IMAGINE INTELLIGENT OP-ED's

One of the movies we’re watching a lot at our house is ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ (can you tell that we have a teenager, and that my own maturity is probably questionable?). There’s a scene in the movie where our heroes (?) are hitching cross-country and get a ride from a van full of attractive young women (and one unattractive guy) on their way to liberate a bunch of animals.
Stick with me for a moment, there’s actually a point.
The scene in the van is incredibly funny as we watch the explicitly mindless “save the bunnies” discussion (and neato song, as well). Ultimately, we discover an ulterior motive as well as cool latex outfits, and it all makes plot sense. But the satirical take on the thoughtless “hey, Mr. Science Guy, don’t spray that aerosol in my eye” politics was pretty damn funny.
Sadly, that mindless attitude is a lot less funny when you se it on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. Thomas Friedman’s ‘A Failure to Imagine’ is a column that can really only hit the right tone when it is read by attractive actresses playing at being truly inane. Now, I thought ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’ was really good, and some of his NYT columns have been sensible, but this one is just absurd.
I know I’m a little late on this, and it’s not one of the things I’ve talked about writing about, but my reaction has been sitting in the back of my mind and it’s just won’t shut up until I write this.

No, I don’t blame President Bush at all for his failure to imagine evil. I blame him for something much worse: his failure to imagine good.
I blame him for squandering all the positive feeling in America after 9/11, particularly among young Americans who wanted to be drafted for a great project that would strengthen America in some lasting way — a Manhattan project for energy independence. Such a project could have enlisted young people in a national movement for greater conservation and enlisted science and industry in a crash effort to produce enough renewable energy, efficiencies and domestic production to wean us gradually off oil imports.
Such a project would not only have made us safer by making us independent of countries who share none of our values. It would also have made us safer by giving the world a much stronger reason to support our war on terrorism. There is no way we can be successful in this war without partners, and there is no way America will have lasting partners, especially in Europe, unless it is perceived as being the best global citizen it can be. And the best way to start conveying that would be by reducing our energy gluttony and ratifying the Kyoto treaty to reduce global warming.

This is a political position that ought to be staked out in a Kevin Smith film, not in a national journal.
Look, if we buy another car soon, we will probably buy a hybrid. I think that Jerry Brown was prescient in his emphasis on conservation (of energy and water, among other things) as an economically and environmentally smart set of policies.
But I don’t support Kyoto, because I believe the issue there really isn’t restraining fossil fuel consumption or greenhouse gasses, but in ultimately transferring wealth from the First World to the Third.
But to suggest that by ending our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, we would somehow defang Islamicism or reduce our exposure to terrorism is too stupid to even be believed by Missy, Sissy, or Chrissy (in vapid Students Against Animal Cruelty mode, not in kick-ass bad-girl mode).
We need to both defeat terrorism militarily, and having done so, defeat it politically. We need to be completely focused on this, and secondarily on the various other things we need to do (energy and water conservation are high on that list).
There is a well-known political and bureaucratic impulse, in times of crisis, to pull out one’s pet issue and explain why it is that your policy is critical to solving the crisis. Terrorist attack? This flood control program we’ve been touting for ten years is the answer, of course. By hitching your program to the meme of the moment, you hope to gain some political traction.
I do believe that resource misallocation and mismanagement, combined with insane population pressures are going to create more political instability in the Third World. I think that substituting brainpower for fossil fuel is almost always a good thing.
But, as noted by the Zen master quoted below, when you brush your teeth and piss at the same time, you usually do a bad job of both.

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