Stevie Ray Vaughan: Never Replaced

By ROBERT CHARELS

Stevie  Ray Vaughan must have been special.  At times, he seemed to embark in every blues cliché in the book, yet everything he did reeked with originality and style.  In a world where so many guitarists strive to pack as many notes into a solo as possible, when “SRV” did it, he changed the landscape of blues guitar forever. Today marks the 20th  anniversary of his untimely death when he went down in a horrifying helicopter crash. I remember saying this on the day he died:  “He’ll never be replaced.” Sadly, it’s pretty much the way it’s been.

We’ve heard Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang and “Monster” Mike Welch and Susan Tedeschi and so many others, but not a one a one of them has 1/100th  the verve, style, and originality of Vaughan.  The Texas-raised guitar master wasn’t handsome, or even particularly tasteful in his attire choices; the constant boots, soul patches, and feathered hats seemed like a desperate reach for attention; his talent was such that he didn’t need the flash.  But when he picked up a guitar – as always, buoyed by his underrated, utterly soulful singing – he was pure magic.

As I write these words, I am doing so without even a cursory glance at the Internet for notes or fact-checking. Here’s what I remember about Vaughan, and how, through the tree of blues music, he impacted my life (margin for error, 100 percent):

I first saw Vaughan in what I recall as 1981 in a small club called Radio City in Scotia, New York.  After a half-assed new wave act finished its short set, Vaughan and the rigidly rocking Double Trouble hit the stage and blew the roof off the place – almost literally. I must state it was the loudest concert I’ve ever attended; I felt physically sick for about three days afterward, I was so jarred. I stuffed my ears with napkins, but I knew, even then, I was watching the best blues guitarist in the world. It can’t be defined; like B.B. King, Albert King, and few others, Vaughan took the best of the past and enveloped it in the best of the current. Lots of licks, sure, but every one was musical, necessary, and real. That was Vaughan.

When I found out that Vaughan’s brother, Jimmie Vaughan, was the guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, I went out and picked up every T-Birds album and began to love them every bit as much as Stevie Ray. They were a vocally based blues and R&B combo, but they were every bit as great in a completely different way; Jimmie plays rhythm guitar as if he had invented the entire idea. In 1983, I walked onto a  stage as a professional blues singer for the very first time; my biggest influences were Vaughan and The T-Birds.

When Stevie Ray died, I looked for other guitarists to get into; I discovered the great Duke Robillard, who filled the void for me as a truly gifted blues star, yet very tasteful, and he could play swing music as well as anyone ever on this planet.  As fate would have it, Robillard replaced Jimmie Vaughan when he left the T-Birds; the branches of the tree started to widen. A few years later, I got to work with Duke when he produced my Metropolitan Blue album in 1999. Some musicians dream of working with a Beatle; as for me, a blues addict, I got to work with a T-Bird. I still consider the album the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

All considered, I’ve had a great life and a wonderful music career, but I’m not the story here, other than my reverence for all things Vaughan.  I can’t imagine how different the blues world would have been had Stevie Ray Vaughan not perished so young. The blues would certainly be more popular than it is today; he was that powerful and influential. And I have no doubt that Vaughan would have been changing, modifying, and honing his sound through the years. Like Jimi Hendrix, Robillard and the great jazz players of our time, Stevie was a perfectionist, and you could hear it on every recording he made.

For now, my advice is to get to the store and pick up Jimmie Vaughan’s great new album. I’ll never let the Vaughan brothers go; they are still part of my musical dreams and hopes. Through it all, neither man ever seemed to realize how truly great they were, and still are.

And as I write these words, I’m missing Stevie Ray Vaughan every bit as much as when I first heard the bad news.  Some wounds never fully heal.

Robert Smith’s professional music moniker is Robert Charels; the blues singer’s albums – Metropolitan Blue, Three Leg Dogs & Old Skool Cats, and Deception In Your Eyes – are available everywhere.

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OMG, I Really Shouldn’t Have…

By ROBERT SMITH

Gee, (fill in the blank), I don’t know what I was thinking. I really shouldn’t have…

…used my MasterCard to charge a session at Miko’s Oriental Persuasion Spa

…eaten that second Entenmann’s crumb cake

…given the finger to that trucker that cut me off

…tried schnapps for the first time

…called that stripper over for a lap dance

…smiled at that traffic cop

…sampled the coffee and donuts they give away at the bank

…ordered that 55-millimeter watch off the TV

…written “former astronautical engineer” under “hobbies” on my resumé

…saw the ad for the new XT Burger at Burger King, then jumped in the car

…ordered two KFC Double Downs for my lunch

…used that stall at the airport men’s room

…agreed to that marathon two-hour Parcheesi game at my in-laws

…bought the kids that beginner drum set

…had kids

…told her she could pick out anything she wanted at Tiffany’s

…chosen the macaroni salad at the picnic buffet

…told naughty jokes in the front row at the christening

…told her I liked the beehive

…told her I didn’t care that I didn’t get any oral in return

…told her I didn’t care

…called in sick saying that my dog had “the borborygmus”

…told my boss to go shit in his hat

…agreed to be the “mustard guy” at the charity submarine sandwich drive

…laughed when she went down on me

…laughed when she walked in the room topless

…called that lady’s dog a “mangy mutt”

…eaten two Pixy Stixs, a Clark bar, a Tahiti Punch, a box of Whoppers, and a Charleston Chew at the movies, figuring “I did the same thing when I was 11”

…eaten at that restaurant without prices on the menu

…eaten at that restaurant where everyone wears a name tag

…eaten at that pizza buffet after showing up at 8:50 pm when the place closes at 9

…eaten that stuff from the back of the fridge

…eaten that stuff I just met at the bar

…told her I used Just For Men before showing up for our first date

…said the “f” word in front of my mother

…told the lawyer at the jury pool that “muff divin’” was among my hobbies

…listed “cockfighting” as my favorite sport at Eharmony.com

…farted robustly at the pot luck dinner

…forgotten to bring a covered dish to share at the church social

…agreed to date a girl who is a typist by day, amateur Roller Derby skater named All Beef Patti by night

…watched the entire Ren & Stimpy marathon in my robe and never moving off the couch except to grab another pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cardiac Crunch

…eaten two Wendy’s chicken breast sandwiches, a huge draught beer, frozen vanilla yogurt, and assorted other stuff within four hours while on vacation on Florida (Jon Pine, that’s one’s for you)

© 2010 Robert Smith

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Die, Newspapers, Die: Second In A Series

By ROBERT SMITH

Yes, leave it to Rupert Murdoch’s ever-so-tasteful, rabble rousing, sub-mental New York Post to put just the right spin on the recent, meaningless LeBron James Miami Heat signing for its Sunday, July 11 edition:

Of course, this is a country where, on one night this week, members of the public took to the streets in Cleveland, New York, Miami, and Chicago. War protests? Power grid failures? Job creation meetings? Worried about the oil spill in the gulf, perhaps?  Nahh…people wanted to know where James was going to sign as a free agent, and took to the streets – Clevelanders burned James’ jerseys, so incensed were they – to either celebrate (Florida) or scream in anguish (New York and the other cities). The Post apparently can’t get over the fact that James didn’t want to sign with the New York Knicks (owned by another enemy of a fair, balanced media, Cablevision owner James “Nepotism” Dolan, who now controls what used to be a newspaper, Newsday).

But back to the angry mobs on the avenues: Hey, dolts – when seafood is $11 a pound, you gonna take to the streets? When the neighbor’s kid comes home from the Middle East in a box, are going to pound the pavement? When temperatures hit 118 in the U.S. mainland this year thanks to “non-existent” climate change, you gonna hit the bricks?

Oh, sorry…y‘all only do what the TV box tell ya to. Forgot about that.

Thanks to The New York Post – not to mention ESPN – for keeping us so smart and informed.

© 2010 Robert Smith

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TV Review: Red, White & Puke

Macy’s Fourth Of July Fireworks Spectacular
July 4
NBC

Review by ROBERT SMITH

Photo by HERLENE SMITH

We have reached the point in the never-ending dumbing down of America that TV networks can’t even broadcast a fireworks display without the viewer eventually lusting to throw red, white, and blue bricks at his own HDTV unit.  We must ask: How in the good name of the Gruccis can they manage to mess up a televised fireworks display? Isn’t it – and shouldn’t it be –  pointing some high-def cameras at the sky, and allowing the viewing public to enjoy?

Not any longer.  July 4’s Macy’s fireworks special from New York City on NBC was unwatchable, overproduced, and, well, sickening; the event was about as sincerely patriotic as an evening in a Guyanese cathouse.  From the insipid, language-mangling host Nick Cannon to meaningless music (a lot of it taped) from the likes of flavor-of-the-month Justin Bieber to appearances from the cast of whatever Twilight film is out this week, the entire production was geared toward getting brain-addled tweens to stop Tweeting during the holiday weekend.

Sure, all of the musical mediocrity was on display pretty much before the fireworks started – but yes, Virginia, they managed to screw up even the pyrotechnics display itself.  The telecast was nothing but endless crowd shots and the worst, remade quasi-patriotic music ever recorded – they actually played a voice singing “la la la” over patriotic songs at the top of the fireworks display.  Other pure schlock music was served up by such modern pop music atrocities as the a cappella abomination Straight No Chaser, which makes Rockapella sound like Parliament/Funkadelic.

The actual fireworks – as usual, best viewed from Queens without the disgusting music – might have been great, if you were on that side of the river. On NBC, the actual fireworks were presented as pretty much an afterthought.

Know what would have been more patriotic than ogling Taylor Lautner’s pecs? How about 11,000 or so righteous, intelligent  Americans peacefully holding signs with sayings such “Our Sons & Daughters Out Of Afghanistan & Iraq Now!”  At least, it would have put a proper, somber, meaningful touch on this year’s July 4 holiday.  Our put-upon troops are what we should be celebrating, as well as an assembled wish for logic from our people and our government, with hope for peace and prosperity for all.

Instead, here’s Maxim girl Kristen Stewart, who is still a good girl since she didn’t choose Playboy in which to pose semi-nude.

What a country.

© 2010 Robert Smith

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The Three Stooges: Digitally Remastered Delirium

Reviews by ROBERT SMITH

A few months back, my esteemed colleague, Steve Ricci, noted how The Three Stooges were influential in his life. I now happily report that last month, a significant moment in Stooge history was logged. It was in early June that the eighth and last in Columbia’s lovingly digitally remastered box sets of complete, uncensored, and restored Three Stooges films, The Three Stooges Collection, was issued on DVD; these 190 films have never been completely released on DVD before this. Combined with AMC’s recent decision to return Stooges shorts to its regular lineup of classic films, there is – as seems to happen every decade or so – a serious case of Stoogemania going on. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.

For serious Stooge aficionados, these DVD collections are truly an answered prayer. The Stooge shorts have not only been released in chronological order, but many of these films have never looked so clear, and in some cases, new. The remastering job isn’t without its pitfalls; a couple of packages come with 3D glasses for films released originally in that format, but they still look awful. As well, the overall remastering job is actually so good it reveals everything in pristine black and white – including pies being pulled from ceilings with strings, and what used to look like flying Stooge heads in the opening of Spooks! now show Moe, Shemp, and Larry in black cloaks, running around as if they’d lost their minds (as if that’s anything unusual). It’s actually fun to see the old-time movie magic exposed.

So let us sing the praises of these master comedians, who have been underrated since their heyday, but answer me this: Are television stations still showing Charlie Chaplin? The Marx Brothers? Laurel & Hardy? Yet, times come and go, and Stooge shorts are still being shown on national networks, some films being a whopping 76 years old. It is testament to The Three Stooges’ knockabout, zany comedy that it can still be appreciated and loved by audiences after such a passage of time. The reason? The Stooges are damn hilarious, that’s why.

A look at the sets: Volume One, which covers 1934 to 1936, begins with the first Stooges short, Woman Haters, a musical number so stilted it’s a wonder the team ever got a second go. But things pick up with the boxing-themed Punch Drunks, and the hospital parody Men In Black, which was actually nominated for an Academy Award. Indeed, “Dr. Howard! Dr. Fine! Dr. Howard!” is quoted to this day, and few Stooge efforts were ever funnier.

Volume 2, 1937-1939: The Stooges, Larry Fine and Moe and Curly Howard, find the formula, and it works like gangbusters. Highlights here are Playing The Ponies, where the trio leads a nag called Thunderbolt to racing glory; Healthy, Wealthy, and Dumb, where the three idiots win a radio contest and rent a snazzy hotel room only to discover that after taxes they’re as broke as ever; and Violent Is The Word For Curly, which features the famous “bickey-bye” song that everyone still knows but can’t remember where it came from.

Volume 3, 1940-1942: The team is getting more popular, the slapstick is getting more violent thanks to the burgeoning presence of director Jules White, and this just might the Stooges’ prime. The best here include the classic Nazi era satires I’ll Never Heil Again and You Nazty Spy!, All The World’s A Stooge, where Curly delivers one of his most manic and inspired performances impersonating a little kid (and Larry never looked more beautiful), and A Plumbing We Will Go, which might be the high point of the team’s career; it’s the classic “running from the law” Stooge short, complete with wacky pratfalls, high society torn asunder, and the best plumbers who ever plumbed a plum.

Volume 4, 1943-1945: Something’s wrong; Curly is slurring his words and the pace is starting to slow down. Around this period, the hard-partying rotund comedian began to fall into ill health – so much so that an impending stroke would not only end his career, but eventually his life as well. However, there’s still a lot of comic gold in this set, including Micro-Phonies, featuring Curly impersonating the golden-voiced Senorita Cucaracha; Dizzy Pilots, where The Wrong Brothers take to the sky; and If A Body Meets A Body, which features some hilarious haunted house gags. However, Curly really starts to fade during this set; White’s They Stooge To Conga is nothing but garishly filmed violence including Moe getting his eyes and ears poked with climbing spikes; and shorts such as Booby Dupes and I Can Hardly Wait, finally, start to miss their mark.

Volume 5, 1946-1948: With the film Half-Wits’ Holiday in 1946, exit a very weak and tired Curly, enter Shemp. The floppy-haired comic surely had his critics, most of whom claimed he wasn’t the comic genius Curly was. That’s true, but Shemp brought his own manic energy and pretty much brought the trio back to life for the next couple of years. Included here are his debut with the team, Fight Night, which is nothing but laughs, and Hold That Lion, featuring a cameo by Curly and yet another hysterical two minutes from frequent Stooge regular Dudley Dickerson.

Volume 6, 1949-1951: Just as the TV era starts to heat up, the Stooges begin to slow down. Film studios aren’t making many shorts by this point, with Stooge studio Columbia being among the last holdouts. It’s easy to see the budgets going downwards short by short here; rekindled footage is sprouting up regularly. There are finally films that just aren’t funny at all, and they’re becoming disturbingly common; wit is being replaced with violence and repeated gags and phrases. The Tooth Will Out and Baby Sitters Jitters are poorly directed and mirthless, but, thankfully, there are still gems: Hula La La breaks the code and is one of the most original of all the Stooge shorts (a rare one of this period that doesn’t go by the book), and Malice In The Palace ranks with the best Stooges offerings of all time. Try not to crack up when the restaurant-owning Stooges supposedly serve up some “sliced dog and cat” to a pair of Arabian aristocrats.

Volume 7, 1952-1954: Bigger trouble in Stoogeland. Even more budget cuts forced the team to remake shorts from both the Curly and Shemp eras, and a lot of them are pretty much a waste of time. For instance, Rip Sew & Stitch is an almost note-for-note remake of the earlier, funnier Sing A Song Of Six Pants with just a couple of scenes re-shot. Few film fans or distributors noticed the cost cutting at the time – most theaters, at this point, were showing fewer and fewer shorts to begin with. There are laughs here with the western spoof Shot In The Frontier and in Shemp trying to install a TV antenna in Goof On The Roof, but things are getting sloppy and sad. The witless Pardon My Backfire is all new, but all unfunny, and Shemp and Moe are starting to look very old. Saddest of all, Shemp’s starting to look very, very tired.

Volume 8, 1955-1959: It’s all over but the slapping for the troupe; Shemp (the first 16 shorts here, again mostly remakes) suddenly dies, and is replaced by veteran comic Joe Besser for the trio’s final 16 efforts, after which Columbia shuts down its shorts division forever. Even the supporting players aren’t good; long gone are Stooge legends Duke York, Dickerson, Symona Boniface, Vernon Dent, and Christine McIntyre. Hardy and versatile player Emil Sitka helps, but other roles are filled by actors like the insipid Frank Sully, who delivers astoundingly awful performances. During the Besser shorts, Moe and Larry seem to be trying too hard, gesturing and overacting like madmen, probably realizing their new fat foil wasn’t up to the task. Besser, to his credit, was much more likable and funny working with Joey Bishop and Abbott & Costello; he simply seems out of place here. Still, two horse-themed shorts bring a few laughs, but Quiz Whizz, Outer Space Jitters, and the final Stooge short, Sappy Bullfighters, are as bad as any movies ever released by a major motion picture studio. As a Stooge fan that wanted to complete his collection, I purchased this set, but of the eight, this is the hardest to recommend.

Perhaps it’s nostalgia for my youth, waking up to watch a single Popeye cartoon and a Stooge short before heading off to school. Maybe it’s longing for a simpler time. Maybe, secretly, there’s a desire to bop my employer over the head with a lead pipe just to hear the beautiful steely “KONK!” sound. Whatever the reason, these lovingly remastered, low-priced collections are perfect for anyone who ever loved The Three Stooges. And how I do dearly love them.

I believe that after all these years, I’ve figured out the reasons why. Moe, Curly, and Shemp Howard, as well as Larry Fine, Joe Besser, and Joe DeRita (the last Curly replacement), never became millionaires from acting as most of today’s film stars do. However, even as an old man before his death in 1975, Moe always was trying to find ways to keep the Stooges going. He reportedly was going to team with DeRita and Sitka even after Larry could no longer go on. One gets the feeling that if Moe were alive today at 113 years old, he’d still be a member of The Three Stooges. From all accounts, Moe Howard, the brains of the group in real life as well as on-screen, loved what he did, every moment, every poke, every pie fight, and every slap. A magazine article printed just before Moe’s death reported that the elderly comedian saw a child in a store, and at that moment, he became a Stooge again, delighting the kid with impromptu, crazy antics. Moe Howard was born to be a Stooge. If someone loves what he does that much, he’s got soul and heart, and those are attributes too few of today’s entertainers possess.

But I think it all really boils down to this: When a Stooges scene shifts to a hotel, and to let you know, a sign is shown with the name “Hotel Costa Plente,” I still laugh like a hyena. Yeah, those corny old men still crack me up.

May their heirs be richly blessed, every one of them. Dare I say, few people on this earth have given this writer more pure joy than The Three Stooges. May they poke, slap, gouge, and woo-woo-woo till the end of time. And if you don’t get to the store to pick up these beautiful DVD collections, well, you’re just a knucklehead.

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The Greatest True Statements Ever Bein’ Gave

A few months back, we favored you with a bunch of words and phrases that we believe have never and will never be uttered by human beings. In this edition, we bring you a collection of statements and phrases that – scout’s honor – have actually been either overheard, reported, said to us, or written and actually printed. There’s some real song lyrics and other oddities reported here for lilt as well. WARNING: There is some “adult” language here, so if you’re easily offended, now’s the time to bail.

“You know, that son of a bitch…you try to teach the god damn kids right from wrong, and this is what happens, god damn it.”
– A frustrated Little League father complaining about an umpire’s bad call

“I wanted to quit smoking, so every time I get the urge for a cigarette, I reach for some coke. Helps me lose weight, too.”
– A very bad female date of one of ours

Now offered for sale at places like CafePress.com and GulfCoastBands.com, perfect for the debonair ladies’ man in your life: T-shirts with statements such as “Bitch – It Won’t Suck Itself” (see photo).

“None of your business. I will kill you.”
– A trucker to this writer, asking why he was delivering milk and dairy products in an un-refrigerated delivery truck

“We’re going to have the greatest concerts ever bein’ gave.”
– A crackpot concert promoter on a phone answering machine in an infamous underground comedy tape

“If you wanna talk to me, then shut your fuckin’ mouth.”
– Raymond to Peter in another infamous underground comedy CD culled from actually sticking a tape recorder microphone through a screaming alcoholic neighbor’s wall, “Shut Up Little Man!”

“Get fucked, Texas slut!”
– A chant directed at a blonde woman being jeered by an entire section of fans at Yankee Stadium for wearing a Texas Rangers cap during a playoff game (when the woman complained to a security officer, he joined in the chant)

“You’re nothing but a big bullshit. I want my god damn tape recorder!”
– Woman complaining to a Long Island Radio Shack employee that her tape recorder didn’t work

“You stupid instable.”
– God bless him, a relative of one of ours

“The Beatles ruined this country and all the kids in it.”
– Man buying an Ernest Tubb cassette in a Poughkeepsie, New York Record World store, 1981

“Jesus Christ, everywhere you look nowadays.”
– A vending machine rack jobber, filling a gumball machine; the brand of gum on the machine featured a photo of an African-American woman

“Where’s all the douche bags at?”
– An actual female customer in an upstate New York drug store

“To our seniors, I have a message for you: You’re going to die sooner.”
– Sen. Tom Coburn (R- Okla.), scaring old people before health care reform passed

“Hey, this kid could be the Mets’ center fielder for the next 10 years.”
– Former baseball player – and former baseball commentator – Fran Healy, summing up New York Mets rookie Jason Tyner. To date, Tyner has been up-and-down from the minors to the majors, and played 440 games for four teams over eight seasons, and has been released or waived several times

“The rule states that if your team is here and ready to play, and the other team isn’t here and not ready to play, there should be a forfeit, and we believe there should be a forfeit.”
– Classy New York Yankees president Randy Levine, upset that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays weren’t in New York for a baseball game – the day after devastating hurricanes in Florida in 2004

“That mines? That MINES?”
– A refined apparently homeless gentleman lunging for a shopping bag dropped in Times Square in 1991

“Tar baby! Tar baby!”
– Professional wrestling manager Lou Albano, shouting at African-American wrestler S.D. Jones – during a televised match, no less, circa 1974

More T-shirts we’ve actually seen people wear:
“I Fucked Your Girlfriend” (seen at a baseball game)
“I Made Linda Lovelace Choke”
“Ho” (worn by a teenaged girl)

Real Statements That Have Been Printed On Panties:
Baby, This Is As Far As You Go
Never On Sunday
Heaven (with an arrow pointing toward the crotch)
Sweet As Honey
Juicy
Fuck Time
Here Comes The Bride
You Wish
Yummy Mummy

“What sizes does this medium fit?”
– Buyer at a country music concert T-shirt concession

“Standing in line marking time–
Waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
Just for fun he says “Get a job”
– “The Way It Is,” the 1986 hit by Bruce Hornsby, which, in a pop songwriting first, rhymes “job” with “job”

“Next time I fall in love
I’ll know better what to do
Next time I fall in love
Ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo”
– Peter Cetera’s “The Next Time I Fall,” which rhymes “do” and “ooo,” which makes Hornsby’s songwriting prowess seem like Shakespeare

“I don’t want you reading those books. They give you ideas.”
– Numerous husbands to wives since, say, 1940, in Greene County, NY

“The only good Latin is a dead Latin.”
– Professional wrestling manager, the aptly named “Classy” Freddie Blassie, in a statement actually said on television

“If I wore pink ferrets for slippers, I would never – ever – want to clean another ashtray.”
– From the Survey Central website (surveycentral.org)

“What are your dogs’ names again … Kierkegaarde and Ed Asner?”
– Said by Robert Smith after he met his eventual wife’s dogs, which were actually named Kodi and Spooky

“Ooh! I tooted.”
– Said by a very large female convenience store clerk after she let go of a very pronounced fart, Norfolk, Virginia, 2007

JUST ADDED!

“Warning: Driver Masturbating”

– Bumper sticker spotted on a car in Westbury, NY, June 28

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Dear Joe Barton: I’m sorry you’re scum

by Jon Pine

Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologized this week – on behalf of you and me and all the rest of the American people – to British Petroleum for President Obama’s $20 billion “shakedown,” otherwise known as partial restitution for the laid-off oil workers and others who have been financially devastated by the Gulf oil well disaster.

Jon Pine

The apology, which came during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the disaster, might have made a tiny bit of sense, except for Barton’s dirty little secret: It turns out that his top campaign contributor is a company that owned 25 percent of the Deepwater Horizon drilling project – the very well that is still gushing viscous crude into the once-pristine waterway. The company is Anadarko Petroleum, whose PAC and employees have contributed a total of $146,500 to Barton since 1989.

Later the same day, Barton came back and apologized for his apology. Sort of. What he did was apologize that people “may have misconstrued” his use of the word “shakedown” to mean, well, a shakedown. How foolish of us!

All the apologies this week have put me in an apologetic mood myself, so here goes:

To Rep. Barton: I’m so sorry that you care more for the third largest corporation in the world than you do for the Texans in your own constituency who are now out of work because BP made multiple errors in judgment, and may have even broken several laws, resulting in the largest environmental disaster in American history.

I’m sorry that you’re sorry that BP was asked to set aside some money so that people whose careers have been destroyed by BP’s carelessness and possible criminal negligence will get some help with their bills now, not months or years from now after a protracted legal battle.

And I’m sorry that your desire for some sort of twisted political victory, and your Obama hate, caused you to open your fat mouth and say something so stupid, so insensitive, so wrong on many levels, that the leaders of your own party nearly soiled their three-piece suits when they heard what you said.

To BP’s Tony Hayward: I’m terribly sorry that your comfy country club life has been upset by this “small leak” all the way across the pond, as you described it in the first days following the conflagration that incinerated 11 rig workers. I’m sorry, but no, you can’t “have your life back” because there are 11 families who won’t ever get their lives back, thanks to your company’s actions.

I’m sorry that you lied and obfuscated and lied some more about the actual rate of the leak, so much so that our government did not respond as quickly and as mightily as it should have. I’m sorry that you’re still lying about the flow rate, and that your private security forces are perpetuating even more lies and obfuscation by preventing the media from seeing and reporting on the devastation up close.

And I’m sorry that our president had to ask you to do the right thing and set up a $20 billion emergency fund and that you didn’t do it yourself weeks ago. Hell, BP will make more than that in profits this year alone.

To Glenn Beck: I’m sorry that you are so myopic and deluded that you think President Obama didn’t rush to meet with BP’s executives because they are white. Are you that paranoid, Glenn? Did some black boys beat you up on the playground when you were little? If so, I’m sorry about that, too.

Next, Beck said that Obama was going to politicize the Gulf oil disaster and use it to push for his green energy initiatives. Well, duh! Of course. This is a perfect real-life lesson in what is wrong with our oil-addicted culture – that we would rather take phenomenal risks and stay on oil than to invest in safer, cleaner forms of energy. Even a third-grader sees the wisdom in using this tragedy as a real-life object lesson.

Sorry, Glenn!

To Sarah Palin: I’m sorry, Sarah, that you still don’t get it – nobody really believes that your chants of “Drill, baby, drill!” during the last few years were really only about onshore drilling. There’s a little invention called videotape, perhaps you should look into it. They show dozens of instances where you had the opportunity to clarify things, but you didn’t. For some strange reason your 15 minutes of fame keeps getting an extension, but your credibility ran out long ago. Sorry!

And finally…

To the birds, sea life and the human life that will be poisoned or killed: I’m sorry that BP’s executives consider us “the little people” and actually had the gall to say, “The Gulf of Mexico isn’t the only place with shrimp.” I’m sorry that money and power is what matters most to these cretins, and that they are too self-absorbed to understand that centuries-old livelihoods of tens of thousands of people are being snuffed out while they fret and fritter over their precious corporate image.

I’m sorry that BP felt it necessary to first pay dividends to their shareholders before setting up disaster relief for devastated Americans.

But most of all, I’m sorry that we all allowed previous administrations to permit other deepwater wells in environmentally sensitive areas, and that we all failed to do a better job of curbing our oil addiction.

So, so sorry.

© 2010 Jon Pine

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Filed under Current events, Journalism, Politics, Posts by Jon Pine