Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:

 

Conservative:

Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.

 

Reactionary:

Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.

 

Radical:

Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.

 

The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.

 

The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.

 

Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income

 

Capitalism:

Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

 

Socialism:

Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

 

Communism:

Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.

 

Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.

 

Democracy:

Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.

 

Republic:

Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.

 

Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President

 

Fascism:

Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

 
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Protest Season

It is protest season again in Iran. Every summer, most notably in July of 1999, Iran's students protest the regime. This is very important since it was protesting students who brought the regime to power in 1979 and it could conceivably be how the regime gets changed again.

The recent controversy over Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology has been treated by anti-democracy pundits as a remedial lesson on politics and history. They tell us that the Bush program of coercive diplomacy to force Iran's regime to abandon their nuclear dreams will backfire because Iran's students are consumed by the events of 1953.

Most countries in the Middle East have a long history of European domination. During WWII the Axis and the Allies fought over control of the vital oil resources of the area. When the Axis were defeated and withdrew from the Middle East the victorious Allies redrew the maps and in many cases actually created new nations or installed new governments.

During WWII the British and the Russians both raced into Iran to guard it from Germany. After the war they forced the elder Shaw to abdicate in favor of his more modern or more pliant son. Democratic reforms were also initiated and a British style parliament was empowered to moderate the monarch.

However, Iran has a long history of influence from both Eastern and Western Europe. The parliament was soon dominated by communists and the PM forced the young Shaw to flee after several coup attempts. In 1953 the US and Britain gave financial and diplomatic support to royalist tank divisions in Tehran that helped restore the Shaw to his throne.

The Shaw responded to his earlier defeat by modernizing the industry and military and by cracking down hard on dissent, especially religious radicals. This policy backfired and led to greater support for an Islamic overthrow of the government. This led to another coup by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.

Thus we are warned by the wise that if Western powers meddle with Iran they will once again see a backlash from the people, specifically the students, who would rally in support of the regime over outside influence. This is exactly what "President" Amajadeenedad is hoping for and is a major reason for his loud proclamation of his nuclear ambitions.

However, the students of today are very different from the students of 1979. Not only do they not remember the events of 1953, they were not alive during 1979 either. The conditions they face are homegrown, not the result of outside pressure. The soldiers and militias who regularly attack them are not working for the Shaw or supported by Western powers.

Over the last six years the students of Tehran and other major cities in Iraq have had only one enemy. That enemy is the Islamic regime itself. These kids don't want the West to trade security guarantees to the regime in exchange for their suspension of nuclear ambitions. They want the West to push the regime to change.

This week the students in Tehran chanted, "death to Ahmadinejad," "death to dictator," "death to reactionaries" and "we want no nuclear bombs." They chanted "Down with despotism" and broke the windows of police cars with rocks. We can expect more such activity over the next few months.

(link link link)

Sean: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 [+] |
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Thursday, May 25, 2006
Hebrew and Arab Blogs

Arabs and Jews that live in the middle east have a lot in common. Climate, flora and fauna, and landscape shape humans more than we might realize. A shared history of constant conflict and trade is another major bond.

However, as Michael Totten recently lamented, travel between countries in the Middle East is extremely difficult. In addition, the autocratic governments of these nations are notorious for using the state controlled media to distort public opinion.

This has been a horrible situation for the Israelis who desperately need to understand and be understood by their neighbors. In a wonderful example of technology serving society, Arabs and Jews have recently discovered each others blogs and dialogue has finally begun.

Lisa Goldman has recently linked to Perpetual Refugee, a Lebanese visiting Israel for the first time. And now she links to a friend's aggregate of Israeli blogs. She also links to one that collects Arab blog entries. Now we just need one that combines both!

Sean: Thursday, May 25, 2006 [+] |
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Conflict Opals

It turns out the the GM/Opal is the vehicle of choice for terrorists and criminals in Iraq.

"The cars are strong, fast and inexpensive," said dealer Abdul Sadher Hamid al-Hashim, selling a 1991 Black Opel Omega for the knock-down price of $2 300 (R16 000).


Hey, its a strong advert for the strength and reliability of the vehicle. But not so convenient for other Opal owners. Does this mean that when a company or nations pays a ransom they are supporting GM?

"I'm going to sell my Opel, I'm sick and tired of being pulled over by the police looking for terrorists," he said, asking not to be named.

Sean: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 [+] |
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Montenegro Goes It Alone-O

The final death blow has been delivered to Yugoslavia. On May 21, 2006 55.5% of voters in Montenegro chose independence from Serbia. This vote has been accepted by the EU and the UN is likely to grant a seat to Montenegro with out much controversy.

Montenegro is a tiny area on the Adriatic sea across from Italy. It emerged as a distinct region in 1360 as the Principality of Zeta. The principality became a theocratic state under a bishop/prince from 1516 to 1852.

The territory became the kingdom of Montenegro in 1910. The kingdom then successfully fought a war with allies from Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia against the neighboring Ottoman Empire to become a major regional power in 1912.

During the first World War Montenegro was occupied by Austria and joined to Serbia. This relationship held until WWII. From 1945-1992 Montenegro was part of the larger federation of Balkan states known as Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was ruled by the dictator Josip Tito from 1974 until his death in 1980.

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state that included the republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia as well as the two autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina.

Muslims and various Christian faiths lived in relative peace mixed even within cities and neighborhoods. However, without the iron grip of Tito these territories began to break apart along ethnic and religious lines beginning around 1991. Not counting Vojvodina or Kosovo, Montenegro is the final republic to leave Yugoslavia.

It is sad to see that only a military strongman can keep such a modern, ethnically diverse nation alive. But it is probably for the best that these nations that have little history of running their own affairs get some of this experience before once again, inevitably it seems, joining a larger union in the future.

Sean: Tuesday, May 23, 2006 [+] |
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Friday, May 19, 2006
Cartoon Controversy: Chinese Edition

Here in Denmark we had a few months of fuss over some political cartoons published by a provincial newspaper. The cartoons depicted images that exposed the lack of free speech in this country in the light of EU political correctness. Some images may have depicted the Prophet Mohammed (some obviously did not, some are debatable). Trouble started when a local Iman took them to Egypt (along with about a dozen fakes that were really insulting) and stirred up a world-wide controversy.

The point the newspaper was trying to make was that European debate on issues such as immigration and religion were being shut down due to fear of offending anyone from a Middle East, North African, or SE Asian background who was Muslim. This mattered because the primary immigration and religion issues were about these people.

You can complain that the newspaper should have been "more sensitive" easily enough. However, this only underscores the newspaper's point. Political discourse in a free society is not supposed to be sensitive, it is supposed to get at the issues and work towards their resolution. This freedom to discuss issues in the open, in public, instead of behind closed government doors is the foundation stone of a free democracy.

During a discussion with students I explained to a young American girl who didn't know who Mohammed was why the depiction of him in a cartoon should be so offensive in the first place. I used an analogy to Chairman Mao and Jesus to explain Mohammed's importance to nearly a billion people. Another student became extremely upset that I had compared Chairman Mao to Jesus. To her, one was a true prophet of her faith and the other was just some Chinese politician.

Well in the news today we find this article from New Zealand where a mob of angry students stormed Massey University after Chairman Mao was lampooned on the cover of the student newspaper.

Students likened the cover of Chaff, which this week satirises women's magazine Cosmopolitan, to the anti-Muslim cartoons circulated around the world in February.

UCOL student Xing Tang said Chaff staff are ignorant of Chinese culture.

"Chairman Mao is like Jesus to us," he said on the verge of tears.

"We pay $20,000 in fees and a Musa fee (which funds Chaff) and this is how we are treated."

Student Ronnie Cao likened the cover to the anti-Muslim cartoons.

"This is discrimination against us."

It will have a huge effect on New Zealand's reputation, Mr Cao said.

Yang Chenglin said students are proud of their Chinese culture.

"He is the father of China - without Mao, there is no China."


I have to say it is a bit ironic how the Chinese students express their outrage in free market terms, what would the Chairman say to that?

But their point is that the Chairman is a quasi-religious figure (he even has his own "bible", the Little Red Book) and should be above debate or depiction by "non-believers".

This is important because it underscores the Danish newspaper's main question...

When all the world's sacred cows are off limits, what is left to talk about? If one culture has serious problems with a neighbor, such as genital mutilation or the abortion of girls, how can they resolve the matter? And when the offensive culture is immigrating into a country shouldn't all topics be up for debate? If we cant talk about our differences, or draw them, what's left? Violence?

Sean: Friday, May 19, 2006 [+] |
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Monday, May 15, 2006
The Right Side of History

The US warmed to Uzbekistan as a staging site for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and as a general policy of friendliness towards former Soviet satellites.

However, the "president" of that "republic" turns out to be a thug.

In May 2005 Islam Karimov ordered hundreds of unarmed civilians shot during street protests. The US was quick with its disapproval and has been drafting sanctions against the regime.

In response Karimov asked the US to vacate the Karshi-Khanabad air base (the US moved to nearby Kyrgyzstan). Then he turned to older allies who really understand how to fight terrorism.

"Uzbekistan is more closely linked than ever to Russia and is reaching out to China, with its links to the West either frozen, in disarray or ended."

At least this time the US is on the right side of history.

Sean: Monday, May 15, 2006 [+] |
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Friday, May 12, 2006
Sweden's City of Tomorrow

Across the Oresund waterway from Copenhagen is its Swedish suburb of Malmo. Here young Swedes have been moving in large numbers to find jobs and inexpensive beer in Denmark and the housing pressure has become tremendous.

An old shipyard and SAAB factory used to dominate infil land just outside of Malmo's downtown. When industrial restructuring led to 35,000 job losses and the closing of these facilities Malmo turned to the Swedish government and the EU for help. They wanted both new jobs and new housing, but they also had high hopes for the quality of the district.

A housing fair and new residential neighborhood was planned for the now vacated, flat, and windswept waterfront. Nearly 45 acres of infil soil was cleaned or buried and made ready for more than 500 housing units. The fair and the new district were called Bo01, The City Of Tomorrow.

The housing fair was planned for May 21, 2001. It was intended to showcase sustainable building practices today and additionally to cater to the information technology needs of tomorrow. A European Village was planned with model homes from 19 EU nations, while a crafts workshop and informational website would play up the sustainable and high tech aims of the project.

The new neighborhood includes a mix of housing, parks, employment, and dining. The intention was to provide a mix of incomes and ages, leaning towards students and empty nesting older adults. Parkland and landscaping was given a high priority in the development and one large residential tower gives the area international fame.

At least eight major goals were targeting in the development of the area. Urban planning, soil decontamination, energy, ecology, traffic, green structures and water, building and lifestyle, and information dissemination. These measures have met with some success in most areas.

Urban Planning



The goal of the new neighborhood was to test out and advertise new methods of planning communities. The largest change was a focus on sustainable and ecological development. Another major focus was on social sustainability, including multiple uses, multiple ages, and multiple incomes in a district.

Soil Decontamination



The infil land has been used industrially for decades. It was assumed that it would be highly polluted and require extensive remediation before new use. The cost of doing so was to be offset by gains in understanding the bureaucratic and technical process of transformation.

Energy



As part of Sweden, and Scandinavia's, aim to be free from foreign natural resources, such as Middle Eastern oil, there is a strong desire to develop renewable local energy. Bo01 relies nearly exclusively on power produced within the site, from natural gas, solar cells, and wind power.

Ecocycle



A major goal of the project was to manage biological waste and artificial refuse on site. Extensive recycling and composting is provided in a variety of ways. Additionally only non-toxic building material and even reused materials were required in the projects.

Traffic



EU funding was used to develop an eco-friendly traffic plan for the area. This includes many pedestrian paths and bike paths. Additionally the provision of employment, schools, and IT infrastructure was intended to lessen commuting needs by allowing more people to work within the neighborhood.

Green Structures and Water



The most visually obvious focus of the area may be the extensive plantings and the water features through out Bo01. Strong focus was put into biodiversity and also native vegetation. Several programs were developed to ensure that developers met the green goals.

Buildings and Lifestyle



Along with ecological sustainability, human social sustainability won attention as well. A diversity of housing types and land tenure was pursued to ensure a wide range of residents. Tools for controlling personal use of resources such as water and electricity was included in many units.

Information Dissemination



A major reason for government funding of Bo01 was the educational promise of the entire project. Through trade fairs, educational projects, and a website the neighborhood actually serves to educate the public and professionals in how to change lifestyles and building practices to meet energy and ecology challenges.

Sweden doesn't get it all right with Bo01. Most of the sustainability measures require user support. Most residents do not want to sort their trash and many use too much energy. In other cases the developers have only "green washed" their projects. They put in tiny trees and over-packed the soil so that naught but weeds will grow. Meanwhile, most of the residents seem to be YUPies who work in Copenhagen which defeats the social goals. However, Bo01 is just as nice a neighborhood as a non-sustainable area, probably more so, and this alone is worth its support and admiration.

Sean: Friday, May 12, 2006 [+] |
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Thursday, May 11, 2006
Chinese Diplomacy

China nearly forced a crash landing for the President of Taiwan this week.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian was on his way to a state visit to Latin America and had planned a regular refueling stop at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport.

However... "China's envoy to Lebanon, Liu Xianghua, called "an urgent" meeting with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, President Emile Lahoud and other high officials Thursday morning and requested that Chen's plane not be allowed to land, according to an official government source."

Then... "Officials at the Rafik Hariri International Airport said "concerned security authorities" told air traffic controllers to "inform the plane's captain ... that the plane is not allowed to land in Beirut for refueling." (it had to land in the UAE, over whom China has less blackmail)."

Why... "One factor behind Lebanon's decision may have been a desire to maintain good relations with a country that wields a veto on the UN Security Council, especially as the council takes up resolutions relating to Lebanon and Syria."

Also... "Chen is visiting Paraguay and Costa Rica. But dropped plans to stop in the United States en route to Latin America, angered by a U.S. decision not to allow [the usual quasi-state] visit. U.S. authorities said Chen could only make refueling stops in Hawaii or in Anchorage, Alaska."

It's so nice to see the US bend to Chinese diplomacy just as easily as tiny Lebanon.

Sean: Thursday, May 11, 2006 [+] |
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Zen and the UN

Wretchard at the Belmont Club looks at the UN peacekeeping missions and their position in world foreign policy.

He quotes Victor Davis Hansen (edited for readability):

And we also know that when the United Nations takes a role in things people die. They die because the United Nations acts as if it's going to do things, so it thwarts unilateralism on the part of responsible parties, and then it does nothing, and people perish and are forgotten.

I think the United States is saying we're willing to step forward, but we're not going to do this anymore where we get hung out to dry in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Panama. Every time we try to do something to stop a dictator or a thug we have these triangulators who want it to be done, but not us to do it. So I think we're sort of seeing an American zen now, where the United States is trying to say you wanted this type of world and now you have it. And yet not being completely nihilistic, in the sense that we will act, finally, if no one else will, but we want this other dialogue to play out.

What's the quintessential leftist cause? It's the one you see on a gazillion bumper stickers: Free Tibet. Every college in the US has a Free Tibet society. There's the Indiana University Students for a Free Tibet, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Students for a Free Tibet, and the Students for a Free Tibet University of Michigan Chapter. Everyone's for a free Tibet, but no one's for freeing Tibet.


What a great observation. Last night I had a chat with an Iranian born and raised in Denmark and an Afghan who immigrated a few years ago as a young adult. The European was a very nice guy on a personal level. But he had a mix of Middle Eastern conspiracy theory views and standard European anti-Americanism that formed his view of the world at large.

He knew the regime in Tehran was mad as a hat and he wanted something done about them. But he didn't want the US to do it, even though he knew the young people in Iran couldn't do it alone. He had family back in Iran to worry about, but he had never suffered directly at the hands of the regime.

Meanwhile the Afghan was privately quite grateful. When we sat alone and talked he asked repeatedly about immigrating to the US. He had been in a Taliban jail three times, and although he lost family in the US led invasion, he wouldn't have undone it if he could. He seemed less sure of any particular worldview and more interested in simply improving his life.

So, what does the world really want from its super power and who do we listen to?

Sean: Wednesday, May 10, 2006 [+] |
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Thursday, May 04, 2006
Cheaper To Fly?

Is it really now cheaper to fly from Baltimore to Long Island than to drive?

With gas prices over $3.00 a gallon the flight cost $39.30 while the drive cost $41.26 (including taxes on the flight and tolls on the drive).

Sean: Thursday, May 04, 2006 [+] |
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Stairway To Nowhere

New York city is building a giant glass staircase in Times Square. The idea is to offer a place for people to stop and sitdown to watch the action.

It is a great idea. Although I don't know if it will turn out to "be New York's Spanish Steps," as former Times Square Alliance president Brendan Sexton claims.

The idea of allowing people to stop and enjoy urban life is a great. Lots of people dismiss the view of an industrial area or busy traffic as an eyesore. However, I find it very easy to appreciate the movement, life, and beauty of a working city scene.

Sean: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 [+] |
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Monday, May 01, 2006
Why The US Didn't Sign Kyoto

Many Europeans blame their anti-Americanism partially on Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol. I looked into why we didn't sign the treaty and whose fault it was. You might be surprised by the results.

The Kyoto Protocol to the Global Climate Change Treaty obliges signatory nations to cut their emissions of CO2 by 5% from 1990 levels by 2012 (link).

As of 2005 the protocol has been ratified by 163 countries. And while the US helped develop the protocol, and signed the treaty, it has not yet ratified it in Congress (link).

In 1997 the Senate unanimously passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution that stated that the United States should not sign any treaty that did not include binding targets and timetables for all nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States" (link).

In 1998 the Congressional Budget Office and the Department of Energy Information Administration estimated a 2 trillion dollar impact from implementing the protocol (link).

In 2000 Clinton suggested emissions trading as a way to mitigate the costs of implementing the treaty but this proposal was rejected by France and he never submitted the treaty for ratification (link).

Estimates appear to vary, but by most accounts C02 emissions from Europe, North America, and China are either around 2 billion or 5 billion metric tons each. However, under the protocol China and India were made exempt from the treaty even though their emissions are surging exponentially (link).

Meanwhile Western Europe allowed itself to trade emissions "credits" with East European countries whose economies had collapsed since the 1990 data point (link). However, improving economic conditions since signing the treaty have raised the emissions of 11 of 15 EU states (and Canada's by as much as 24%) rather than decreased them (link).

According to the Bush administration the United States is on track to fulfill a unilateral pledge to reduce carbon emissions 18% by 2012 (link). Nine north-eastern states and California, along with 187 mayors representing 40 million people, have pledged to adopt Kyoto-like controls (link). Portland, Oregon claims to have already met these limits (link and counter-link).

However, some experts have calculated that if every nation met its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol the earth's temperature in 2050 would only be 0.07°C lower. Meanwhile the impact of following Kyoto as written would have reduced US GDP by more than 40% by 2012 (link).

There are larger moral issues at stake here as well, a Danish critique notes:

If we have a moral obligation, it is to spend each dollar doing the most good that we possibly can. With Kyoto, the world will spend $150 billion a year on doing little good a century from now. In comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could buy clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care, and education for every single person in the world. Which is better?" -Bjorn Lomborg, "Consensus Copenhagen" (link)


So, it was during the Clinton administration that both the White House and Congress said "no" to the Kyoto Protocol. Bush simply restated that the treaty could not win ratification under his administration either. And Europe and Canada cannot meet the goals while China, India, and Russia are fast catching up as major polluters and yet are exempt. Meanwhile the protocol has wasted billions that could have helped Africa, for instance, while doing almost nothing to curb global warming. So why should America be criticized because Bush didn't back Kyoto?

Sean: Monday, May 01, 2006 [+] |
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Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere