I have not felt much like writing, of late. Or paying close attention to what passes for news. It’s all rather dreary. And, besides, the news isn’t what it used to be. The line between information and entertainment has blurred markedly. The public seems to prefer pablum to substance. Empty calories that turn the intellect flabby. It’s no wonder that Helen Thomas finally snapped. No one pays attention to the news unless it’s titillating, dramatic, or controversial.
In the last week, it seems like the line between truth and fiction has also blurred. A couple of news items particularly grabbed my eye. (And, yes, that hurts.) The first was an Associated Press exposé on British Petroleum’s creative approach to disaster preparedness:
BP’s plan for spill reads like fiction
Professor Peter Lutz is listed in BP’s 2009 response plan for a Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a national wildlife expert. He died in 2005.
Under the heading “sensitive biological resources,” the plan lists marine mammals including walruses, sea otters, sea lions and seals. None live anywhere near the Gulf.
The names and phone numbers of several Texas A&M University marine life specialists are wrong. So are the numbers for marine mammal stranding network offices in Louisiana and Florida, which are no longer in service.
BP PLC’s 582-page regional spill plan for the Gulf, and its 52-page, site-specific plan for the Deepwater Horizon rig, are riddled with omissions and glaring errors, according to an Associated Press analysis that details how BP officials have pretty much been making it up as they go along. The lengthy plans approved by the federal government last year before BP drilled its ill-fated well vastly understate the dangers posed by an uncontrolled leak and vastly overstate the company’s preparedness to deal with one. [link]
This would be almost comical, were it not for the mother-of-all-oil-spills contaminating the Gulf of Mexico with unrelenting fury right now. Well, at least hurricane season has begun. And the
Keystone Kops Mineral Management Service is watching over BP like a dodo hawk.
The other truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story concerned the Cinderfella tale of the current Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina. Gail Collins of the New York Times offers some commentary:
S.C. Strikes Again
Alvin Greene filed for our sins.
Greene, an unemployed 32-year-old, is currently the most famous Democratic candidate in South Carolina. He just won the nomination to run against Senator Jim DeMint in November, overcoming major obstacles such as not having campaign staff, campaign funds, a campaign Web site, cellphone or personal computer. And then there’s the felony charge pending for allegedly showing a University of South Carolina student a pornographic picture.
I’m sorry we have to keep coming back to South Carolina. There are 50 states, and I’m sure every single one has some really peculiar political phenomena that we could make fun of if time allowed.
But South Carolina has definitely been on a roll. Earlier this week, it looked as if the big primary story was the two Republican political consultants who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Nikki Haley, a candidate for governor. Haley went on to finish 27 percentage points ahead of her closest rival. Having endured so many sex scandals with male candidates, we have long wondered what would happen when women running for high office started to get hit with adultery charges. Apparently, it makes them more popular.
Now there’s Alvin Greene. To get on the ballot in South Carolina, a candidate for Senate has to pay a $10,440 filing fee. By now, there are political junkies in every part of the United States who could make a list of things that Greene needed to spend money on more than he needed to be on an election ballot. The cellphone and computer would be nice. His own apartment. (He lives with his dad.) And a lawyer, since he’s currently being represented by a public defender in the obscenity case.
“That I’m not commenting on,” he said on MSNBC.
Normally, hopeless candidates for high office are either dedicated to a cause or drenched in ego. Either way, they bloom under TV camera lights. Greene wilts. He haltingly ascribed his win to “simple old-fashioned campaigning,” which did not seem to involve any gathering featuring other people. [link]
I’m going to lay down now. Everything has gotten blurry.