Monday, September 1, 2008

Coming up for air...

So much has happened. Sorry for the long, looooong pause between posts. Work has started to overwhelm my schedule. No relief in sight, at least for another month+, but I wanted to take the time to make the following observations:

Regarding New Orleans and Hurricane Gustav:
New Orleans is in a geological bowl. Recall that after Karina the water needed to be pumped out because it will never, ever drain on its own. New Orleans is several feet below sea level and that will never get any better since it doesn't rest on "land" as we in the rest of the country understand it. The whole city essentially sits on water-saturated river mud of varying densities and a building will slowly sink under its own weight on that kind of surface, so it only gets worse over time.

Making things worse still is that the Gulf of Mexico is also a gigantic geologic bowl into which the Mississippi River has been pouring sediment for millions of years and thus is itself sinking into the Earth's crust, pulling down the edges of the Gulf with it. Texas has slip faults as far inland as Austin as a result. So the bedrock on which the mud NOLA is sinking into is also itself sinking.

And, third, the Army Corps of Engineers has, since WW2, diked and dammed and leveed the shit out of the river to control flooding, which has had two major negative results: 1.) the protective fresh-water swamps around the city, which soak up storm energy and act as a natural buffer between the salt-water Gulf and the fresh-water inland lakes and streams, are not being replenished with the silt from the Mississippi's once annual floods and thus are eroding at an ever accelerating rate as salt-water from the Gulf kills the fresh-water ecology that maintains the swamp and 2.) the River is dumping silt and sediment farther out into the Gulf than it has ever in geologic history which means it is not replenishing the deep-sea mud "shelf" that shores up the Louisiana coast-line, which also accelerates the erosion process.

As bad as this scenario seems, all of the above assumes everything will simply continue as it always has. If you also factor in Global Climate Change and the accompanying rise in sea level plus the increasing intensity of storms as a result of a warmer ocean, New Orleans doesn't have a prayer. Katrina wasn't The Big One. Katrina was the shot across the bow. It is not a matter of if New Orleans will ever get a direct hit from a Category 5, it is simply a matter of when.

Sadly, I think this jewel of our civic firmament should be abandoned. It was always more of a frontier outpost akin to something on the banks of the Congo or the Amazon than to a proper city anyway - a commercial enterprise that once served a specific economic purpose and now survives simply because it has survived up to now.
Regarding McCain, Gustav & Palin:
I think, as much as it pains me to say it, that McCain and the Rethuglicans are in the right to modify their convention plans. Their reasons for doing it, however, are suspect and deplorable. One, they are doing to it neutralize the baggage the entire GOP establishment carries from the aftermath of Katrina - no "Heckuva job, Brownie" moments this time around. Two, we all know that W will once again allow McSame to step in, act all bossy (like he did a few weeks ago during the Russia/Georgia dust-up) and more or less appear to rubes and nitwits who constitute the bulk of the GOP voting bloc to already be running things as part of that appear-to-be-winning-by-acting-like-a-winner strategy. Also, this is akin in their minds to the idea from any dictatorship (and we know W and the Rethugli-goons do love them some dictatorishness) where the party and the government are seperate, but nevertheless function as one. Think of the Communists in Soviet Russia or the Nazis in WW2 Germany. The government in both cases (and anywhere a country suffers under one-party rule) was kept separate from the party for appearances sake, but was still completely subservient to the dictates of the party.
We're not fully a dictatorship yet in this country, but the police state tactics currently underway in Minnesota (h/t Mr. the Broadway Carl) are in keeping with our slide into fascism. I was in NYC in 2004 for the GOP convention and I remember how much the NYPD, already something of a violent occupying force in this city on a good day, turned into full-riot-gear and machine-guns-and-dogs enforcement mode. This devolution will only accelerate as the actual mechanisms of government and law enforcement are increasingly populated by like-minded people who gleefully and proudly cleave ever tighter to an ever more authoritarian political party. The US Attorney scandal is part of this same seizing of the reigns of power, a politicization of the actual structures of law-enforcement, wherein political opponents are jailed simply for dissent in the name of law & order (Siegelman anyone?), just like a third-world banana republic (which I think they want to turn this country into anyway). This is the country we've become thanks to the thugs, goons, know-nothings and nitwits who constitute America's modern Republican Party

We should henceforce call them Banana Republicans.

In that way, McCain isn't so much a "maverick" really. On the contrary, he's a natural to now take the helm at the GOP. The GOP has been on a relentless march to authoritarian power since the racist Dixiecrats bolted the Democratic party for friendlier territory in Nixonland. One of the weapons in their arsenal during this march has been our collective national memory of the Vietnam War, which they have labored hard to re-shape in the intervening decades, building up a Dolchsto├člegende mythology around it - we could have won, "if only...".

Finally, after all this time, they get a Vietnam vet at the head of their ticket. Not only that, but in fact they get one of the ones who actually believes we could have won that immoral imperial occupation were it not for all the pointy-headed liberals and bleeding-heart war doves and dirty fucking hippies and Jane Fonda, just as the polarizing power of "the Vietnam experience" - when used as a red, white & blue code word to condemn all the purported excesses of the 1960's in the cultural battles of the last four decades - has finally started to fade. Sad, really, and sad that Vietnam vets are getting too old to even seek the job anymore. Just got one in under the wire, I suppose.


Vietnam has been the GOP's cudgel to beat the Democrats into meek submission for 40 fucking years. In so doing, they have successfully shifted the center of gravity in American politics oh-so-slowly to the right, ever more militaristic, authoritarian and plutocratic, to the point that even though our military budget is larger than all the other nations on the planet combined, nobody deemed "serious" in either party would even consider raising the slightest objection to that kind of spending on the machinery of death - if only on fiscal grounds, much less moral. The Dems have let it happen, sure, but the cultural turmoil of the 1960's that so upset the Establishment and the good (white) people of Main Street America and sent the whole herd flailing and fainting into the greasy hands of Saint Ronnie of the Ray-Gun in the 1980's simply don't matter anymore. The Boomers are dying off and the college campus battles they carried from their youth all the way into retirement are finally dying off with them. It is a new century and the GOP's bullying and beating of anyone to the left of Pinochet stops right here, right now, laid at Johm McSame's mangled feet with a toe-tag marked "I was a POW."

If anyone had any doubt about this dawning of a new age, Obama's speech last week should have sufficed to awaken them. More on that in a moment.

In the meantime, I will make the following prediction: Sarah Palin will drop out before the election. She will get him through the convention, shore up his Dominionist credentials with the drooling Jesus freaks, score him a few free points with the PUMA's on the other side of the aisle, then she will cite family concerns, drop out and go away. The Man Called Petraeus will retire from the Army and join the ticket with McCain sometime in early October. That will be the October Surprise, 2008-style.
Regarding The Speech, Barack Obama and What It All Means:
What can I say that hasn't already been said? Electric. Intergalactic. Dazzling. Wish I'd been there.

It is the most amazing political speech I have ever seen and will likely ever see, even if I live to be 103 (a lady in my building died this weekend at the age of 103, so that number sorta jumped out at me). The tone of the speech generally conveyed the idea that this Democrat is not going to take it from those guys anymore.

I loved it.

I dearly wish he could become our next president, but I don't think the plutocrats will let him have it. America has a way of robbing us of those who really give us sincere hope and no one has lifted our hopes like this since the men cut down by assassin's bullets during those hated 1960's. Remember, Stalin once said that it is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes. This one will be "close" in "key" districts in "key" states, but will ultimately, somehow, magically break for McCain. If it starts to look like Florida 2000 again, Obama will be persuaded (like I'm certain Kerry was in 2004) to bow out gracefully or else. Obama seems tough enough to test the "or else" which I fear will not be pretty.

I hope I'm wrong, but eight years of this criminal enterprise known as the "Bush Administration" has kept a lid on so many putrid kettles of K-Street fish that a government run by an opposition party intent on shining a light on every cockroach in Washington can simply never be allowed to happen. Ever. Too much money at stake, to say nothing of jail time.

But even if all that doesn't happen and the McCain/Petraeus ticket is somehow allowed to lose, the Cheney Administration will likely launch a war with Iran sometime in December or early January, just to make sure that either the Obama Administration is hamstrung by a national emergency from its first day in office or to construct a pretext for suspending the results of the election until the emergency has passed - sort of like those guys in Gitmo held until the war is over, except that we've declared war on an idea "terrorism" and not a state or government who can surrender, ergo: endless war. Sorry, Abdulluh.

Hell, even if they do manage to steal it for McCain/Petraeus, Cheney will still probably launch a war with Iran to keep McCain toeing the party line (for there is nothing like a fresh, shiny new war to keep the press jingoistic and the public stoked, dude), McCain will cite age-related health reasons early in 2009 and resign and we'll have General Petraeus as our Commander in Chief before next summer. I expect him to deliver his first address as C-in-C in full general's regalia so that we can finally end this charade that we are a free country and the Pentagon can assume it's regularly scheduled take-over of our government.
Regarding that Big Picture:
Which brings me to where I think we are now. We are at the end of history, or at least so many over-lapping sine waves of historical ontology all converging down into one huge conclusion that it will seem like the end of history. The battles of the 1960's are ended, yes, and the wave that crested with the Reagan Revolution and broke on shore with the Bush EPIC FAIL has mercifully receded to reveal the form of that skinny kid from Chicago. But what kind of country is Obama going to lead (if he is allowed to take office)? A country so exhausted that it cannot revive one of it's major cities nor extricate itself from an intractable resource war half a planet away. We have the smell of death about us, like the British did when the Zulus kicked their ass 100 years ago. When Roosevelt took office, despite the Depression, he took the reigns of a nation still rich in natural and intellectual and human and economic resources that only needed to be nudged into motion again. Granted, it took a war (and the widespread implementation of an oil-based economy) to fully revive the American economy, but there was something there to be revived. What about now? We are saturated with pollution and exhausted of spirit with crashing natural stocks of fish and game, forests that are dying of thirst and burning up due to climate change, a crumbling national infrastructure starved of funding for decades due to an ideological fetish for privatization. Where would a President Obama find the means to rejuvenate a country so bereft of resources on a dying planet?

But yet another subsiding wave of history is what driftglass recently called "The Negrological Constant." Our struggle with racism is far from over - to wit, a clearly qualified, energetic, charismatic young man like Barack Obama is nevertheless neck-in-neck with a gaffe-prone fuddy-duddy who can't even keep his own opinions straight from week to week, much less actual facts and still the pundits are positively mystified that Obama can't close the deal. Whatever could it be, I wonder? What could possibly make some people think twice about voting for someone like Barack Hussein Obama? You know, someone smart and funny and, uh, smart? What is it? What IS it? I dunno. It's a mystery. Must be Obama's fault, somehow. I'm just not sure what it could be.

At any rate, the fact that a black man has finally risen to the candidacy of a major political party says a lot about the continuing power of the racist meme as it wends its way through our collective national consciousness because it took so damned long to actually happen. Were it not for the fucking Electoral College, lo these many years, I don't think politicians would have been as able or as prone or as eager to play the race card to appeal to the rubes and crackers and redneck fuckwits in the third-world shit-hole known as the American South and we could have possibly seen a black man at the top of a ticket sooner than a century and a half after we fought a war to free his ancestors.

Possibly. But maybe not.

We have been amid the last gasp of that way of politicking since the Dixiecrats stampeded to the Party of Nixon. Viewed as the lancing of a boil, we have lived the expulsion of the puss and disease in the form of forty years of coded hate speech that has kept a dying GOP in power as they collapse into a minor regional party centered in the South. Well, you gotta dance with them's what brung ya. The fact that the best the GOP could do this time is Candidate John McCain (and the twittering chorus of disbelief in the ranks at his ascension) says a lot about how shallow their bench is these days. As a party, they represent the end of an era of history that began when the Virginia colonists traded with a Dutch ship for the first African slaves in America in 1619 and ought to have ended when Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but in fact can only be said to have ended once "right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." A President Obama could one day be seen as just such an historical marker.

Another wave of history is the End of Oil, which drove America's post-WW2 prosperity. But I have argued before that the End of Oil also represents the end of the western dominance of the world. That era began when the first explorers left Europe 600 years ago and began to colonize the world, and specifically the New World, in the name of Christian civilization - which was always and without exception merely an ecumenical pretext for robbing the locals blind. European prosperity - the glamour of Paris, the industrial might of Britain, the soaring beauty of Spanish cathedrals, the refined culture of the Dutch and the Italians and the Germans, et al, was financed by and can be traced directly to the literally tens of thousands of shiploads of gold stolen from the Americas. All those sailing ships shooting at each other in the pirate movies the kids are all watching these days were fighting over stolen gold. America paid for the Europe we so admire today.

So much of our history is embroiled in that Grand Crime. America itself was founded in the genocidal middle of it, which I think blinds us to our place in it. We began as a commercial proposition - the fancy words and high-falutin' philosophy got added later. From the legacy of slavery to rampant corporatism to the echoes of Manifest Destiny we hear in the rhetoric of America as Global Policeman, we are the product of our national DNA. We were born in a whirl of racism, violence and abject greed (with a facade of brittle piety to make it all the more cloying), have never really stopped, and every time we've tried to be honest and come to grips with our origins in some kind of nationwide reckoning, we've usually erupted into a violent cultural spasm that has on more than one occasion devolved into an open shooting war.
In his own way, for better or worse, Obama represents the end of that longer era as well, at least some manner of sea change. Whatever's on the other side, I hope we can get there in one piece.
I'll be on again, off again for a while but I hope I've given you something to talk and think about. Please feel free to comment. In fact, I'm not proud - I'm begging you to comment.


Anonymous said...

"...the Cheney Administration." - funny.
You're brilliant.
And sorry to hear about the 103 year old...

Hunter said...

Well...this was my first read and while I enjoy your critiques and thoughts...I want to buy you a balloon and some bubbles. We'll get through this and come out better on the other side. I am optomistic. Integrity will prevail.