Jumping to Conclusions – Again (Shirley Sherrod, BP, and the Lockerbie Bomber)

July 26, 2010

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Last week The Crunchy Conservative had an article about Shirley Sherrod (the woman at the USDA who was dismissed after a tape of her speech before the NAACP was released.  This tape apparently exposed her as a racist (anti-white as she is African-American) and using her position within the government to penalize a white farmer.  The NAACP and the White House condemned her, but have since apologized for not knowing the whole story.  I commented on that article that we (average people not in the US government) will probably never know the whole story.  I have listed to the entire tape (at least what is reported as the entire tape) and I still find very little to be sympathetic to her about.  Having been a former civil servant, I am appalled that what her customer looked like had any bearing on her fulfilling her duties.  (I must admit that I completely agree with responding to verbal attacks with reduced service).  Civil servants are basically the store clerks of the government.  Most have no authority and have to put up with a lot of abuse.

So, should she have been fired?  I have no idea.  But now we have a new flash news story, where the instant media is demanding action.  Apparently, the British head of British Petroleum (BP, the guys with the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico) is alleged to have been part of the negotiations to release the Lockerbie bomber.  For this, the press is demanding that he be fired.  I find this as bizarre as the firing of a USDA official.  If he was involved in the discussion, why not a public outcry when it happened?  Why wait until now when some in the government and many in the media want to punish BP for the oil rig accident?  (Editor’s note – Peter Rabbit wrote an article condemning the release last year – but indeed, the BP connection was not mentioned).

So what do we, as average people, know?  First we know that Tony Hayward is the CEO of BP and was in BP upper management at the time the Lockerbie bomber was released.  Second, we know (?) that BP was given drilling privileges off the cost of Libya after the release.  Third we know that BP officials (maybe Hayward) testified before the Scottish parliament for the release.  From this, he needs to be fired.  And the firing need to happen right now, with no trial or questions asked.

I truly fear that our society has no attention span, and no ability to discern logical cause and effect.  We are an instant gratification society.  We want the fastest internet -getting the news storey up first is more important than getting it right – and even the fastest food.  We complain about being fat, so we need instant weight reduction (no long term commitment or high effort), and we still eat fast food.  Perhaps we are just spoiled.  We expect and get fresh food all year long, we get 120 stations and TiVO so that we can watch anything we want instead of waiting for a show we want to watch.

In the end, let’s go back to the source of this rant.  Should these people be fired?  I don’t know.  Is it any of our business?  I say emphatically, NO!

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan @ 40Tech
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 15:48:03

    I think you hit the nail on the head. In the end, it is easier for people to believe things that reinforce their beliefs, rather than to dig too deep. That was my beef with the other article. That’s especially true come election time, when both parties parade out the hot button issues, that they know get the faithful riled up, regardless of how meritorious those issues are.


  2. Squeaky
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 08:07:06

    I love it Martin. That is a great observation and it is a direct hit. You essentially just gave it two to the chest and one to the head.

    As you described our need for instant gratification (fast food, instant weight loss, muscle gain with minimal work out) my eyes opened a little wider. You’re correct, we are that way and I seem to become more impatient each year. I find myself checking news sites every hour or two to make sure I’m on top of the latest, I receive text updates if there is breaking news, etc.

    Do we jump to conclusions and condemn people too quickly? Of course we do. Do we say stupid things based on partial information? Of course we do. We make decisions based on the information we have, but all of us are probably guilty of making those decisions without exercising due diligence.

    Is Shirley Sherrod racist? I’m not positive but I can tell you that listening to her speech still rubs me wrong the way she still pitted haves and have nots against one another. Regardless of anything else, her job was to help those in need.

    Public servants do have tough jobs. They are usually never thanked and put up with a lot of abuse. I would imagine those clerks at the DMV feel it even worse. They get all kinds and probably get talked down to by most of their “customers”.

    I struggle with our meddling in who is in management at BP or any other company. I think we need to stay out of that and let the company make their own decisions. They are putting up the capital pay for damages and that should be the extent of our involvement.



  3. Martin Kelly
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 14:03:54

    Thanks for the support guys. I am glad that my writing is getting better and that I am able to get my thoughts organized.

    A quick storey about civil servents being abused. My Social Security card was distroyed (I can’t remember how) and I needed a physical copy for a legal matter. I went to the SS office in Brazoria county Texas (just south of Houston). My tag number was at least 30 away from being called when one of the windows opened, and a woman still chewing on her sandwhich announced that she would take anyone who was just trying to get a replacement card. She started alling out groups of numbers, ten at a time. When my number fell in the group I stepped forward. A woman who had just entered, and therefore was 60 to 80 number away, shouldered past me and demanded to be served. I backed away to avoid the conflick.

    The SS clerk tried to brush her off as jumping the line, but the woman was insistant. The entire room got to here how important it was that she get a new card, since she was flying to Hawaii to get married. The SS clerk relented and very slowly helped the woman fill out the forms, then informed her that it would be two or three days before the new card arrived in the mail or she could go to down town Houston to pick it up. The woman was furious and stomped out of the building.

    I proceded to step up the the counter. Provided all of the forms filled out and all of the forms of identification required. I signed where indicated and was about to leave expecting my new card in two to three days. The SS clerk called me back, when over to a printer in the corner and came back with my new card. You see, everything she had said to the angry woman was true. She had the ability, but not the requirement to provide a card right there and then. I thanked her, and passed the angry woman on the way out as she waited for her ride.


  4. Squeaky
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 15:03:06

    That story is priceless. Did you ever hear the OLD saying that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar? I’m not sure if that applies to flies, but it sure does work in real life. Of course, there are times when you have to break out the vinegar but those are rare moments.

    The only thing funnier would have been that lady having to watch you get your card then everyone clap as she walked out of the SS building with her head hung low.

    Alow me to share a time when I was treated with vinegar as a public servant. When I still working as a police officer, I spent time on second shift. Our team would take turns patroling the schools when they were released. There was one high schooler than felt particularly proud of himself one day in front of a group of his buddies. He decided to “signal my attention” using only his middle finger. Being a good public servant I felt obliged to see what it was that he needed–afterall he was likely paying some of my salary. I diligently approached him and asked what it was that he needed from me. When he said that he didn’t need anything, I assured him that I was there to help him. Whatever it was that was so important that he should stop me from doing other things, I wanted to know so that I could assist him and then get on to my next call. This continued for a couple of minutes until I finally asked him why he felt the need to flip me off. He eventually said that he was sorry. He was definitely not so cocky by the time I left. I’d like to think that he didn’t do it again and hopefully didn’t introduce himself to the next officer as “Crime Boss”. He was definitely a different person after I left.

    When I had a rotation on day shift, I freaked out the first time someone waved at me using all five fingers. What a treat that was. Yes, public servants earn their money.


  5. Martin Kelly
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 18:51:37

    Sweet response Squeaky!

    Well it looks like Mr. Hayward has been reassigned. I expect we will see little to no difference in the way the BP is run due to this managment change. We may, however, see changes based on threatened or actual changes in governmental policy. Just another day in the news cycle.


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