ocean current patterns. However, I see great harm economically if we react for long-term changes without better understanding the true cause. (Google “Winooski 1979” for an example.) Trillions of dollars could be spent on people who have yet to be born for something we don’t even know is real. I wonder how much of that money could be redirected on hungry, homeless and uninsured people alive right now.
At the risk of sounding apologetic for my ideals, I hope that I have demonstrated my heart is not in a bad place when it comes to the reasons I believe what I do. We may disagree on how the problems should be addressed, but I hope I never convey the idea that I don’t care or claim you’re a fool if you differ with my stance. I actively try to ignore the sound bite and hear the logic. I hope others will afford me the same courtesy.
Only through acknowledging those who differ from our view are not morons…or perhaps I should say, they are not morons solely because we differ… (Sorry, but some are morons whether they differ or agree.) But this is the first step in compromise, opening our eyes to the drawbacks of our own opinions and finding solutions that are mutually beneficial. For true social benevolence, we must view our antagonists for what they are not.

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