Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oil Spill: The Real Culprits

One of the many things I've been neglecting to do is blog about the oil spill. Well, here is the chief insight I have about the situation: It sucks. And we're constantly learning that it sucks even more than we previously thought. Sucks.

Here's another thing. It's ridiculous for people to pin this disaster on Obama. "Obama's Katrina" they want so desperately for us to call it. That's not gonna stick, because it doesn't make any sense.

There are two culprits here on which the political backlash must ultimately fall. The first is our oil dependence. As long as we continue to suck oil from the earth, there are going to be spills. The more wells, rigs, and tankers we have, the greater the odds of a major spill. Spills are simply one of the costs of oil. So why is there a major political movement in America calling, essentially, for greater dependence on oil? (Psst! Because the dominant influence in the conservative movement is the short-term interests of large corporations.) "Drill, baby, drill! Drill here, drill now!" Oh please. It's 2010. The quicker we can get off this stuff the better. But it should be no surprise that the major voices of the right want us to go backwards. That's what they do. That's their job as conservatives. They want to conserve stuff for those who have lots of stuff. Oil companies have lots of stuff. The rest of us ought to be working to create the Apollo program/Manhattan Project of alternative energy. This spill should be the kick in the butt that gets us started.

The second culprit is lax regulation of private industry. If enviro-economic disasters of this magnitude are possible (and they obviously are), then I want the federal government breathing down the necks of the oil companies. Or, have the government simply swallow the oil companies and run them for the public good. But oh my! That's a discussion for another post.

So, the Republicans who say this disaster should be the end of Obama--what are they really saying? What are they proposing? That the federal government should be better able to respond to disasters? Yes, I agree our government has been undermined by "government is bad" Reaganist ideology and tax cuts for the wealthy. Government should be bigger and better. Are they saying that we shouldn't be drilling for oil in the Gulf in the first place? I doubt they mean that, unless they've suddenly become radical environmentalists. Are they saying the Dept. of Interior should have prevented this from ever happening? I agree that we should have greater democratic controll of large corporations.

The oil spill is not, nor should it be, a political disaster for the left just because we have a Democratic president right now. But it is a disaster--environmentally and economically--for the Gulf Coast and the country. And if the country can see through the right's talking heads, it will be a disaster that spurs us on to something good.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Activists and Commandos

This wasn't one of my planned "Back to Bloggin'!" topics. In fact, I don't think I've ever blogged about Israel/Palestine.

But here's what I find shocking about the Israeli raid of the Gaza-bound activists' flotilla: Israel had plenty of advance warning that the boats were coming, and they still killed 9 people. This wasn't some sneak attack by the activists. It wasn't a fleet of smugglers that the Israeli Navy stumbled upon in the night. It was a big lumbering group of 700 activists carrying 10,000 tons of aid for the blockaded Gaza Strip. Their whole purpose was to run into Israel's Navy to call attention to the blockade and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The boats were world news before they even left Turkey. And one of the most advanced militaries in the world could not stop the ships without killing people.

The Israeli Defense Forces released video of the raid that showed people on the Mavi Marmara attacking with poles and clubs the IDF commandos who were rappelling onto the ship. It's understandable that those soldiers may have feared for their lives and therefore decided to shoot. And there's a lot of debate on the Internet right now about whether blame lies with the commandos or the activists. It's kind of missing the point. Exonerating the commandos does not exonerate Israeli leadership.

At some point, that's the direction this discussion has to turn. More people are going to be asking, Why has Israel sealed off Gaza from the world? What is life like in Gaza under the blockade? Why does Israel seem to play by its own rules on this stuff? That these questions are now in the global media shows that the protest had its intended effect, at least in the short term. But it's still sickening that 9 people were shot dead for it.