BP Oil Spill Sadness

Oil spill threatens Native American land
“This could be the end of our way of life,” said Chuckie Verdin of the Pointe Aux Chenes Indian Tribe.

Palin Blames BP Spill on “Extreme Enviros”
Palin wrote on Facebook:

With your nonsensical efforts to lock up safer drilling areas, all you’re doing is outsourcing energy development, which makes us more controlled by foreign countries, less safe, and less prosperous on a dirtier planet. Your hypocrisy is showing. You’re not preventing environmental hazards; you’re outsourcing them and making drilling more dangerous.

LA Senator David Vitter wants to “double-down” on off-shore drilling

He also wants to cap BP’s liability!



Death panels?

A euthanasia mandate?

The thought that it is “downright evil” to provide health care to the poor?

Linking health care coverage for the poor to Nazism?

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare”?

True fascism… is happening in this country today”?

“Hitler…called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we’re going to call ours”?

And then there’s this, which also leaves me dumbstruck:

During the town hall, one conservative activist turns to his fellow attendees and asks them to raise their hands if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Almost all the hands shot up. Rep Green quickly turned the question on the audience and asked, “How many of you have Medicare?” Nearly half the attendees raised their hands, failing to note the irony.

At another point, a small business owner who supported health reform asks the audience how many people in this room “do not have health insurance of some kind.” Only one hand seemed to be raised. “I think the people who are objecting,” she noted, “are the people who have insurance.”

Study Claims Palin’s Appearance Hurt Her Electability

Does this study strike anyone else as weird? Did Palin’s looks hurt?.

How many studies have there been of the effects of male politician’s looks on their success? And didn’t this study basically simply determine that being female hurt her electability? Why wasn’t McCain’s appearance tested in the same way?

And what’s with the Angelina Jolie part of the experiment?

Also, one obvious flaw is that the researchers are drawing universal conclusions based on what a group of college students, presumably all at the same college, think about Palin. What college students think and what everyone else thinks may not always correlate. Anyway, what are your thoughts on this study?

Can Fairness Be Forced?

Television coverage of the inauguration gave me some food for thought. I was on CNN and MSNBC, and I noticed that during the inauguration coverage, both stations chose to display many images of specifically black faces when they showed individuals from the audience listening to the proceedings- something they haven’t done so prominently before.

Obama himself chose a diverse cast of characters to surround the proceedings. Straight white anti-gay mega-church pastor Rick Warren, openly gay white bishop Gene Robinson, black civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery, black poet Elizabeth Alexander, Aretha Franklin, and others.

Apparently, Obama’s identity as an African-American is having major ripple effects in the status of blacks on the national political stage and in less public circles of influence. The Washington Post reported that suddenly, the DC elite are trying to prove their inclusiveness by adding blacks to their party invite lists.

With a black first family in the White House and a diverse group of appointees and Cabinet nominees, the all-white dinner party feels all wrong. Certain hosts are suddenly grappling with a new reality: They need some black friends. Overnight, black politicians, lawyers and journalists are hot properties, receiving engraved invitations from people they never got invitations from before.

It took an extraordinary black man to set in motion this turn of events.

Though she didn’t make the cut, a similar effect can be seen from Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency. She was the only primary candidate party of either party to actually have (slightly) more female campaign staffers than male- the first time this has ever happened, I believe. Several candidates who ran in the primaries had very few women involved in their campaigns at all (Giuliani, Thompson), which has been the norm, historically speaking. It took an extraordinary woman to overcome this imbalance.

I also believe that Obama’s and Clinton’s prominent candidacies in the Democratic primaries had a lot to do with McCain’s choice of a woman for his running mate. He must have been well aware of the nature of criticisms he would receive if he picked yet another elderly white man after the Democrats managed to produce an unusually diverse pool of candidates. I do not believe Palin was picked *only* because she was a woman- she clearly appeals to part of Bush’s “base” that McCain didn’t appeal to. However, I think he and his advisers knew that they had little chance if they couldn’t show the tiniest bit of diversity on their ticket.

From the above, we can see that prominent, powerful, and visible members of traditionally-oppressed groups in society have an enormous ripple effect upon American society. It makes me wonder if an extraordinary individual from a traditionally-oppressed group who manages to achieve prominence against all odds doesn’t have a greater effect on societal inequality from above than careful work at the grass roots level to slowly build equality (gender, racial or otherwise) and to slowly encourage candidates to run at local, then state, then federal level. It seems like a lot of problems that “bottom-up” organizations face are instantly improved, if not ameliorated, when an extraordinary individual reaches prominence.

But is it fair or strategic to wait for an extraordinary individual, someone who is not only intelligent, charming, and ambitious, but who can overcome the extra disadvantages of membership in an oppressed group and who is ready to bear the burden of equality not just for hirself, but for hir entire demographic? Even if the ‘extraordinary individual’ scenario moves the fight for equality along faster than the bottom-up approach, it requires submitting ourselves to pure chance.

You know what this makes me consider? Quotas. 99 countries already have quota systems in place for positions of political power, including countries from Sweden, South Korea and Poland to Palestine, Tanzania, and Kazakhstan. I am aware that India has quotas not only for women, but for disadvantaged castes. Could quotas work here?

Could it be a way to move faster than the bottom-up approach, but yet without depending on the occasional appearance of extraordinary individuals to carry much much more than one person’s burden? I.e. can we simply force fairness?

Your opinions are welcome.

What? Words Have Meaning?

I didn’t see this in any American newspapers, but maybe I missed it. The U.K. newspaper the Telegraph recently published this story: “Sarah Palin blamed by the US Secret Service over death threats against Barack Obama”.

The Republican vice presidential candidate attracted criticism for accusing Mr Obama of “palling around with terrorists”, citing his association with the sixties radical William Ayers.

The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling “terrorist” and “kill him” until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric.

But it has now emerged that her demagogic tone may have unintentionally encouraged white supremacists to go even further.

The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin’s attacks.

Michelle Obama, the future First Lady, was so upset that she turned to her friend and campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett and said: “Why would they try to make people hate us?”

…Details of the spike in threats to Mr Obama come as a report last week by security and intelligence analysts Stratfor, warned that he is a high risk target for racist gunmen. It concluded: “Two plots to assassinate Obama were broken up during the campaign season, and several more remain under investigation. We would expect federal authorities to uncover many more plots to attack the president that have been hatched by white supremacist ideologues.”

So you whip people up into a racial, murderous frenzy with your thinly coded rhetoric, and then tried to claim ignorance to your own actions and their affects? Did I get that right Sarah?

Then McCain defended the sector of his and Palin’s supporters who tended towards racial bigotry and death threats: “McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers adds in another statement: “Barack Obama’s attacks on Americans who support John McCain reveal far more about him than they do about John McCain. It is clear that Barack Obama just doesn’t understand regular people and the issues they care about.” ”

Issues like lynch mobs, death threats, lone gunmen, racial hatred. You know, things that regular people care about. If we define “regular people” as “whites with racial grudges,” which Palin and McCain do.

The take-home lesson here is: words have meaning. When you get up on a public stage and say things to large groups of people who admire you, the words you chose are important. Using ‘codes’ to get across a hateful message doesn’t count. It’s clear that your fans will understand both the meaning of the code and the reason you had to use code and not plainspeak. Your words have meaning, and when you give people all the puzzle pieces on your public stage, can you really be surprised when someone assembles the puzzle? And when I say “assemble the puzzle,” what I mean is “plot to kill the president.”

I’m sure this is all a huge shocker to Palin. I’m sure she’s all like “What? My words encouraged several people to plot to murder another person, who just happens to be my political rival? Well, I’m sure I had no idea!”

Q: How Does an Animal Become Meat?

A: We kill it!

I’ve noticed a bit of discourse going on in America lately. Expressions of shock at the slaughtering of animals. The insinuation that it’s barbaric. Warning viewers of the gruesome images they are about to see.

Now, I am an omnivore. I love fried chicken, sausage, bacon, lamb, hamburgers. But I’m not under any illusions as to where that food comes from. I know that I am eating a dead animal that was killed in order to nourish me. I am a thinking omnivore- whenever possible, I want to make sure that the meat I am eating was raised free-range, preferably on a small farm, was fed appropriate food, and was slaughtered in a humane and respectful way. Or I will eat wild game that was hunted legally.

I want my eyes to be wide open about the whole process. If I can’t acknowledge the fact of the slaughter and stomach that, well then I shouldn’t stomach the meat either.

So back to the media. Remember the interview of Sarah Palin in front of turkeys being slaughtered for Thanksgiving? News anchors, pundits, average Americans made that into such a HUGE DEAL. The anchors warned squeamish viewers to turn away, blurred out what was happening, and expressed pious shock.

I kept wondering, where the fuck does America think our Thanksgiving turkeys come from? Exactly how do we think the live turkey becomes the big packaged thing that we get in the grocery store? Did we really expect death not to be involved? Why is it so gruesome that we can’t even see two turkeys be slaughtered, when we must have slaughtered literally millions to satisfy Thanksgiving demand?

So Dec. 8 was Eid Al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice,” which includes the ritual slaughter of sheep and other animals. The animals are killed according to special standards, which involve saying the name of Allah as the animal is slaughtering and respecting the sacrifice of its life. The meat is then divided into thirds: one third is kept by the family, one third is given to friends, and one third is donated to the poor.

I cannot imagine a more respectful way to treat an animal intended for human consumption, nor more generous way to distribute the meat.

The Washington Post ran a slideshow after the fact of rural Muslims in America performing this ritual slaughter. Fine and dandy, the pictures are great. But the captions are filled with the same shock and moral indignation that accompanied coverage of Palin’s turkey interview. Before you can see the pictures, you are presented with this message:

“WARNING Editor’s Note: Some images in this gallery may be disturbing because of their violent or graphic nature.”

Some of the interesting photo captions include:

“A child feeds a sheep who will be killed at Home Place Farm in Maryland. ”

“Most of the animals die silently but it is not always quick. ”

“An animal lies trembling and tied on the ground. For one holiday guest named Benizir the tradition seems out of place in America. She believes it better to send money back to Afghanistan, her homeland. “And I feel sorry for the animals,” she says.”

“Five-year-old Nizar Ghoumari of D.C. weeps after pleading with his family to have one of the sheep alive to keep. He ran off in tears after realizing it would be slaughtered.”

“Mahfooz wipes away the blood of a sheep at his home in Virginia.” (Accompanying a picture of a man splattered with blood.)

“Nalia Zahid of Herndon, Va., winces as she and her children watch the final struggle of an animal.”

From reading these captions, you would imagine that eating meat is uncommon in America! The shock, the horror, the sorrow that the photographer and caption-writer chose to depict seem to come from people who have never contemplated an animal as a source of food.

Thousands, if not millions, of animals are killed every day to feed Americans. And most were not killed in the respectful way, after free-range lives on a small farm, that these sacrificial animals were. The death of animals is a banal, quotidian fact. They die by the thousands, and at factory farms and major slaughter houses their killing is almost completely mechanized- no prayer, no respect, no portion sent to the poor. They are killed all day long, every day, butchered, packaged, shipped to grocery stores, and sold to the majority of American consumers.

So why, when faced with a simple fact that is behind most of our daily existences, do we respond in such a silly way? I think a lot of us are simply in denial, a chosen and studious ignorance, about where meat comes from. Most of us are town, city and suburb dwellers, and if we choose, we never have to go near the site of animal slaughter. We are completely divorced from the production of our food, to the point that we act as though its very production is barbaric, but yet do not consider ourselves barbaric for being the reason for the slaughter.

Thoughts? Omnivores and vegetarians, please respect each other’s choices.