Thursday, February 27, 2014

Big Bertha

I recently had a strange dream.

As with many of my dreams, this one had a distinct sense of locality.

I was in Seattle.

I was in an elevator with a number of other people; the elevator car was descending; one of the people among us was talking. She had that sort of authoritative tone usually assumed by a tour guide.

“We are descending in this elevator to a place below the streets of Seattle.”

Everyone on the car turned their heads toward the outer shell of the glass enclosure of elevator car that we occupied. Beyond the glass all was dark.

The voice continued.

“When we reach the bottom we will enter into an area under the city enclosed within a huge bubble of elastic material kept inflated by pressure pumps. Directly in front of us will be the long stalled cutting apparatus of the world’s largest boring machine. We will be in the Seattle Boring Machine Museum.”

An almost audible murmur of appreciation seemed to come from our little group of elevator passengers.

“In late 2013 the boring machine – known by the name of Big Bertha – began to bore under the city with the objective of creating a tunnel to replace a crumbling elevated highway.”

The elevator had reached the bottom of the shaft. We all waited for it to open. The guide continued.

“Not long after drilling had commenced – the boring machine had gone a thousand feet – the cutting head encountered a problem. Since then various attempts have been made to start the borer going again, but to no avail. The head of the thing has been locked in place where it is under the streets of Seattle ever since. That was fifty years ago.”

The elevator door opened revealing a brightly lit area full of glass exhibit cases.

“After a great deal of municipal tooth gnashing and disclaiming of blame, the facts had to be faced. Bertha was going nowhere. So taking a page from the playbook of the French, it was decided to turn a disaster into a museum. And so it has been ever since.”

We all moved into the museum proper. At the far end was the gaping maw of what must have been the business end of Bertha. It looked like the mouth of some sort of gigantic carnivorous worm.

The Guide spoke again.

“On your right is the first exhibit. It contains audio clips, video clips and still images. They all document the objections of the Seattle Mayor at the time of the project’s inception to the project. The exhibit is formally known as the Mike McGinn Exhibit.  Informally it is known as the I Told You So Exhibit.”

That was when I awoke.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ukraine Musings

It was difficult not to want to cheer.

After the thugs in office had hired fellow thugs off the street to kill Ukrainian citizens for exercising that right to free assembly that is guaranteed to Americans in our Constitution (and which right is therefore not given any value by Americans) had put bullets into the heads and hearts of too many brave Ukrainians, the situation suddenly changed.

The European Union had negotiated something.

But it was something that left the thugs in office in office.

It left them in office for not very long – perhaps – but for long enough for anyone with any sense to see that those thugs would have time to conjure some bogus deal that the EU might accept.

At least that is what I thought.

But I am an American and by that birthright I am totally ignorant of things of the world.

So I was thinking wrongly.

As evidence of that wrong thinking, on the morning after that EU deal had been promulgated, I got in my car in Portland, turned on the radio to listen on my way back to Seattle, and discovered that those citizens in the streets had gotten – after all, after the bullets in the heads and hearts - what they wanted.

Viktor Yanukovych was out.

The people had won.

At least for a time.

That caused me to wonder why we Americans put up with a system at least as corrupt as that of Viktor and his fellow thugs.

Our leaders are all bought.

Our House of Representatives is a joke.

Our President is a passive presence.

Our Senate is nothing but a hall of bombast and bullshit.

The Supreme Court is working toward returning all but the wealthiest of Americans to a status that can only be called serfdom.

Our police forces seem to have a singular license to kill unarmed black men for little or no reason.

And those governmental components, as bad as they are, don’t really even matter:

Elections in many parts of the country are unnervingly similar to those of the bad old days of the Jim Crow South.  It is extremely difficult in those places for any but a white – mostly male – minority to vote.

There is an anointed by god group who have the power to keep a law on the books that makes it a crime for people – mostly not white – to exercise their human right to move from a bad to a better place.  That law makes it possible for the god anointed to point to those people as criminals.

And the Kochs call the shots.

At least they call a lot of them.

And the Kochs are probably a benign influence in the American system compared to the Lobby Industry.

Anything that is obviously a good thing will not – cannot – happen in America because of the lobbies.

Look into the meat industry just for instance: Tyson (Arkansas) has nearly cornered the world market on pork and chicken and is turning the screws on price.

They would not be able to have the control of the end game that they do if it weren’t for lobbyists – money, money money, money.

All paid to the right people in just the right doses.

All paid to the people that we elect to represent us. But since so many of us lack the franchise it probably doesn’t matter.  But what if it did?

And Tyson is only one company.

It has achieved monopoly power in only one industry – the center (as they call it) of our plate.

That drives a question.

How many thousands of others are there?

Just look at a catalogue of American Industry and you will know the answer to that question.

So here is another question: why aren’t we in the streets like the Ukrainians?

“Just stupid” I thought I heard someone say.