Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tings Bruk Down, Part 2

I'm sitting at my desk here at work. Not working, obviously, but just waiting for the clock to run down. My Timbers are playing tonight and I'm idly wondering whether to go. I've been immersed in soccer lately. Copa America. EURO 2016. The local teams, Timbers and Thorns. As well as writing the Thorns for Slide Rule Pass. So I'm honestly torn. I'd kind of like to see the match. And I'd kind of like to go home and do nothing.

As I sit I'm reading the Internet. News, opinion, various blogs and websites I enjoy.

Every so often I check into my Facebook for good stuff like this:

Lee: I lost my electroporation virginity today - although my partner was electrifying, it was brief and shocking and I won't know for days whether I'm satisfied. ‪#‎scienceporn‬

John (a.k.a FDChief): I have this mental picture of you reclining on the lab table in nothing but a lab coat and cigarette holder while the device intones (in the HAL voice from 2001): "Procedure complete, Lee. Are you sure it was good for you..?"
Lee: That sounds like every day in my lab, John.
John: Well your work is a damn sight more fun that mine, Lee. WTF? GEOLOGY was supposed to be the place to major if your primary interest in science was primarily intoxication and reproductive anatomy. When the hell did you biologists get so lascivious?
Diane: Does HR know?
Lauren (Lee's daughter): I swear, you and John Lawes could write a book on things your offspring never want to hear
John: But not, alas, cooperatively. Apparently biology is the New Sexology and I appear to have completely missed THAT memo...
Lauren: You should ask her to recite her diatribe on pornographic pollination. I was scarred for life after that one. I swear, parents say the darndest things
John: That's the point. You get to be pains in our ass when you're little; we get to be pains in yours when you get big...It was worth the price of admission explaining to my daughter about puberty.
Lauren: My mom drew me a scientifically accurate diagram of the uterus and phallus. It was very educational
John: Knowing your mom...I'll bet. And probably pretty funny.
Lee: I don't remember any of that...

Some people give good Facebook. Some people post reams of fucking cat pictures and links to everything and nothing. It's like letter-writing. Remember those? Let me tell you; I could write a terrific letter. Most people? Not so much. That translates over to the electronic version of epistolary friendships, too, and I'll let you guess which is more enjoyable.

But here's the other thing I found on FB today:
"Democrats appointed to the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee by Hillary Clinton and the party’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, defeated a ban on fracking on June 24."
This was from my friend (and commentor here) Mike's feed. Mike and a lot of the comments on the original post were, understandably, furious.

It just made me sad and sick at heart.

Because I just don't see that there's a real hope in hell of "doing something" about anthropogenic global warming (or "AGW" for short...) through our political process. And if that's not possible...well...I'm not sure what this planet will look like with a return of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and I'm not sure I want to.

That, in turn, got me to thinking about what look like very similar electoral situations; Great Britain's "Brexit" referendum and the people who wanted out of the EU, and the coming U.S. general election and the people who want Trump.

In both cases there seem to be a fairly good prima facie case for opposing both Brexit and Trump. Both appear to be based largely on rumors and lies and fed by nativist anger and racist rage. Both appear to be like hitting yourself in the face with a hammer to swat a fly on your nose.

But in both cases there's the arguments my friend Mike and other lefty pals employ against HRC; that the "Remain" argument for the EU (and the "better than Trump" argument for Clinton) are, in effect, demanding your vote for something deeply flawed, something that rewards the rentier class that has effected a silent coup.

Mike and the Sanders supporters make good points about how the current system is horribly skewed against the "regular" Joe and Molly. How things like trade deals and crony capitalism strip people of jobs and wealth, and how people are sick of being "ruled", in effect, by unelected corporations and capitalists. I agree. The current economy isn't "good" for people like me, or my family.

The current system isn't "good" for the planet in terms of accelerating climate change. Both need to be changed.

But what bedevils me

Republics and democracies aren't good a big, radical changes. They're not good, either, at demanding that their citizens do things that they don't like to do in the short term to make things better in the long term. Remember when Jimmy Carter asked us to turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater? The average U.S. citizen knows perfectly well that things like eating McDonald's rainforest-beef hamburgers, driving an SUV, and living in a 3,500-square foot house with a quarter-acre lawn in a city built in a fucking desert are bad ideas.

They just don't want to not do them.

And - short of war - it's hard to either make them or persuade them TO do them.

That's why I eventually bagged on Sanders. Because I'd read things like this:
"We need a president who will vigorously support international cooperation that brings the people of the world closer together, reduces hypernationalism and decreases the possibility of war. We also need a president who respects the democratic rights of the people, and who will fight for an economy that protects the interests of working people, not just Wall Street, the drug companies and other powerful special interests.

We need to fundamentally reject our “free trade” policies and move to fair trade. Americans should not have to compete against workers in low-wage countries who earn pennies an hour. We must defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We must help poor countries develop sustainable economic models.

We need to end the international scandal in which large corporations and the wealthy avoid paying trillions of dollars in taxes to their national governments.

We need to create tens of millions of jobs worldwide by combating global climate change and by transforming the world’s energy system away from fossil fuels."
...and I'd think, yeah, you're right. That'd be great. That'd be awesome.

How the fuck would you do that?

I mean, how does President Sanders go to Congress...the same Congress that has a House full of shit-flinging flying monkey wingnuts and a Senate that has enough of the same to prevent cloture, remember?...and tell them, yep, I want to cut the Defense budget and spend it on solar and wind energy. I want to reform the tax code to prevent capital flight and return the top marginal rate to 90% like back in Ike's day. I want to cut CEO pay. I want to raise tariffs to prevent offshoring and job loss.

These are fucking people who think that the problem is that there's not enough oil drilling in fucking National Parks, for fuck's sake. These are people who are elected by even stupider people who think that the world was created 6,000 years ago and that Jesus wants you personally to have the full tank of gas that those dirty, smelly Mooslim people stole and hid under their deserts.

Add to that the people, like the people who voted "Leave", think that "international cooperation" means Brussels telling them what shape their bananas should be.

And you have to convince all these people; the good folks, the worriers, the activists, the goofballs, gomers, nativists, racists, ignoramuses, conspiracy-theorists, ding-dongs, and low-information knotheads to be patient, compromise...and to give up their styrofoam cups and cheap plastic crap from Wally-Mart and NASCAR and put down their Confederate flags and ride the fucking bus to work.

What president could do that?

Hell, Jesus riding on a velociraptor and carrying an AR-15 couldn't fucking do that.

That's what kinda drove and drives me crazy about Bernie. Yes, these are all good things. do you get them? How do you convince people or coerce people or force people to stop building suburbs? To stop driving to work? To stop buying disposable diapers? To stop living in McMansions? To stop voting for people who tell them that they don't HAVE to stop doing all those things because "global warming" is a lie?

I want to hear not an uplifting speech. I want to hear a plan. I want to hear an actual strategy. How are you going to beat down FOX "News"? How are you going to force-feed Michael Savage and Rushbo and Coulter and Malkin and Beck and every other talk-radio moron a nice, hot cup of STFU? How are you going to get people who don't want to accept the science of climate change to accept it and live the lives they need to live to help change things? How are you - in detail, now - going to get people to ask for more taxes and less cheap Chinese-made crap and more equity?

I'm not saying that we shouldn't keep working for this good stuff Bernie talks about.

I'm saying that by its very nature it's a ridiculously difficult, painful, time-consuming body of work. That you're going to get beat. A LOT. And that you're going to have to grit your teeth and work with people you don't goddamn DLC triangulators and people who want fracking regulated rather than banned.

And that's fucking hard.

So hard that I'm not sure it can ever happen.

And that, in turn, really depresses the shit out of me. The worst are, indeed, full of passionate intensity. And the best...well, they're getting sick and tired of trying to roll that rock uphill.

I want to believe that there are ways. Real ways, practical ways, workable ways, to make all the good stuff that Bernie wants happen.

I just can't see anyone actually producing them.


Ael said...

I expect it can be done in the same way we got the Cuyahoga River to stop catching fire?

FDChief said...

That was when the Cuyahoga was an open sewer of petroleum distillates. Global climate change is different. It doesn't catch fire. It just slowly changes things like weather patterns until palm trees grow in Saskatchewan...

Same problem w offshoring and inequality. What's the solution...higher taxes? How do you sell that, when every GOP talking head will demagogue the hell out of it, convincing every doof that his paying an extra two bucks a year is worse than soaking the rotten Walton clan for millions AND helping end their chokehold on government?

The public is an ass, I know. But the public has been exponentially assified for 40 years by relentless "conservative" propaganda. I'm not sure it's saveable at this point.

Nuke it from space. Only way to be sure.

Ael said...

Well, the overwhelming majority of Americans lived nowhere near Cleveland. But opinion leaders *kept pointing out* the craziness of rivers catching fire and after while, the opposition was overcome, and congress was moved to action.

It will be similar with climate change. You need to select opinion leaders that keep grinding away at the important topics of the day. It was how Carthage was destroyed and how climate change can be addressed.

This is what worries me about HRC. I get the feeling that she will go silent about various important issues once elected, rather than use the bully pulpit to badger the American people about the important things that need to be done.

FDChief said...

The legislative process that eventually resulted in the Clean Water Act was the product of decades. The fire of 1969 occurred at the END of that process, rather than the beginning, which really kind of points up how slow and difficult all this stuff is.

Industrial pollution is part of industrialization. In the 19th Century all sorts of people in the industrialized nations saw that - it was hard to miss the coal smoke and awful shit in the rivers. People - mostly poor people, obviously - sickened and died in the millions because of it. But that was the price of "progress" for many people and, of course, the people making money off the process.

What changed things were 1) labor unions; the unions were made of the people who were getting sick and had to work in the vile conditions, 2) newspapermen; the "crusading newspaper" (or "muckraking journalist"...) was a staple of the 19th Century, often because of 3) troublemaking writers, people like Upton Sinclair, and 4) leftist and populist (or both) politicians on the outside with nothing to lose by agitating for change. Add popular environmentalist movements spawned in the Forties and come to fruition in the Sixties and you had a big constituency for change. You'll note that almost none of the "opinion leaders" on environmentalism came from the top of the national parties. Most of them were backbench Democrats and local or regional organizers. And it STILL took them something like 50 some years to get the first clean water legislation in 1948 and another 25 to get to the 1972 CWA.

Where is that sort of coalition now? The unions are terrified of losing what jobs they have, the newspapers (and their digital equivalents) just "report both sides", the troublemaking writers are there, but their voices are lost in the noise. And the politicians...well, there IS no real "Left" anymore...

And that was with rivers catching fire and smokestacks belching smoke. This is trying to convince people that the increase in wildfires and hot summer days and vegetation changes isn't just coincidence or happenstance but the direct result of their own activities, the changing of which will at best inconvenience them and at worst force them to, say, move away from fucking Phoenix because they're trying to live in Allentown in the fucking desert.


FDChief said...

(con't from above)

So, no. The presidency (and the other top federal positions) don't really "lead" from a bully pulpit (I'd like to kick TR for that idiotic phrase). Presidents and Congresses act when the national consensus forces them to act. So the pressures of MLK and Loving v. Virgina and the ACLU and the NAACP and the integration of the armed forces force LBJ and the Congressional coalition of Northern Dems and Republicans to move the Civil Rights Acts through to legislation.'ll notice that nobody can compel white people to stick around in integrated neighborhoods. So they re-segregate and the problem of a persistent black underclass remains forty years after the CRA is signed into law.

I tend to agree that HRC is NOT the person who will charge aggressively into a fight for income equality or against climate change. But she'll be incrementally better than the MOST reasonable Republican...and the Republicans aren't electing "reasonable" people these days.

My biggest problem with Sanders was the whole "revolution" thing. Revolutions almost never turn out well. Chaos - and revolutions give you chaos - is almost never constructive. It's destructive of the old order, yes, but what arises is almost never a progressive new order, largely because what happens is that a dozen competing groups rush into the vacuum and try to grab some power for their agendas. The whole mess devolves into a power struggle which typically goes to the most ruthless and least responsible.

At this point even the Democratic voters aren't ready for a revolution, and trying to use the Awesome Green Lantern Powers of a bully pulpit can't hector them there. The role for the Left is within the Democratic Party, doing (for example) what SEN Warren is doing; the patient work of legislation, acting as the conscience of people like HRC whose instinct is to compromise and triangulate, and slowly, patiently keep pointing the faces of the Great American Idiot Masses towards realities like "there is no "trickle-down", "More CO2 = more global warming", "More rubble = more trouble" and "The rich are NOT your friends".

But that's HAAAAAARD. And I get the strong sense that the BernieBros and Sis's aren't going to be willing to do that hard, ugly, painful work as opposed to sitting on the lawn whining that the Clintonistas are so meeeeeeean.

Hence, my frustration.

FDChief said...

Matt Taibbi has some interesting observations on this here:

I think a huge part of the problem is that our nation(s) have become so big, complex, and abstract that a hell of a lot of people don't really think their choices "matter". AND the impact of big money in politics has, in fact, ensured that a lot of our choices DON'T matter. AND the "horserace" and "both sides do it" media has encouraged the mindset of politics-as-entertainment rather than something to take seriously and think about.

The other problem is, frankly, the Republican Party (here) and the Leave element of the Tories (in Britain). Both profit from the stupid decisions of low-information voters. Both encourage that stupidity by outright lies and less-blatant bullshitting. And the media don't CALL that stuff lies and bullshit, but pretend like it's just "another side of the issue".

If you're dumping flaming shit in the river it's hard to bullshit your way around it (tho industries could and did try for decades...). But you can, and many people do, argue that such-and-such "isn't a problem" or "costs too much and has no real benefit" and get the courtier press to nod and smile.

Leon said...

Late to the conversation. But really Bernie and Brexit are the blunt stick you use to force slow and incremental change - because fundamentally we as a culture fear change aside from shiny trinkets. We've grown comfortable with our 1st world lifestyle and having to sacrifice or downgrade the conveniences in favour of long-term sustainability will never sell to the majority.

So things/people like Bernie or Brexit are the threat you use to force these small changes. You threaten to put up Bernie as a candidate and make the 1% wet their knickers to agree to some better legislation. You threaten a Brexit to force reforms on the EU.

But by leaving the EU you've given up any cards in your hand. You've nothing to lever any reforms, you've folded. Currently as I see it, Bernie may be able to lever somethings out of HRC in return for his (grudging) support - this is probably the bestest solution we're gonna get.

Barry said...


I think that the trick is that we don't see the historical perspective, in part because a lot of it gets swept under the rug. For example, papers laud their muckraking, but never point to the many, many times they openly supported the lies of rich and powerful interests.

Religious groups point to the times where they were right, but not to the times when they were wrong. If we had bumper stickers back in the day, some would have said 'Slaver: God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It', or 'Lynching - Doing the Work of God Upon Earth'.

The reformers, whom you have pointed out tend not to come from the hierarchies, are known when successful, and out perspective collapses decades into pages, and ignores the many, many, many unsuccessful attempts.

Anonymous said...

"Global climate change is different. It doesn't catch fire. It just slowly changes things like weather patterns until palm trees grow in Saskatchewan..."

Yes, that's the problem with AGW, so far, it's been gradual.
Like our fabled frog in the frothing foodpot, we accommodate until the inevitable WTF moment.

Unless the whole environmental situation has a critical point where a Cascade Event tumbles out with disastrous effect.

As long as I can, I'll bitch about it. :)


basilbeast said...

Then again, if we lose Miami, will anyone give a shit?