diumenge, de març 28, 2010

El papa debería renunciar

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/26/pope-benedict-catholic-church

Pope Benedict infallible? So the Vatican would like us to believe

The pope will not take responsibility for the paedophile priest cover-up – no matter how badly it harms the Catholic church

John Cornwell
guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 March 2010 18.58 GMT

At my Catholic primary school, our RE teacher drummed into us the meaning of papal infallibility. "It does not mean," she used to say, "that the pope can predict the weather, tell a lie, or get his sums wrong." She was explaining that papal infallibility is restricted to doctrinal matters, and only in exceptional circumstances.

And yet, in the matter of the proliferating paedophile priest scandal, the Vatican gives the impression that no scintilla of responsibility, still less fallibility, in fact or in principle, could possibly attach to His Holiness. It is widely assumed even by seasoned Vatican commentators that the least discovery, or admission, of a cover-up could lead to his resignation. Popes, according to canon law, can indeed resign with a stroke of the papal pen, but it has only happened once, in 1296. But no foreseeable, proven accusation is likely to prompt Benedict's abdication.

The complex paper trails are measured now in many tens of thousands of cases spread over half a century and across five continents. It would be astonishing if there were not at least a handful of documents leading back to the powerful orthodoxy watchdog, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict once was. From 1982 until 2005 he was responsible in large measure for the disciplining of the clergy. His failure to answer two letters in the late 1990s from Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee relating to an abusive priest 20 years after his crimes appears substantive enough. But the Vatican has responded with impressive casuistry as to the facts, and vehement indignation as to the insinuations, and will continue to do so with this or any other allegation brought against Benedict.

The Vatican and Benedict know, moreover, that there have been much worse cases of recent papal culpability in the matter of paedophile priest cover-ups. It is just eight years since Pope John Paul II first declined to investigate a priest called Father Marcial Maciel. Maciel founded an order known as the Legionaries of Christ and systematically engaged in sexual abuse of minors for 40 years. Nine former members of his order went public with accusations in 1997. Two investigators claim that Cardinal Ratzinger tried to have Maciel brought to book but he was allegedly overruled on John Paul's orders. John Paul claimed that he had "discerned" that Maciel was innocent. To his credit, and not before time, it was Ratzinger who in January 2005 (barely three months before John Paul's death) had Maciel, then 84, relieved of his priesthood. But Maciel, who died in 2008, was never referred to any country's criminal justice system. Benedict has since formally apologised to Maciel's victims.

John Paul II, who is nevertheless being fast-tracked by Benedict for sainthood, took an entirely mystical view of the paedophile crisis. He called it a mysterium iniquitatis, an apocalyptic reference to the influence of the powers of darkness. Benedict has continued in the view that the phenomenon is a matter of sinfulness rather than criminality, and he cites secularism and even the influence of liberals within the church for priestly failings. Unwilling, or incapable, of seeing his or the Vatican's share in responsibility for the cover-ups, he is unlikely to suffer a moment's personal remorse for the large numbers of Catholics who are likely to fall away in the wake of the non-stop revelations.

Twenty years ago Benedict predicted that the Catholic church would be better off as a smaller, totally loyal, orthodox and ascetical "remnant". The crisis will not alone consist in mass defections but the church's possible fragmentation. The Catholic church might well be facing its biggest crisis since the Reformation.

John Cornwell has written several books about the papacy, including Hitler's Pope. His latest work, Newman's Unquiet Grave, is published by Continuum on 31 May

dissabte, de març 27, 2010

Hasta eso muy interesante....

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/internacional/Monterrey/traves/espejo/elpepuint/20100327elpepuint_8/Tes

TRIBUNA: DIEGO PETERSEN FARAH

Monterrey a través del espejo

Otrora pujante, la ciudad mexicana hoy paga las consecuencias de haber aceptado a los narcotraficantes

DIEGO PETERSEN FARAH 27/03/2010


¿Qué le pasó a Monterrey? La gran ciudad industrial de México, la echada para adelante, la que tuvo más desarrollo en los últimos 30 años, la de los ahorradores, los que encaraban al centro con la frente en alto, los que presumían tener controlada su seguridad, están hoy en la peor crisis de su historia. El narco tomó la ciudad y al inexperto gobernador Rodrigo Medina no se le ocurre mejor cosa que llamar a los ciudadanos a una manifestación, como si encabezar la marcha le permitiera trasladar su responsabilidad a otra parte. La explicación simplista es decir que la guerra al narco, la estrategia fallida de Calderón, está golpeando a la inocente e industriosa ciudad de Monterrey. Pero la descomposición social de la Sultana del Norte, como también es conocida, es anterior.

Los valores esenciales del Monterrey pujante de la segunda mitad del siglo XX se perdieron. La cultura del esfuerzo, el sentido de unidad y esa convicción de tomar el futuro en sus propias manos se fueron transformando en una cultura de consumo y desprecio a lo que no era como ellos, pensaron que el futuro lo tenían no solo ganado, sino merecido. La ciudad orgullosa se volvió vanidosa. No es gratuito que la crisis social de la ciudad coincida con la estrepitosa caída de la imagen del fundador de los Legionarios de Cristo, Marcial Maciel. La gran mayoría de la elite social del Monterrey pasó por las escuelas legionarias que formaron una generación insulsa, pagada de sí misma, volcada al consumo y la presunción, pero sobre todo alejada del pensamiento crítico. Nada mejor para el aterrizaje del narco que una élite pagada de sí misma y fascinada con su propia imagen.

Lo que le está pasando hoy a Monterrey le sucedió a Guadalajara en los años setenta y ochenta. La crisis de una generación que fundó su futuro en el pasado, que sentía merecerlo todo por su heredad, puso la cama a la llegada del narco y luego se acostó con él. El narco se vuelve "intolerable" cuando los muertos tocan a las élites. En Guadalajara tuvo que caer un Cardenal, en Monterrey dos estudiantes del Tec. En Guadalajara nadie se acuerda de los otros seis muertos el aeropuerto aquel 24 de mayo de 1993, cuando murió el purpurado; en Monterrey nadie habla de los otros dos civiles que cayeron ese mismo fin de semana víctimas del fuego cruzado. En Jalisco también hubo un gobernador que pensó que la mejor forma de evadir su responsabilidad era sumándose a una marcha contra la violencia.

La crisis de Monterrey no se resolverá fácil ni rápido. Lo que sigue es el auto exilio de las élites con consecuencias sociales y económicas importantes. A Guadalajara le costó muchos años entender que el problema no "venía de fuera" sino que fue su propia sociedad la que entró en crisis y el narco no fue sino una consecuencia de ello. El atajo, la vía rápida, se llama autocrítica: reconocerse en el espejo, y plantearse lo más rápido posible la renovación de su élites. El asesinato de los dos jóvenes del Tec no es el final de un proceso de descomposición, sino el arranque de un largo camino hacia la reinvención.

divendres, de març 26, 2010

Oh, si se puede legislar afirmativamente contra la explotación sexual

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/25/iceland-most-feminist-country

Iceland: the world's most feminist country

Iceland has just banned all strip clubs. Perhaps it's down to the lesbian prime minister, but this may just be the most female-friendly country on the planet

Iceland is fast becoming a world-leader in feminism. A country with a tiny population of 320,000, it is on the brink of achieving what many considered to be impossible: closing down its sex industry.

While activists in Britain battle on in an attempt to regulate lapdance clubs – the number of which has been growing at an alarming rate during the last decade – Iceland has passed a law that will result in every strip club in the country being shut down. And forget hiring a topless waitress in an attempt to get around the bar: the law, which was passed with no votes against and only two abstentions, will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees.

Even more impressive: the Nordic state is the first country in the world to ban stripping and lapdancing for feminist, rather than religious, reasons. Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, the politician who first proposed the ban, firmly told the national press on Wednesday: "It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold." When I asked her if she thinks Iceland has become the greatest feminist country in the world, she replied: "It is certainly up there. Mainly as a result of the feminist groups putting pressure on parliamentarians. These women work 24 hours a day, seven days a week with their campaigns and it eventually filters down to all of society."

The news is a real boost to feminists around the world, showing us that when an entire country unites behind an idea anything can happen. And it is bound to give a shot in the arm to the feminist campaign in the UK against an industry that is both a cause and a consequence of gaping inequality between men and women.

According to Icelandic police, 100 foreign women travel to the country annually to work in strip clubs. It is unclear whether the women are trafficked, but feminists say it is telling that as the stripping industry has grown, the number of Icelandic women wishing to work in it has not. Supporters of the bill say that some of the clubs are a front for prostitution – and that many of the women work there because of drug abuse and poverty rather than free choice. I have visited a strip club in Reykjavik and observed the women. None of them looked happy in their work.

So how has Iceland managed it? To start with, it has a strong women's movement and a high number of female politicans. Almost half the parliamentarians are female and it was ranked fourth out of 130 countries on the international gender gap index (behind Norway, Finland and Sweden). All four of these Scandinavian countries have, to some degree, criminalised the purchase of sex (legislation that the UK will adopt on 1 April). "Once you break past the glass ceiling and have more than one third of female politicians," says Halldórsdóttir, "something changes. Feminist energy seems to permeate everything."

Johanna Sigurðardottir is Iceland's first female and the world's first openly lesbian head of state. Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an organisation based in Reykjavik that campaigns against sexual violence, says she has enjoyed the support of Sigurðardottir for their campaigns against rape and domestic violence: "Johanna is a great feminist in that she challenges the men in her party and refuses to let them oppress her."

Then there is the fact that feminists in Iceland appear to be entirely united in opposition to prostitution, unlike the UK where heated debates rage over whether prostitution and lapdancing are empowering or degrading to women. There is also public support: the ban on commercial sexual activity is not only supported by feminists but also much of the population. A 2007 poll found that 82% of women and 57% of men support the criminalisation of paying for sex – either in brothels or lapdance clubs – and fewer than 10% of Icelanders were opposed.

Jónsdóttir says the ban could mean the death of the sex industry. "Last year we passed a law against the purchase of sex, recently introduced an action plan on trafficking of women, and now we have shut down the strip clubs. The Nordic countries are leading the way on women's equality, recognising women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale."

Strip club owners are, not surprisingly, furious about the new law. One gave an interview to a local newspaper in which he likened Iceland's approach to that of a country such as Saudi Arabia, where it is not permitted to see any part of a woman's body in public. "I have reached the age where I'm not sure whether I want to bother with this hassle any more," he said.

Janice Raymond, a director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, hopes that all sex industry profiteers feel the same way, and believes the new law will pave the way for governments in other countries to follow suit. "What a victory, not only for the Icelanders but for everyone worldwide who repudiates the sexual exploitation of women," she says.

Jónsdóttir is confident that the law will create a change in attitudes towards women. "I guess the men of Iceland will just have to get used to the idea that women are not for sale."

dimecres, de març 24, 2010

Mmmta, ya hasta en la Sudáfrica estamos jodidos

Mexico's drug wars rage out of control

ED VULLIAMY - Mar 24 2010 07:18

Saturday: A shoot-out between rival cartels in the north-western state of Sinaloa leaves nine dead, including six peasant farmers caught in the crossfire.

Sunday: Gunmen burst into a wedding in a small rural town in the southern state of Guerrero, killing five.

Monday: Hitmen target two people driving in Ciudad Juárez. The scene recalls the murder of three people linked to the US consulate 10 days earlier.

Tuesday: Newspapers publish a photograph of an alleged drug dealer being arrested by marines next to pictures of his body found dumped on Monday.

Just a small selection of incidents from the last four days of Mexico's raging drug wars that have left few parts of the country untouched over the last three years . A snap visit on Wednesday by the United States secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is a sign of how concerned the US is getting about the spiralling violence just over its southern border.

With more than 2 000 people killed since the new year, 2010 is shaping up to overtake the record 6 500 drug-related murders last year, which topped the toll of more than 5 000 in 2008. The killings have happened despite an offensive against the cartels involving tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police launched in December 2006 by the president, Felipe Calderón. .

"We will not take even one step back in the face of those who want to see Mexico on its knees and without a future," Calderón said on Sunday. But such expressions of presidential determination do little to counter the impression that the authorities are unable to deal with the killings, which are marked by ever more inventive cruelty and savage perversion.

International coverage focuses on the relentless violence in Ciudad Juárez, which has turned the city across the border from El Paso, Texas, into the deadliest in the world, with 191 murders per 100 000 citizens.

Weak government
But this is a complex and multi-faceted series of regional conflicts involving at least six organised crime groups that use corruption as well as firepower to control territories.

"The federal government is too weak to control the state governments so it is crazy to think they can control organised crime in those states," says Samuel González, a former drug czar turned critic of Calderon's military-led strategy. González says it is illusory to hope that the war will burn itself out through the emergence of a single, clearly dominant cartel. "Every organised crime group has some degree of protection from local authorities that makes it impossible that one can gain [national] hegemony."

Much of the violence has been between the Sinaloa cartel -- led by the country's most famous trafficker, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán -- and its rivals who are vying for control of cocaine trafficking corridors across Mexico. The killing is also associated with growing cartel interest inother criminal activities, from the growing domestic drugs market to kidnapping, arms dealing and people smuggling.

Some of the most vicious recent violence has been in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas. The Gulf cartel and its military wing, the Zetas, had assumed terrifying and absolute control over the busiest commercial stretch of frontier in the world. A pax mafiosa -- the mafia's peace -- briefly reigned between the two gangs, with commercial and civic life subjugated by an omnipotent extortion racket.

But over the past month, an internecine battle inside the Gulf cartel has exploded. According to reports reaching the Guardian from Reynosa, the epicentre of the fighting, 200 people were killed over three weeks in late February and early March.

Journalists targeted
In Reynosa, at least eight journalists have been kidnapped in recent weeks. Two were visiting reporters from Mexico City who were later released and are now too frightened to talk about their ordeal. One other was found tortured to death and five are still missing.

Information from a journalist who must remain nameless for her own safety described armoured cars cruising through Reynosa marked CDG -- Cartel del Golfo -- or else with the letters XX to denominate the Zetas.

After one reported gun battle in Reynosa, the Gulf cartel hung a so called narco-mensaje, or narco-message, from a bridge. It read: "Reynosa is a safe city. Nothing is happening or will happen. Keep living your lives as normal. We are part of Tamaulipas and we will not mess with civilians. CDG."

'You are going to regret it, big time'
The Mexican government has sent in crack units of the marines but with little obvious success. A crime reporter from the city told the Guardian that he was on his way to cover a shoot-out last Thursday when traffickers called his cellphone to warn him not to publish anything. "They know everything about you. I don't know how they do, but they do," he said. "If you publish anything about them they don't like, or somebody in the government who is protecting them, then you are going to regret it, big time."

The following day there were five gun battles across the city, and on Saturday there were a further three. Of these, only one was referred to by the state government website that promises reliable information in the vacuum about the violence. Local news outlets decided against publishing government promises to improve security after warnings from the traffickers. They self-censor complaints of abuses by the army for fear of angering the third force also battling for control of Tamaulipas.

Meanwhile, the axis of the conflict in Juárez is the attempt by El Chapo to muscle in on the turf traditionally controlled by the Juárez cartel.

In the urban nightmare of Juárez, amid closed factories and abandoned homes, the pyramids of narco-cartel power have collapsed into a state of criminal anarchy. Here gangs fight a ruthless war for the local plaza, or dealing turf. Municipal and state police forces are infested by corruption, forming mini-cartels of their own. The role of the army in Juárez has also been called to account by a Chihuahua state human rights official, Gustavo de la Rosa, who accuses the military of playing a part in "social cleansing", as most of the killings claim addicts and former users massacred at the city's rehab centres.

"The difference between Juárez and Tamaulipas is that in Juárez the state still has a degree of formal presence, however incompetent," says Edgardo Buscaglia, who specialises in comparing worldwide trends in organised crime. "In Tamaulipas the state is absent. It is like Afghanistan." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2010

  • Amexica: War Along The Borderline, by Ed Vulliamy, is published in September by Bodley Head, London, and Farrar Straus Giroux, New York

dilluns, de març 22, 2010

Life in Oz is too ruff for us Saffers

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-03-19-life-in-oz-is-too-ruff-for-us-saffers

Charlotte Bauer

Life in Oz is too ruff for us Saffers

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA Mar 19 2010 09:09

I hear that growing numbers of mostly white South Africans, who moved to Australia so that their children could play safely on the streets, are re-packing for Pretoria.

Why? Because, I was recently informed by someone in the removals business, "there are just too many rules in Oz".

Apparently, there's loads of cool stuff we take for granted here that you can't do there without someone calling the cops. For instance, there's one weird local custom that says if you break the law, it will be only a matter of time before it catches up with you.

This massive culture shock is apparently proving hard for some South Africans down under to swallow. I've never been to Australia, but I've heard they take their laws very seriously and, if you get caught crossing them, what happens next is not negotiable. You just get into trouble. Definitely.

In Australia, they say, you can't negotiate a fee with a police officer to let you off a breathalyser test. You can't play chicken with pedestrians who assert their right to cross the road when the green man's flashing. By the sound of it, you can’t even borrow a supermarket trolley, park in a disabled zone unless you're disabled or drive 5km over the speed limit without attracting a siren and a sheriff. Crazy stuff.

A South African colleague who once lived in Australia explained it to me: "It's not that they have more rules and regulations than we do; it's just that they enforce them. We ignore them."

Why do we do that? Because we can. Because we can buy a driver's licence (sometimes it's the only way to get one). Because we can drive drunk and get away with it. Because we can drag-race down a major road on a Monday afternoon until a tragic accident and public fury force the authorities to do something. Because we can be suburban vigilantes and assault suspected criminals. This happened in a middle-class townhouse complex filled with nice young, mostly white, families a few Sundays ago. A shared alarm system alerted residents to an attempted break-in at one house. The would-be burglar was savagely kicked and punched by half a dozen husbands and fathers who flung down their braai forks and paused the rugby game on PVR before wading in to do the neighbourly thing. When the police arrived, they joined in.

Crimes like these are committed by people who probably consider themselves to be decent, upstanding citizens, even victims. That's until they move to another, more regulated country and become impatient with the saturation policing that tends to keep our darker sides in check. We have been taught, by apartheid and then by our own rowdy version of democracy, that laws are made to be bent. It's enough to make us homesick.

So-called law-abiding South Africans do not always appear to discern the creeping connection between the violence of the vigilante and the violence of the mugger or even of the murderer. We do not seem able or willing to join the dots between the way we relish hearing how the authorities regard prisoners -- scum to be raped, beaten, starved -- and our own stated, but patently false, desire to live in a less aggressive society.

Take the story of George, a shaggy golden retriever, currently under sentence of death from an anonymous neighbour for barking too much.

The death threat, written and posted to George's Cape Town owners, was polite, even a bit officious.

"Please make sure that your dog stops barking at night between the hours of 8pm and 8am," it said. "You have 30 days in which to retrain your dog or come up with a solution ..." At this point it all sounds rather reasonable, like a letter from the dog licensing department on City of Cape Town stationery. But if a solution is not found within 30 days, the letter writer finishes, "there is a very high chance your dog will no longer be around to disturb the neighbours".

To cut a long story, Sea Point's finest detectives are out scouring the nicer neighbourhoods for the would-be assassin -- who is most likely listening to Cape Talk while pruning his or her roses -- and George is, well ... either doing 30 days in a re-education camp or still barking. A woman calling herself a pet behaviourist told a Sunday newspaper: "I hope they find the coward who wrote the letter and string him or her up."

So, in the space of a single news week, we have a rate-paying dog-killer, an animal lover who would hang a human and two youth league leaders who sing "heritage" songs about shooting people who disagree with them.

Proves my point: we are all barking mad. Two hundred years ago, South Africans would have been able to get into Australia for free -- we'd have been transported there in shackles.

diumenge, de març 21, 2010

Lady GaGa's Telephone video

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/7466152/Lady-GaGas-Telephone-video.html

Lady GaGa's Telephone video

The outrageous video for Lady Gaga's latest release 'Telephone' has become an instant phenomenon.

By Neil McCormick
Published: 5:05PM GMT 17 Mar 2010

When was the last time a pop video became a global talking point? Lady GaGa’s all-singing, all-dancing, lesbian-prison-sex and mass-murder promo for Telephone has stirred up the kind of pop sensation not seen for a decade or more. It has featured on television news bulletins and the front pages of newspapers, as well as predictably tearing through the internet, breaking records on YouTube, trending on Twitter and inspiring frame-by-frame analysis and vigorous pro and anti blog commentary.

Most debate has focused on whether the video could be considered a work of pop art or just salacious sensationalism threatening the moral fabric of society. Lady GaGa herself claims it is a “commentary on the kind of country that we are”.

In which case, as GaGa and Beyoncé ride off into the sunset following a series of semi-naked dance routines, random outfit changes, B-movie locations, clunking product placement and a near-incoherent plot centring on infidelity and mass poisoning, one might be forced to conclude that America is a nation straining under its own decadence, producing a jaded, thrill-seeking, attention-deficit generation who can communicate only through irony. It is certainly not the state-of-the-nation message that President Obama would like to be sending out.

Can a video really tell us about the times we live in? If anything, GaGa’s video seems to refer back to the excesses of the Eighties, the supposed golden age of the music video, when bigger was better, and decadence and transgression were the standard currency of pop.

In a move boldly contrary to the credit-crunch spirit of the modern music business (where the average pop video budget has fallen to under £10,000), GaGa’s big production is on its way to becoming one of the most watched videos of all time, clocking up 17 million views in its first four days, and that’s not counting its massive television audience. In doing so, it has propelled her song to the top of charts around the world on downloads alone, even though the single was not officially released until this week.

This, after all, is how videos began: as a promotional tool. The Beatles were among the pioneers of the genre, when they realised they could send clips to US television shows rather than cross the Atlantic in person. In 1965, they shot 10 black-and-white promos in one day at Twickenham film studios. But it was with their avante-garde, backwards film for Strawberry Fields Forever in 1967 that something new was born, something more than just an advertising tool, effectively a visual extension of the song itself.

The pop video as a ubiquitous music marketing tool didn’t really get going until the development of new video cameras in the late Seventies. Among the pioneers was one of Lady GaGa’s antecedents in the transgressive pin-up stakes, Debbie Harry. Yet the sex and violence of Blondie seems innocent by modern standards, and video’s most celebrated early exponents tended to play it for laughs, with the comedy antics of Madness singled out for praise.

MTV was launched in 1981 to exploit the new medium. Then came Michael Jackson and Madonna, visually intuitive pop stars for whom video was the sharp point of their attack on global consciousness. More than any artist before or since, video defined them.

Jackson was a showman who emphasised spectacle, and with Thriller and Bad he consciously pushed video towards the big-budget extravagance of cinema.

With roots in the New York underground, for Madonna there was always a more conceptual artistic thrust, with an attention-grabbing bent towards the provocative and controversial, emphasising sex and transgression. These are essentially the twin templates of the music video, spectacle and provocation. Sound familiar?

The success of Jackson’s big-budget approach led to ridiculous escalation, with videos rapidly became more expensive than the recordings they were promoting. The key video of the decade is probably Duran Duran’s Rio, in which the boys from Birmingham gad about the Caribbean in boats with glamorous models. Videos were increasingly treated as the main event, a warping of the natural order that GaGa’s Telephone certainly recalls.

The height of budgetary folly was reached on Jackson’s black-and-white sci-fi Scream, a 1995 duet with his sister Janet that cost $7 million and failed to deliver a number-one single. Yet state-of-the-art effects tend to date in ways that emotion never will. Sinead O’Connor achieved worldwide stardom in 1989 with the minimalist video for Nothing Compares 2 U, in which the special effects were limited to her own tears.

Arguably, the Nineties was the real golden age of video, when there were still budgets to play with but the most ambitious musicians no longer used them as an excuse to have a holiday with supermodels in exotic locales. Leftfield artists such as Björk and Radiohead created original videos that could (and sometimes have) been exhibited in galleries. The Verve’s single-shot Bittersweet Symphony, REM’s sombre, subtitled Everybody Hurts, the foetal intimacy of Massive Attack’s Teardrop – these are videos where the ego of the artist has been completely subsumed in the work, and the visual and musical achieve total integration.

Yet, with videos being created to promote every single release, there is an almost inevitable homogeneity. Pop’s visual language became ever more tightly focused on dancing and sex, illustrated by the way Britney Spears became a global star doing a sexy-schoolgirl routine for Baby One More Time.

The relentless parade of bling and booty in hip hop videos (with honourable exceptions) has been particularly dispiriting, amounting to a kind of consumerist, sexist soft porn. If there have been few serious objections to this descent to the bottom of the barrel, it is probably due to a law of diminishing returns. We have got so used to videos; we barely even notice them any more.

GaGa’s Telephone, at least, arrests this decline by demanding attention. She may deal in the clichés of the form, but she also subverts them by pushing them right to the boundaries of acceptability, underpinning them with knowing pop-art references that force you to consider the implications.

In the past decade, as music industry profits have shrunk, a greater premium has come to be placed on inventiveness, to generally positive effect. It has been the era of the no-budget video, in which any hopeful with a concept and a camera can upload their offerings to the world. The viral nature of the net magnifies the possible impact of an original idea. Evoking the humorous spirit of Madness, Californian rock band OK Go’s one-shot dance routine on treadmills for Here It Goes Again has clocked up more than 50 million YouTube views.

If necessity has been the mother of video invention, Lady GaGa threatens to turn back the clock to an era when nothing succeeded like excess. I don’t expect it to start a new video budget arms race, however, partly because there isn’t another pop star today who could pull this kind of thing off.

With the musicality and showmanship of Michael Jackson and the powerful sexuality and provocative instincts of Madonna, Lady GaGa might just turn out to be the ultimate video queen.

dissabte, de març 13, 2010