Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Finland Station

This has a tinge of memoir, but mostly it's history.

Long ago in the band I used to be in, when I was just younger than my daughter is now, we went up to Connecticut to make an LP record backing up the folksinger Debby McClatchy, at the home and recording studio of the lady who ran Green Linnet records and her recording engineer hubby. This was in 1976 to be precise. We did the work, and had a good time. There was an important rule of the house, laid down by the engineer: don't flush the toilet while we're recording, it causes a power drop and that slows down the recording machine.

I talked a good deal to the engineer during down time. He told me he was a Libertarian. That could have been a small letter L. He was not much like the Libertarians of today, people who think Gary Johnson might be a suitable President. (Even Johnson's running mate, Weld, has come out supporting Clinton.) But he believed that if the Libertarians just kept toiling, over the long haul there would someday be a new political party in the US, the Libertarian Party, which would offer succor to the very many smart but in some ways economically conservative people that were at present stuck with what we have, a two party system of Democrats and Republicans. To achieve that long goal, he asserted, one must vote Libertarian in elections, and get Libertarian candidates on the ballots, state and national. And indeed, I think in pretty short order there was a Libertarian candidate, perhaps as early as 1980. (You can look the date up on Google if you like, it is not particularly relevant to this conversation.)

Time passed. I noticed that even here in NC there were Libertarians, on ballot and off. We endured the very dark era of Ronald Reagan, and his cheery successor, former CIA head George H. W. Bush. In 1992 Bill Clinton defeated a real Democrat, Senator Tom Harkin, in the primaries, and then won the Presidency with the aid of a crank, Ross Perot. Bill Clinton was in all but name a Rockefeller Republican. He thus exasperated the Republicans no end, and helped build the mighty tower of success that is Rush Limbaugh, who was given material and plenty for daily rants to fill an entire 8 years of Presidency. Clinton kept agreeing with the Republicans to find common ground. That pissed them off to such an extent that they Impeached him. He then helped Democrats win the last mid-term of his tenure, and set his fine Vice-President off to succeed him.

Mr. Gore was for all intents and purposes the most significant Green Party Candidate we have ever seen. He made the error of washing his hands of Clintonian politics (which is to say, politics). The mainstream press thought he was silly and made fun of him, which of course diminished him relative to the fake good ole boy GWB he was running against. Then when Florida was close (GWB's brother being the governor there), a legitimate recount was stopped by a fake mob and the Supreme Court stepped in to hold a vote which they asserted, much like the Red Queen, had no precedent-making effects, and Mr. Gore, the first Green candidate, was defeated. The Greens had gone for Nader, by the way, resolutely playing the long game. Moreover, at that historical juncture the issue of global climate change was transformed into a matter of debate and conjecture and swept from the political landscape in the United States. While Mr. Obama achieved the Paris Accord, conversation about global climate made no appearance at all in the so-called debates, possibly by common agreement. This was also accepted by the mainstream press pretty much. There are few newspaper readers in Tarawa, or in Innuit villages. In the latter case, they're switching to gasoline anyway, and the huskies are going the way of the sailing ships, as Ms Kolbert recounts in her recent report.

Mr. Bush Junior started two wars of choice in short order, and set us on the Orwellian path of eternal war. We remain embroiled in both of them today, sixteen years later. In other news, our congress of elected representatives was incapable of reacting legislatively to the slaughter of over twenty first grade school children not to mention the daily slaughter of American citizens by the proliferated arsenal of fire arms now turned into a veritable venerated icon by much of our population, including our politicians. The Bush administration also crashed the economy at the end of his second term, and after eight years of slowly climbing back out of that crater, the current presidential candidate of the right claims the Obama years were some sort of economic disaster. And we find ourselves, in this election, with yet another Clinton as our Democratic standard bearer.

It's no wonder, if by that you mean “I simply can't remember what I had for lunch today,” as the old vet tells me on each visit, that many folks are this year voting Green. The standard bearer is a nice doctor lady named Jill Stein. She says there's not a dimes worth of difference between Democrat and Republican, and that green issues such as climate change and how we raise our chickens ought to be priorities, which is of course true as hell. Meanwhile, the mainstream press has realized that the spectacle of the Presidential Race we actually have is fantastic business, the ratings are up, and it is even possible this week to watch a Trump rally via Talking Points Memo dot com.

So some folks of good heart in so-called safe states like California are voting green. Not that Stein will win there. Clinton will win there, and by big margins. It is a safe state. The Green Party folks are, like the Libertarian sound engineer of yore, playing the long game. They dream of the day when there will be a third party, which will draw to its bosom the good hearted, sensible people who see clearly that there is a coming climate disaster, an enormous tragedy which will cause extinctions and could drive our seemingly invincible civilization to utter ruin. What is this meager election in climatic terms? Clinton will win and then be impeached. Trump will win and perhaps be impeached. The American military will remain professional, though perhaps expand. Coal will be extracted, as will natural gas and of course oil. Solar panels will be built too. The Green Party already had their best candidate, and he lost, fair and square or maybe not. We will not see his like again I don't think.

I'd recommend reading Elizabeth Kolbert's piece in last month's New Yorker. She travels to Greenland. There she observed the rivers running under the glaciers. She tells us that the loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica presents a simple cubic calculation—as simple as the green house formulas developed in the 1850s. It comes out to about 11 feet sea level rise. Here in NC our legislature issued an edict—we are not allowed to do the math if we are living on public monies. There should be some latin phrase at this point. You can google that.

I got into an argument one time with some guy who thought he'd figured out a decisive refutation of the green house warming problem. He didn't see, I don't think, that our current climate, so friendly to agriculture and without which we would be, by necessity, small nomadic bands of hardy hunters telling each other stories about a lost civilization where it was possible to go places without walking, where you could buy food and other necessities, was dependent on the green house effect. Instead, this guy argued that the green house effect only worked close to the earth, not in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and that that fact was somehow a proof that there was in fact no green house effect at all.

We should have been standing under the shadow of Everest. He could have pointed dramatically at the snow plume blowing off the summit. He was indeed correct. The greenhouse effect did not reach up there. He had discovered an elegant variant of Zeno's Paradox. Zeno should have been, for maximum literary effect, executed by archers.

Mrs. Clinton is a ghastly candidate, but she and her husband are spectacularly accomplished politicians. They worked the levers to achieve a Democratic nomination. They ignored all the ragged history they drag around behind them, all the ghosts of Christmases past. They were uninterested in the fact that the other party had embraced all the utter know-nothingness which rises in the country like the tides, year by year, as the other party plays a different long game aimed at destroying the government to prove it cannot work. Perhaps Maureen Dowd can write a great play about all of it, smiling her wry and coy smile as she chats with Charlie Rose. Perhaps the great play could even be in the form of a dialog between the two of them, played of course by two of our great actors, sort of a new My Dinner with Andre, or His Girl Friday. If it's not true or if it is, the playwrite should add the part about the Clintons encouraging the utter scoundrel Trump to run, thus clearing the field. The Greens will go to that movie, and appreciate it, and talk about it amongst themselves for days afterwards, over coffee and cognac, whilst the lights flicker when the toilets are flushed. It's a clear champion of the Sundance already.

If they get this project on the tracks maybe Dowd could play herself. Otherwise I'd pick Jennifer Lawrence. Perhaps the Charlie Rose part could be filled by Alex Baldwin.

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