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Category: General

The Public Lands

[ 62 ] January 27, 2016 |

Malheur-National-Wildlife-Refuge

So the Bundys are in jail, the dude who relied on free labor from foster children on his ranch is dead, and the FBI is pressuring the remaining occupants of the Malheur to leave peacefully. While the death is obviously unfortunate, outside of that, it certainly seems to me that the FBI may have taken too long to act but when they did, they did it in the most appropriate way–off the reserve, away from the offices where everyone was held up. Given that these people believed they could travel freely wherever they wanted and advertised themselves doing it, it wasn’t too hard to find them. Hopefully this stops this “movement” from spreading, as ranchers start getting convinced to tear up their grazing contracts and just let their cows raise hell all over the landscape.

For the rest of us, maybe this is an opportunity to understand what actually happens at a National Wildlife Refuge. What good it is other than a place for birders to go? We know from the recent stories that a lot of these places are multi-use, with cattle grazing on them at very low prices. That this happens at all is unfortunate, but if the ranchers follow the rules, it’s an acceptable compromise. These refuges also undertake all sorts of conservation projects, especially given they are often pretty underfunded by Congress. One major project at the Malheur is ridding public waters of invasive Asian carp, a major problem. Experimenting with what works out here could help this problem nationally. Of course, if the occupiers don’t get out of there and people can’t get back to work, the project could be set back years.

Over the years, the refuge has doused the lake with Rotenone, an aquatic poison, five times. None of the treatments have worked for more than a few years. By the time Beck arrived in Burns in 2009 — she’d moved there from Montana with her husband, who’d returned to work on his father’s ranch — the problem had come to seem intractable. Beck, a longtime federal fisheries biologist who’d researched aquatic invasive species like New Zealand mud snails and whirling disease, had quit her job to relocate to Oregon. Soon after, she turned up at the refuge to volunteer. Two days later, she was hired. Now the carp were her problem.

In the years since, Beck and her colleagues have developed an ambitious carp control playbook. They have installed a bevy of screens and traps to prevent the creatures from moving between water bodies, tracked down their spawning aggregations using telemetry, and experimented with grids that blast eggs and larvae with deadly electrical currents. In 2013, Beck drained 717-acre Boca Lake, creating a smorgasbord of dying carp for pelicans and coyotes, then screened off the lake to prevent future infiltrations. Aquatic vegetation immediately rebounded, followed by bugs, birds and native fish.

Even Malheur Lake, where carp run so thick that their backs create wind-like ripples across the glassy surface, is not beyond hope. A few years back, Beck and other biologists proposed an elegant solution: opening up the lake to commercial fishermen. Hired netters would haul out the carp, which have little market value as human food, and turn them over to Silver Sage Fisheries, a subsidiary separate sister company of Tualatin-based Pacific Foods. The fish would be trucked to Burns, processed into fertilizer, and spread across fields owned by Chuck Eggert, Pacific Foods’ founder. The dead fish would nourish organic hayfields, feed for dairy cows.

“From our perspective, it’s a win-win,” Tim Greseth, executive director of the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that helped broker the deal, told me. “We’re restoring the ecology of the lake, putting people to work, and benefiting private enterprise.”

We need way more creative thinking like this that brings together different stakeholders to create a better managed environment. Congress should double the budget for the public lands, precisely so that these programs can be expanded.

Meanwhile, away from the Malheur, the hard work toward unifying public opinion on protecting public lands continues. Here’s a good story on Utah, where environmentalists, local residents, land managers, and politicians are slowly, block by block, moving toward a compromise on protecting some land as wilderness while allowing various forms on access on other lands. I can’t stress enough how hard this is to do, with greens wanting to lock most of this down as wilderness, oil and gas and mining companies wanting it all open to drilling and exploration, and local residents really distrusting those big city liberals who visit their backyards. This is a story from last year, but gets at the point:

Yet for a while, it looked like the Grand Bargain might fall victim to Western politics as usual. Deadlines came and went, and counties remained locked in the same tired battles. Wayne County dropped out of negotiations. A sparsely-populated corner of northeastern Utah called Daggett County was briefly touted as a “model for the nation,” after it became the first to submit an agreement, but then the commissioners who drafted the plan were voted out of office and their replacements reneged. Things were not looking good.

But Bishop remained patient. Now, more than two years after sending the letter, his efforts are paying off. San Juan and Duchesne counties have jumped on-board and are working on proposals. Emery, Summit and Uintah counties have either submitted or are close to submitting proposals. And on April 10, the Grand Bargain got a big boost when Grand County, Utah, submitted its proposal.

Grand County surrounds Arches National Park and the Moab area, spanning 3,694 square miles of mountain-biking, climbing, backpacking, ATVing, desert rat paradise. It’s also one of the most hotly contested parts of the state: Though its economy over the last 30 years has largely shifted from resource extraction to recreation, the county currently has almost no designated wilderness and some 800,000 acres of land open to oil and gas leasing. If a deal can be struck here, where old-school, conservative Utah butts up against more liberal newcomers, then perhaps a Grand Bargain for the rest of the state — and even elsewhere in the West — is also possible.

So what’s in store for Grand County’s famed red rock landscapes? The final package calls for the creation of up to 514,000 acres of wilderness, mostly in the Book Cliffs area, which county council member Chris Baird calls “one of the best examples of what Utah looked like before it was settled by Europeans.” (The final amount of wilderness depends on land swaps with the state. Areas near the Book Cliffs, in Uintah County, could be opened to limited drilling in exchange for wilderness protection in Desolation Canyon.)

None of this is easy. Idiots calling for the end of public control over these lands do not make it easier. Right now, with fireeating Republicans controlling Congress, neofascism dominating the Republican primary, and Republican governors ruling over the majority of states, all of our environmental law and regulatory agencies are under real threat, as Pierce notes here on issues on the EPA and water regulation. Trying to patch together coalitions has to be part of the solution to fight for our environment in all its facets.

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“You Know, I Really Enjoy H.A. Goodman and Walker Bragman, But Could you Dumb it Down a Few Shades and Make It Much More Pretentious?” “Done!”

[ 106 ] January 27, 2016 |

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Salon dips back into its nostalgia file with horrifying results:

During her two presidential campaigns, Hillary Clinton has consistently drawn greater support from women than men. Is this gender lag due to retrograde misogyny, or does Hillary project an uneasiness or ambivalence about men that complicates her appeal to a broader electorate?

As a career woman, Hillary is rooted in second-wave feminism, which began with Betty Friedan’s co-founding of the National Organization for Women in 1967, while Hillary was in college. Friedan sought to draw men into the women’s movement and to ally with mainstream wives and mothers. But after a series of ideological struggles, she lost her leadership role and was eventually eclipsed in media attention by the more telegenic Gloria Steinem, who famously said, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Hillary has unfortunately adopted the Steinem brand of blame-men-first feminism, which defines women as perpetual victims requiring government protections. Hillary’s sometimes impatient or patronizing tone about men, which can perhaps be traced to key aspects of her personal history, may prove costly to her current campaign.

[…]

A 1979 photo of Bill and Hillary Clinton arriving at the White House for a dinner honoring the nation’s governors shows her with big, owlish eyeglasses and a mass of nondescript dark hair. Her subsequent fashion and hair transformations, extending through both Clinton presidencies, were astonishing. It was as if Hillary oscillated between her core identity as a gender-neutral social-activist warrior and a florid female persona so foreign to her nature that it sometimes seemed like drag.

Hey, it wasn’t easy to be the worst regular columnist at a place where one of the columnists was David Horowitz, but she pulled it off. To be Scrupulously Fair, this time she did actually write this “prose” rather than doing her usual rambling interview that some intern has to transcribe in plain defiance of all international human rights norms.

Sanders and Trump Would be a Media Elite Dream of a Reasonable Man on a Horse Saving Us Come True

[ 163 ] January 27, 2016 |

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Scott is probably right in dismissing Michael Bloomberg’s daily narcissism as nothing more than attempting to scare the left into voting for Hillary Clinton. At the same time, if the candidates are indeed Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, there’s a good chance the weirdest presidential election in American history would get even whackier. As Robert Kuttner writes, there really is a good chance of a third party centrist run in this election. Now, I think he’s largely wrong about how these scenarios work out. I am skeptical of a third-party Republican run if Trump wins and runs against Hillary. And I am skeptical of a third-party Democratic run if Sanders wins and runs against Rubio or whoever isn’t Trump or Cruz. There’s enough space there for disgruntled voters to live with the oppositional candidate. And I’m skeptical of some four-way campaign if it Sanders and Trump. Not gonna happen.

But I do absolutely think a 3rd party centrist media darling candidacy may well happen if it is Sanders vs. Trump. Such a person, Bloomberg or otherwise, would have no chance of winning of course or even of winning any states. But that person might well win enough votes to throw a state one way or another. My personal fear is that if a Bloomberg-type ran, he (of course) would maybe receive 10% of the vote, tops. But there would be money behind it and a lot of media coverage. Yet there’s certainly no groundswell of Republican voter outrage that the party will nominate Trump. Republican elites may dominate Meet the Press appearances and New York Times articles, but they sure don’t dominate the poll numbers. And while there’s probably wouldn’t be a big demand among Democrats for a 3rd party candidate either if Sanders won, I do worry that there’s enough Hillary-lovers out there to vote for a moderate Wall Street candidate. The only way any of this matters though is through the states. If we assume, as I do, that were such a candidate to appear they probably would draw more from Democratic voters than Republicans, then it becomes more deadly for Democrats because there are so many states Democrats win by 1-5 points and other than maybe North Carolina, zero states that Republicans win by such a narrow margin. It really wouldn’t take much to bump Ohio or Florida or Virginia to Trump in this scenario.

I may well be just writing scared here. But it’s something I worry about.

And to be clear, I in no way mean this to be a reason not to vote for Sanders. Were he the nominee, my animus would go toward those voting for this theoretical centrist candidate.

London Recruits

[ 19 ] January 27, 2016 |

London Recruits HoC 11.7.12

This is a really fascinating story of the global struggle against apartheid, with British activists sneaking into South Africa to spread anti-apartheid propaganda and able to do so because the South African government simply assumed that all whites supported white supremacy so why would anyone do this?

Ronald “Ronnie” Kasrils was a white man born in Johannesburg, South Africa, the grandson of Jewish immigrants, who became a leader in the anti-apartheid struggle. In the early 1960s he joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation in the isiZulu language), an offshoot of the African National Congress (ANC), and soon became the MK Commander in Natal province. By 1964, the movement inside the country had been crushed; to escape, Kasrils went into exile.

In 1965, Oliver Tambo, the President of the ANC who was then based in Zambia, had just begun to build a global solidarity movement. Their aim was to pressure the white minority government in South Africa to abandon apartheid. Their only recourse: take the struggle outside of South Africa to overthrow apartheid inside of it.

Tambo dispatched Kasrils to London, a city with long and deep connections to South Africa due to centuries of imperialism and migration. Along with a few other exiles, Kasril’s task was to recruit white men and women to join the movement. He found some at the left-leaning London School of Economics, but most came from the Young Communist League, which agreed to select suitable members (mostly workers) to pass on to him.

After modest training, from 1967 through 1971, teams of two flew to South Africa with fake-bottomed suitcases containing anti-apartheid propaganda and explosives. Tambo was correct that foreign whites easily could travel to South Africa: white South Africans presumed all Europeans supported white supremacy.

Posing as tourists, honeymooners or businessmen, they exploded leaflet bombs, unfurled anti-apartheid banners and promoted the struggle in other clever ways. They simultaneously coordinated their actions in important South African cities. One such leaflet declared: “The ANC says to Vorster [South Africa’s prime minister at the time] and his gang: Your days are coming to an end” and “We will take back our country!”

No one ever was hurt during these actions, though two were captured in 1972 and spent most of the 1970s in brutal South African prisons. By the early-mid 1970s, the movement inside South Africa had revived as the exile movement grew in numbers and strength.

So many interesting complexities in the history of the global anti-colonial struggle.

What is Cultural Appropriation?

[ 330 ] January 27, 2016 |

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I found the comments to yesterday’s post on cultural appropriation bizarre. That’s because many commenters do not seem to have a functional definition of cultural appropriation. There were multiple versions of comments like, “I eat Mexican food so are you accusing me of culturally appropriating Mexican food?” Um, no.

This all reminded of the housing and schooling posts where I state that moving to the suburbs for the schools is a racist act in that people took this as a direct attack upon their own privilege. With the housing posts, that is an intentional provocation on my part. This sort of thing was by no means intended in yesterday’s post. But white liberals can be very, very defensive about their own privilege because they see themselves as trying to do the right thing.

So what actually is cultural appropriation, at least when it comes to food. Thanks to UncleEbenzeer for tracking this down and placing it in the thread.

Only a dominant culture can “appropriate” another culture, and only a systematically oppressed culture can “be appropriated.” Because what’s bad about it only stems from that specific power relationship. You can’t understand cultural appropriation without understanding the role that power dynamic plays in producing the effects that people are finding problematic. You also, of course, can’t understand cultural appropriation if you don’t actually listen to what people are saying is problematic about it.

Kuo linked to an authority at Hipster Appropriations on the cultural appropriation of foods, which I can tell Coyne did not read (white man can’t be bothered, his ignorant rage too important for research). Yet it lays it all out very clearly:

So let’s begin with what I don’t think constitutes cultural appropriation of food, to get some of the angsty stuff out of the way. I don’t believe it is cultural appropriation to:

eat food from another culture
to learn how to cook food from another culture
to modify recipes from another culture for your own enjoyment
to eat at restaurants, authentic or otherwise, that serve food from another culture
to enjoy learning about another culture thru the traditional and/or modern foods of that culture

Instead, cultural appropriation does any or all of these things (at a minimum):

Despoliation (intentional or not)
Fetishization (stereotyping, othering, etc.)
Theft (claiming a thing as your own, erasing the inventors)

Despoliation can be direct, as in actually entering a country and walking off with its statues and historical heritage. Or it can be indirect. For example, due to the enormous wealth differential created by the power imbalance between a dominant and a dominated culture, a component of a culture can start to become inaccessible even to its originators. As the Hipster Appropriations article says, cultural appropriation includes “making it difficult for those of the culture from which it stems to gain access to” a part of their own culture. Quinoa, for example. Which I already dealt with above. But they illustrate what this would be like by reversing the POV and having the same thing happen to apples in America. Incidentally, reversing POV like that (what I have called “forced perspective” reasoning) is a crucial skill for critical thinking, essential to understanding all discourse about social justice whatever (I discussed this before in the context of feminism). Coyne, Dawkins, Boghossian: They really need to learn this skill. Badly. (Although I think Boghossian might be a lost cause.)

Fetishization can manifest in all manner of unempathetic or historically ignorant insensitivity. Kuo’s points provide many examples. In recent news is the practice of white folk dressing up like Native Americans or wearing blackface, both of which are extremely insensitive, displaying an ignorance of the horrific history these practices mock, an ignorance that is itself a manifestation of white privilege: Native Americans and African Americans don’t have the privilege of forgetting the genocidal brutalization we subjected their ancestors to, and the long history of racism embodied in such mimicry of what “they” “look” like. This does not mean we can’t ever dress as historical persons in those groups. It simply must be done sensitively and seriously, and not ignorantly or frivolously. To understand the distinctions and why it matters, see my comment analyzing the difference between appropriating a culture, and honoring a culture by representing one of its heroes to the public.

Theft means in the intellectual property sense, not in the physical object sense. Cultural appropriation as stealing means borrowing some idea from an oppressed culture, and then pretending or thinking the dominant culture created it, or simply erasing the role of the originators. In other words, not giving credit where credit is due. Stealing the credit. Or simply eliminating the credit. The history of Rock & Roll, for example, famously exhibits components of this. I’m sorry white people, but Elvis was not really the King. Racism resulted in white people being credited with inventing everything, and the black artists who actually did, gradually came to be sidelined and eventually forgotten. That’s sad. And we should not be proud of it. Nor should we want to repeat the behavior.

This does not mean all accusations of cultural appropriation are equal, or even correct. Some I’m sure are silly or frivolous or even indefensible. But there being stupid claims of a thing does not mean there are not sound claims of that thing. As I’m constantly pointing out in my study of the historicity of Jesus: that all kinds of stupid, unsourced nonsense gets said about Mithras and Horus, does not mean there aren’t genuine predecessors of the dying-and-rising savior god mytheme that Jesus was modeled on (such as Osiris, Zalmoxis, Romulus, and Inanna). Learn how to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. But doing that requires understanding what we are talking about and why it is a problem.

Now, one can argue whether or not Whole Foods engages in cultural appropriation or not. I would argue that it frequently does and by “introducing” collard greens to its wealthy white clientele without some discussion of their history and place within American culture that it was doing so here, albeit it in a minor and relatively innocuous way. Others may disagree. But let’s at least come to this argument with a functional definition of cultural appropriation. The definition above suffices quite well.

And no, just because you are white and like Thai food does not mean you are appropriating culture.

The Executive Pay Cartel

[ 21 ] January 27, 2016 |

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The company that took over Don Blankenship’s organized crime organization in West Virgnia ran it into bankruptcy in less than five years. For workers, this has not worked out well:

Since then, Alpha has laid off some 4,000 workers and filed for Chapter 11. Post-Massey, it operated well over 100 active mines; now it has closed all but 50.

[…]

Sure enough, Alpha is going after health and life insurance benefits it promised retired employees. Specifically, according to its court filing, it is trying to rescind “certain unvested, non-pension welfare benefits (e.g., hospital, medical, prescription, surgical and life insurance) currently offered to certain of [Alpha’s] non-union retirees.” Some 4,580 non-union miners and spouses would lose benefits under the filing.

Yanking health insurance from any retiree is bad enough, but these are people who spent their working lives in highly unsafe conditions; many now suffer from black lung and other coal-related ailments.

Hey, if people with black lung disease wanted medical care, they should have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and become 25-year-old Stanford-educated software developers! Their corporate betters can demonstrate how American meritocracy works:

Their usual pay is okay, I guess. The Casper Star Tribune reports:

Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield received $7.8 million in total compensation in 2014, financial filings show. Former President Paul Vining took home $4.5 million, the chief financial officer made $1.9 million and Executive Vice President Brian Sullivan earned $1.6 million.

But when you’ve bankrupted your company and now you have to immiserate old and sick people, you need more of a picker-upper — a little something extra.

So Alpha proposed to pay these executives bonuses that could in some cases more than double their salaries. Depending on the cost cutting achieved, the bonuses could reach up to $11.9 million.

Alpha argued that the money was necessary to provide incentives for executives to help the company restructure out of bankruptcy, incentives presumably not provided by their salaries or legal obligations.

(Alpha also gave executives substantial performance bonuses last year, even as they were piloting the company into bankruptcy. Not clear what those incentives were for.)

This is an extreme case, but it pretty much defines how the wealthy define incentives differently for themselves and for ordinary workers. For the latter, a middle-class salary will make them lazy and in any case is an unnecessary expense. For those at the top, a multi-million dollar salary isn’t enough incentive to do your job. Note, too, how contradictory ideas about responsibility seamlessly replace each other depending on what’s necessary to justify the looting of the workers and shareholders. When the company goes into bankruptcy less than a five years after you take it over, doesn’t that suggest that you’re massively incompetent and don’t even justify a six-figure salary, let alone a seven-figure one supplemented by performance bonuses(!)? Why no, because the market for coal collapsed, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, not our fault. But when it comes time to get de facto retention bonuses, these same people become absolutely indispensable supermen with irreplaceable skills. Obviously, Alpha’s executives can’t simultaneously by caretakers who preside over a company whose profits are determined almost entirely by factors beyond their control and people with unique skills the company absolutely cannot afford to lose and must be retained at any price, but whatever it takes. (Taibbi was particularly good on this point in the context of the AIG financial whiner.)

This line of thinking is hardly absent from my line of work. I guarantee that the guy proposing that faculty spots go to the lowest bidder wouldn’t apply that logic to the Board of Trustees, presidents, or provosts. The defense of less extreme versions of this dichotomy would be that the top-level administrators are simply irreplaceable and there is fierce competition for their services, which rarely holds up. Consider the new president of the University of Iowa. Not only did he have no credentials as a higher ed administrator, even his credentials as a business administrator were underwhelming. And yet, he will get $790 grand a year in salary and pension compensation alone. The idea that there was some kind of bidding war for the guy or that he had unique skills that had to be obtained at any price is absurd. Obscenely high salaries aren’t used to acquire extraordinary talent; they’re used to justify the salaries of the people doing the picking and to convince themselves that whoever they hire is really good. Nice racket if you can get into it.

New Weekly Feature: A People’s History of the Marvel Universe

[ 62 ] January 27, 2016 |

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Hey folks, so I’ve been feeling the blogging bug recently, and while I’ve got some long form stuff in the works, I’m waiting for a few things to happen before some of those posts can go up, and they tend to take longer to write anyway. In the mean time, I’ve decided to do some shorter pieces that I can do on a regular basis. And since it’s me, they’re going to be about the intersection between politics and comic books.

In A People’s History of the Marvel Universe, I’ll be exploring how real-world politics (and weird bits of pop culture) was presented in some of my favorite bits of classic Marvel comics, starting with Claremont’s run on X-Men and Captain America from the Timely Comics through the 80s. And thanks to my friends Brett and Elana over at Graphic Policy, which covers comic books from a progressive viewpoint and which you should be reading regularly, I’ll be posting them both here and there.

Read more…

The Crimes Of the Anti-Planned Parenthood Mob

[ 27 ] January 27, 2016 |

Lithwick with more on the various legal problems of the Planned Parenthood troofers.

The Donald And Des Moines

[ 55 ] January 26, 2016 |

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Trump would appear to be betting that Fox News needs him more than he needs then:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump abruptly announced here Tuesday that he would not participate in Thursday’s scheduled debate, escalating his off-and-on feud with the Fox News Channel and throwing the GOP campaign into turmoil.

Trump’s assertion, which his campaign manager insisted was irreversible, came less than one week before the kick-off Iowa caucuses, once again defying the conventional rules of politics and using his power and prominence to shape the campaign agenda and conversation.

Given that a primary objective of the first Fox News Debates seemed to be to undermine Trump on the one hand and to promote Rubio and Fiorina on the other, it’s hard to argue with him.

Meanwhile, Trump has racked up another overdetermined “celebrity” endorsement. The Veep search is over!

Nerds, Please Meet Me in the Nerdery; We Need to Talk about Batfleck

[ 247 ] January 26, 2016 |

This is hardly an original opinion but I think casting can make or break a film. This means you should never, ever cast Keanu Reeves in a historical drama. It also means you should never ever cast Ben Affleck in the role of Batman. I’ve seen him utter one line in Batman vs. Superman and I’m already Rifftraxing him in my head. He is…a horrible choice to play Batman. I just…don’t even, as the kids don’t say anymore.


So here’s my question: If not Bale (the best Batman, obviously), who should play Batman? Ideas?

“Tom can you get me off the hook? For old time’s sake”

[ 50 ] January 26, 2016 |

tessio

Abe Vigoda, who was the subject of many false rumors regarding his death in the 1980s, has died.

Of the many great things in the original Godfather film, Vigoda’s performance as Tessio is one of the most memorable.

[SL] The Godfather Epic — the first two movies edited chronologically with outtakes included — is as it happens is now streaming on HBO, and if like me you have minimal concern with authenticity and Artristic Integritude and such it’s pretty awesome, even if you miss the unique texture of GFII. Tessio would have watched it, and Tessio was always smarter.

Food, Authenticity, Cultural Appropriation

[ 308 ] January 26, 2016 |

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I know we need another discussion of the relationship between food and authenticity like we need another post about Hillary or Bernie, Which One Will Save America and Which One is Horrible? But I could not help being typically annoyed by Conor Friedersdorf’s post on collard greens and Twitter. Basically, Whole Foods tweeted out a recipe on collard greens that included cooking them in peanuts. A number of African-Americans called Whole Foods out on this, saying that the grocery store was cooking collards in an inauthnetic manner and was engaging in cultural appropriation. Friedersdorf found it necessary to devote an entire column to defending the corporation and tsk-tsking reporters for not doing research on this very important matter.

Pretty dumb all around. Yet perhaps worth a bit of commentary.

First, given that Whole Foods barely serves people of color at all and certainly avoids poor communities like the plague, the company deserves to take some shots. Usually, the only non-white people in Whole Foods is those happy looking Salvadoran coffee farmers in pictures hanging from the ceiling. This is a corporation dedicating to providing good food to rich people who can actually afford it, all while making sure employees don’t have a union. Whole Foods is happy to package traditional foods to white people (and often ripping them off for that food) without even mentioning where these food traditions come from. That is indeed cultural appropriation and given that whites have been appropriating black culture since slavery without giving credit, it’s hardly outrageous that some African-Americans would lob this accusation. It’s justified. If Whole Foods actually cared about serving communities of color, maybe it would have a defense. As is, the company sees the traditions of communities of color around the world as little more than a place to generate ideas that can be sold to rich whites.

That said, people can cook collard greens any dang way they want. While a well-brewed pot of collard greens is pretty fantastic (and allow to highly recommend the collards at Gladys Kitchen in Americus, Georgia, as well as the amazing fried chicken and desserts, where I ate last week), let’s face it, greens boiled to nothing is not usually the greatest way to prepare them. If they are good with peanuts, even if black people don’t eat them that way, I guess that’s OK.

As for shaming journalists and their research, I’d probably be more sympathetic to this if it wasn’t coming from someone with an ego the size of Friedersdorf. That a white male libertarian finds it necessary to defend a corporation hardly impressed me either. But really, a journalist who pretty much made his name on the internet complaining about internet journalism is eye-rolling.

In any case, traditional foods can always be changed and improved upon. There’s not a single “authentic” way to cook anything. There are better and worse ways to cook them. There are traditional ways that are not per se good or bad. This doesn’t mean we can’t reject and mock bad ideas, say, tomato ketchup or, god forbid, the tacos I saw but very much did not eat in a western Pennsylvania bar last week that consisted of ground beef, sauerkraut, and 1000 Island dressing. But obviously there’s nothing wrong with figuring out what would be really awesome in tacos that one would never see in Mexico (Korean tacos!). Or figuring out what would taste way better than canned mushrooms and canned olives on pizza.* It’s the same with cooking greens. However, it would also be nice if Whole Foods didn’t act like this beneficent wonderful corporation providing the secret to good food for people when African-Americans (and some whites of course!) in fact have known about these greens for hundreds of years. There’s plenty of reason for grousing all around. Probably not enough for an Atlantic column though. For a LGM post, well, it’s not like we have standards.

*I confess to deviating from the official LGM line that pineapple is a bad pizza topping. I like it.

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