Archive for June, 2010

‘Playboy’ will get you naked — whether you like it or not

June 30, 2010

I highly suggest reading this piece from The Sexist, which details the pressure and coercion that went on at Olivia Munn’s Playboy photo shoot. Munn, an actress/model who most recently was in the news for her gig as a correspondent on The Daily Show, was asked to be on the cover of Playboy. She said no, because they wanted her to be nude. They said she could do it non-nude, so then she said yes.

Then she showed up to set and was berated and pressured into going nude the entire time, despite the legal contract between herself and Playboy that outlined what poses she would do, what she would wear, and how much she would show:

When Munn insisted that this was a “non-nude shoot,” the stylist told her that in Playboy, “you show everything!” Munn says she felt “woozy” explaining her contract and “tried to understand what the hell was happening.” The stylist then told her that the photographer “says all nude today for Playboy. It’s Playboy!

This immediately reminded me of Kim Kardashian’s Playboy shoot, which was documented on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. She agreed to the Playboy photo shoot with the condition that it not be nude and was also pressured to show more skin than she was comfortable showing.

“I’m sorry I did Playboy. I was uncomfortable,” Kim told Harper’s Bazaar. At the urging of both the Playboy crew and her mother, she revealed more than she wanted and later regretted doing it completely. Do some people not see the big difference between side boob and full on topless, or is it that when you agree to be in Playboy there’s a silent understanding that you’ll give up any and all rights to make decisions about your body?

Playboy uses both its power as a brand and its stereotype as a magazine with nude pictures to get women to go nude regardless of their preference. The crew makes these women feel dumb for even suggesting not taking their clothes off — you came to a Playboy set, how cute that you thought you wouldn’t be naked!

And these aren’t unknown women who are trying to catch their big break — these are women with established careers. These are women who had already been introduced to Hollywood and had publicists on their side — yet they still both were shaken and hurt by the intense coercion that happened on set. Neither buckled and went fully nude, but Playboy was obviously banking that, despite the contracts that were signed, they could convince the women to go nude once they arrived on set.

It shows both that A) Playboy is even sleezier than people give it credit for, as it disregards the wishes of the women being photographed and tries to pressure them to go further than they want to, a la Girls Gone Wild; and B) no women are immune from this, as women with their own entourage and publicists and people to back them (unlike an unknown who can more easily be tricked and confused by the powerful company) are eyed as prey, likely because getting them nude means more magazine sales.

I’m sure Playboy will say that posing nude is a very uncomfortable thing to do in the first place, so the encouragement is necessary so the women move past their fears, insecurities, or nerves. Except, when you sign a contract and acknowledge the photo shoot will be non-nude, that “encouragement” shouldn’t happen. Either these men think they know what’s best for these women — obviously they can’t think for themselves, I mean who wouldn’t want to be naked in Playboy?! These ladies are just being coy — or they are on power trips, convinced they can get the nude picture and unwilling to stop at any cost.

What a business model — agree to whatever the woman is comfortable with, then bombard her with pressure, anger, and mocking in hopes she will crumble and you can exploit her emotional distress.


I’ll take ‘Potpourri’ for $600, Alex

June 30, 2010

My brain is fried, but there are plenty of other people’s brains that are not fried — specifically when it comes to gun control and domestic abusers, Yucca mountain, and reel lawn mowers.

1. Gun Proponents Take Aim at Domestic Violence Survivors, via Feministe

This is a great post by Jill, who puts into words better than I could why convicted domestic abusers shouldn’t have guns:

We know that domestic abusers tend to be repeatedly violent — beating up your partner is rarely a one-time thing. We know that domestic abusers tend to get increasingly violent. We know that women are killed by their abusers at horrifying rates, and are often killed by guns.

Yeah, not sure why people deserve to have guns when they have a propensity for violence toward other people.

2. Administration Cannot Drop Bid for Nuclear Waste Dump in Nevada, via The New York Times

The Obama administration did a great thing when it stopped pursuing Yucca mountain in Nevada as a dumping site for nuclear waste — except now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is saying the government can’t withdraw its petition for Yucca.

This means millions of dollars to continue with the application, which (1) the government never expected to have to pay and (2) the government really doesn’t have to pay considering an expanding federal deficit and a lot of criticism for excessive spending.

The decision can still be reversed, which I hope will happen — I’m sure the government is hoping that, too.

3. An ode to my new push reel lawn mower, via Grist

Shout out to zero energy alternatives to fossil-fuel-guzzling equipment/vehicles — if I had a yard, I would totally go for a reel lawn mower. You push the mower, the grass is cut, no gasoline needed. One of the best parts of Lisa Hymas’s review of the reel lawn mower was how it enhanced the lawn-mowing experience:

I loved it right from the start.  Easy to push.  No fuss, no muss, no fumes.  It’s so deliciously quiet that I can listen to chirping birds and chatty neighbors while mowing — or my iPod.

You can actually be outside and enjoy the outdoors.

Fame shouldn’t be the only criterion for being a role model

June 29, 2010

Last week, I blogged about critics who use Miley Cyrus’s age as their main reason to attack her overt sexuality. I argued that age is arbitrary and it’s a red herring — it’s not like she’s going to turn 18 and suddenly they’ll stop saying she’s being too sexual. But what about the critics who argue that Miley’s overt sexuality is inappropriate because of her fanbase, and because she is a role model for young girls?

This brings about a bigger question: Does being famous automatically make you a role model? Taylor Momsen, a 16-year-old actress from the show Gossip Girl, was caught smoking and received flak from critics who said she was setting a bad example for young girls who idolized her. Momsen’s response was:

“To be honest, I don’t f–king care. I didn’t get into this to be a role model. So I’m sorry if I’m influencing your kids in a way that you don’t like, but I can’t be responsible for their actions. I don’t care.”

It’s tough to tell whether she is being genuine or angsty (probably a combination of both), but she later said if she had ended up as Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus’s Disney character) that she would have told the crew “to go f–k themselves by the time I hit 11.” She implies that Hannah Montana is the type of show that breeds role models — not Gossip Girl.

Momsen’s got a point — if your child is watching Gossip Girl, which features high school students having sex, drinking, and doing drugs, why do parents who A) let their kids watch this nonwholesome show expect B) Momsen to be cookie cutter in real life despite her character, who has shoplifted, run away from home, and regularly stomps on people in order to climb higher on the school’s social ladder? If you’re concerned about your kids learning positive values, then don’t let them watch Gossip Girl.

Parents concerned about values found solace in Hannah Montana, but how much was Miley Cyrus a role model, and how much was she simply the lesser of all evils when it comes to finding kid-friendly TV shows? Hannah Montana was a show that was more neutral than anything, with songs that weren’t about sex or drinking, and plotlines that were safe. Hannah Montana also was (and still is) an extremely popular and lucrative brand, which is why Miley is going to have a hard time shaking off the Hannah Montana label.

Initially, I thought Miley had a certain responsibility to her fans because, unlike Momsen, Miley’s fame was founded in an image that was essentially positive and “safe.” Miley Cyrus played Hannah Montana for four seasons, and it made her career what it is today. Using the Disney channel as a springboard, she has gained millions of fans, most of whom are relatively young, as Disney’s target demographic is 6 to 14 year olds.

But she doesn’t want to be Hannah Montana anymore — she wants to be Miley Cyrus (regardless of how bad her music is). And perhaps that’s the main thing that is forgotten when it comes to actors — the roles they play, like Hannah Montana, are characters. So now that Miley is done playing Hannah Montana, why should she be expected to carry that character and that persona with her for the rest of her career, acting as if Hannah Montana is her true self?

The same thing has happened with other teen actors — for example, Jessica Biel played Mary Camden on 7th Heaven, and when she was 18 posed for some nude pictures in the magazine Gear, allegedly in hopes of getting fired from the show. As a fan it’s nice to love someone’s character (which is good for the producers, too), but it’s stifling if the actor doesn’t want to be typecast as a wholesome role model:

Biel claims that playing Mary is keeping her from being considered for roles in the unending stream of teen feature films. For instance, she tells Gear, she read for the role of the breast-baring teenager in the movie “American Beauty,” but did not get a call back.

Fans of Hannah Montana can still be fans of Hannah Montana, but they also need to separate the character she played on the Disney channel from the person she is in real life, or the onstage persona she is developing as Miley Cyrus the singer (as opposed to Miley Cyrus playing Hannah Montana the singer). It doesn’t help that her character was “Miley” on the show, so the line is especially blurry in her case, but fans should know that liking Hannah Montana and liking Miley Cyrus are two different things now that Miley isn’t playing Hannah Montana.

This post has only been focusing on famous actors, although athletes and other famous people are also viewed as role models. I’ve blogged before about athletes being role models and how in the sports world I think athletes are often bound by the endorsements and sponsorships they earn to be role models. Overall though, should all famous people be automatic role models, simply by virtue of being in the public eye more than the average person?

I don’t think so. I think that following their footsteps and mimicking their behavior simply because they are in the public eye is careless — being talented at acting, singing, or a sport doesn’t inherently make you a good person. And, I think parents should be more involved with their kids and talk to them more about proper role models if they see someone like Miley going in a direction they, as a parent, disapprove of.

Unless, of course, you can deal with the fact that your famous role models won’t be perfectly wholesome — Angelina Jolie is a great humanitarian, but she also had an affair with a married man. Hayden Panettiere is devoted to saving the whales, and she also went topless for her last movie, I Love You Beth Cooper. David Beckham is very involved in philanthropy, and he also had an affair with his children’s nanny.

But no matter who you want to be a role model, you can’t force them to be, despite the fact that they might have some admirable characteristics such as a strong work ethic and a commitment to their craft. We also want celebrities to use their fame for the greater good, but that doesn’t mean they will. And, perhaps, people should look outside of Hollywood and sports arenas for role models for themselves and/or their children.

Comparing 9/11 to oil spill is comparing apples to oranges

June 23, 2010

Many people — including President Obama — have compared the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Yesterday, a federal judge struck down the six-month moratorium on deepwater offshore oil drilling, and one of the moratorium’s opponents again used this analogy:

“Even after the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, the government only shut down the airlines for three days,” Louisiana said in court papers seeking to lift the ban.

I’m going to try to argue this tastefully, but I don’t think 9/11 and this oil rig explosion are interchangable — it’s comparing apples to oranges.

Although you can say both stemmed from failed safety precautions, the mechanisms were entirely different. Apples to apples would be if the airplanes themselves malfunctioned, which would have been a major concern for allowing airplanes to fly again. But instead, it was a matter of security.

For the oil rig, despite the fact that many reports claim government regulators knew the Deepwater Horizon wasn’t completely safe, in the end it was the equipment that malfunctioned. It’s this combination of both poor safety regulation and equipment malfunction that merits more intense scrutiny and research when it comes to deciding the future of deepwater offshore oil drilling.

Also, more than two months later, the original problem remains unsolved. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were incredibly tragic, but security was tightened (more thorough security checks, limits on liquids being brought onboard, random intensive security checks) and those events have not been repeated. This oil rig is completely different — the main problem here is the oil spilling into the ocean, and that original problem hasn’t stopped. Opponents of the moratorium want to resume drilling despite the fact that oil is still gushing into the ocean and no one has been able to stop it completely.

Can you imagine airlines being allowed to run as usual while the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were taking place? If you don’t even have a grasp on what is happening with the oil spill, why allow further drilling? Why risk another catastrophe? Why just bet (or more accurately, hope) that it’s a rarity when no one even knows how to stop it? And how would Americans have liked the moratorium opponents’ “just do whatever and hope nothing bad happens again” plan in the wake of 9/11?  

After 9/11, the airline industry had to make drastic changes to its policies. I can’t even type “after the oil spill” yet because oil is still spilling into the ocean, but the oil industry similarly needs to make drastic changes to prevent a similar disaster from happening in the future. More than anything though, I agree with my friend Nona — people just need to stop making analogies to 9/11 altogether.

17, 18 or 25: Miley’s sexuality still would be scrutinized

June 23, 2010

I don’t care for Miley Cyrus. I think her music — especially her new single “Can’t Be Tamed” — is mediocre, and I think she says a lot of obnoxious things, like that she listens “to zero pop music, which is really weird for someone who makes pop music,” and then tries to argue that her pop music means something and isn’t shallow like all the other pop music (I guess I didn’t think enough about what “Party in the USA” really means). But, I am about to somewhat defend her.

Miley has taken a lot of crap lately for being overtly sexual in both her new music video for “Can’t Be Tamed” and her recent performances on the MuchMusic Awards show. Dancing provocatively, wearing revealing outfits, simulating a lesbian kiss — it’s all too much, allegedly because she is 17 and legally underage. Which brings me to this question: Is her hypersexualized image suddenly going to be OK once she turns 18?

Turning 18 is a rite of passage into adulthood, but it’s an arbitrary legal number. When it comes to famous people, fans who feel dirty about lusting after an underage star like Miley (as people did with the Olsen twins and Lindsay Lohan) suddenly feel cleaner when that celebrity’s 18th birthday rolls around — as if oogling an 18-year-old teenager is somehow more virtuous than oogling a 17-and-a-half-year-old teenager.

So when people gasp, “But Miley is only 17!”, it makes me wonder how the hell will she be any different when she is 18. Under the eyes of the law she is an adult, but again, it’s just an arbitrary number. In a few U.S. states, the legal age is older than 18, and in several countries the legal age is either less than or more than 18 — it’s not a universal rule, but more like something most states and countries think is a nice, round number.

And these arguments that Miley is only 17 imply that society wouldn’t scrutinize her sexuality if she were 18 — doubtful. Take a look at Britney Spears, Christina Aquilera, Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, and the list goes on and on — all are under constant scrutiny for being too raunchy, too revealing, too forward, etc. The backlash is especially strong for people like Spears, Aguilera, and Lohan, who — like Miley — had an early career founded in wholesomeness that became more overtly sexual as they got older.

So while critics are going to say “She’s only 17!”, this will quickly turn into “She’s only 18!”, proving that it’s not her underage-ness that people are truly outraged about, but the fact that she A) used to be a wholesome Disney star and society wants to know how it can fix her “hypersexual disease” and turn her back into that girl again, and B) wears revealing outfits and simulates lesbian kisses.

Her age is simply how critics qualify their disturbed reaction to her overt sexuality — it’s not that they have a problem with a woman openly expressing her sexuality, it’s just that she is only 17! It’s easy to gain followers for that argument because really, how many people are going to champion an underage teenager grinding on a stripper pole? But once she turns 18, the critics will lose that excuse, and I doubt their scrutiny will be lost along with it.

I’ll take Potpourri for $200, Alex

June 22, 2010

1. This Device Provides Clean Water for Pennies a Day, via TreeHugger

This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen — it’s a triangular dome that utilizes salt water and sunlight to cause evaporation, which creates clean, portable drinking water:

There’s a video at the link — very cool.

2. Examiner‘s Solution to Bad Sexual Assault Reporting: Victim-Blame!, via The Sexist at Washington City Paper

This is why older people shouldn’t be allowed near social networking devices — some don’t quite have a grasp on how to efficiently utilize that 140 character space on Twitter without being somewhat offensive. The Washington Examiner‘s associate editor of commentary, in response to Miss DC 2009 thinking the story about her slamming a sexual assailant against the wall mischaracterized the situation, tweeted that Miss DC’s way of dealing was not the ideal way. He says you should “get away” as fast as possible.

Not bad advice, except that she was in a bar and shouldn’t have to leave the bar because some guys think they have the right to slap her and spank her. Why don’t these guys get kicked out? Why is this editor even getting defensive and trying to say she set a bad example or did the wrong thing by confronting the guy in a public place about his public sexual assault?

3.  Gulf oil spill biggest victims are smallest creatures, via Christian Science Monitor

Pelicans and birds and turtles get a lot of attention from people concerned about the oil spill because they are cute, highly recognizable animals. Plankton does not — although it’s the basis of the food chain for a large number of animals, and oil destroying it would have devastating effects throughout the food chain:

“If you affect those communities in any way, you affect the entire food chain. If the phytoplankton and zooplankton are killed, it’s curtains,” Caruso told LiveScience.

Not exactly as glamorous as dolphins, but vitally important to marine life and other ecosystems that rely on marine life as a food source:

Texting provides dangerous outlet for dating violence

June 22, 2010

After reading this article in The Washington Post about text message dating violence, I was immediately reminded of an episode of 16 and Pregnant in which Chelsea received the following text message from Adam, her on-again-off-again boyfriend and the father of her baby:

no i want u to feel like the most worthless stupid **** in the world u better beleive [sic] its so over for the rest of ourlives ya fat stretch mark bitch tell me where and wen [sic] to sign the papers over for that mistake

Despite the fact that Adam called her various obscene names and even called their child a mistake, she still got back together with him after this text message. On the reunion show, her dad mentioned that a few million people would be disappointed if they got back together again (by that time they were again broken up), referencing that the world knew of the text message abuse and would be judging her if she went back with him.

Unfortunately, most teenagers and young people don’t have the looming eyes of MTV’s viewers to keep them in check when it comes to texting. Without a camera to document and reveal the terrible text messages Adam sent Chelsea (her dad said on the reunion that the one shown on MTV wasn’t even the worst), who knows how much further their violent relationship would have escalated.

The fact that text messages are nonverbal and therefore can be kept private and hidden is just one reason they are so dangerous when it comes to dating violence. At least if a friend is talking to a significant other on the phone, you can listen and gage whether the conversation is escalating into dangerous territory. It’s a lot more difficult to do that when your friend is silently texting.

Texting also is a breeding ground for miscommunication — if you don’t answer your phone, you are suspect of ignoring or avoiding calls, because today’s youth expects your phone to be attached to your side at all times. Texts don’t have inflection or tone, so jokes can be misinterpreted or the wrong word might be typed into your T-9 before you realize you hit send. The smiley face turns to a winky face just by hitting the wrong button.

But beside the facts that texting allows for miscommunication and secretive communication, it allows for a whole new level of emotional abuse because, unlike the phone call that can be ignored, the text messages get to your phone regardless of whether you want to receive them or not.

I know on my phone, there is no option of “Do you want to see this text message or delete it immediately?” On my old phone, there was an option to read it immediately, but even saying “no” still meant that to delete it, you’d have to look at it. And, as the Post article says, many people feel obligated to reply — in today’s world of constantly being connected, it’s as if young people think ignoring the text is useless because it’s a given that you have your phone. Or perhaps it’s just difficult for some young people not to reply.

What also scares me is the potential for some significant others to use cell phones as monitoring devices — not just constantly texting to find your whereabouts and who you’re with, but enabling GPS tracking that is available on many new cell phones. Although “typically, the subscriber must give permission and the cell phone must be enabled for tracking,” I’m curious how easy it would be for someone to track a significant other’s location via cell phone.

Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about this technology. But if the plan is shared, and the person could gain access to the phone and turn on the GPS without the other party knowing, where does the “staying connected” aspect end? The dating violence brought about by cell phones only escalates, because instead of threatening text messages, the other party can also pinpoint your location using the cell phone that you likely keep by your side at all times.

In an abusive relationship, the abuser often becomes relentless about trying to stay in control — texting relentlessly is one way that abusers try to regain or maintain control, and the danger of texting shouldn’t be underestimated. Constantly being connected and endless texting are commonplace for young people today, which make the line between normal and excessive even blurrier to young people.

Some warning signs of dating violence that can be seen in text messages include extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, explosive anger, hypersensitivity, threats of violence, and the abuser trying to keep you isolated from friends and family. Click here for list of questions regarding dating violence, to which any answer of “yes” indicates abuse.

Rand Paul is delusional about mountaintop removal mining

June 17, 2010

Rand Paul, a Republican candidate from Kentucky vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate, has some really bizarre, misleading, and uninformed views about mountaintop removal mining. Knowing no better way to tackle this video of him discussing his views on coal and mountaintop removal mining, I’ve transcribed most of the video and will analyze his quotes.

Statement #1:

I believe business should be left alone from government. I think the permit process needs to be made easier from the federal level and the state level. I think we shouldn’t have special taxes on their profit. I think we should have lower corporate taxes, those create jobs.

I’d much more rather lower taxes on the coal industry so they can hire 100 new workers than I would say, ‘Let’s tax the coal industry, send it to Washington,’ so we can get 100 new people digging a ditch that may or may not need to be dug.

The permit process was easy for a while — it wasn’t until the late 2000s that the Environmental Protection Agency really started cracking down on mountaintop removal mining permits. If you’re applying for a permit to blow mountaintops to pieces, shouldn’t the process be a tough one? You’re (1) using explosives, (2) possibly using those explosives on mountains near homes and schools, and (3) building a slurry pond of sludge for the leftovers — so yeah, the red tape is warranted.

But then Paul wants to make it about jobs. If we just ease up on the mining industry, they’ll be able to hand out lots of jobs — sounds good in this troublesome economy. The problem is that mining jobs have been dimishing for a long time, as Erik Reece pointed out (in 2006), because mountaintop removal mining is highly mechanized:

Ironically, here in Kentucky where I live, coal-related employment has dropped 60 percent in the last 15 years; it takes very few people to run a strip mine operation, with giant machines doing most of the clear-cutting, excavating, loading, and bulldozing of rubble.

It’s not the “special taxes” that are preventing the coal industry from hiring workers — it’s the fact that they can do coal mining now with fewer workers, which means more profit for them.

Statement #2 (when asked how he feels about mountaintop removal mining):

I think whoever owns the property can do with the property as they wish and if the coal company buys it from a private property owner and they want to do it, fine. The other thing I think is I think coal gets a bad name because I think a lot of the land apparently is actually quite desirable, once it’s been flattened out.

As I came over here from Harland you’ve got quite a few hills, I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there, and some people like having the flat land. Some of it apparently has become quite valuable when it’s become flattened.

TreeHugger made an excellent point and has a picture of a pre-mining mountain and post-mining mountain, to show that mountaintop removal mining is more than just chopping a few hills down — it’s completely blasting the tops off mountains, turning streches of mountaintops into bare, flat rubble.

There are pictures of mining sites in all the links I’ve provided so far — would you prefer staring at the bulldozed, gray constuction area-type mountains or the green, flourishing, vibrant mountains of trees? And sure it’s quite desirable when it’s flattened out — to mining companies who want to get the coal inside of the mountains!

Probably not so desirable to the people whose homes get flooded because the trees aren’t there to absorb the water, or the people who have an attachment to the mountains as part of their surroundings. Or the elementary school 400 yards from the mountaintop mining site, downhill from a coal sludge impoundment that holds almost three billion gallons of coal slurry.

It’s not just coal companies politely blowing off their mountain pieces and leaving the surrounding land be — they are hungry for profit, and they are hungry to find lucrative coal seams. Larry Gibson owns and lives on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia, and Gibson has been told it’s worth at least $450 million. He felt so unsafe — guarding land that is worth so much to coal companies — that he launched a donation campaign in the spring to raise money for a security system.

Statement #3:

And I think they do a good job at reclaiming the land and you know adding back in top soil, bringing in elk. So I think they’re doing a good job at it, but the bottom line is it’s not just me pandering to coal, it’s me believing in private property.

If they bought the property, they own the property, they can do with that property as long as they don’t pollute someone else’s property, and I don’t think they want to. If they dump something in the river that goes to the next property, your local judges here will stop them, but I don’t think they’re doing that.

I think what they’re doing is what they can do with property they own and it doesn’t appear to me to be something the federal government should be getting involved with.

Coal companies are supposed to reclaim the land, but it often doesn’t happen as it should. A recent study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council showed that almost 90 percent of inactive mountaintop removal mining sites “had no form of verifiable post-mining economic reclamation excluding forestry and pasture.” You can avoid completely restoring it if you put it to a better “economic” use, but throwing down some top soil isn’t the end of the road.

And Rand Paul is delusional if he thinks that (1) mountaintop removal mining doesn’t inherently pollute the air and water around the sites and (2) local judges can easily just listen to a resident’s concerns and tell the immensely powerful coal companies to cut it out. First here are some pictures of how mountaintop removal easily causes water pollution:

1. When a coal sludge impoundment gave way in Tennessee, here’s how the water looked:

2. Here’s a typical waterway tainted by either acid mine drainage or coal debris:

It’s actually not uncommon for children who live near abandoned coal mines or other coal mining sites to draw pictures in school and color the water orange or red instead of blue.

And it’s difficult for people to be heard — Appalachia is an area with a lot of poverty, and it’s an area where people’s concerns are vastly muted by the powerful, rich coal companies. If federal judges have trouble getting coal companies to follow the rules, do you think local judges are going to have an easier time?

The truth is that coal companies don’t care at all if they pollute anyone’s water. They don’t care if you’ve got orange water coming from your sink, coal ash in your lungs, or a house threatened by a flood (of water or even coal slurry).

Paul has this romantic notion of coal companies as these sweet entities that mind their own business, stay out of everyone’s way, and immediately learn their lesson when they cross onto someone else’s property. But as we can see from the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, coal companies don’t take safety or anything else seriously, except for getting their coal and getting their money.

Paul wants to believe they are the kids at playtime sitting in the corner, playing with blocks, not bothering anyone. In reality, coal companies are the bullies that take people’s lunch money, break their toys, and never get in trouble for any of it (or talk their way out of it).

Gulf spill sheds light on worldwide oil problems, disasters

June 11, 2010

A friend pointed me to this New York Times article about how prevalent oil spills are in Nigeria, yet how they get little to no media attention — but when it happens in the U.S., it’s making headlines around the world:

Experts estimate that some 13 million barrels of oil have been spilt in the Niger Delta since oil exploration began in 1958. This is the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez every year for 50 years.

This is baffling. And worse yet, according to The Guardian (very insightful article), the oil spills are so frequent that oil companies and governments don’t take responseiveness as seriously:

The sense of outrage is widespread. “There are more than 300 spills, major and minor, a year,” said Bassey. “It happens all the year round. The whole environment is devastated. The latest revelations highlight the massive difference in the response to oil spills. In Nigeria, both companies and government have come to treat an extraordinary level of oil spills as the norm.”

And unfortunately, Shell and the Nigerian government are in a position where they can delay responsiveness and the environment can be horribly damaged without the world as a whole paying any attention. BP is under global pressure because it happened to own an oil rig that exploded within the United States — a global power that has the clout to demand and receive immediate action.

Shell doesn’t have the same problem. Although Nigeria is the eighth largest country in the world (the U.S. is third-largest) and has the 32nd highest GDP in the world (out of 227 countries) — which on paper makes for a seemingly powerful and influential nation — it’s economy is extremely dependent on the oil industry, according to the CIA World Factbook:

Oil-rich Nigeria, long hobbled by political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and poor macroeconomic management, has undertaken several reforms over the past decade. Nigeria’s former military rulers failed to diversify the economy away from its overdependence on the capital-intensive oil sector, which provides 95% of foreign exchange earnings and about 80% of budgetary revenues.

This overdependence makes it easier for Shell and other oil companies to exploit the country, as both oil companies and the government keep official oil spill data a secret, likely because the government cannot afford to lose the business. Another problem, as outlined in the Guardian article, is that Nigeria doesn’t have the same voice and influence as the United States:

“This has gone on for 50 years in Nigeria. People depend completely on the environment for their drinking water and farming and fishing. They are amazed that the president of the US can be making speeches daily, because in Nigeria people there would not hear a whimper,” he said.

U.S. dependence on oil creates an unhealthy life for people elsewhere. Although some might argue that using less oil will crush a country like Nigeria’s economy, the oil industry dependence is already crushing their environment and their population. And, as the Times explains, “experts predict that as oil companies turn increasingly to the deep ocean and other difficult environments to get oil, more leaks are likely.”

Another interesting aspect of this story, however, is how true it is that atrocities can exist without global knowledge but, when they happen on U.S. soil, they actually get media attention. At a panel discussion about religion at OU last year, a man from India said that he found it interesting that the U.S. was so scared of having another terrorist attack after 9/11 — he said in India, terrorist attacks are a daily occurrence.

The U.S. is not used to bad things like this oil spill happening to it — it’s a powerful force with seemingly limitless resources, and we can be blinded by that and forget that other countries don’t have the same luxuries. Not only does an event like this provide a platform for Nigeria’s serious oil spill problems to be spotlighted, but it highlights that (1) our dependence has serious effects globally on other nations and people, and (2) we cannot ignore when we discover an isolated event is actually a recurring and common event elsewhere.

If we are going to hold BP to a high standard and ridicule it for polluting our waters, we should hold all oil companies to the same standard for waters around the globe.

Male strippers and I don’t want you touching w/o permission

June 10, 2010

Last weekend at my friend’s bachelorette party, I went to a male revue, where the guys were wearing next to nothing and giving lap dances to anything that walked. I saw a lot of interesting things that night, but it’s what one of the male strippers said to me that really caught my attention.

And no, it wasn’t anything dirty. In fact, one of them was chatting me up at the bar when a woman walked by and grabbed his butt. Mid-sentence he said, “I hate when people do that. I hate when people grab my ass, or snap my g-string, or touch my dick.”

I was shocked for two reasons. First, because I instinctively thought, this guy is a stripper and he is offended when someone smacks his ass? Second, I thought, hey, wait a minute, I can totally relate. I hate when people look at me, make a judgment call, and then think they are allowed to grab my ass.

I immediately felt bad about initially thinking this guy was bizarre for getting mad about being violated, because in fact one of the rules was that you aren’t supposed to touch the strippers. I thought it was weird considering the strippers can touch you, but I can see why this guy was annoyed, especially when he was just standing there doing nothing, when people went from viewing him as a person to an object.

I actually told him that I have had that happen too. But for me it’s always triggered by either (1) my gender, or if that’s not enough, it’s (2) whatever I’m wearing, or maybe (3) wherever I am, e.g. guys think that they have special permission at bars to ass-grab.

And for the same reason, it’s annoying. Just as working at a male revue doesn’t mean this guy wants his junk fondled constantly, simply being a woman or wearing a skirt doesn’t mean I want to be randomly touched. In both cases, the people doing the touching don’t see you as a person, but as a “thing” — you’re a stripper or you’re a skank (because you’re wearing a short skirt), and therefore you are dehumanized and it’s OK to touch you without permission.

Despite all of the questionable things I saw at the male revue (never will I look at a dollar bill the same way), it was quite refreshing to hear this guy have the same complaint that I and many of my friends have had in the past. Though, I’m sure the women there didn’t think twice about doing some ass-grabbing, as the $10 cover charge was for a show, and it’s tough to know where that line is drawn between them as performers and them as regular people.

Of course, that begins the argument of whether the two should be different — most people involved in anything sex-related (simulated or not) — strippers, porn stars, prostitutes — are immediately downgraded by a lot of people because of their jobs. Many people think anything bad that happens to strippers, prostitutes, etc. is deserved because of the line of work, no matter how violent.

So are these women violating this guy’s personal space because they see him as less of a human, or because they think it’s part of the show? I’d say the latter, but it’s a slippery slope. I’m sure the guys who ass-grab down Court Street on Halloween at Ohio University will say it’s harmless too, but no matter how slutty you think that girl’s Halloween costume is, your perception isn’t a green light to do whatever you want to her.