Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Conflict Minerals," Politics, and Making Sense

I'm learning to defer judgment until after I get enough data. That's not as easy as it may sound, when 'hot button' topics are concerned.

Like 'benevolent' restrictions on what sort of business Africans are allowed to conduct.

I ran into the term "conflict minerals" recently, in context of a financial reform bill that will probably pass soon. The sketchy description I read seemed to say that Africans would be helped a whole lot, by American companies being forced to not buy "conflict minerals" from them.

After doing time in American academia I was dubious, at best, about the wisdom of refusing to do business with African companies. 'For their own good.' I'd run into 'way too many proposals to help those Africans over there - which involved seeing to it that there would be a whole lot fewer Africans in a few years. 'For their own good,' of course. (May 6, 2010)

When In Doubt: Ask

I could have jumped to the conclusion that "conflict minerals" was another plot to do something I didn't like. Or, I could have asked an outfit that had mentioned "conflict minerals." The latter course seemed more sensible.

I got a response - with a URL to a post on a Catholic Relief Services blog.

Here's an excerpt from the end of that post:
"...Additional provisions that reach beyond the Congo require companies to disclose the payments they make to foreign governments for the natural resources they extract. This greater transparency will help local communities to hold their governments accountable for how the income generated by natural resources is used to benefit the common good in their countries.

"In his most recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI notes the need for 'institutional means' to better regulate natural resource extraction-a process which often 'gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations. These conflicts are often fought on the soil of those same countries, with a heavy toll of death, destruction and further decay' (no. 49).

"Passage of these provisions is a great victory for all of us who seek peace, justice, and global solidarity with our sisters and brothers overseas."
(CRS Voices)
I gathered that the part of the financial reform bill which is concerned with "conflict minerals" "...requires companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to report on what they are doing to assure that the metals they use in their products are not financing violence in the eastern Congo...."

Ideally, it wouldn't be necessary to add another layer of paperwork for companies to handle. But, again ideally, not-nice people in Africa wouldn't be killing other people and supporting their violence by selling mineral resources.

I'm no great fan of regulations - but this particular one seems to make sense.

How Can I Say That?! Don't I Realize Who's Going to Sign That Bill?!!

America's midterm elections are over three months away, and I've already noticed remarkably silly assertions flying through the air. I can't simply ignore them - they're part of America's political discourse, and I'll need to vote in the upcoming election. Which is another topic, sort of. (September 24, 2008)

I can't let the strident shrieks from all sides get me too emotionally charged, though. Emotions and reason don't play well together: and my considered opinion is that it's better to feel with my endocrine system and think with my central nervous system - not the other way around. (December 23, 2008, in another blog)

The president of the United States right now is Barak Obama: the first Hawaiian to hold that post. It sounds like he'll be getting credit for the parts of the new financial reform bill that work - or at least don't have particularly disastrous consequences. He may have had a hand in forming some of the bill's provisions.

I don't know enough about the bill as a whole to have an opinion.

The portion of the bill which deals with conflict minerals seems, on consideration, to be reasonable.

That doesn't mean that I'm "for Obama." I'm not "against Obama," either: although I did not vote for him in the presidential election. At this time, he is the chief executive of the country I live in. Some of his policies I emphatically do not support. Others, I can.

'My Party, Right or Wrong' Misses an Important Point

I've run into folks who appear to believe that everything done by one particular person, or party, is right. Sometimes it's the other way around - and a particular political figure or party is always, no matter what, wrong.

I'll grant that maintaining an attitude like that makes life a little simpler, by removing the need for thinking about issues. On the other hand, I don't think it's reasonable.

I heard a story, quite a few years ago, about a woman living in a country which had been occupied by Germany during WWII. She was surprised to learn that the skin of potatoes had nutritional value. The reason she was surprised was that she had heard the same thing: from a German. She had assumed that, since the Germans were doing bad things, everything they said was a lie.

That story is not intended to imply that some person is a Nazi. The idea is that anybody can tell the truth from time to time - or have a practical idea.

It does not, in my opinion, make sense to attack an idea or a policy simply because 'one of them' is associated with it. That attitude may win praise from one group, for a fully-committed partisan. That 'get my guy into office at any cost' approach misses, I think, the reason we have governments: to help a community "endure and develop." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1919)

I would rather encourage those in office to exercise their power "within the limits of the moral order" and support policies which appear to be just and charitable. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1923, and see1897-1927)

Even if 'the other guy' is involved.

Related posts:More, about thinking and feeling:More, about conflict minerals:
A tip of the hat to , on Twitter, for helping me learn more about "conflict minerals."

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.