The Great Panda Debate

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Dec. 9 1999 3:30 AM

The Great Panda Debate

Subject: Plotz the Panda Poacher

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From: THesse

Date: Wed Dec 1

You are a poor excuse for a human being. While I understand (and respect) the meaning of the 1st Amendment, I think you take it to an unacceptable level. You see, my 9-year-old daughter read your "article" and could not fathom how (or why) a supposed intelligent adult could possibly say those things. It upset her greatly. She has never seen a panda in person, and while they are not the liveliest animals, I know her eyes would light up and her smile would be from ear to ear at being able to view one for herself. I believe you need to grow up and start looking at the positive things in the world. You have got to be the saddest thing I have ever encountered.

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Subject: Fluffiness Is Fur Deep

From: Jerry Munson

Date: Wed Dec 1

Good for you, David! Humans have the most annoying tendency to ascribe cutesy attributes to wild creatures. Animals, even the fluffy ones, really don't care if the whole human race lives or dies. They'd press the nuclear launch button if it got them a chunk of meat or a herring for a reward. They're not good or evil, they are just mindless slaves to instinct and the food chain. By all means enjoy them, just stop once in a while to explain to your kids that the Care Bears and Flipper aren't the real thing.

Get real, folks. You've all got people in your lives who need your attention a whole lot more than pandas do. And the difference is, they'd appreciate it.

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Subject: Plotz's Rosebud

From: Tearful

Date: Wed Dec 1

Admit it, Plotz, you still harbor resentment from when your mommy threw your teddy bear out, at age16.

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Subject: The WTO and Hobson's Choice

From: Itrucks

Date: Mon Dec 6

One wonders where the moral problem is here. Does it lie with the developing countries who tolerate less than ideal environmental standards and child/forced/sweatshop labor, the multinational companies that take advantage of those conditions, or the consumers who happily buy the merchandise despite its questionable origin?

My college son developed a problem for an ethics class that revolved around a wrenchingly poor "fictional" country that proposed to enable slavery in return for economic development. The country would allow corporations to buy citizens for labor as long as they provided decent housing, food and medical treatment. In return, the country would enforce the property rights with the nation's police power. Since famine was endemic in this country, it is probable that the slaves would have a higher standard of living than would be available to them in the "free" sector. The corporation would have the advantage of a stable workforce that could be trained and experienced with no threat of the employee jumping to the competitor.

Would your company take such a deal? Would you buy products produced under such a system?

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Subject: AmeriCorps--Let Charities Call the Shots

Date: Mon Dec 6

Both Doug Bandow and Harris Wofford are friends. And I both serve on the Board of the Corporation on National Service and have been a critic of government involvement with non-profits for longer than I care to remember. So, what side should I take in this interesting dialogue?

To Doug, I'd say that most of the largest non-profits have long since signed on to the Federal gravy train. About a third of their revenues (on average) now come from the US Treasury (or its state equivalents), along with lots of strings that significantly compromise their independence. And I have not run across any of them that would prefer an end to these arrangements. One now even finds conservatives and libertarians proposing to expand them under the headings of "charitable choice" and "school vouchers."

So, the real issue is not whether AmeriCorps somehow violates the integrity of the nation's voluntary associations, but whether it offers any advantages over our current ways of doing so. I think it does. On balance, I'd rather offer to the nation's charities people to do their bidding than grants to do government's bidding. That's probably cheaper too.

To Harris, I would say that large numbers of AmeriCorps participants do not a successful program make. Nor do the records of their "accomplishments," which the Corporation scrupulously collects, since such studies do not usually reveal if these results might have occurred anyway (i.e., through other sources of volunteers) or how valuable or long-lasting they are. And while Harris is undoubtedly sincere in saying the Corporation tries to be the "junior partner" in its relationship with its grantees, long experience watching non-profits pursue government support makes me more than a little skeptical.

I think AmeriCorps is valuable because it offers people--especially our nation's young people--an opportunity to devote an intensive period of their lives to giving something back to their society and learning the civic skills upon which our voluntary tradition relies. Even with volunteering at record levels (56 percent of Americans say they are so engaged, according to the latest Gallup survey), I think we have to take steps to ensure that the spirit upon which it (and much else that's worthwhile) depends is transmitted from generation to generation. AmeriCorps is one way of doing this (and by no means the only one) and can be redesigned so that both Doug and Harris would feel more comfortable that charities, not government, are really calling the shots.

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Subject: Aussies Ain't Gents

Date: Mon Dec 6

As the Robert Thomson mentioned in your McLaughlin tidbit, I would like to make clear that I am not a "courtly Brit" but an uncouth Australian. Under normal circumstances, being referred to as an "honorable gentleman" would be considered flattery but, where I come from, it's an insult.

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[Robert Thomson is the American editor of the Financial Times.]

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