Your humble author was born, on this day. Those of you with a sense of history will recall that this means that I was born in the middle of a significant historical event. Somehow, the world survived that, and another six decades hence. As you know from recent postings, this blog showed up a week or so after another significant historical event. For both occasions, I found myself in New York City, as I do on this day (albeit in another borough slightly removed from Manhattan).
When asked where I am “from,” I will, in what I believe to be the American custom, respond invariably with the name of the northern suburb (about 30 miles outside of New York City) where I attended primary and secondary school (and where TD Mom still lives to this day). Nonetheless, the reality is that with the exception of just over a year living (if you can call it that) and working in our nation’s capital during my brief career in Ed Meese’s Justice Department, and a few odd summers, fortnights and assorted periods of time here and there, and a couple of years in close-in New Jersey while I worked in Manhattan, I have actually spent the vast bulk of my life (including the first two years of my life and almost all of the last forty something) living, attending university and/or working, in New York City. This has put me in a peculiar proximity to interesting things, such as attending college in New York City with a man who would eventually become President of the United States, working in a New York City hospital during the AIDS crisis in the mid 1980s (a crisis, that, btw, resulted in the loss of quite a few of the men I attended college with, in, what I might add, was that college’s last all-male class), and living here through the entirety of “Giuliani time,” culminating in one of those aforementioned historical events, and eventually through my classmate’s presidency. By the way, in a weird backlash, it seems that the existence of our first black president resulted in the installation of our most blatantly racist president– another man from New York who was the bete noire of much of my professional legal practice in New York’s construction sector (as he was famous for not paying his bills). Finally, we have all made it to the never-ending global pandemic of the present, of which New York City was the epicenter in its early stages, something many of us have never forgotten.
Why the solipsistic ramble? The better question is why are you still reading at this point? And the answer, of course, is because you know you want it. You know that I, and I alone, can give you that micro, macro and/or meta- explanation for the inconceivably insane events that are unfolding before you, even if I clearly have no idea what I am talking about. So here goes.
In less than two weeks, I fully expect an election that will result in the end of any pretense of the American democratic experiment. Although Democrats may or may not retain their tenuous control of one or both houses of Congress (to be frank, the outcome will be close and will amount almost to a coin flip), the elections that matter– for state elections officials like secretaries of state, attorneys general and governors and state legislatures– will be more definitive. There, Republicans with a stated preference for pretending that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and with an avowed and expressed policy of cheating to make sure that he (or any Republican) “wins” regardless what “the voters” want in some “election” (whatever that term means), are almost certain to do very well indeed. These state and local Republicans will likely win elections in “red,” “purple,” “swing” and even arguably “blue” states… while establishment Democrats concentrate on the more glamourous Congressional races (and of course, FUNDRAISING)… to almost certainly result in what can only be called a “dangerous” situation. In a pincer move, we can expect the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt the horseshit “independent state legislature” theory in the next term, cementing the end of effective American democracy, by allowing “elected” state legislatures to have the power to disregard the will of dumbass “voters” in federal elections (and presumably, all other elections).
Our ongoing environmental calamity (we’ll just say “climate change”) is proceeding apace, with most countries falling far short of their heretofore made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions and whatever else it is they are supposed to do so that the biosphere does not become untenable for life, human and otherwise. While it is not clear how long this will take to wipe us out, be it this decade, next decade or perhaps later this century, it seems undeniable that along the way we will see weather catastrophes (floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.), and we are quite literally playing with fire in the “long term” (meaning later in the life spans of most people alive now). Of course, as a policy matter, the Russia/Ukraine war has, on its own, resulted in putting climate action on the back-burner, not that a world dominated by capitalism’s “this quarter” inventives would seriously do much about a “long term issue” like survival on this planet in any event.
Of course, that war presents an ever-increasing risk of escalating in to a nuclear conflagration, and you know, that is sure to end well. Unlike climate change, even the super-rich don’t fantasize about surviving an actual nuclear holocaust. But, you know… profit.
Obviously, I could talk about the breakdown in our national discourse, or the fact that like Donald Trump’s mouth, Guantanamo is still open, but I’m already just all joy and sunshine as it is. I have said before that I consider myself pretty lucky that I am playing the back-nine of life now; I am not happy about the pile of crap we are leaving for the Loquacious Pup and the other young ‘uns. But it seems, no one seems interested in taking their noses out of their I-phones long enough to pay attention to terribly much. So I don’t know.
I’ll just say this, in a spate of birthday optimism. When I first came to this city to go to college in the early 1980s, this City was far more replete with crime than it is now, even in the present (falsely) perceived “crime wave.” Compared to the halcyon days of the Bloomberg administration, crime is “up,” but everything is relative, and perceptions are short-term and manipulated. Since I moved to the City for good in about 1990, the U.S. poverty rate has bounced around, but is presently lower now than it was then. The U.S. unemployment rate is at or near record lows. Obviously, I could tout alarming statistics the other way, such as average global temperatures (especially in the Arctic) are increasing, or that a tiny handful of people control more wealth and resources than billions of people, or the “Doomsday Clock” is perilously close to, you know, Doomsday, at 100 seconds to midnight, but somehow, humanity has made it to this point.
Meaning, betting on our imminent demise is probably a tough bet (and no one will be left to pay off on it), but then, a lot of trends are “troubling” or, ahem, “alarming.” Humans have, thus far, proven pretty “sticky,” but we are also really good at killing each other, whether intentionally or just because we don’t give a crap about the consequences of our actions. I’m just saying that we have quite a lot of work to do as far as changing incentives and mindsets– and the human imagination– if any of us are going to be around, say, sixty years from now. I will say that “the good news” is that there have been doomsayers before, and they have been wrong.
I’ll also say that they only have to be right once. Come on, people. FOR THE KIDS.