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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Books: Climate and Slavery

And Also: Bill Clinton campaigning for the slumping Lieberman is distressing: this is not just about control of Congress. It is about a whole new way of looking at things. Low expectations gave us Kerry. Snap out of it! Lieberman looks lame here too: one recalls his moralistic disgust at BC's bjs while mistreatment and torture was more a shades of gray issue as shown by his support of El Decider's personal lawyer. Helping this smuck is not your finest hour, Bill.

As a new public library branch opens in my area (after talk from the Reagan years), a handful of books came in from reserves at my old local branch. This reserve process is enjoyable -- some book catches my fancy. I reserve it. I periodically check the online website to see if it arrived (it takes about a week of "transit" before it does). And, when it does (usually shortly after midnight), I receive an email. This is the triborough system -- Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island (Brooklyn/Queens is separate). Meanwhile, I have a connection in the college library system, where I can get various other books. As with the transit system and so forth, one can take such things for granted. But, it is good to remember the value of the service.

Depressed with the usual current events, I picked up a few books of historical import: Lincoln/Douglas debates and John Adams/Thomas Jefferson's correspondence on question of religion/morals. The latter is neat in that it was edit by a letter carrier, though one with an impressive educational resume as well. As someone who writes a lot of this stuff as an educated amateur, such things obviously have appeal. The L/D issue touches upon the Dred Scott decision, which leads to a further comment. One little expressed reality was that many at the time wanted the Supreme Court to decide the question of slavery in the territories. Maybe, this was an ill-conceived notion, but it was a reality. Thus, the "self-inflicted wound" should be put in context.*

All the same, I dealt with the depressing issue first, namely global warming. Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change shows signs of its origins as a magazine series. It is a small book, under two hundred pages, and basically is a collection of snapshots of the signs of climate change -- signs with which those who viewed Al Gore's documentary would be familiar.

Kolbert also discusses President Bush's refusal to truly accept the problem at hand, claiming "sound science" (an Orwellian concept also used by tobacco companies ... the European "precautionary principle" is the better way to go, but simply put, the evidence is crystal clear at this point) should guard against it. Of course, from 2000 he was "concerned" about the issue. It is apiece with the opposition to stem cell research though perhaps the personal morals angle is a bit less self-evident.

Less controversial, at least in this country, is his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. The core problem here really is widespread (a preliminary vote in the Clinton years was 95-0 against) closed-minded selfish sentiment. The protocol takes the morally and realistically sound sentiment that as a prime polluter for so many years, we simply could not expect developing countries to have equal responsibilities.

As Kolbert notes, it is like if we view the possible amount of emissions to be like a layer cake -- the U.S. consumed a great chunk of it over the years, and now wants an equal share of the rest. Yeah, the other countries did not pollute all these years, but tough luck. So sorry! Yes, (West) Virginia, the environment might require some short term economic costs. Car insurance seems pointless before the accident too.

But, as is usual, the Bushies made a bad situation worse. An example discussed took place after Kyoto, when international climate talks began to deal with the next step after Kyoto. The U.S. delegation adamantly opposed this effort, not even wanting future problems to be talked about. This is how not to deal with international diplomacy. You are always going to have issues where your interests are contrary to other nations ... this requires a certain amount of finesse and keeping open channels of communication.

The Bush way is akin to a bratty child stomping out of the room when they don't get their way. John Bolton. Thus, Clinton didn't submit Kyoto to the Senate while voicing concern about global warning. Bush bluntly withdrew from talks, ensuring that they would not influence the conversation, while using "sound science" as proof of the need for yet another report (edited politically).

Apparently, however, Bush wants the U.N. to deal with the current Israel mess. This is akin to battering one's wife, but expecting her to welcome you with a nice dinner when you come home from work. The metaphor sounds tasteless, but I think it is legitimate given the situation. [BTW, the House almost unanimously passed a resolution on the conflict voicing concern about Israel ... it is amazing that the rest of the Middle East thinks we are biased or something.]

Ah well. Had some hellacious thunder and lightening here today during a quick rainstorm. Loud!


* Many focus on the racial aspects of the ruling, but at the time the territorial issue was the really controversy. Of course, either way, slavery would have continued. In fact, even the slavery in the territories issue was basically symbolic. Missouri Compromise territory that became states obviously was no longer an issue. The remaining area, particularly Kansas, did not turn out to be ideal for slavery. This left places obtained after the Mexican War like Utah and New Mexico, which might have had token slavery, but again, would not be "slave states." On some level, Sen. Douglas -- especially since it seemed the only way to keep his party and union together -- seemed to have legitimate compromise.

OTOH, and this seems to be key respecting Lincoln as well, there was a core symbolic issue. This can be quite important. Furthermore, as a principle, an "anti-slavery" rule (even if it had no concrete effect -- free blacks potentially were the most hurt by Dred Scott, ironically enough, and few were willing to go to bat for them) was quite dangerous to the South.

Along with an administration on record saying slavery was evil, at some point slavery would be threatened where it did exist. For instance, perhaps federal mails would be required to deliver anti-slavery tracts. Border states would have more to fear from runaways. And, so forth.