Thursday, February 4, 2010

Change Denied

I encourage you to read the full article in the current edition of the Nation magazine, in my web list, discussing how to reform Congress and take back democracy. In this excerpt author Lawrence Lessig discusses the myriad ways President Obama has failed to give us true change:

A year into the presidency of Barack Obama, it is already clear that this administration is an opportunity missed. Not because it is too conservative. Not because it is too liberal. But because it is too conventional. Obama has given up the rhetoric of his early campaign--a campaign that promised to "challenge the broken system in Washington" and to "fundamentally change the way Washington works." Indeed, "fundamental change" is no longer even a hint.

Instead, we are now seeing the consequences of a decision made at the most vulnerable point of Obama's campaign--just when it seemed that he might really have beaten the party's presumed nominee. For at that moment, Obama handed the architecture of his new administration over to a team that thought what America needed most was another Bill Clinton. A team chosen by the brother of one of DC's most powerful lobbyists, and a White House headed by the quintessential DC politician. A team that could envision nothing more than the ordinary politics of Washington--the kind of politics Obama had called "small." A team whose imagination--politically--is tiny.

These tiny minds--brilliant though they may be in the conventional game of DC--have given up what distinguished Obama's extraordinary campaign. Not the promise of healthcare reform or global warming legislation--Hillary Clinton had embraced both of those ideas, and every other substantive proposal that Obama advanced. Instead, the passion that Obama inspired grew from the recognition that something fundamental had gone wrong in the way our government functions, and his commitment to reform it.

For Obama once spoke for the anger that has now boiled over in even the blue state Massachusetts--that our government is corrupt; that fundamental change is needed. As he told us, both parties had allowed "lobbyists and campaign contributions to rig the system." And "unless we're willing to challenge [that] broken system...nothing else is going to change." "The reason" Obama said he was "running for president [was] to challenge that system." For "if we're not willing to take up that fight, then real change--change that will make a lasting difference in the lives of ordinary Americans--will keep getting blocked by the defenders of the status quo."

This administration has not "taken up that fight." Instead, it has stepped down from the high ground the president occupied on January 20, 2009, and played a political game no different from the one George W. Bush played, or Bill Clinton before him. Obama has accepted the power of the "defenders of the status quo" and simply negotiated with them. "Audacity" fits nothing on the list of last year's activity, save the suggestion that this is the administration the candidate had promised.

Maybe this was his plan all along. It was not what he said. And by ignoring what he promised, and by doing what he attacked ("too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in"), Obama will leave the presidency, whether in 2013 or 2017, with Washington essentially intact and the movement he inspired betrayed

The Back Of Bahia Honda

It looked aground as I looked around, I could see the anchor line pointing to shore. Perhaps the low low tide had taken the skipper by surprise though we were coming up on a full moon about then so s/he should have been ready for that. In a north wind anchoring south of the islands is easy and comfortable though why the boat felt the need to be so close inshore I wouldn't know. It was another in a series of good looking days in the Keys, this time near Bahia Honda.
The seas were flat and the view south toward Cuba seemed endless.Tourists sometimes wonder if you can see Cuba's mountains from the Keys but you can't. If you stand at sea level you can see about half a dozen miles depending on your actual height. The calculation is known as height of eye. Multiply your height of eye's square root by 1.17. The easy example is standing with your eye 9 feet above sea level puts your square root at 3 times 1.17 equals three and a half miles. As Cuba is ninety miles away at it's nearest point that puts it out of reach. A 900 foot mountain would be visible from thirty five miles which added to your height of eye would amount to to less than 40 miles. Here endeth the lesson as I have exhausted my meager mathematical skills (and I am not completely certain I have it right but it's close enough). The long and the short is that Cuba is always out of sight.
Cheyenne has been fishing and chewing on the dead carcasses of the fish killed in the Great Cool Down of 2010. The beaches have been littered with corpses and her diet has, as a result become a little too rich in dried fish.The fish are everywhere, slowly returning to their elemental forms. We explored the waterfront at the south end of the old Bahia Honda Bridge. There is what appears to be an old pump station built out of limestone along side the original, decrepit water pipe that the Navy installed in World War Two to supply the Navy Base in Key West with a regular supply of water.
The pipeline is rather the worse for wear which is okay as the new pipe runs alongside the Highway. It was of course a larger diameter pipe that they installed when it was built alongside the new highway in 1982. Considering the shortage of water in the aquifer in South Florida and the burgeoning population I'd recommend using a rainwater recovery system like the one that came with my house. But drinking rain water scares a lot of people. Conchs used to do it all the time in the good old days when everyone had a cistern. I was so involved in taking the picture I only freaked out about Cheyenne on the precipice after she was well away from the edge. She is smarter than she looks, and I enjoy her sense of adventure. The "new" Bahia Honda bridge is on the left.I rode the old bridge on my Vespa in 1981 and have no photos nor any memory of the journey. I was young and I try not to blame my former self for my inability to record the journeys of my life.The new bridge is a very inviting four lane but the Highway Patrol is well aware of how tedious the drive on the approaches can be and because of their frequent fines in the area as people speed up on the wide bridge, this area is sometimes known as the "Lower Keys toll booth":Seven weeks ago Cheyenne was in a cage at the pound:
Now the Lower Keys are her backyard. We spent a happy 45 minutes exploring the sliver of West Summerland Key shown in the picture below.It is a never ending source of amazement to me that these islands are so under explored by residents and visitors. Which I concede is just as well or else we'd be standing shoulder to shoulder and I enjoy the solitude