Archive for May, 2010
The Associated Press this weekend released a good enterprise piece on BP’s tendency to consistently misrepresent or downplay the full effects of its oil rig debacle, which as of now has put somewhere between 18 million to 40 million gallons of crude in the ocean. Obviously, lowballing the estimates would behoove BP, since they face penalties based on how much oil actually leaks. According to the article:
On almost every issue — the amount of gushing oil, the environmental impact, even how to stop the leak — BP’s statements have proven wrong. The erosion of the company’s credibility may prove as difficult to stop as the oil spewing from the sea floor.
“They keep making one mistake after another. That gives the impression that they’re hiding things,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has been critical of BP’s reluctance to publicly release videos of the underwater gusher. “These guys either do not have any sense of accountability to the public or they are Neanderthals when it comes to public relations.”
And later in the story, responding a question about why BP had presented wrong numbers on numerous fronts regarding the impact, BP spokesman David Nicholas said,
This event is unprecedented; no company, no one, has ever had to attempt to deal with a situation such as this at depths such as this before. BP, the Unified Command, the federal authorities and the hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals engaged on this effort, are doing everything we can to bring it under control and make it good.
as if “unprecedented” is a good enough excuse to not have a solution in case the worse happens. So too, BP Managing Director Robert Dudley clambered for excuses when quizzed on the company’s inept, or nonexistent, disaster policies on the Sunday edition of CNN’s State of the Union.
Here’s the video:
Reports indicated today that BP’s latest “Top Kill” effort to plug up the gushing oil tanker, which has to date, released an estimated 18 million to 40 million gallons of crude in the ocean, to the detriment of sea animals, marine life, and to the financial chagrin of piscators in the gulf, has itself, been killed.
Not surprising, detractors continued this week to claim the oil spill was — Ready yourself for this fast-growing cliché — Obama’s Katrina.
One of the most prominent to claim this, although not the first, is former crony, or officially, former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, Karl Rove, who on Thursday had this to say about the current administration’s response:
Obama officials have it backwards: They talk tough about BP’s responsibilities but do not meet their own responsibilities under federal law. They should not have let more than a month go by without telling BP what to do.
And he goes on to say:
Initially, Team Obama [as if disaster relief work is an Olympic sport] wanted to keep this problem away from the president (a natural instinct for any White House). It took Mr. Obama 12 days to show up in the region. Democrats criticized President George W. Bush for waiting four days after Katrina to go to New Orleans.
First, the oil spill is not a catastrophe on the level of Katrina … yet. Not even close. A major U.S. city has not been buried under a wall of water. Some 1,800 people have no lost their lives in the worst hurricane since 1928′s Okeechobee hurricane. Some $80 billion in property damage has not occurred. So, for Rove to equate the two is, at best, misrepresenting things, and at worst, soulless to the core, which we must admit, is right in line and consistent with the general philosophy of his party.
Second, I find it awfully convenient that when problems such as the oil spill arise, the right suddenly crane their collective necks toward Obama for answers and solutions, while in other breaths and on other topics, the administration is inept and bent on self-destructing the country. Rush Limbaugh is one bloviating hypocrite I would place in this category. His statements are reported here. Mark Levin on his radio show took the zaniness a step further, when he stated, ridiculously and blasting just for blasting’s sake, as reported in the same article:
This is the first real challenge that President Obama has dealt with and he hasn’t been able to handle it.
The first real challenge, you say? The worst recession since the Great one in the 1930s wasn’t a challenge? I suppose neither were two wars, all three of which were the ruins from another administration. So, if I can attempt to put this into perspective: Obama is expected, in some instances, to hold the planets in alignment, and in other instances, stay the hell out of our lives, the poor, the sick, the downtrodden be damned? Does that sum it up?
Here’s a bit of nostalgia, if we want to summon Bush to talk about Obama, here’s a recent snippet from Frank Rich on the topic, and a Time article from 2005, with the button precisely placed on Bush’s meagerness as a leader.
FOR Barack Obama’s knee-jerk foes, of course it was his Katrina. But for the rest of us, there’s the nagging fear that the largest oil spill in our history could yet prove worse if it drags on much longer. It might not only wreck the ecology of a region but capsize the principal mission of the Obama presidency.
Before we look at why, it would be helpful to briefly revisit that increasingly airbrushed late summer of 2005. Whatever Obama’s failings, he is infinitely more competent at coping with catastrophe than his predecessor. President Bush’s top disaster managers — the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, as well as the notorious “Brownie” — professed ignorance of New Orleans’s humanitarian crisis a full day after the nation had started watching it live in real time on television. When Bush finally appeared, he shunned the city entirely and instead made a jocular show of vowing to rebuild the coastal home of his party’s former Senate leader, Trent Lott. He never did take charge.
From Time in 2005:
It isn’t easy picking George Bush’s worst moment last week. Was it his first go at addressing the crisis Wednesday, when he came across as cool to the point of uncaring? Was it when he said that he didn’t “think anybody expected” the New Orleans levees to give way, though that very possibility had been forecast for years? Was it when he arrived in Mobile, Ala., a full four days after the storm made landfall, and praised his hapless Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director, Michael D. Brown, whose disaster credentials seemed to consist of once being the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association? “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” said the President. Or was it that odd moment when he promised to rebuild Mississippi Senator Trent Lott’s house–a gesture that must have sounded astonishingly tone-deaf to the homeless black citizens still trapped in the postapocalyptic water world of New Orleans. “Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house–he’s lost his entire house,” cracked Bush, “there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.”
Bush seemed so regularly out of it last week, it made you wonder if he was stuck in the same White House bubble of isolation that confined his dad. Too often, W. looked annoyed. Or he smiled when he should have been serious. Or he swaggered when simple action would have been the right move.
And he was so slow. Everyone knew on Sunday morning that Katrina was a killer. Yet when the levees broke after the storm, the White House slouched toward action. And this from a leader who made his bones with 9/11. In a crisis he can act paradoxically, appearing–almost simultaneously–strong and weak, decisive and vacillating, Churchill and Chamberlain. This week he was more Chamberlain.
Today, as BP engineers are apparently hoping for the best, but not expecting too much, in their numerous attempts to plug the massive oil leak that is daily imperiling our wildlife, salt water and god knows what else, some folks are blaming Obama for the seemingly languid response to the problem, even equating it with Bush’s woefully, and real, inept response to Katrina.
Peggy Noonan, in a recent Wall Street Journal column, has claimed that
I don’t see how the president’s position and popularity can survive the oil spill.
And she goes on to ask:
How could there not have been a plan? How could it all be so ad hoc, so inadequate, so embarrassing? We’re plugging it now with tires, mud and golf balls?
Great questions. But it’s BP’s oil rig, not the government’s. If an Exxon station’s gas pump line, the one that goes to the car, bursts (I’ve been at a station where this has happened), the local Exxon station will come in and, I would hope, reimburse the customer for his troubles (gas-drenched clothes, the extra time and inconveniences, etc.). The local county government or the state will not helicopter in and handle a matter that is the responsibility of a private entity.
We have eight years proof that Bush, and probably Clinton before him, likely paid no attention whatsoever to regulations of oil rigs on the seas, and the current rig in question has been in operation at least since 2002.
The disaster in the Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his administration
And then the clear-eyed Sullivan’s reply:
Seriously? Her evidence for this? She claims the Democrats don’t love him. The latest poll of polls shows over 80 percent support. She claims that he is “weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support.” Really? With unemployment at near record highs after a deep recession, Obama’s approval ratings are stuck just below 50 percent – and have been remarkably stable for months. At this point in his presidency, Obama is about five points more popular than Reagan, who was poised to drop to 37 percent approval by January of 1983. Clinton was lower than Obama in June 1994. In today’s polarized climate and awful economy, Obama is remarkably resilient. He has a favorable rating over 52 percent, and his unfavorable rating is at a six month low of 39 percent. This is Obama’s political end?
The premise of Noonan’s moronic column is that the federal government, especially the president, should be capable of ending an oil-pipe rupture owned and operated by private companies, using technology that only deep-sea oil companies deploy or understand. And if such a technical issue is not resolved by government immediately, it reveals paralyzing presidential weakness and the failure of an entire branch of political philosophy. Again: seriously? It’s Obama‘s fault that under Bush and Cheney, government regulation of oil exploration was so poor and corrupt, corner cutting appears to have been routine? And this, Peggy, is what governments do, even when run by crazy-ass liberals. Governments do not dig for oil; they merely regulate those who dig for oil. That the government failed to do so under the previous administration does not seem to me to be proof that this administration has failed.
I want to return to some statistics to which I referred earlier because the point that I’m about to make was lucidly confirmed as I was recently revisiting Christopher Hitchen’s anti-theistic polemic, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”
The data is, admittedly, old from 2002, but since we are still being implicated by the events precipitated on Sept. 11, 2001, they are still, more or less, useful. The figures are from the Pew Research Center and present the not-surprising evidence that America leads by wide margins every single other wealthy, modernized nation in the percentage of people who say religion is, not just important, but very important to their lives. Fifty-nine percent of Americans said religion was very important to their lives, while on the same question, 30 percent responded affirmatively in Canada, 33 percent in Britain and 11 percent in mostly godless France. On the other hand, in many parts of Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, where localized violence or deprivation or corruption are common realities of daily life, religion has a large stranglehold over the populace and leadership. For instance, Nigeria is at 92 percent, Pakistan at 91 and Indonesia at 95.
The conclusion is clear. As Pew points out,
Americans’ views are closer to people in developing nations than to the publics of developed nations.
Pew also found that
wealthier nations tend to place less importance on religion — with the exception of the United States.
And as Hitchens notes, with much less sterility:
… as I write, a version of the Inquisition is about to lay hands on a nuclear weapon. Under the stultified rule of religion, the great and inventive and sophisticated civilization of Persia has been steadily losing its pulse. Its writers and artists and intellectuals are mainly in exile or stifled by censorship; its women are chattel and sexual prey; its young people are mostly half-educated and without employment. After a quarter century of theocracy, Iran still exports the very things it exported when the theocrats took over—pistachio nuts and rugs. Modernity and technology have passed it by, save for the one achievement of nuclearization.
This puts the confrontation between faith and civilization on a whole new footing. Until relatively recently, those who adopted the clerical path had to pay a heavy price for it. Their societies would decay, their economies would contract, their best minds would go to waste or take themselves elsewhere, and they would consistently be outdone by societies that had learned to tame and sequester the religious impulse. A country like Afghanistan would simply rot.
And it has rotted, or at least, remained inert for decades. For another example, see Somalia, which has been wrecked by Islamic extremists for years.
But before readers begin to point out that the majority of countries on the list with both high percentages of devout believers and high occurrences of violence and servitude are predominantly Muslim, America again being the exception, many in both lists, those with less devotees and more, are European and Latin American. While many of the European nations function quite ably, in some cases much better than the U.S., without religion at center stage, much of Christian Latin America is woefully impoverished, with a wide chasm between the haves and have-nots.
The larger point is that religion, taken to its extreme, as it is in many of these countries, chokes free thought, free government, democracy and well, everything else. This is the disconcerting reality that Pat Robertson, James Dobson and many others would hope to bring to this country: devout House members, devout Senate members, a devout president and devout local elected officials all the way down the rung. What would be left but to declare, once and for all, a theocracy? And we only have to look beyond our shores for proof of what such a reality might bring. We can only be thankful that believers in America today don’t believe in holy writ quite as much or as fervently as believers of different holy books, or the same book, elsewhere.
This article, which was sent to me by a friend, reports that my home state of South Carolina (and many others) is now considering its own unconstitutional immigration law a la Arizona’s recently passed travesty. Here is the full article from The State.
Scott Huffman, a Winthrop University political science professor, indicated that the subcommittee met to discuss the bill was only making a “symbolic,” gesture because the legislature wouldn’t have time to pass the law in this session:
By doing it when they don’t actually have time to pass the legislation, they get credit for the symbolic stand without having to worry about how to fund the measure.
Yes, and by credit, Huffman means, political points. Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, noted that none of the five on the committee were up for reelection:
We are not playing to anybody. It’s not a pandering-type thing.
Perhaps not as individual politicians, but as a party, it most certainly is pandering.
Regardless, South Carolina already passed an immigration law in 2008, then deemed one of the stiffest in the nation, and which instituted the E-verify system requiring employers to validate potential employees legal status by either drivers license or documentation with the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate bill, according to The State,
would allow state and local police to check immigration status after detaining or arresting a person for another reason. The officer would need reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.
People questioned would have to provide identification issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, a tribal enrollment card or an ID issued by the U.S. government. The bill also includes a provision that would outlaw the hiring of illegal immigrants for day labor.
The words aren’t in quotes, but “reasonable suspicion” is the actual verbiage from the bill, but what on earth does that mean? In my view, this gives big-feeling law enforcement officers too much leeway and power to determine, with all the implications that come from living in the historically anti-brown and anti-black South, far too much license to find “reasonable suspicion” wherever, and on whomever, they choose.
And according to the this story, the public seems to be behind measures of this kind. But, I would argue, it makes no difference what the public supports or not. The “public” does not always have the nation’s true best interests at heart or enough knowledge of anything to make intelligent decisions about anything. After all, 59 percent of Americans say that religion plays an important part of their lives, far greater than any other modernized, wealthy nation.
And yes, immigrants to this country have always had a tough road to hoe, none greater than Africans in the 17th century, later Irish and Italians, and now Hispanics, but the spirit of this country is immigration, and as I’ve noted in newspaper columns, Obama must work to pass meaningful and long-needed immigration reform. These rogue states’ yahoo approach to go it alone is misguided, and by all means, unconstitutional, and at the start, against the spirit on which this country was founded. According to the above linked story by the Christian Science Monitor,
the results of these polls miss the point, says Lara Brown, a political scientist at Villanova University. “There is more consensus on this topic among Americans than most politicians seem to believe.”
“The majority of Americans are not anti-immigrant, pro-illegals, or in favor of a police state,” Brown says. “Instead, they want government to uphold the rule of law (the federal rule of law, italics mine), and they want America to continue to be a country that stands by its long heritage of welcoming those, as the inscription on the Statute of Liberty reads, who are ‘yearning to breathe free.’ The real story is that.”
This excellent Newsweek article tells the story of a president actually acting as commander in chief and head of the Pentagon, rather than as a lackey to it, in the weeks and months leading up to the White House’s decision to send some 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Obama’s novel approach to the Pentagon — I say, “novel” because no president in the last 50 years or so has commandeered such a firm stance with the military — included not allowing military officials to get us committed to an lengthy, or worse, amaranthine, occupation in Afghanistan.
The first of 10 “AFPAK” meetings came on Sept. 13, when the president gathered 16 advisers in the Situation Room in the basement of the White House. This was to be the most methodical national-security decision in a generation. Deputy national-security adviser Tom Donilon had commissioned research that backed up an astonishing historical truth: neither the Vietnam War nor the Iraq War featured any key meetings where all the issues and assumptions were discussed by policymakers. In both cases the United States was sucked into war inch by inch.
The Obama administration was determined to change that. “For the past eight years, whatever the military asked for, they got,” Obama explained later. “My job was to slow things down.” The president had something precious in modern crisis management: time. “I had to put up with the ‘dithering’ arguments from Dick Cheney or others,” Obama said. “But as long as I wasn’t shaken by the political chatter, I had the time to work through all these issues and ask a bunch of tough questions and force people to sharpen their pencils until we arrived at the best possible solution.”
One participant in these meetings described Obama as “clear-eyed, hardheaded, and demanding,” and this is what I have always respected about the man. He’s calculating, not a cowboy. He’s leading, and not in Bush’s phony, and flatly wrong, “I’m the decider,” way (For, we know how tragically uncritical Bush was of his own military officials).
… Obama was perfectly aware of the box he was now in. He could defer entirely to his generals, as President Bush had done, which he considered an abdication of responsibility. Or he could overrule them, which would weaken their effectiveness, with negative consequences for soldiers in the field, relations with allies, and the president’s own political position. There had to be a third way, he figured.
In the meantime it was important to remind the brass who was in charge. Inside the National Security Council, advisers considered what happened next historic, a presidential dressing-down unlike any in the United States in more than half a century. In the first week of October, Gates and Mullen were summoned to the Oval Office, where the president told them that he was “exceedingly unhappy” with the Pentagon’s conduct (Regarding the McChrystal leaks). He said the leaks and positioning in advance of a decision were “disrespectful of the process” and “damaging to the men and women in uniform and to the country.” In a cold fury Obama said he wanted to know “here and now” if the Pentagon would be on board with any presidential decision and could faithfully implement it.
And at the conclusion of the article:
On Sunday, Nov. 29, having made his decision, the president decided to hold a final Oval Office meeting with the Pentagon brass and commanders in the region who would carry out his orders. He wanted to put it directly to the military: Gates, Mullen, Cartwright, Petraeus, and national-security adviser Jim Jones, without any of the others. Obama asked Biden to come back early from Thanksgiving in Nantucket to join him for the meeting.
As they walked along the portico toward the Oval Office, Biden asked if the new policy of beginning a significant withdrawal in 2011 was a direct presidential order that couldn’t be countermanded by the military. Obama said yes. The president didn’t need the reminder. Obama had already learned something about leaving no room for ambiguity with the military. He would often summarize his own meetings in a purposeful, clear style by saying, “Let me tell you where I am,” before enumerating points (“One, two, three”) and finishing with, “And that’s my order.”
Inside the Oval Office, Obama asked Petraeus, “David, tell me now. I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?”
“Sir, I’m confident we can train and hand over to the ANA [Afghan National Army] in that time frame,” Petraeus replied.
“Good. No problem,” the president said. “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?”
“Yes, sir, in agreement,” Petraeus said.
“Yes, sir,” Mullen said.
The president was crisp but informal. “Bob, you have any problems?” he asked Gates, who said he was fine with it.
The president then encapsulated the new policy: in quickly, out quickly, focus on Al Qaeda, and build the Afghan Army. “I’m not asking you to change what you believe, but if you don’t agree with me that we can execute this, say so now,” he said. No one said anything.
“Tell me now,” Obama repeated.
“Fully support, sir,” Mullen said.
“Ditto,” Petraeus said.
As I’ve said before on this blog, Tea Party supporters, angry at that great enigmatic something, are attempting to hit a moving target, or perhaps, many moving targets, from taxes to heath care to immigration to “socialist” programs, etc., with no coherent or cogent plan of attack, no leader, no platform, no banner. Unless, of course, that banner is “Don’t Tread On Me,” and well, we know how silly that is.
Michael Kinsley in his recent column for The Atlantic, disputed a March 4 essay by David Brooks comparing the current Tea Party movement to that of the 1960s-era anti-Vietnam demonstrations and rallies. As Brooks said:
There are many differences between the New Left and the Tea Partiers. One was on the left, the other is on the right. One was bohemian, the other is bourgeois. One was motivated by war, and the other is motivated by runaway federal spending. One went to Woodstock, the other is more likely to go to Wal-Mart.
But the similarities are more striking than the differences. To start with, the Tea Partiers have adopted the tactics of the New Left. They go in for street theater, mass rallies, marches and extreme statements that are designed to shock polite society out of its stupor.
… But the core commonality is this: Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains,” is how Rousseau put it.
Kinsley noted three distinct differences, however. First, statistics have shown that the Tea Party crowd is composed of a majority of middle class, older folks, whereas 1960s protesters were, by and large, young people (Some, interestingly, may have participated in both). Second, as noted above, Tea Partiers don’t have one prevailing and acute grievance as did people in the 1960s with their arguments against the war. Kinsley conceded that, perhaps, health care was the Tea Party cause, but noted:
… even for devoted TPPs, stripping health insurance away from people who’ve just gotten it is unlikely to summon the same passions that the activists of the 1960s brought to stopping a misguided war. Not only do TPPs not have one big issue like Vietnam—they disagree about many of their smaller issues. What unites them is a more abstract resentment, an intensity of feeling rather than any concrete complaint or goal.
Third, and perhaps, most prescient, 1960s protesters’ ultimate goals were not inward-looking, but outward, against an ill-conceived war, racism and other social ills of the day. According to Kinsley,
… although the 1960s featured plenty of self-indulgence, this wasn’t their essence. Their essence was selfless and idealistic: stopping the war; ending racism; eradicating poverty. These goals and some of the methods for achieving them may have been childishly romantic or even entirely wrongheaded, but they were about making the world a better place. The Tea Party movement’s goals, when stated specifically, are mostly self-interested.
And here, I want to posit a theory. Preachers have bemoaned for centuries how many in their flocks will often put on the cloak of faith in hard times. Personal disaster or “trials” bring a person ever closer to God and increase, not lessen faith, right? While in good times, people (Here, I mean among all those who say they believe. I understand that many among us stay devout all the time in good or bad. Nonetheless, preachers everywhere see the same inconsistency in good versus bad times) of professed faith much readily coast through life, praying if they feel like it, perhaps throwing up an offering of thanksgiving now and then.
But here is the crux: the same tendency often holds true for government, and Kinsley touched on this incongruency in the Tea Party doctrine when he mentioned the right-wing axiom of personal responsibility:
“Personal responsibility” has been a great conservative theme in recent decades, in response to the growth of the welfare state. It is a common theme among TPPs—even in response to health-care reform, as if losing your job and then getting cancer is something you shouldn’t have allowed to happen to yourself (Italics mine). But these days, conservatives far outdo liberals in excusing citizens from personal responsibility. To the TPPs, all of our problems are the fault of the government, and the government is a great “other,” a hideous monster over which we have no control.
I could make a further claim: that government can be, in this case, analogous with a worshipped deity. Some, indeed, clamber to God in times of tragedy but in the boom years, thoughts to pray, etc., more easily slip folks’ minds. Thus, the constant requirement of belabored preachers everywhere to keep the necessity of prayer and Bible reading in the forefront of the layman’s mind.
And so it is with government. Millions line up at Tea Party rallies to protest how their freedoms are being infringed upon and how they want less intervention and more control of their lives. This is the essence of free will (Although, from the Christian view, humans never had free will to begin with, since we were, as Fulke Greville memorably put it: “Created sick — Commanded to be well”). But when one of the Tea Party’s number becomes stricken with some debilitating illness or major injury, well, that person is first in line at the Medicaid office to get their benefits, and I would even guess, first on their knees as well.
I’m not always one to trumpet child, or even teenage, actors or musicians and the like, since they usually flame out well before their voice breaks, but this kid, Greyson Chance, manages to take a rather run-of-the-mill glam pop, dance track and actually puts some power and emotion behind it. After his recent appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show, and one can only imagine, more upcoming appearances, he’s most certainly going to catch the eye of some producer with his cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” His vocal control and maturity at that age is absolutely remarkable. And the vocal thrust he puts toward the end was, to me, powerful and in a way, a little Thom Yorke-esque (If one listens to early performances of “Creep” from the early 90s), and far more musically intriguing than Lady Gaga’s version.
Here is the original video from a school talent show:
And here is the video from his recent appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show, which I think may be even stronger than the prior performance. Do yourself a favor and skip the goofy dialogue at the beginning and forward to about the 5:30 minute mark.
Pop, real Pop, is a white-hot blank. It sizzles into materiality in the form of this body or that body, this voice or that voice; it drapes itself in allusions, symbols, trinkets, scraps of dazzlement. It can enter the world in triumph, with a bang, in a flash of beauty; or sordidly and crappily, filtering from the ceiling speakers of a Taco Bell or glimpsed on a screen through somebody’s lonely apartment window, a dismal flickering. It seeps into conversations, your everyday chitchat—“Did you hear …?” “Have you seen …?”—and you talk about it as if under a compulsion, like a sleepwalker, the syllables strange on your tongue. Plenty to say about Pop (although it repels intelligent commentary)—about its shapes and styles and so on. But always, always, at the core, an ecstatic and superheated Nothing.
The column, in itself, makes the case that Lady Gaga is at once, empowering and “eviscerating” the institution of pop (and herself?), that has, (my words here) grown ever more glamish, yet somehow disheveled, since the New Kids on the Block first belched those words, “Hangin’ Tough” in the 1980s. Like Gaga, Kurt Cobain, of course, was well aware of how the entertainment business had the potential, and his case, did, chew him up and spit him out. We get the foreshadowing in his “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which I would contend, single-handedly delivered the death of hard rock in its pre-alternative form:
And I forget just why I taste. Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile. I found it hard, it’s hard to find the will, whatever, nevermind.
Or, for Cobain, maybe it was the ever-gnawing stomach pains, or a combination of other ills, that precipitated his end.
But should the fame make you really-truly famous—well, then you’ve got problems. Glare and shutter-whizz, the fan’s gaze weaponized: hiss the word … paparazzi. “Amidst all of these flashing lights,” moaned Gaga operatically at last year’s Video Music Awards, sprawled upon the stage, “I pray the fame won’t take my liiiiiife.” It was a prelude to her song “Paparazzi,” and within a few minutes she was spurting fake blood from her chest and being hoisted aloft in a mock hanging. In 1992, Kurt Cobain, amid much speculation about his mental and physical health, had himself wheeled onstage for Nirvana’s set at the Reading Festival, a hunched, averted figure in a white lab coat and platinum wig. Very Gaga, in retrospect. She too, in performance, will take to her wheelchair, or stagger along with a crutch—she has appropriated the arsenal of debility, of meltdown, train wreck, and personal disaster, as part of her style.
Parker, near the conclusion of the article then references Madonna, who was, or is, nothing if she isn’t a pop star. Yet, Gaga has gone a step further:
Gaga is post-Madonna and therefore freer: bandaged in yellow police tape or pounding at the piano with one leg up on the keyboard, she fears no trespass on her dignity. There’s nothing in Madonna’s videography comparable to the John Waters–esque sequence at the end of Telephone, in which a mass poisoning is perpetrated and fried food falls in lumps from people’s mouths. What does it mean, the image of an aproned Gaga turning a diner into a vomitorium? It means gaga, it means gagging, it means nothing. Or rather, right now, somehow, it means Pop. And who will be post-Gaga? Nobody. She’s finishing it off, each of her productions gleefully laying waste to another area of possibility. So let’s just say it: she’s the last Pop star. Après Gaga, the void.
So, the forlorn governor of my home state has not only cost his constituents money with his extra-marital escapades (the marriage is now no more), he’s now apparently costing Florida money because of his recent visit to that state to see the woman, María Belén Chapur, who seems to have unalterably enchanted the good governor.
According to this report from The Associated Press,
The recently divorced governor spent several days in South Florida over Mother’s Day weekend to see if he could rekindle his relationship with Maria Belen Chapur.
Information obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request from the Department of Law Enforcement shows Florida state agents provided security for Sanford from May 7 through May 11, with the exception of Mothers’ Day.
The department’s cost analysis showed it protected Sanford for a total of 34 hours at a rate of $24.43 an hour in addition to $25.81 in travel costs.
The department has a reciprocal agreement with other states and will not be reimbursed by South Carolina for Sanford’s dalliance. Officials did not explain why Sanford was not protected on Mother’s Day, which was May 9.
Jenny Sanford, by all accounts, has moved on. She has a new book, which is aptly named, “Staying True” (We can only assume), and on an appearance this week on Dr. Phil, she aired some of her frustrations on the whole sundry ordeal:
Asked by Dr. Phil about why she didn’t stand next to her husband at the June press conference at which he publicly disclosed his affair, Jenny Sanford said it wasn’t a possibility.
“First of all, he never asked me to be next to him,” she said. “At the time, he was coming back from Argentina. We had had six months of what was sheer hell for me, and the thought of standing by him when he had just done the unconscionable, it just never entered my mind. It just wasn’t even a possibility for me.”
Dr. Phil said he was “astounded” Sanford first apologized to the state’s citizens and his lover at the press conference before acknowledging the pain he caused his wife and family.
“He didn’t say anything I wanted him to say,” Jenny Sanford said about the press conference. She said she would have liked to have heard him say, “I love my wife so much I can’t believe I did this to her.”
She said she was “astonished” and “crushed” when he later gave an interview detailing his romance with the woman and describing her as his “soul mate.”
“I just saw him as lost,” she said. “I love the Mark Sanford I knew, the one I fell in love with when we married. Can I ever be married to him again? Absolutely not.”