Foreign Oil at the Cultural Fair

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We took the kids and the Gnu down the road to the local cultural fair that our neighborhood (a real blue state university counterculture community) does every fall. There are groups playing music on various stages, African drumming and dancing, belly dancing, various food vendors, and lots of other stuff, mostly political (and almost all of it leftward of Dennis Kucinich). One guy was brave enough to walk around with a sign saying Vote Bush, and I'm pretty sure it was I thought it might be this guy, but I guess not. I was about to go introduce myself and find out if I was right, but he was surrounded by Kerry supporters who seemed insistent on blocking the view of his sign while distracting him from talking to anyone. I heard enough of the conversation coming from those surrounding him that it realized it was civil and intelligent (though probably not intellectual). I got some good books at the local library book sale (50 cents to a dollar per book), and we heard an excellent local blues band.

Most interesting, though, was the environmentalist propaganda handed to me. I don't study this stuff as much as I used to, but I recognized some immediate problems with it, usually clues that they weren't giving all the relevant information. The language itself was pretty obviously incomplete in a few instances (e.g. reporting a fact about Bush doing X and assuming people will see how it's bad without explaining why and without paying attention to the fact that there might be a reason why Bush did X). Sam picked up on one error of assuming something was bad when it isn't (mercury in the air rather than in the water) just by glancing through it quickly.

One thing stood out though, and it confirms a thesis I've learned to recognize (once it was pointed it out to me by my Gnusome friend). That's that any stick is good enough to beat Bush with. There's never any sense from Bush opponents that they're putting him in a catch-22, but it happens all the time. Matt Lauer put him in a double-bind by wanting him to say that the war was going to be won by a certain date, and when he wouldn't bite he got portrayed as saying there was no hope of ever making any progress. This time it had to do with oil.

Here are two quotes from opposite sides of the environmentalist info sheet I was handed:

Little is being done to decrease our dependence on imported oil, worrying many policymakers and scientists, who foresee a future of economic crisis and political conflict.

The Bush Administration attempted, and at times succeeded, to drill for oil and gas in our wildlife refuges, national forests, national monuments, and other public lands.

My first thought on reading this was that only parodists would put such blatant contradictions in the same work, especially one consisting of only two sides of an 8.5 X 5.5 inch sheet. It's not quite as bad as "Bush is bad because he doesn't try to seek domestic rather than foreign oil sources, and Bush is bad because he tries to seek domestic rather than foreign oil sources." It's not a lot better, though. The only easy ways I can see how someone can wholeheartedly want Bush to do the exact opposite of both of these things and not contradict himself while doing both are still somewhat unworkable programs (at least on a large scale) that Bush is encouraging, such as the hybrid vehicles now on the market. Perhaps they have a well-worked-out view that involves little understanding of crucial economic factors. On the other hand, they may just not have thought it through very much. Given the title of this thing ('Why Do Plants & Animals Oppose the Bush Agenda?'), I'm leaning toward the latter.

If I had more effort, I'd take a closer look at each of the claims in this creative little work of art. I don't really feel like it though, but Sam may want to do so. If she does, I'll update this post with a link. [Update: here it is. Keep in mind that it's Blogger, so if it doesn't load up the first time just hit enter to reload, and it will usually be fine.] This is much closer to her field, since her diploma actually has the term 'Environmental Science' on it (in the title of the school, not in her major, just to be clear).

Update: I just re-read this, and I'm fairly sure I was being too easy on it out of a desire not to call it contradictory when a possible position can be constructed opposing Bush's plan to drill in places like Alaska's wilderness while still wanting more home-based energy sources. What I missed in doing so was what this thing actually said. In wanting to leave room for such a position, I forgot what I had realized when I first read the thing. It is as bad as the thing I said it isn't as bad as, though it isn't quite the thing I said. It says Bush is bad for not pursuing ways to wean us off foreign oil, and then it criticizes him for pursuing such ways. If he didn't pursue such ways, then it would be ok to say he doesn't pursue such ways. If he's bad for exactly for pursuing such ways, then he does pursue them. This is flat-out contradictory, and no nuanced position as to what he should have done gets you out of that. Once you say both those things, it's over.

I wasn't harsh enough out of a desire to recognize that you can oppose him in both ways, but you really can't do so when you say it the way these people did. There's a nuanced position you can take, and I guess they would want to take it when pressed on this, but they'd also have to take every possible position since a contradiction entails the truth of every proposition, including that Bush is the best president ever. If your position in opposing him commits you to that, then you're really in trouble.

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Then some guy dressed up as a spotted cat handed me a flyer entitled, "Why Do Plants & Animals Oppose the Bush Agenda?" Okay no more Mrs. Nice Lady, I just couldn't let this foolishness go unchallenged. Read More


I appreciate the recognition, but the guy with the Bush sign probably wasn't me, since I haven't been off campus in the last 2 weeks.

Sorry. The guy really did look like some of the pictures you have up at your site. I really admire the guy for being willing to do this in what last year was real Dean country. He was definitely college age and probably a student. I'm not quite sure what he hoped to accomplish, but then again I don't think much political signage accomplishes anything except firing up the base of your opponent. The "Bush must go" signs certainly encourage me to show up to vote for Bush.

Yep, they screwed that one up. As envoronmentalists, the position they are probably trying to take is one of reducing our dependence on all sources of oil, with the goal of needing oil minimally or not at all. This would entail reducing our dependence on foreign oil AND not drilling anywhere in the US for oil.

This is my position, and it fits well with the environmentalist position. My position is founded not just on environmental reasons, but also on the very practical reason that we are in the not too distant future just plain going to run out of oil and we better not be too dependant on it when that happens.

My non-expert recommendation: pebble-bed reactors.

Anyways...back to the info sheet. I think that you are right that there is a sense of "any stick is good enough to beat Bush with", espcially with less thoughtful special interest groups. This especially frustrates me as it gives people like me a bad reputation even though we have fairly high standards as to the sticks we choose to beat Bush with. ;)

I don't have any problem with your position, and I think Republicans have gotten better than Democrats at trying to encourage movement in that direction, though Democrats are still better at trying to force that movement through legislation, often with unrealistic timelines. It's the people who think we can do this rapidly who upset me. Are pebble-head reactors nuclear? I've long thought nuclear power may be the way to go for non-mobile needs.

yeah, pebble-bed reactors are nuclear. See this Wired article for more info.

Almost done with my post on this matter. I just have a bit of fact checking and last minute proof reading to do. Barring any kid related disasters I should be done in about an hour.

Two hours later (I forgot to factor in getting the kids to bed) I'm done. Here's the link,

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