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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!"

"Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" "David Johnston's voice crackled over the radio link from Coldwater Observation Post, north of Mount St. Helens, on the clear Sunday morning of May 18, 1980. Seconds later, the government volcanologist was engulfed in the volcano's gigantic lateral blast." - USGS Obituary

In Bobby Jindal's world this was just another "bureaucrat" wasting tax money monitoring a volcano. Unfortunately the thirty year old scientist didn't survive the eruption. Johnston spent his last weeks convincing the Washington State Patrol and USFS to evacuate the area around St. Helens. Lacking that evacuation thousands would have died, and the eruption would be remembered as an unmitigated disaster rather than a geologic novelty.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Obama's Place In History

President Obama has studied the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and will be a better Commander In Chief for it. I don't think Obama thinks he is Lincoln 2.0, but he has to mobilize a country ripped apart by sportscasters turned self styled political leaders to fight the worst economic collapse in two generations. These former sportscasters, philosophically anchored on Rush Limbaugh, know nothing about the delicate balance of ideology and compromise always hemmed in by the constraints of reality. To Sports broadcasters, there is just winning. The loser of the Super Bowl doesn't get to negotiate an honorable outcome that will give their fans dignity and a piece of the victory. That's sports, not politics. Lincoln would have a hard time running The National League, but that's Obama's model.

Obama's most ardent supporters think he is FDR or JFK. He certainly has a task set before him that is equal to, if not worse than, the Great Depression. Roosevelt only needed to reinforce the existing financial structure, organize and insure. Obama has to re-create the financial sector of the world economy. At the time of the Great Depression the financial sector was less than three percent of the economy. By 2005 the financial sector was over fifteen percent. Larger than healthcare or manufacturing. Finance is the oil that lubricates the modern economy. Engines are not there to provide oil a job and place to stay, but suddenly we find ourselves with a fifty gallon oil sump and the purpose of the car is to carry all that oil around. Our financial sector needs to shrink to less than half what it is presently. Most likely more. Lincoln freed the slaves and saved the Union. Obama must crush the economic overclass and bring society more into the historical we have enjoyed in the pre derivatives, uncovered short, securitized debt America.

Obama has been called a lot of things. Second Coming, Hitler, Marx, The AntiChrist, a Moslem, a Terrorist, whatever........... 

The one name I haven't heard him called is Gorbachev. Gorbachev was handed the impossible task of fixing the unfixable. A nation so corrupt as to be un- redeemable, sinking in an military swamp that it could no longer afford, and an economic system that obviously was inefficient and unable to supply the population with sustenance and shelter. 

Now we aren't the old Soviet Union, but we suffer from the same sort of political ideological lockjaw. Our economy becomes more and more stratified as the distance between the mega-rich and the expanding peonage grows. There was a reason that the most robust era of American economic security had a 90% top income tax bracket. The nicest thing I ever heard William F. Buckley say about FDR was that the Democrat had saved the US from a communist revolution.

I have been a fan of Gorbachev for Decades, and even though he is despised in his homeland, he was a humanitarian (at least as much as a Russian dictator can be) with the best intentions and could probably have saved his nation if he had the time. We are in for a rough time.