Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

disappointed in dahlia

Ah, generally I am always happy to read a Dahlia Lithwick piece. She’s insightful, and a clear writer. But she blew it on her recent piece on affirmative action, “The Downsides of Diversity: What Clarence Thomas might have to say about Sarah Palin” (Newsweek; Slate, 2008/8/29).

In the article, she reminds the reader, bemused by McCain’s obviously demographically-influenced selection of Palin as his VP candidate, of Clarence Thomas’ position on affirmative action. Thomas has repeatedly excoriated affirmative action as a humiliation for its intended beneficiaries, placing a permanent mark of stigma on them. He couches his opinions in the strongest language possible, deliberately echoing the stirring phrases that condemned the injustices of segregation and Jim Crow.

Lithwick then looks at Palin’s selection by the McCain campaign, and her treatment both by the campaign and the media at large. No surprise that she observes that this appeal to diversity is better called tokenism, and correctly equates tokenism with (in this instance) sexism. The irony of the Republicans’ copping to the language of diversity is not lost on her, as she observes, “[Diversity is] certainly a noble goal, but it’s one most conservatives have disparaged for decades.”

And then the conclusion:

Liberals inclined to blindly support affirmative action would do well to contemplate the lessons of Sarah Palin and Clarence Thomas. Although the former exudes unflagging self-confidence and the latter may always be crippled by self-doubt, both have become nearly frozen in a defensive crouch, casualties of an effort to create an America in which diversity is measured solely in terms of appearance.

Ah. Oh, no. Christ. This completely confuses the actual goals of affirmative action and diversity with conservative critics’ misapprehension of those goals.

The effort to measure diversity solely in terms of appearance — that’s the conservative myth about diversity. And McCain’s gambit exemplifies the conservative myth about affirmative action: substituting “diversity” concerns for good judgment and a well-rounded selection process that is merit-based. This kind of diversity is better described as an ugly tokenism. It’s certainly not affirmative action, a process of selecting qualified candidates by including considerations of past discrimination that may disguise actual abilities, experience, and potential; as well as considerations of the larger social realities of the harms and goods that flow from perpetuating or failing to remedy past discriminatory behaviors.

As my partner observed, no wonder conservatives hate affirmative action, if they think this is what it is.

But I’m disappointed to see Dahlia Lithwick accepting this strawman’s affirmative action.

energy “expert” à la William Carlos Williams

Sarah Palin recently made a strange and nearly incoherent comment about US energy policy when asked about keeping domestic oil production in the US (WarRoom 9/19):

Of course, it’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, you know, the molecules, where it’s going and where it’s not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It’s got to flow into our domestic markets first.

WarRoom linked to Obsidian Wings’ interpretation of this comment, which appears to be (mostly) a suggestion that Congress would ban exports of oil. There’s good analysis of why this is a bad idea — such a bad idea that it really ought to be obvious to our energy “experts”.

Of course, according to McCain, his VP candidate is an expert (but not one of those elitist experts) who “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America”, probably because her state is in charge of producing 20% of the nation’s energy needs — no, that’s not right: 20% of the nation’s oil and gas production — no, not quite: 20% of the nation’s oil? — no, try again: around 18%, but falling to 13% during the first two years of Palin’s gubernatorial administration. Yes, there we go. Which is of course a decent amount, if only the McCain team didn’t lie about it.Gary Farber’s comment on same post.

Anyway, MaryL on the comments thread had this retake which I thought deserved a bit more attention:

This is Just to Say

I have flagged
the molecules
that were in
Alaska

and which
you were probably
saving
for Canada

Forgive me
they were fungible
so sweet
and so cold

Chortle. I love WCW and literary mashups and political absurdity — to have all together at once made a very pleasant start to a Saturday otherwise full of work.

science & politics of reporting protests

Reading this account of a large “Alaskan Women Reject Palin” rally — reminds me of the massive anti-Gulf War protest in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Almost no media coverage for that protest. Almost no media coverage for this one. And yet, apparently the smaller pro-Palin rally did receive media coverage. I get “if it bleeds it leads”, but are there reasons beyond naked bias and politics for these kinds of disparities in coverage of protests?