Category Archives: Politics

BREAKING

Osama bin Laden, Taliban leader and fixture of the FBI’s most wanted list since 1999, is dead. He was killed this weekend by US special forces – a mission that had been in the works since August, when US operatives discovered bin Laden hiding out at a mansion turned fortress in Pakistan.

It’s surreal, in a way, to hear this. Bin Laden has been the world’s super villain for almost 10 years. Many people, including myself, have grown up in fear of the Taliban and what they are capable of post-9/11. To have it end so abruptly is both galvanizing and almost hard to believe, since the search has been ceaseless for so long. Hopefully, bin Laden’s death is as much of a downer for the Taliban as it has been a morale boost for the U.S. Thousands of people flooded Ground Zero last night to celebrate, a show of unity and strength that will, hopefully, be echoed around the country.

Hear Obama’s announcement here.

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Libya’s journalist bubble

According to an article in today’s Washington Post, journalists invited to Libya (in a show of feigned openness by the Gaddafi regime) are trapped within a luxury hotel – whirlpool baths inside, guards with guns outside – supposedly for their safety. Their trips are planned ahead of time, and Gaddafi supporters always seem to show up en masse right when the journalists’ bus makes an appearance.

But if Gaddafi locked these foreign journalists in their luxury hotel cage in order to give them a government-mandated view of life in Libya, then his plan seems to be backfiring. His regime might claim it’s for the journalists’ protection from rebels and civilians, but the strict rules in the hotel (journalists can’t even cross the street without a government official) suggest otherwise – that the goal is protecting the government from exposure in foreign media. The most telling example: Journalists who anger the government are shipped out of the country in the middle of the night.

To be honest, the worst thing Gaddafi could do for his regime’s reputation (at least in the media) is lock up the journalists. Nothing screams “violent, controlling dictatorship” like carefully-orchestrated trips to pro-Gaddafi demonstrations and armed guards wrestling civilians out of the hotel. Civilians such as Iman al-Obaidi, who was dragged out while screaming about her rape at the hands of Gaddafi soldiers. Such actions cast the government in a suspicious light (to put it mildly), which diminishes any effect the (possibly staged) demonstrations might have. The best course of action for Gaddafi would have been to let the journalists go where they pleased – then they would have a chance to actually talk to pro-Gaddafi civilians. Instead, this cushy cage reveals more ugly truths about Gaddafi’s regime than simply wandering the streets could. Something is indeed rotten in Libya, and these imprisoned journalists are learning all about it.

Check out the article here: Reporters in Tripoli find it’s a Big Brother world

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Ice cream…and breast milk?

The London ice cream shop Icecreamists debuted a new flavor last week: Baby Gaga, ice cream made of human breast milk mixed with vanilla and lemon zest.

Take a moment to process how gross that is.

Yeah. Gross.

The main argument/point of interest concerning this ice cream is that, in essence, humans aren’t so different from cows or other mammals. All mammals feed their young with milk. And since we drink cow’s milk, what is so different about drinking human milk? After all, we drink our mother’s milk when we’re babies. Right?

Not so much. Yes, we drink our mother’s milk. And in medieval (and other) times, rich mothers would give their babies to wet nurses, so they wouldn’t have to nurse themselves. So humans have, at times, drunk breast milk from women other than their mothers. But after a short period of time, the babies are/were weaned. No one drinks breast milk forever. Not even cows. And those (humans) who do indulge occasionally later in life – well, that’s a sexual fetish. One that is translated, at least somewhat, to this Baby Gaga ice cream. And while it’s fine to indulge in such a fetish in the privacy of your own home with a consenting partner, it’s best to keep it to your home, not on the streets. Or in the ice cream parlor.

Sexual fetishes aside, there are other reasons not to indulge. The 14 pound ($22.50) price tag is one. Another is that the Icecreamists shop touts the breast milk as being “organic and free range.” Other than being hilarious – free range boobs, tell me that’s not funny! – how can the shop back up such a claim? There was a blood test done on each donor, but there is no way the shop can ensure that the donors have never taken antibiotics, drugs, or had some sort of disease. Hepatitis and other diseases can be passed through breast milk. Humans are not regulated the same way cows are. So there is a chance, no matter how small, that the breast milk used is not safe for human consumption.

London authorities agree – earlier today they confiscated the Baby Gaga ice cream. However, Icecreamists reported they had sold out of the flavor on Friday. Maybe the novelty was high enough to attract interest, or the population’s gag reflex is better than I thought it would be. And women have already signed up – online, as they did for the first batch of ice cream – to donate more milk. So we’ll see what happens regarding the next batch. Stay tuned.

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Too much information

In more paranoid moments, I’m reminded of George Orwell’s book 1984. Pat downs, profiling, metal detectors – Big Brother is indeed watching, especially at the airport.

But apparently the airport is not the only place with extra surveillance. Today, the Washington Post released another section of its “Top Secret America” series. This time, the focus is on us – how the government is watching us, even when we’re doing something as innocuous as taking a picture of a pretty view. Creepy. Check it out here: Monitoring America.

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WikiLeaks and freedom of the press

I am all for freedom of the press. Part of the journalist’s job is to inform; to tell the public what it needs to know, even if the government or some company or other entity disagrees. We as citizens have a right to transparency, to know how our government does what it does, why our government decides some actions are permissible, and, perhaps, even downright justified, no matter how reprehensible they seem.

However. While transparency is the goal, the right of the press to inform is more nuanced than just slapping any and all information online or on paper for public consumption. Sometimes, information has to be restricted in order to protect a life. Sometimes, journalists have to make a judgement call as to whether a story is worth endangering someone or some group. After all, what use is protection for journalists if journalists don’t protect others? It’s a give-and-take.

Which is why I cannot possibly fathom why WikiLeaks is still claiming freedom of the press as defense for its actions. It’s one thing to release information that gives the public an inside look at how the government is running the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s another to unnecessarily place the lives of thousands of American troops in danger. There was no judgement passed, no thought processed when WikiLeaks posted this information. Just a blind desire to spread information, no matter what the cost.

In my view, freedom of the press does not include the right to act stupidly. And while I believe that freedom of the press is something that cannot and should not be restricted or removed, I think that it is easier for the press to retain its full freedom when it protects certain freedoms of others. Sometimes, a bit of a conscious can go a long way.

Further reading:

WikiLeaks starts a “hacktivism” movement.

WikiLeaks’ effect on diplomacy.

Transparency and the internet.

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The Beats wouldn’t have a tea party

Lee Siegel of the New York Times has a fascinating essay on the parallels between the politics of the Beat Generation and the Tea Party. Both are outsiders, both disaffected in their own way, but only the Beats would invoke a comparison to Dionysus, Greek god of wine and theater. Check it out here: The Beat Generation and the Tea Party.

Guess I really do need to read Allen Ginsberg’s Howl now. I’ve been meaning to for a while…

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Elitism and education

The constant hurling of “elitism” as some sort of invective against liberals strikes me as a misguided effort to undermine the advantages of a good education. Conservatives are attempting to disassociate educated, liberal members of the government from the rest of the country by claiming that their education makes them unable to solve problems in a manner that would benefit the most people. They say: The educated are not like you and me. They couldn’t possibly understand what we, the (so-called) normal people, are going through.

I have to disagree.

One of the benefits of education is an awareness and understanding of the world, or at least a desire to understand the world. Sure, there is a disconnect, at least in terms of experience, between someone who went to college and someone who didn’t. But that does not mean that one cannot understand the other’s situation. Or that he/she wouldn’t want to understand. And Ivy League grads, the most maligned of all, consist of people from farms and suburbs, from cities and small towns. The pool of experience is wider than most people think.

It seems strange to tear people down for working hard and doing well in school, and then in their chosen career. Personally, I would rather have someone well educated running the country. The government needs people who fully understand the context, history and possible solutions of the problems it is currently dealing with. We need policy wonks and people who never tire of reading page after page of legalese. Education not only gives people the skills to handle this sort of minutiae, but it also teaches them how to think analytically.

Granted, I’m biased. I went to college and graduate school, and have more education experience than real-life experience. I am part of the educated, liberal “elite.” But my education has allowed me to apply what I learned in the classroom to what I see in the outside world. I’m very grateful for that.

“Elite” is used as an insult so often, and in many different circumstances, that it has lost some of its power. Just because someone has opposing political views doesn’t make him/her an elitist. And just because someone is well educated doesn’t make him/her unable to sympathize with the plight of the “common man” (another trope, along with “Joe Six-Pack” and “average American,” that is overused and was created to suit a specific need rather than accurately describe a large group of people). None of these terms seem to mean much anymore.

A normal person is simply that – a person. Funny how “normal” encompasses such wide variation in background, experience, education. I’ll probably be taken to task as an elitist defending her own. But I think hard work and education should garner pride, not shame. I want whoever is running the country to be smarter than me. It’ll help me sleep at night.

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