The Bigger Picture
Published on February 18th 2010 in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
I’m back in the states again for a couple of weeks, so today I’m going to do a bit of “scatter shooting” and discuss several somewhat loosely related political issues, all but one of which involve women.
Since I’m sitting here in my brother’s office gazing out the window at a foot of snow, I guess I’ll begin with “Mother Nature”. While this is by no means the first time I’ve ever seen this much snow here in the states, what makes this particular sight so jarring is the fact that my brother lives in Dallas Texas, a place where any amount of snow is extremely rare. In fact, while Dallas doesn’t get any snow at all some years, during those winters when it does snow, Dallas usually only gets 1-2 inches of the white stuff. But this winter Mother Nature decided she was going to give us Southerners a taste of what our northern neighbors get every winter.
When I was here back in December I awoke to the sight of snow falling on the morning after I arrived and subsequently witnessed the first “White Christmas” Dallas has ever experienced. But the 3 inches of flakes we got for Christmas pales in comparison to the foot of snow Dallas received on 11 February, once again coming on the day after I got in from Dublin. But much like folks in Ireland, the residents of Dallas also find it difficult to cope with snow accumulations in excess of 1-2 centimeters. In other words, when it comes to snow, folks in Dallas are just as big of wimps as people in Dublin are.
On second thought, maybe I should be a bit kinder to those wimps in Dallas and Dublin since Dallas’s most recent snowfall actually broke the all-time record of 7 ½ inches for the most snow to fall in Dallas in a single day. I’m also fairly certain the January snows in Dublin would have set a record too but as far as I can tell Dublin doesn’t even maintain such records since snow is even rarer in Dublin than it is in Dallas. It would be safe to say that this winter has been much colder and frostier than normal for much of the southern United States and the British Isles. So what caused this to happen?
Meteorologists have cited a combination of two phenomena, the El Nino weather patterns caused by warmer than normal Pacific Ocean waters interacting with a high pressure system in the Northern Hemisphere called the North Atlantic Oscillation. But here in the US, the climate change “deniers” have seized on this frigid weather as evidence that scientist’ predictions about man-made global warming are “all wet” since a colder winter with more snow runs counter to their concept of a “warming world.” But our unusually snowy winter actually provides support for climate scientists because they have predicted that global warming will increase the amount of water vapor in the earth’s atmosphere, causing heavier rains or snowfalls to occur in the Northern Hemisphere.
But I am much less disturbed by what Mother Nature has been up to lately than I am by the recent actions of two other women politicians here in the states. Sarah Palin recently gave a speech at the inaugural “Tea Party” convention of ant-tax and anti-government activists in which she assailed President Obama and his policies. After her speech Palin said;“The Republican Party would be really smart to start trying to absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible. This is a beautiful movement because it is shaping the way politics are conducted. You’ve got both party machines running scared.”
What I find very disturbing about Palin is that she also lent support to the many “birthers” in attendance, who claim Obama is not an American citizen, when she told a conservative radio talk show audience that it is "rightfully" an issue with the American public, and that it is "fair game" for politicians to question Obama's citizenship. What does it say about the state of American politics, not to mention the Republican Party, that one of its leading political figures won’t disavow such extremist conspiracy theories?
Unfortunately for America and the Republican Party however, Sarah Palin isn’t the only female Republican politician lending support to our country’s various different conspiracy theorists. Here in Texas one of the women running in the Republican Party’s Governor’s race, Debbie Medina, was asked by conservative talk show pundit, Glenn Beck for her opinion about the “9/11 truthers’. The “9/11 truthers” are right wing American conservative extremists who believe that the US government was secretly involved in the 9/11 al Qaeda attacts in New York and Washington DC.
Beck asked Medina point blank; “Do you believe the government was any way involved with the bringing down of the World Trade Centers on 9/11? I was flabbergasted when I heard Medina respond that; “I don't, I don't have all of the evidence there, Glenn. So I don't, I'm not in a place, I have not been out publicly questioning that. I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There are some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all of the evidence there. So I've not taken a position on that.” To think that this woman, thanks largely to the backing of many of those involved in the Tea Party movement, may actually win the Republican nomination for governor is almost more than I can bear.
Well I think I’ve said all I want to about women for now. As you read this I will be in New Orleans celebrating Mardi Gras while I’m attending a convention for International Relations scholars. So my next week I will discuss the recent downfall of one of Louisiana’s most powerful former Congressmen, Billy Tauzin as well as my impressions about New Orleans post- Hurricane Katrina.