Speaking this morning with the new face of BP, this fellow Darryl Willis, made me think about what public relations are all about. First of all let me be clear, I liked the guy. He certainly has a hard job dealing with claims, and his southern accent and easy going Gulf pace of speaking will certainly be a welcome change from Tony Hayward’s chilly British lilt.
His job is to deal with claims against BP and help people to get money owed them by the company for lost wages and the like. But the fact that he has worked for BP for 20 years, calls himself an executive, and appears in expensively produced commercials — reassuring people about BP’s sense of corporate responsibility — qualifies him as a company spokesperson. So I asked Willis about the story on the front page of The New York Times today. BP is developing an oil well in Alaska that pushes the envelope of technology and engineering.
The project involves ten miles of drilling that starts in deep water and goes sideways into a huge underground reservoir. Willis knew nothing about the story or the technological details. When asked what he would say to the people of Alaska to reassure them that this new well wouldn’t go awry, he responded with a corporate line about BP’s concern for safety. Then he insisted he was a real BP executive and lifelong Gulf resident not some random local hired to talk the talk with angry Gulf victims.
I wanted to ask him if we could give out his phone number so anyone listening could call him about their claims problems. I didn’t. Maybe I should have. Instead I asked if BP would hire some rugged looking mountain man with a shotgun to talk to Alaskans in the case of this new well blowing out and causing another catastrophe up north. He deflected by saying he was totally focused on the Gulf victims and that was his job everyday. In a sense he didn’t answer the question because it was obvious. That’s exactly what they would do. BP probably has any number of rugged Alaskans on the payroll ready to go if, God forbid, the worst happens up there.
The conflict between the civilian and uniformed leadership of the military is a long theme in Constitutional law. Depictions of personality differences and styles of leadership distract from a fundamental truth, true since the days of the Framers: Civilians run the military, period. And the president is commander in chief, taking on a role that has evolved over time. Both Jackson and Lincoln embodied new powers through their commander in chief identities. In the post World War II era, the commander in chief role has expanded to, in effect, militarize the presidency. This was especially true in the Bush administration as the commander in chief both justified controversial policies in the War on Terror and also deferred to the generals on other policies, such as the number of troops in Iraq. Where does Obama stand on the commander in chief question? We’ll find out more today.
"Material support for terrorists" sounds pretty sinister, and it was sinister enough on Monday for the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm, 6-to-3, that it is a crime under a 1996 law. But the Court hasn’t necessarily made it easy to determine where the line is between being neighborly or generous and being an accomplice in a campaign of terrorism.
Okay folks, in North Korea they are already trying to figure this out, but let’s give it a shot on our own. After today’s provocative insult on the World Cup soccer field, we must assume that North Korea is working on how to invade Portugal. A 1-to-nothing loss would have been just annoying and sad for the Dear Leader. Two-to-nothing or even 3-to-nothing would have had repercussions (possibly horrible) for the North Korean team back home, but nothing beyond that. But 5-to-nothing and you have to figure troops are on alert. 6-to-nothing and it’s a general mobilization of the population — but 7-to-nothing!!!!
The summer is exciting to behold. Today on the longest day of the year we will have 907 minutes of daylight and that doesn’t count the long sunrise and slow twilight. I’m daydreaming, okay. It’s kind of slow this morning and to pass the time I was thinking about the fabulous summer the Chinese currency is poised to have. It’s surging within the narrow sandbox that the Chinese government permits it to trade in. This morning it’s trading at around 14 cents to the dollar. 1 yuan = .1471. This means if I had a Yuan for every minute of daylight today I’d have $133.42. If the Chinese government allowed the Yuan to float to its ACTUAL VALUE, imagine how much of a windfall I would have?
One thing is clear, in this century the expression “If I had a Yuan for every time I, etc. etc. etc…” is going to become more common.
Father’s Day was full of fun and fatherly bliss. Although, after eating a fabulous breakfast of eggs benedict and fresh fruit, I made a mistake. Instead of doing nothing on a lazy Sunday, I decided to do an inventory of our camping equipment for an upcoming August vacation. This is the scene in which the father attempts to organize two eight-year-olds and two eleven-year-olds to set up some tents on a hot last day of spring.
Been thinking about Father's Day. Our terrific movie voices Emily Rems and Rafer Guzman had some suggestions for movies, with great (or at least memorable) dad movies. You should check them out. They are a little serious and dark but really fun. They got me thinking. I loved Spencer Tracy as the dad in "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner." But more recently that amazing James Mangold movie "3:10 to Yuma" has fatherhood themes all through it.
The BBC’s Caroline Duffield said it this morning: the Niger Delta is plagued by continual oil spills, sustaining spills equivalent to the Exxon Valdez spill every year for the past 50 years. In talking about the horrors there, Caroline delivered a really heartbreaking image. In the place considered to be the world’s most oil-polluted area, she mentioned that you can see “silver frogs” covered with oil-related chemicals all throughout the waterways. It is a snapshot of the possible future of the Gulf of Mexico — poor poisoned animals coping with mutations and environmental torture.
On Wednesday night, another season of American Idol ended and a new star was born. To make it to the top they all had to accept the hard showbiz truth from the Darth Vader of entertainment, Simon Cowell. As Simon Cowell leaves "American Idol," John Hockenberry looks at why, despite his cruel truth-telling, Cowell is so beloved.
The sub-prime mortgage crash of two years ago was not about mortgages and it was not about complexity of derivatives and the cross-betting lunacy of credit default swap insurance voodoo. It was about the simplest thing in economics: price. If you can’t find a price, there is no sale, no market, no value, no money. In that instance, everything seizes up and you see what happened yesterday, for a while, on Wall Street.
Brackets bug me. I’m sure it has something to do with money I lost betting on Gonzaga one time. But there’s a bigger issue for me and this brackets business sucking in all the office workers in North America this month.
Stories on the Takeaway have all kinds of origins. There are host pitches, obvious news stories, monster bookings, weird obscure stuff (my personal favorites) and the millions of great ideas that our staff comes up with. Then there is the occasional asteroid, a story that is whirling out there that seems possibly misguided, a rogue: destructive, preposterous, awkward, or worse, embarrassing. “Where did this story come from?” was my question about the idea that we were going to talk about the religious significance of the movie 'Groundhog Day' on the holiday Groundhog Day, February 2nd. What religious significance? I was imagining the crackpots who would come into the show with Bill Murray masks or with their hair all done up like Andie MacDowell, or worst of all Groundhog Day costar Chris Elliot would show up in a trench coat with a Bible in hand talking about his past lives.
John Hockenberry walks through some moments from past State of the Union addresses, looking at the themes that always recur: the economy, health care, jobs, the deficit and changes big and small to our constitution and government.
From its constitutional origins, the State of the Union speech – State of the Union message, gesture, whatever you want to call it – has evolved into a big media event worthy of the Kremlin. Although Article 2 merely directed the president “from time to time” to report on the state of the union, it’s now an annual speech, followed by a response from the party out of power and media evaluations of the president’s own evaluation of the state of the union. What would the framers think about this sober, elaborate ritual, picked apart by the jabbering class commenting on who smiled, who applauded and who walked out?
John Hockenberry sat down with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen at the Pentagon on Wednesday for a wide-ranging conversation. In this excerpt, we ask him about the use of Guantanamo Bay in the Haiti relief effort and working with a Haitian government in disarray.
The United States military is getting more involved in the Haiti relief effort by the day. On Wednesday, 4,000 more troops were added, bringing the total U.S. presence in the country to about 16,000. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation's highest ranking military officer, tells The Takeaway that he recognizes the scale of the U.S. footprint and insists the focus is to support other organizations. He also says the use of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is an option in the treatment of the many wounded Haitians.
John Hockenberry sat down with Adm. Mullen in the Pentagon on Wednesday. Here is a partial transcript of the interview.
I have a new baby. He can’t talk. He can’t walk. He loves to eat and he wants to be a part of his much bigger family. It’s a little like The Takeaway.
He was going to be my space buddy. He had always been. Walter Cronkite was my companion as a boy to understanding the world. His voice was the narration for the Kennedy assassination and his tearful gesture in announcing JFK’s death was, for my parents, the almost tribal gesture giving permission for us to grieve. Because Cronkite shed tears we could all move away from shock and step forward together.
Walter Cronkite was the story. He was the news. He was the news business. He was trained as a wire service reporter and embodied those values and virtues long after technology upstaged them. Nothing could ever trump the authority of Cronkite and today, newspapers and networks alike yearn to recreate and bottle it as though what Cronkite had was a part of his performance. The networks assumed that the authority in the news business belonged to them --like the phone company owns the telephone wires. But in their choices after Cronkite, each network made clear that other values such as youth and celebrity mattered as much to them as authority, and audiences got the point. Authority doesn’t share the stage well with the superfluous or the supercilious. Walter stood alone.continue reading...
Comparisons come almost too easily. One can rank the hype and pure star power of Michael Jackson up there with the most famous people who have ever lived. His reach was planetary in scale. His loss delivers the shock and tragic complexity of the death of Elvis Presley, John Lennon or Marilyn Monroe. But focus on Michael himself and the comparisons evaporate. This is an irreplaceable talent that sadly the world lost some time ago. By the time of his death at age 50 this week, Jackson had receded from a world that could only witness him in bizarre glimpses. Those glimpses continued all evening on television news reports showing blurry crowds and telephoto shots of ambulances. As in life, in death the best mere humans can do is get a ticket for the global stadium event.
Michael was outsized from the moment he took the stage as part of his family's irresistibly appealing Motown act. But he immediately outgrew his family; over time he became, as the King of Pop, bigger than his genre. Then, at the top of his game, he exceeded the scale of celebrity itself. In the late 80s and 90s Michael hung out with actress Elizabeth Taylor because almost no one could match his towering profile of talent and weirdness. ... Continue reading