A key problem for the Obama Administration has been the "sit on our hands" strategy of the GOP members of Congress. Our strength in the Senate the past eighteen months has been barely enough to get something done, although every step has been dogged by smirking Republicans. The House is completely out of control. The Speaker cannot even bring key votes to the floor and know they will pass. He is a holdout who still foolishly believes that the Hastert Rule even matters any more within his own party.
What to do to wake these slackards up and actually do something?
Now a war is looming. A war that by the New Normal bizarro world rules would have been hot by now. But President Obama is sending it to Congress. More important than what happens in Syria is what is happening at home. But a war is a perfect thing to force Congress to actually debate and actually vote. Even if it does not pass, at least Obama will have forced Congress to know what it feels like to govern. And actually have taken a stand and a vote to boot.
It's nearly August and, in the Northern Hemisphere, that means the emergence of the red tide in lakes, steams and oceans. The red tide is actually a swarm of an organism, often called red algae, although, in truth, it is a cyanobacteria and not really algae. Both cyanobacteria and algae are everywhere in our water. Most of them are beneficial. Some, however, produce toxins. The toxins the cyanobacteria called red algae produce are called cyanotoxins. Given nutrients, these species double in size in as little as 24 hours. They all, algae and cyanobacteria like, love nitrogen, and our civilization is feeding it to them. The United States Geological Service estimates 153,000 metric tons of "nutrient" -- meaning nitrates and phosphates -- have been sent out into the Gulf of Mexico from the mouth of the Mississippi this year. The dead zone which results from this now covers an area the size of Connecticutt.
But closer to home for most of us, our lakes are seeing the red tide, arising from the same flow of nutrients from our collective ass into the waters of our nation. An artificial ecology is afoot, and these critters are responding according to their nature. It so happens an agricultural practice exists which can turn that tide and introduce a negative feedback loop into this brave new ecology of our creation: fields of algae. The best of breed of these technologies is called algal turf scrubbers (ATS), invented in the 1970s by Dr. Walter Adey of the Smithsonian Institution. Now field tested and proven for over thirty years, it exemplifies the opportunity to unleash our farmers in the quest to turn the red tide back everywhere.
Another right-wing regressive with too much money is flailing around for mud to sling at President Obama. News cycles are chewing on the fringes of the story and alluding to the racism implicit in the story. It reminds me of a thought I had when the Reverend Wright story was raw and fresh in the heat of the Democratic primary and when I saw Obama's excellent speech at the time.
Although I understand the tone and direction of that speech, I thought at the time that Obama may have been able to draw out a whole other distinction between himself and Rev. Wright -- one even more central to Barack Obama's governing philosophy. Although no one wants to give this story more legs than it deserves, it brings back the intuition I had at the time, and in hindsight I think is still more central to who Barack Obama is and who he chooses to be still:
a true public servant.
Since the American hostages in Iran were released within hours of President Reagan's inauguration, we have been engaged in false wars of all kinds. If the use of the word "war" in the War On Drugs and the War On Terrorism has become more common, we only have to thank a cadre of determined spinmeisters employed by the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (the think tanks, Christian Coalitions, PNAC, Federalist Society, etc.) and paid by billionaires who are, themselves, American fascists.
No matter what twisted logic one may use to justify this state of affairs, for thirty years our nation has been acting out unsane propositions. From the heights of Carter's Camp David accords we have fallen to the nadir of killing bin Ladin with technologies and prescedents which are, themselves, immoral; We The People have too often been bathing in the blood of innocients while ignoring the consequences of our own actions.
The wicked witch is now dead. It is time to wake up from the evil spell we cast on ourselves in our latest adventure in unsanity -- the "new normal" of 9-11. President Obama is doing his best to show us the path back to sanity. But that journey will be a long one, and we are only at the beginning.
A major media narrative is being constructed to "explain" the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona. Many of them, in fact. These nascent mythologies carry with them certain assumptions required of you, the reader/viewer/listener -- the citizen -- for you to "buy in" to one over the others.
Some hope this event and the facts of it will challenge our very paradigm about the political situation in which we find ourselves. President Obama certainly hopes that this event will invite us to pause and reflect and open ourselves to the opportunity of enabling a perfection of our union. E Pluibus Unum was invoked many times at the memorial service in Arizona. What does that mean?
When else in history, in the cusp of transformation of our nation as it is and as we believe it to be, has this kind of crisis been faced? What light could an example from another time could we shine on these present events which could help us in our moments of pondering?
Nonlinearity is a wonderful thing. I saw a dynamic system undergo a catastrophic collapse. After a night in the 20s, I walked out to a windless, bright October morning. All around me, the leaves on the trees were letting go. Leaves were falling silently, like snow. The dynamic system of the trees were triggered to go dormant, overnight. Together. Within an hour, all the trees I could see lost all but a hardy smattering of their leaves. Unusual? Yes. Real? Yes.
Truth can often be stranger than fiction. Our elections since 2000 have been marked by lots of these unlikely, but still real, events and outcomes. The 2008 election was a particularly wondrous catastrophic collapse of one state of systemic equilibrium for another.
Polls are again evenly balanced or oscillating around inside their margins of error. Ten years later. Small actions by millions of people can, once again, tilt the balance one way or another. Small actions by one person, like a vote, could be the tie breaker in 2010 for one or more races -- again.
A Blue Tide At Midterm
Another day, another onslaught. The gloss is moving, but few are listening. Another day of poll results spelled out and summarized on the front page. Another day of small shifts in polling numbers on pollster.com. Another day of Nate Silver handicapping races and talk shows and news programs interviewing "experts" -- all of whom are vying to be vindicated in the narrative they are pushing.
A smaller number of us than in the 2008 election are even paying attention, according to the media. Even the worst case in this election may not be catastrophic. We could take this one off and no harm done.
So why make an effort to vote at all? It's just a midterm.
Aim Through The Target
As Election Day approaches, tension rises in campaigns and stress-inducing ads and blogs and arguments mix into a cacaphony which becomes a blur -- a gloss. Persuading someone to vote at all can be difficult in this crunch time. Persuading them to vote for your choice can be even more difficult.
Whether you are talking to a potential voter by phone or in person, cutting through the gloss requires something in short supply: listening. Listening is the essence of persuasion. Obama is a master of it. We should use the election season to work on our own skills and edify our minds: by canvassing.
Always do right. It'll gratify a few and astonish the rest.
Money corrupts everything it touches. A necessary evil if ever there was one, this symbol of value abstracts real human value from any one person into a price which can be paid to provide that value from other people. The Founders were not unaware of this. The three Framers who wrote The Federalist Papers were acutely aware of this.
The Republican Party is drenched with money this cycle, thanks to Citizens United. The problem is, that money is flowing along new channels and cutting off the national party organization. In the cusp of an Election Day, weak links begin to fail each day closer the election comes. The weak network of links among groups now loosely arrayed around "Republican" candidates is fraying. Voters are becoming wary of what blindly voting for the candidate branded "Republican" might actually deliver.
Karmageddon is nigh.
Tom Quinn has recently published a delightful book What Do You Do With A Chocolate Jesus? which thoroughly and lightheartedly skewers the New Testament and its proselytizers through history. He ties the silliness of the Dominion movement's version of the Founding Fathers to a general propensity for silliness in the generations before us. His writing is incisive and funny.
As I was contemplating one of Tom's zingers, I happened to see a CNN interview with Christopher Hitchins. The unfunny, almost ghoulish, ambience of that interview was haunting -- and a strange contrast to the prose I had been reading in Tom's book. The combination has led to this musing on questions raised often here, but which have deep and serious implications for our future as a nation.
I voted today. Along with millions of my fellow citizens, I entered the inner sanctum of our common civic religion: the voting booth. I took a moment to think on my choices -- a timeless moment in every citizen's life we call voting.
I voted today. I am voting with millions of my fellow progressives for change and hope though we may not have yet seen either in evidence on the issues dearest to our own hearts. Some of my fellow voters come having studied every nuance of every choice. Some come distracted by the furious onslaught of life, but feel the clarion call to duty so hard to hear in an off-year election.
I voted today, and righteously renewed my social contract with all my fellow citizens; with all of you. I voted, so I continue to have the absolute right to loudly proclaim my grievances against this Government.
Even though it may be tough, if we can hold the Republicans to a minority of any kind in both chambers of Congress, there will be hell to pay within their ranks. If we hold the line in any way, their political party will hit a catastrophe curve in the dynamic system of American national politics, and all the way down the levels of politics.
It never hurts to consider the situation the regressive community would be in if we in the progressive community can hold the line. We must rise to this work not for Obama or anyone in office. Not for any one citizen. We must work now for the Netroots and the movement We The People have created by bringing our grievances against our government to the attention of our fellow citizens, here and in millions of other ways. In that quest, we will continue. There is no turning back now. There isn't anything left to turn back to.
We are called upon, once again, to enact the political strategy we have already enacted, and whose strength is being tested in this campaign season, even more so each day closer to this election we move. The strategy?
Tit for tat.