Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Few Presidential Notes

Wow! I get a few days off. I took 5 business days which, thanks to the short Thanksgiving week, adds up to 11 days off in a row. There is a fairly major customer install right in the middle, so it is not without risk of interruption.

As such, I have a bit of time to

a. think
b. write

These are good things! I've heard this, so it must be true.

In the big picture, there is plenty to write about. A new President of the USA is forthcoming, the economy decided to flush itself down the toilet, and we are now presented with an opportunity to learn a great deal about how things work at the levers of power.

And what an interesting education it has been. We've seen free market conservatives lobby for corporate socialism on the grounds that companies are "too large to fail." We've seen pro-labor liberals lecture the auto industry, one of our last large industrial employers, on how they need a plan for profitability or they won't see a red cent of the big giveaway. We've seen an electorate placated into giving thousands of dollars per person for all of these programs with no discrete plan, no transparency, no trust in the recipients, and no expected outcome that the measures will work; all while the stock market dives like an osprey into the water because of those same reasons. What is one to make of this? Quite a lot really, and not much of it is good.

A fire was kindled on November 4th when Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. Unlike many who read my posts here, I am highly suspicious of the candidate who threw so many good people under the bus to be elected. However, I was near tears of happiness watching the American people reject the failed leadership that has damaged our Republic with unnecessary war, unnecessary division, and unnecessary damage to our Constitution. It was indeed a historic night and, as Moody Minstrel said earlier on this blog, the weight reverberated beyond race and to a point beyond. It was difficult to deny the shear human force that propelled Obama past voter purges, racial hatred, and the media cult of contrarian xenophobic "conservatism" (see American Conservative magazine for REAL conservatism).

We have a new president that says all of the right things, but can he DO the right things? At first glance, it doesn't look good. His cabinet choices thus far could have been chosen by Bill Clinton for their adherence to principles of corporatism and globalization. Unfortunately, it was just those principles in conjunction with W-style Reaganomics that have led us to this precipice. On the other hand, the people themselves are capable and could be led by the right person to do smart things to preserve the American middle class and stabilize the economy to some degree.

Even if they succeed, there are two challenges that remain in the wilderness of serious consideration. We are at a long-term degradation of cheap energy and a long-term boundary on our own ecological sustainability.

Some are looking at the gas pump prices and thinking we are somehow "in the clear" but think about this...the Dow Jones is more than 40% lower than it was 8 years ago and these supposedly "lower" gas prices are up 30% (approximate values of course). It won't take much of a recovery for the prices to recover as well. Things run out. The Gold Rush didn't last forever because the recoverable gold didn't last forever. And yet we still mine gold even without that rush. The same is true with oil. We will get all the easy stuff, but we won't run out. It will just get harder to extract. Unlike gold, however, we need oil for every phase of modern society from fuel to plastics to fertilizer to vitamins. The hairspray cable jockeys or the emotion-poking radio squawkers say little to nothing about this. They are such idiots that maybe it is for the best. Nonetheless, enjoy your cheap Ecuador bananas and Australian wine now because the price will be going up.

Since the Great Depression, the population of the United States has multiplied roughly 2.5 times. A great deal of arable land has been paved over, built on, and even preserved as wildlife refuges since that time. While technological innovation has allowed us to grow more food with less land, much of that growth was derived from cheap fuel, cheap fertilizer, etc. If our current recession deepens into a new depression and the domestic oil gushers of the 30s are gone, how are we going to feed our 300 million people? Just about every aspect of the marine food supply is stretched to the maximum. We have crops that terminate their seeds and can't grow another year. How will our increasingly urban population eat?

The consensus among climatologists is that our planet is warming and that the climate changes will cause disruptive changes to cultures and economies. The problem is that nobody knows exactly what changes will happen or how severe they will be. Also, it should escape nobody's notice that the time frame for change exceeds not only our attention spans but that of entire nations and that there is no consensus on what constitutes a proper change or the impact of such a program.

President-elect Obama has given only the slightest public attention to these challenges. As with previous administrations, the strategy (if there is one) to cheap energy and sustainable ecology (if there...you know) will take place behind closed doors while rhetorical pabulum keeps We the People occupied with other matters and out of "their" business.

These are difficult challenges and the easy answer of making a bigger, more intrusive government to handle it could lead us more quickly to a bad end. Bigger, more intrusive corporations could do the same. However, a resilient and well-tempered approach that encourages small and large scale innovation along with positive leadership helping us into accepting a more efficient lifestyle would make a huge difference.

Reality can be a harsh, but patient teacher. It can give us plenty of rope, but eventually it runs out and it pull us forward on its own terms. The trick is to move along with that rope before it pulls you. I hope Obama can learn that skill before austerity and efficiency are imposed on us quickly by cold, hard reality.

For some folks I know, it is already too late for the soft fall.

4 comments:

ladybug said...

I'm hopeful...but you forgot about the healthcare crisis...since nobody has any, anymore.

We'll see what the economy does - that will determine alot right there.

Also, I share the same curiousness..why all the panic about "saving" Wallstreet, and all the hate for the automakers?

Both have equally lame (i.e old inefficient loophole laden beaurocracies) economic problems, CEO's which use private jets, idiotic products...oh that's right automakers have unions.

Those big bad unions in which workers are actually paid a living wage.

Whatever, I think we should stiff'em all and put the bucks into Healthcare, Education and Social Support for Americans...but 700 Billion for that? I guess THAT's crazy talk....

Dave said...

We'll be fine. I all ready have my loieclothe picked out. Still haven't come up with a good bear skin however.

There are plenty of experienced people around Obama that they won't let him fail. The country is going to be in for a rough time though. We have an energy shortage headed our way. Iran has the bomb, and so there will be more wars I am afraid.

The Moody Minstrel said...

The question is who is ready and willing to start the wars. Also, depending on one's point of view, will it be a bold-faced act of aggression or a preemptive strike?

Luke, you're going to find that a great many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Don Snabulus said...

LB,

A lot of misleading information is being printed about the UAW right now, so you are right about the approach taken. It wasn't the union who decided to focus on SUVs only to watch gas prices double...

Dave,

I am near to wretching picturing you in a loin cloth, but I will recover. Irony just had a baby having you defend Obama a little bit on my site. If Iran truly has the bomb, then they are in the untouchable club along with Pakistan and North Korea. At least we can write them off the list of stupid wars. I wish them luck.

MM,

Ooh, ooh! I know. The answer is US isn't it? As in US of A. Am I right?

Star Wars reference used, didn't you? Approves does the Snabulus.

PS - My word verification is CRINGLE. We must be getting near the holidays.