This Week’s Pop Cultural Winners and Losers (November 13, 2010)

Winners:

Spam
This canned, precooked meat product introduced by Hormel in 1937 and sold in 41 countries around the world turned out to be a literal lifesaver for the 3,300 passengers stranded on the Carnival Splendor. The ship was finally towed back to San Diego this week after three days adrift without power. Just when we thought the era of heavily salted, processed foods had jumped the shark, mysterious gelatinous glaze stages a roaring comeback.

Chinese Architecture
The upside to denying over 1 billion citizens personal freedoms is that a government is able to mobilize and complete infrastructure projects with lightening speed. Witness the story this week of China’s completion of a 15-story hotel in just six days. Using pre-fabricated materials, the structure was assembled in record time, without injury to any of the crew. Meanwhile back in the States, we’re working on 25 years of trying to get the much needed Hudson River Tunnel started.

The NFL
If he can be believed this time, the 41 year-old quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings will finally free the sports world from headlines about his drug use, false retirements and infidelity. The athlete announced on Friday that the end of this season would be his last, and there is reason to believe he might be sincere this time as his career is currently a smoldering ruin of scandal and injury. The NFL, which has much reason to appreciate Favre’s past contributions to the game, would still do well to be rid of this prima donna cancer once and for all.

Losers:

Carnival Cruises
Fire! A Spam buffet! Overflowing toilets! No power! Let the lawsuits begin, despite Carnival’s vow to fully refund all passenger tickets, as well as issue vouchers for future travel.

Anand Vasudev
The ousted contestant on this season of NBC’s The Apprentice became the first to be dropped for breaking the rules and lying about it directly to The Donald’s face. The irony is that the infraction, which occurred on a task in which Vasudev’s team buried their opponents, proved to be both unnecessary and unproductive. The contestant smuggled a secret cell phone and sent text messages asking a friend to bring him money. The shady play backfired and not only that, but the mistake afforded Trump a great, if entirely cynical, PR opportunity. As the Donald prepared to fire Anand, he took a moment to pontificate on the corporate underhandedness that has lead America to the dismal economic place that it currently occupies.

Viewers of Dancing with the Stars
Yes, the final four includes the talent of pop singer Brandy, the inspiration of cancer survivor and Dirty Dancing icon Jennifer Grey, as well as the youthful exuberance of Disney star Kyle Massey. However, for eight torturous weeks now, the viewers have also had to endue the whiny, ungifted listlessness of teen mother Bristol Palin. Nevermind that the only thing Bristol did to become a “star” was have premarital sex before becoming the ultimate abstinence advocacy hypocrite. She absolutely sucks as a dancer, and since that is what the show is all about, here’s hoping the Red States take an early Thanksgiving break from their recent fondness for voting.

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Uh Oh! Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Meeting Spells Trouble For GOP Energy Platform (November 15, 2014)

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I have a smart friend who could have her own career as a political writer, were she not pursuing a PhD in another field. Earlier this week, she observed:

“So… that joint press conference with the Presidents of the U.S. and China at the [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting] was sort of a big deal.

If I were in charge of an oil or natural gas company, and I had not yet read the writing on the wall and made the switch to investing less in oil and more in renewable…I’d be freaking out right now. I’d be up all night trying to figure out how to divest from carbon-based energy sources and move to renewables ASAP.”

Her assessment of the summit echoes that of a highly credible source, New York Times Nobel Prize-winning economist and Op-Ed contributor Paul Krugman. In a piece published this week, entitled “China, Coal, Climate,” the celebrated thought leader writes, “It’s easy to be cynical about summit meetings. Often they’re just photo op… At best — almost always — they’re just occasions to formally announce agreements already worked out by lower-level officials. Once in a while, however, something really important emerges. And this is one of those times.”

Pundits and lay people alike seem to agree that while we shouldn’t expect an overnight turnaround in global energy policy, the oil and coal syndicate which controls the Republican party, and to a great extent, the conversation about America’s non-approach to climate change, is on notice. Just one little public display requires a shift from the world’s oligarchs from offense to defense. For the first time since the Carter administration, us “tree hugging hippies” have reason to hope that humanity’s high-speed chase toward Earth’s destruction might be derailed.

Baby steps will be taken, but taken they will be. No matter how vague the language or undefined the qualitative steps forward, as Krugman notes, “we have it straight from the source: China has declared its intention to limit carbon emissions.”

Although there is clearly more at stake here than politics, a move like this can fast track the seismic cultural shift Americans are currently experiencing with other issues such as marriage equality or recreational marijuana legalization. As little as 10 days ago, when less than half of the electorate limped to the ballot box to vote red in the midterm elections, the specter of evolution (pun intended) seemed wildly impossible. Headlines such as this followed GOP victory almost immediately:Republicans Vow to Fight E.P.A. and Approve Keystone Pipeline. The party of scientific repudiation announced that infamous climate change denier Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma will lead the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The situation looked bleak. “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel…” impotent.

Of course we’ll have to be patient and assess China’s follow through against its stated intentions. After all, not much time has passed since Hong Kong rebelled against the mainland’srevocation of promised free, fair and independent elections. And it’s not as though the United States has a blemish-free track records for the alignment of words and actions (a slavery infected “Land of the Free” comes to mind). But perhaps in the perverse way situations like this sometimes play out, China and America will keep each other honest. Neither country is a fan of being publicly embarrassed by the other. If the protection of a nation’s sociopolitical reputation is a motivator in upending decades of cynical energy policy, I’ll suppress a wish for better human impulses and concur with Krugman. It’s another long-term setback for the Republican agenda and “a good week for the planet.”