You Were Saying? — Leonard Pitts, Jr. on how some people have revised their opinion about the way things work.
”There has never been a challenge that the American people, with as little interference as possible by the federal government, cannot handle.” — Bobby Jindal, March 24, 2009
That was then.
This is now: 11 people dead in an oil rig explosion, fragile marshlands damaged, perhaps irreparably, uncalculated millions (billions?) in lost revenue for the tourism and fishing industries, and a short attention span nation transfixed by a compelling image from a deep sea camera, brown gunk billowing out from a hole in the ocean floor, Things Getting Worse in real time.
And Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, off whose coast this tragedy is centered, is singing a new song, starkly at odds with what he said last year in a speech before the Republican faithful. Now he’s begging for federal ”interference.” He wants federal money, federal supplies, wants the feds to help create barrier islands to protect Louisiana wetlands from oil.
Not to pick on Jindal. He is but one prominent voice in a chorus of Gulf state officials who once preached the virtues of tiny government but have discovered, in the wake of this spreading disaster, the virtues of government that is robust enough, at a minimum, to help them out of a jam.
One hears pointed questions about President Obama’s engagement or lack thereof in the unfolding crisis. One hears accusations that the government was lax in its oversight duties and too cozy with the oil industry it was supposed to be regulating. One hears nothing about deregulation, about leaving the free market alone to do its magic.
You know what they say: it’s all fun and games till somebody gets hurt. Well, the Gulf Coast is hurt, hurt in ways that may take years to fully assess, much less repair. And the sudden silence from the apostles of small government and free markets is telling.
The thing is, their argument is not fundamentally wrong.
Who among us does not believe government is frequently bloated, inefficient and bound by preposterous rules?
Who among us does not think it is often wasteful, hideously complex and redundantly redundant?
Yes, government is not perfect. Nor is it perfectable. As adults, we should understand that. Any bureaucracy serving 309 million people and representing their interests in a world of 6.8 billion people, is likely always to have flaws. Thus, fixing government, making it more streamlined and responsive, is and will always be an ongoing project.
Continued below the fold.
Patriarchal Feminism — Jessica Valenti on the fake feminism of Sarah Palin.
In a widely noted speech this month to the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion-rights group, Palin invoked the words “feminism” and “feminist” no less than a dozen times. She called for a “pro-woman sisterhood” and addressed the “sisters” in the audience. If it weren’t for the regular references to gun rights, you might have thought you were listening to Gloria Steinem.
If this rhetoric seems uncharacteristic of the former governor of Alaska, that’s because it is. When running for vice president in 2008, Palin flip-flopped on the feminist question, telling CBS’s Katie Couric that she is one, but later telling NBC’s Brian Williams, “I’m not going to label myself anything.”
Today, however, Palin is happily adopting the feminist label. She’s throwing support behind “mama grizzly” candidates, describing the large number of women in the “tea party” as evidence of a “mom awakening” and preaching girl power on her Facebook page.
It’s not a realization of the importance of women’s rights that’s inspired the change. It’s strategy. Palin’s sisterly speechifying is part of a larger conservative move to woo women by appropriating feminist language. Just as consumer culture tries to sell “Girls Gone Wild”-style sexism as “empowerment,” conservatives are trying to sell anti-women policies shrouded in pro-women rhetoric.
Several years ago, when antiabortion protesters realized that screaming “Murderer!” at women wasn’t winning hearts and minds, they launched more palatable campaigns claiming that abortion hurts women — their new protest signs read “Women Deserve Better.” (Not surprisingly, this message is much more effective than spitting invective at emotionally vulnerable women.)
When members of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum argue against efforts to address pay inequity, they say the salary gap is a result of women’s informed choices — motherhood, for example — and that claims of discrimination turn women into victims. Conservatives have realized that women respond to seemingly feminist arguments.
But, of course, Palin isn’t a feminist — not in the slightest. What she calls “the emerging conservative feminist identity” isn’t the product of a political movement or a fight for social justice.
It isn’t a structural analysis of patriarchal norms, power dynamics or systemic inequities. It’s an empty rallying call to other women who are as disdainful of or apathetic to women’s rights as Palin herself: women who want to make abortion and emergency contraception illegal and who fight same-sex marriage rights. As Kate Harding wrote on Jezebel.com: “What comes next? ‘Phyllis Schlafly feminism?’ ‘Patriarchal feminism?’ ‘He-Man Woman Hater Feminism?’ “
Given that so-called conservative feminists don’t support women’s rights, how can they paint their movement as pro-woman? Why are they not being laughed out of the room?
The Methods of Dennis Hopper — Andrew O’Hehir remembers the actor/director.
Along with Marlon Brando, Dean was one of the principal vectors for the transmission of Strasberg’s “Method acting” approach into the Hollywood mainstream, and Hopper became an eager disciple. (Publicity photographs from “Rebel Without a Cause” show Hopper reading Stanislavski’s “An Actor Prepares” on the set, which can only have been Dean’s idea.) After Dean’s death, Hopper abandoned Hollywood for Manhattan and spent five years studying under Strasberg. In later years, as the Method came to dominate American film acting, several of its practitioners became much bigger stars than Hopper: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Sean Penn, along with Hopper’s close friend Jack Nicholson. But I’m not sure any of those men internalized the Method, or pursued its philosophical and psychological dimensions to their logical extremes, the way Hopper did.
Viewed narrowly, the Stanislavski-Strasberg Method is a means to an end: An actor employs his own emotions, memories and sensations in order to portray a character in more lifelike and convincing fashion. Hopper seemed to develop his own expanded, synthetic interpretation, probably shaped by his appetite for consciousness-altering substances, avant-garde art and thorny philosophy. Every Hopper performance was just a facet of his lifelong, overarching performance as Dennis Hopper, and the professional separation most actors maintain between themselves and their characters evaporated entirely. Apocryphal or not, the story of Hopper’s phone call to David Lynch after he had read the script for “Blue Velvet” is on point: “You have to let me play Frank Booth. Because I am Frank Booth!”
Of course Hopper wasn’t really an amyl-nitrite-huffing, psychopathic rapist any more than he was a disgraced Indiana basketball coach (as in “Hoosiers”) or a disgruntled bomb-squad officer (as in “Speed”). But he pursued roles as dangerous and damaged characters, at least in the second half of his career, with a fervor that suggests he found them personally therapeutic as well as financially rewarding. Frank Booth was a revelation because he was horrifyingly, recognizably real, in a way movie villains hardly ever are. Even with his exaggerated vices and mannerisms, his foulness was rooted in genuine pain.
Doonesbury — Who’s got your back?