Michelle and I were talking today about how easy it can be to get penned into talking about limited subject matters in one’s blog. I know I feel funny when I think about writing about things that have nothing to do with libraries or technology, but I find Michelle’s blog’s lack of a single focus a good and refreshing thing. She’s definitely not a “one trick pony.” So in light of our conversation, I decided to write about something that has made me ridiculously nauseated for the past two days.
A Bat Mitzvah is an exciting time in a girl’s life. It’s when she gets up in front of her family and friends, recites sacred words from the Torah, and becomes a woman. Well… no… it’s really about the party. I thought my Bat Mitzvah was pretty fun. We danced, we had a candy cart, people gave me savings bonds. It was standard Bat Mitzvah fare, and I had a great time. But not nearly as great a time as Elizabeth Brooks had at her Bat Mitzvah last weekend. Her father spent somewhere between $10 and $20 million dollars on this party. I would guess my parents spent a bit less than that. Mine took place at the clubhouse where my mom played tennis. Hers took place on two floors of the Rainbow Room. Our goody bag consisted of candy. Hers consisted of $1,000 in gifts including a video iPod. I remember eating chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks, though I did get to drink as many shirley temples as I wanted (still love ’em). I would guess that dear Elizabeth had slightly more refined fare at her shindig. I had a DJ who played hava nagila, the electric slide, and the chicken dance. She had 50 Cent, Steven Tyler, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Don Henley, Ciara, DJ-AM, and Kenny G. Yeah, yeah, I know that Bar Mitzvahs are largely about parents showing off their wealth, but come on!
This story would be disgusting enough if it weren’t for the real kicker: Elizabeth’s daddy is none other than David Brooks. Brooks owns Point Blank Body Armor which has had a pretty sweet deal outfitting the U.S. Military with body armor. In fact, their profits increased by nearly 500% between 2000 and 2004. Brooks was so pleased with himself that he paid himself $70 million last year. Then he had the lucky break of dumping his shares of Point Blank Body Armor stock (worth $180 million) just before the stock started to decline. But he’s manufacturing something that is going to help the troops to stay safe, right?
Ummm…. no. There was one little problem: the body armor was defective. According to the New Times, back in 2002 their own employees gave sworn statements that the company had cut corners and made defective vests. Yet a year ago the military awarded them a $190 million contract. They were even sued by the Southern States Police Benevolent Association. Finally, three months ago, a federal agency reported that the majority of the Point Blank Body Armor vests they tested did not meet safety standards. The military recalled 18,000 vests a few weeks ago. And yet, just one day before, they got another $30 million contract from the government.
I know it’s hard to make ends meet when you’re a rich musician. I really do feel for Steven Tyler and the rest of the people who have to take money from a war profiteer and play at a Bat Mitzvah so that they can keep themselves, their various exes and children and their stylists and their entourages in the style to which they all are accustomed. I know I’ve thought about doing the same thing many times. But I decided that I’d rather have my pride than a $6,000 Birkin bag. I mean really?!?!? When do these people have enough money? I have been a very loyal fan of Tom Petty, Don Henley, and Stevie Nicks, and I can promise you that I will NEVER listen to their music again knowing that they are willing to take money from anyone, no matter how evil.
It’s hard to know what to be most nauseated about: the greed of musicians, the war profiteer who put soldiers in danger for his own profit, the excess of this girl’s Bat Mitzvah, or the fact that the government continues to give our tax dollars to a company that produces a defective product. It’s really just too much bad for me to wrap my mind around. I guess the best part is that our tax dollars essentially went to pay for this party. Where’s my video iPod?!?!?
But Brooks and his company are under investigation by the SEC, so I can only hope this will be his last party.
wow. Excellent post. Thanks.
Sometimes it looks like a pretty crummy world out there, especially if you look at the rich and celebrities and where the money comes from. They should all be exposed and when appropriate prosecuted. There is also a question about when is extravangance immoral in a world of poverty and inequality. There is not much we can do about it all sometime other than refuse to participate. When it comes to entertainment and celebrities, that is exactly the right approach. Ignore them and they lose their funding.
Still it can be tricky knowing when to apply guilt by association. Some celebrities seem to be totally empty-headed and unaware of their associates. Still they can not be charged with their associates crimes. You may find you are the only one losing out when you boycot a musician that you enjoyed.
On the other hand, this may be a good opportunity to listen to local musicians. People who play because they love it, not for wealth and fame.
sometimes i can’t sleep and catch up on bloglines on things i’ve been meaning to read. this was great. i hope you continue to post political, library related or not, or, if you don’t think of it as political, i hope you continue to post outside of library lines – we can only be be relevant if we leave our dark little caves.