Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Global Warming, Our Newest AIDS Ribbon

KRAMER (to organizer at desk): Uh, Cosmo Kramer?
ORGANIZER: Uh...o.k., you're checked in. Here's your AIDS ribbon.
KRAMER: Uh, no thanks.
ORGANIZER: You don't want to wear an AIDS ribbon?
ORGANIZER: But you have to wear an AIDS ribbon.
KRAMER: I have to?
KRAMER: See, that's why I don't want to.
ORGANIZER: But everyone wears the ribbon. You must wear the ribbon!
KRAMER: You know what you are? You're a ribbon bully.
ORGANIZER: Hey you! Come back here! Come back here and put this on!

before michael richards recently became a stand-up pariah, he was just that goofy neighbor on seinfeld who got his laughs through a mixture of discombobulated physical comedy and his general insistence on marching to the beat of his own drummer. for instance, when kramer signs up for the aids walk he stays up the whole night before the walk playing poker and when he checks-in he refuses the AIDS ribbon he is given.

now, in the debate over global warming, i seem to have encountered my own aids ribbon. i believe that temperatures on average are warmer today than they were a hundred years ago. i believe that the release of greenhouse gasses traps heat in our atmosphere and exacerbates warming trends. i believe in, and practice, the three r’s – reduce, reuse and recycle- as a means of lessening our negative impact. i believe that the development of so-called “green” technologies presents an enormous opportunity for a cleaner and more energy-efficient world. all that being said, i’m not sure i believe in global warming; not in the sense of a catastrophic, man-made disaster that threatens to hit a tipping point in the next ten, or even fifty, years.

to me it’s a perfectly reasonable position. it’s not calculated to shock environmentalists and is only partially due to my contrarian nature. nonetheless, this view is often greeted with the sort of incredulous looks i had always assumed were being saved for biblical fundamentalists who say they don’t believe in dinosaurs or evolution. “what do you mean you don’t believe in global warming? it’s not debatable. all of those science types and al gore believe it. so, why don’t you?”.

so, why don’t i?

an environmentalist might tell you it’s because i’m a conservative right-winger with an anti-intellectual bent for dismissing scientific fact, or that i’m too addicted to my fossil fuel guzzling lifestyle to think objectively, or maybe i’m just an “exx-con”.

part of the reason that I don’t believe in global warming can be seen in the backlash against climate skepticism. case in point is this article. there is something quite unsavory about the belief that we’ve reached the end of all skepticism in any arena of human knowledge. it’s as if climatologists and green activists got together and decided, “... if we don’t make our case in the most alarmist and hyperbolic language possible, then nobody will take us seriously”. perhaps there is a grain of truth in that sentiment, but we don’t organize our beliefs and set policy around grains of truth.

i don’t question global warming so exxon can continue to make big profits or to justify america’s love of big cars or a personal desire to burn as much fossil fuel as i can. i question global warming because i worry about the economic impact of ill-conceived alarmist policies.

more on this later…

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nothing's Shocking

this was the front page news story from yesterday’s new york daily news. i believe the accompanying headline was “DISGRACE”. personally, i am torn on this matter. on the one hand i find honoring cop-killers and terrorist bomb-makers reprehensible, but on the other i tend to believe in a near absolute freedom of speech and expression.

my real interest is in the multi-cultural/post-structuralist appropriation of personalities and images. the perfect example, and my biggest pet peeve, is che guevara. nevermind that he had a hand in bringing a totalitarian dictator to power, ran a notorious Cuban prison and oversaw numerous show trials and subsequent executions; he looks really cool on a t-shirt. then, there is everybody’s favorite death row inmate, mumia abu-jamal. i’m willing to wager that majority of those who support his case know almost nothing about the facts of that case. what they do know is that he’s got dreadlocks and radical sounding name, so he must have been framed by those evil white pigs.

it’s the same thing at city college and it doesn’t much shock me. the facts of the case and the moral issues don’t seem to interest some. what does matter is the perception of shakur as “a hero to most of the people in her community”. the fact that she probably shot a cop and is now a fugitive living in castro’s cuba… well, that’s just extra street cred.

according to today’s daily news, the offending sign has been ordered down.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sometimes I wonder Why We Have Courts at All

besides my ideological objections to identity politics, there’s the practical drawback, as well. once questions of individual justice become confused with the fuzzy logic of “social justice”, facts invariably becomes obfuscated and discourse falls to the pre-adolescent nadir of finger-pointing and mutual recrimination.

the perfect illustration can be seen here, in this piece by jack dunphy at NationalReviewOnline concerning the police shootings of three unarmed men here in new york.

dunphy gives himself away at two distinct points. once when he says, “As in other large cities, crime in New York follows predictable ethnic patterns” and again by his assertion that what “happened earlier this week in Queens” was a “confrontation between cop and criminal”.

this piece is ostensibly a rebuke of mayor Bloomberg for rushing to judgement and for placing the appearance of justice, the mayor surrounded by a phalanx of “community leaders”, over the facts of the case. after reading the NRO piece, the question should be obvious: how has dunphy done anything different? the main thrust of the column seems to be (1) they were shot by cops so they must be criminals and (2) of course black males warrant increased scrutiny from police, they commit all the crimes.

the issue of whether an individual is guilty or not is a matter for the courts, and not for the court of public opinion; that goes for white cops as well as black suspects.