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From the Coen brothers:
The end of any year is often a time of reflection. Looking back to see what went right, what went wrong. This year, we could perhaps benefit from such retrospection more than other years.
I was going to refer to 2008 as “a kidney stone of a year,” but I was almost certain I had heard that phrase elsewhere, likely in something by Hunter S. Thompson. A quick Google search of the phrase didn’t reveal the original source, but it did show three other people describing 2008 in those words, so at least I’m not alone in thinking of it that way.
On a national level, we saw a further…what’s the word I want? crumbling? eroding? collapsing? disintegrating?…let’s go with… deterioration of: our civil rights, our privacy, our status overseas, the situation in Iraq (notwithstanding all the neocons rushing to claim the surge has been a “success”), the situation in Afghanistan, the economy, the health care system, our schools, our infrastructure (Rachel Maddow’s favorite word), the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the environment, and…well…it’s a really long list, actually.
So maybe we should think of 2008 as the year when the whole house of cards we’ve all been living in fell to the floor.
There was the presidential election, which filled up our ears for way too many months with noise and lies and distortions and endless debates and oh the spinning and spinning and spinning and stop the world, please, I’m getting dizzy.
Before that, though, we had the primaries, and the caucuses, and the conventions, and the polls, and the protests and…well, you were there. You heard it.
There were a lot of lows, but there were a few highs, as well. Particularly toward the end of the year.
For a nice change, we had a presidential candidate that appealed to our hopes, rather than hammering at our fears. We dodged the bullet of a McCain/Palin administration, four more years that would most likely have looked like the last eight, except less organized, and instead managed to elect the smart guy over the guy people would like to have a beer with. Thought I suspect Obama would be way more fun to have a beer with than McCain, anyway.
And there was the nice bit about finally electing someone who isn’t a white male to the highest office in the land. That part was pretty cool.
But the economy is bad, and likely to get worse before it gets better. People are losing their homes, their jobs, and their retirement investments. We’re probably going to see a lot more people moving in with other family members to save money, and we’re already seeing more people living on the street.
It’s a scary situation.
And yet, with the new year comes hope.
In twenty days, we will be rid of alleged president George Walker Bush.
We will have strong Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress.
Let’s hope they use their new power for good. Let’s hope they actually use their power, instead of allowing themselves to be conned by Republicans into thinking they don’t dare use the power we gave them to change things.
Hope is good.
I have some ideas for a new project for myself in the new year…something that will involve this blog – or perhaps a separate blog created specifically for the project…more on that soon. But I think some more changes are coming in the life of yours truly, that I hope will be interesting for you all, and ultimately, perhaps profitable for me. We shall see…
In the mean time, happy new year, everyone!
And stay safe.
p.s. And lest there be any doubt about it…I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.
By now you may have heard about my new hero, Tim DeChristopher: the University of Utah (my undergrad university!) student who threw a spanner into the works at the recent Bureau of Land Mismanagement oil and mineral lease auction for parcels surrounding Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
If you haven’t, here’s more or less what happened:
The BLM, under Bush’s direction on his way out the door, was holding an auction December 19th in Salt Lake City, trying to sell off chunks of our pristine national wilderness to people in the non-renewable fuel industries. This has made a lot of people very unhappy, myself included.
It seems my new hero decided to do more than protest in front of the building where the auctions were being held. In a brilliant bit of monkeywrenching, he entered the building and registered as an auction participant, then proceeded to bid on many of the parcels being auctioned off, driving up the prices of the leases and even winning a few of the auctions.
Of course, Mr. DeChristopher (which is very fun to say out loud – try it and see) has no money to pay for these parcels, and has been arrested for his actions. He may be charged with criminal fraud, earning himself a few years in jail.
He has said that if his actions are successful in saving that pristine wilderness, he’s willing to serve the time.
Meanwhile, the outcome of the auctions is tangled up in some legal maneuvering connected to Mr. DeChristopher’s court case.
According to Rachel Maddow, there’s supposed to be some sort of court hearing to resolve the whole mess on January 19th. It’s probably not a coincidence that that’s the day before Obama and his crew take over in D.C.
Still, I have high hopes for this. See, I’ve had my own experience before a Republican-appointed judge in the Federal District Court in Salt Lake City. And he ruled the right way (i.e., in favor of my friends and I in our civil rights-related case), rather than the way that would have been popular with local (read: Republican) leaders.
So there’s still a chance that that pristine wilderness will remain pristine, at least for a few more years.
And in the mean time, Hayduke Lives!
…that if certain people on the Christian right are going to claim that natural disasters are their god’s way of punishing certain groups in our society for immorality, they must at least do so consistently?
Say, when not one, but two hurricanes are scheduled to make landfall in predominantly red states during the Republican national convention?
So many truly appalling things have happened over the past few weeks, I hardly know where to begin. Shall I rail about the hypocrisy of Republican politicians who proclaim that the only way to support the troops is to support the war but ignore the appalling conditions in housing for wounded members of the military who are being treated at stateside facilities until the condition of said housing becomes a segment on the prime time news?
Should I mock political candidates (even ones I like) who have begun campaigning fully a year before the first primary will actually be held?
Shall I snort in derision about remarks by the First Lady that refer to “the one bombing a day” in Baghdad, implying that (a) there is only one bombing a day (which would be an improvement), and (b) a mere one bombing a day is not a big deal (imagine if it were a bomb a day in NYC, Laura, and see if you would still feel like things were going pretty well)?
Or perhaps I should lampoon the allegedly neutral think tank (apparently a spin-off of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute) that made much of the Gores’ high utility bill but ignored the fact that part of the reason it was so high was that the Gores were paying a higher rate in order to obtain their energy from renewable sources?
Just read a post over at Crooks and Liars about how Exxon and the evil right-wing belief tank American Enterprise Institute (I don’t call them a thinktank because that would imply actual thought rather than just unvarnished greed and rationalization) are offering scientists who speak out against global warming a ten thousand dollar bounty. Although there may be a few scientists who take them up on this — there are a few bad apples in every barrel, as the saying goes — I hope that it is only a small number. I think the issue has gotten to the point where very few scientists are willing to speak out because it would seriously call their credibility into question.
We have only to witness visible changes in weather patterns over the last thirty-five years or so (maybe longer, but I am speaking from my own memory) to realize that climate patterns have been shifting and shifting rapidly. If we don’t act soon to change our behaviors, it may very well be too late. Sure, global warming may seem like a good idea when you are in the midwest in February, but come July or August, it’s not so fun…
I propose a consumer-based response to Exxon’s move: let’s all stop buying gas from them. That is, if you were buying from them to begin with — personally, I have avoided their gas stations since the whole Exxon Valdez thing. But really, money is the only form of communication that these bastards understand, so let’s hit them in the pocketbooks where it will hurt the most. That ought to get their attention.
Better yet, hit all the oil companies: take steps to reduce your gasoline consumption! Drive less, use public transportation, carpool, ride a bike, whatever you can to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. If it’s too much hassle to do it all the time, do it one or two days a week. Ditch your SUV and get something more fuel-efficient. Demand better fuel efficiency from auto manufacturers. Write letters to Congress asking them to fund research into alternative energy sources. Sign petitions. Whatever you can think of that might help. Not only will it help fight global warming, it can help reduce our dependence on foreign oil — which in turn will reduce the incentive to certain moronic politicians to embark on ill-advised wars in the Middle East. Everybody wins!
Let’s all do what we can to keep the earth livable — because there’s really nowhere else we can go to get away from it all.
Update: Just checked my e-mail and saw that the top story in yesterday’s New York Times was about how the evidence for global warming due to manmade causes is now “unequivocal” — you can see the article here if you want more information.