Wednesday, March 26, 2003

A Canadian Gets Uppity

I've been wanting to blog on less serious topics, but Little Green Footballs pointed to this article in the Gateway, a newspaper at the University of Alberta. I foolishly had to read it. So let's skip the niceties and get down to business.

Chris Krause writes the following in "America: It’s Far Too Easy to Ridicule You":

I also used to think ... that the Big Business fairies who own the White House would never allow President Jughead to invade anybody, for fear that the stock market would suffer, or that oil prices would drop (which they have).
So close and yet so far. Chris--may I call you Chris?--is right that if the White House is owned by Big Business, then it should make the White House behave according to its interests, which in this case, preclude going to war. So why didn't Big Business stop the war? Chris never considers the option that maybe--just maybe--the White House isn't owned by Big Business fairies in the first place.

For future reference, here's how the logic of that works (and it even has a Latin name for handy reference!):

Suppose we make the following claim--

If X, then Y

--but Y fails to be the case. We can then conclude that X is not the case either. This argument form is known as modus tollens, which is Latin for "denying mode." Arguments that take this form are always valid, so use them liberally and with great zeal and zest.

Oh, and a word about President "Jughead." I concede that Bush Jr. may not be as smart as Clinton, Gore (although I doubt it), or even the elder Bush; but Bush inherited a dangerous world from his predecessors--a world that he did not create--and he nonetheless has acted with remarkable restraint, tact, and decency. He deserves better than to be called "Jughead" or "Hitler" or any of the other mindless epithets that idiotarians hurl at him.

A little after that, I realized the best-case scenario was that Iraq II: The Phantom Menace would turn into another Vietnam. In other words, a long, drawn-out failure and huge loss of life for no real gain. Americans would be begging to get out, and their country would be internationally humiliated.
Gee, before today I thought that the anti-war point of view meant, well, no war at all. I didn't realize that an anti-war adherent could wish for a long war with a "huge loss of life." Alas, the abyss of anti-American hatred has no end.
I realize now, no matter what happens in Iraq, the US government will call it a victory and the US media will agree since America no longer allows dissent. If you’re a non-white dissenter, the FBI will want to arrest you. If you’re white, the public will want to lynch you.
I'm forced to agree with you on this point. Just last Sunday, Michael Moore was taken out and lynched for his anti-Bush remarks. Oh wait, that didn't happen; in fact, he won an Oscar for his "documentary." But you're right about black people who dissent. Poet Imamu Amiri Baraka was arrested by the FBI for suggesting that the Jews knew about 9/11 in advance. Oh wait, that didn't happen either; in fact, he was invited to Harvard and is the poet laureate of New Jersey. But then what about what happened to the Dixie Chicks? That kind of censorship ought to scare any civil libertarian. Oh wait, just as "artists" have the right to speak their "minds," we have the right to not buy their CDs or to destroy the ones that we already own, so long as no one gets hurt. Well, never mind; I can't think of any examples to support your claim, but I agree that it must be true, somewhere, somehow--just like those magical Big Business fairies who control the White House must exist even if there is no proof that they do.
But America will collectively wave its flabby hand and say, "jealousy," as they so often do.
I assume that the "flabby hand" reference is part of the now de riguer stereotype of the United States as a country of fat people. Obesity, however, is a world-wide problem. I'm sure you want to blame that on us, too. I don't mind, so long as you also recognize that we do more for world hunger than any other country and that the European Union has interfered with food aid to Africa because some of it is genetically modified.

It’s hard to be jealous of the only country in the Western world that does not provide adequate health care to its citizens.
Look Skippy--may I call you Skippy? No country--in the East, West, South, or North--can provide perfect health care to all of its citizens. Why? Is it because of those Big Business fairies? Or is it because that health resources, like all resources, are finite? I think that the latter is the case. So the question is: "how do we best manage health resources?"

The United States uses a free market model supplemented by government aid. England and other countries use a two-prong system of private and public health care. Canada is the only one that uses an exclusively public system.

The Canadian system has the advantage that all citizens are covered (theoretically), but it is in fact hard to see a specialist when one is sick with something more than the common cold. The US system has the advantage that although consumers often pay through the nose and can go into debt, they can be treated for a wide variety of problems in a swift manner. Both systems need reform, but the attempt to cop a morally superior attitude about Canada's health care system rings hollow. The fact is that our life span in the US continues to rise and we have a healthy citizenry across all socio-economic levels. If we can kick our obesity problem, our life span will sky-rocket.

It’s hard to be jealous of a country that spends $14 billion every year on the space program while education, social security, and innumerable other services see unnecessary and crippling cuts.

And what function does the space program really serve?

There are two common arguments for the space program. I'm not even saying that they're good ones, but you didn't even consider them. First, the space program does scientific research that yields all sorts of practical benefits. Second, the space program does scientific research that cannot otherwise be done except by a national space agency. Others can take up this issue with more knowledge than I can, but it suffices to say that you should at least try to understand what the space program does.
Who needs that much defense when the most dangerous and devious country in the world is the one you live in?
Dangerous to whom? To Saddam? To the Taliban? To the thugs, dictators, warlords, and other assorted riffraff who make the world a dangerous place? Good. You should be glad that we're dangerous to them; that's what kept the world safe from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
The myriad problems with their government could never be listed in this little article, so let’s move on to the only other problem the US really has: the citizens.
Why Skippy, I'm beginning to think that you don't like Americans.
One hundred years ago, H L Mencken first got the idea when he said no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people. Even then Americans were generally derided by the rest of the world.
Yes, there has been--and still is--snobbery on the part of the Old World towards the New World. Depending on how you spin it, we're the crass, nouveau riche who don't know our salad forks from our dinner forks; we're the "last men" of Nietzsche's lunatic ravings; we're decadent, bourgeois, capitalist swine; we're rogue cowboys without manners--and yada freakin' yada. I think the best way to disabuse one of such ignorant, arrogant cant is to read Nathaniel Hawthorne's allegorical short story "My Kinsman, Major Molyneaux."

In brief, a young rube (who represents a young United States) from the sticks goes to the city (Europe, the world) so that his sophisticated, respected--and French--kinsman can help him make his way in the world. As he searches for his kinsman, he finds out that the city can be a seedy, if not evil, place. He eventually finds that his kinsman has been tarred and feathered, and is the laughingstock of the town. His shock gives way to laughter, as he realizes that he has to make his own way in the world. A tale for our times, no?

[W]hile, in Europe, James Clerk Maxwell was unifying electricity and magnetism into the electromagnetic theory, Americans had started a war to decide whether slavery was a good thing or a bad thing.
So we were backwards not only in science, but in human rights as well--a twofer. Way to go, Skippy. The fact is that we made short work of slavery in less time than it takes most countries to figure out that people of other races are human beings. Lots of Americans long before the Civil War thought that slavery wasn't a good thing. Another inconvenient fact: the US is the least racially homogenous culture that has ever existed on earth--and people from all over the world still want to come here. Go figure.

As for our slow progress in science, well ... wait--I can't stop laughing--LOL! Oh, my sides are going to burst! Skippy, you're killing me!

But America also had a nobility about her that most people accepted, if grudgingly. America had been, and still was, a country of pioneers and settlers, of innovators and adventurers.
Are there two people inhabiting your body? I could've swore you just made sweeping generalizations about the putative backwardness of the American people. Now we're a country of innovators and adventurers? Did you forget to take your medication?
That spirit was present, for example, when John F Kennedy pledged to conquer the moon by the end of the ’60s.
Whoa, watch the mood swings! Just a bit ago you were upset about us spending money on the space program to the detriment of social programs. Are you saying it's OK to spend money for certain space-related goals? Were there no poor people who might have benefited from the money used to gain "bragging rights" over the USSR by being the first country to the moon?
It seems the only successful people either leave the country or become dirty business executives and crooked CEOs.
Um, Skippy, have you not heard of the brain drain problem that afflicts Europe? Scientists from Europe come here to get the jobs they cannot get in their own countries. The US is teeming with successful people--even the despicable Michael Moore can thrive here.
I need hardly mention that one in five Americans is obese ...
But you will anyway, won't you? As I mentioned, obesity is a world-wide problem, and it even afflicts the poor.
... while at the same time emaciated symbols of feminine beauty give one in six young women an eating disorder.
How do they do that? Do they have some magical device that causes anorexia in young women? Oh, I think I know now. In league with the Big Business fairies, magazines portray the ideal woman as thin; and of course, teenage girls, who have no freedom of thought, buy into this ideal, leading to their eating disorders. It's a devious plot. Now it's time to take my Thorazine.
Americans see no problem with attacking a country that has threatened no other country in the past ten years, because the American way and the Constitution must be spread around the world.
Look Sparky--may I call you Sparky? Here's the scoop on Persian Gulf War II:
  • After Persian Gulf War I, Saddam was allowed to stay in power if and only if he would make reparations to Kuwait and fully disarm. He did not.

  • What followed was one lame UN resolution after another that failed to disarm Saddam.

  • Last November, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, which offered Saddam a final opportunity to fully disclose all of his WMDs and WMD programs within 30 days, or else face serious consequences. He did not--surprise!--comply.

  • So what serious consequences should Saddam face? Sanctions haven't worked. Inspections are merely the means of verifying that Saddam is in compliance--they are not serious consequences. So what is left, except force?
Let's move on.
A 61-year-old lawyer was charged with trespassing in a Guilderland, New York mall when he and his son refused to remove T-shirts that said “Peace on Earth” and “Give Peace a Chance.” Let me repeat: “Give Peace a Chance” is now illegal in that fucking country.
You love isolated examples, don't you? That mall was thoroughly criticized by people of all political stripes for being stupid. Moreover, a mall cannot pass a law outlawing a slogan; only a legislative body can do so, and I've yet to see one that has made "Give Peace a Chance" illegal.
I could go on for pages ...
Of that I have no doubt. Whether you could go on to make a cogent argument based on facts is another matter altogether.

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