Prognostication

The American people will elect Donald Trump president this year. I’m not saying I want it to happen. I’m just sayin’.

It will happen like this. Hillary gets the nomination of the Democrats. The Donald gets the GOP nod, because they can’t figure out how to stop him.

Then, the campaign: Hillary vs. the Donald. Intelligent people say the Donald can’t win. They say he’s delusional. He thinks this is some reality TV show.

Here’s the catch: It is. Our elections have become largely indistinguishable from reality TV shows. So who’s better at this?

Mark my words.

Unlimited

Most if not all of the major spiritual traditions on our planet seem to embrace the path as a metaphor. Maybe that’s why I’ve found the prospect of a greenway in the Lafitte Corridor so inspiring over the years. There’s been something very compelling about imagining a trail in what is currently fallow, empty land — and treading that ground with others who share the dream each year.

Slowly, slowly, we’ve made progress. Plans are underway. We expect the City of New Orleans to break ground for the greenway next year. This will be a great new public space for the citizens of New Orleans.

Planning continues. The initial build will be minimal: just a trail, with no recreational amenities along the way. Those can come later, but will require full community engagement. And certainly with upkeep and maintenance, to say nothing of improvement, the greenway will never be “done,” as in finished, as in requiring no further attention. There’s plenty of work still to do.

I’m very excited about the prospects for the greenway, and very proud of the role I’ve played in moving it forward. I convened the inaugural hike in May of 2005; I was a founding member of Friends of Lafitte Corridor; I’ve served as FOLC’s president for the last three years.

And yet. And yet. And yet.

Over the last six months or so I’ve felt curiously detached. I missed some meetings because of schedule conflicts and family issues, so that got me feeling a bit out of the loop. Yet it’s more than that. I’m not very detail-oriented, at least not for these kinds of details; I’ve never been able to get down in the weeds of the various planning documents and so forth. Fortunately others have played that role, but that’s left me wondering about my own role. Maybe I’m the kind of person who likes to get things started, which is different than what it takes to keep things going. Yet again, it’s more than that.

In December we got a visit from the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. It was a singular experience, sharing the podium with a highly placed official from the federal government.

Urban Waters Visit

I took my talking points from fellow FOLC board member and past president Daniel Samuels. Yet I felt that I made the speech my own, and I felt that I delivered it in a way that reflected well on my group and my city.

It was a proud moment for me, personally. I felt a sense of renewal. Had I questioned my role? This, this was my role. I can stand here with authority figures and, you know, represent.

Hubris

I’m ashamed to report that my thoughts did not end there. I also thought: Who else in our group could do this? No one! Only me, me, me.

Such egotism. Such hubris. Even if it’s true, it’s still hubris. Because, you see, I wasn’t born this way. In fact for most of my life I’ve thought of myself as a lone wolf, if you will, neither a follower nor a leader. That’s how I’ve been perceived by others as well, but I daresay that’s changed in the last five years or so.

I recall quite clearly that last time I expressed a fear of speaking in public. It was in early 2007. A few days later, I spoke to a crowd of thousands. It was a terrible moment, one which I sincerely wish had never transpired, but even so it was a transformational moment, for me. Crises often are.

It’s not so strange. Few of us are prepared for life. We’re thrust onto the stage, and we do the best we can. We discover our inner resources when we need them. If I’ve been effective as president of FOLC, it’s because I was tempered by such events: The flooding of New Orleans, the March for Survival, and others.

It was very easy to stand there at the podium and think that I was irreplaceable. That was a sure sign that I needed to be replaced. FOLC’s successful advocacy of the greenway has been a team effort, remarkably free of this sort of egotism. No one else in the group will develop to their fullest potential while I’m hogging the limelight. No one will step up until I step aside. I’ve had a good run, but now it’s time for someone else. Our potential is developed when we move in to fill a vacuum, and that only happens when the crisis is ripe.

Reaching My Limit

So when we had our strategic planning session a short time later, the discussion of term limits resonated with me in a new way. I realized our organization needed term limits. I’d thought that I would hold on until we broke ground, but once the idea got in my head I realized that would not be fair. I also realized that I personally was ready for a break, right now.

We adopted limits at our next board meeting, and guess what? I’m at the end of my term. I’m glad for that. We could have configured things differently, but I made it clear that I thought this would be best for the organization and for the greenway. I was compared to both Jesus and Kim Jong Il, which was flattering and a little weird.

Officially I’ve got a few more days, and believe me I am counting them. (These final moments of my tenure have not been devoid of drama.) It’s been a great ride for me personally. I don’t know who FOLC’s next president will be, but I do know the board is chock-full of talented and motivated people. Someone will rise to the occasion, and I hope they find the experience just as rewarding.

I’ll still be around and involved of course. April 14, 2012, will be our eight annual hike. Save the date and join us.

Meanwhile the path I walk daily is leading me elsewhere for a while.

Edwards Et Al

It seems that in a few hours John Edwards will drop out of the Democratic primary. He’ll make the announcement right here in New Orleans, which is also where he started his campaign.

I’ve tried to remain neutral with regard to the primaries. After all, I can’t vote in our state primary (because I’m registered Green) so why bother to make up my mind? But I’m sorry to see Edwards go. More than any other candidate he focused on the problem of poverty, and he brought a some attention to the ongoing crisis in New Orleans — and those two issues are very much related, by the way.

Frankly, though, I always thought he was a little too good-looking to be president.

I suppose this means that our next president will be either Clinton, McCain, Obama or Romney. Despite what I said above about trying to remain neutral, I’d have to confess that of these four I’d most like to see Obama win it. A few days ago I predicted McCain would be our next president. I don’t like it, but I’m gonna stand by that prediction.

That doesn’t mean I’ll vote for any of them, of course. I’m kind of leaning toward Kent Mesplay.

Postscript: If you’re a diehard Democrat, don’t weep at the prospect of President McCain. Whoever comes in after Bush will have a hell of a mess to clean up. A Democrat friend of mine predicts that if we elect a Democrat this time, that person will be the last Democrat elected for the next twenty years.

Cranky

Now that Christmas is past and campaign season is swinging into full gear, I will permit myself the following cranky thoughts.

Remember the mantra from 2004? Anybody but Bush… Anybody but Bush… Well, it turns out now there is someone worse than Bush, and it just so happens that he’s running for president. I’m speaking of course of Rudy Giuliani. Or so the pundits would have us believe — the same people who tried to sell the “Anbody but Bush” line four years ago. On the other side, the hate machines are really cranking up against Hillary Clinton, who is apparently the Antichrist. Tune in to some conservative talk radio and get and earful. It’s really something. You’d think she was actually a leftist.

As fascinating as it is to watch this fight, I wish the Republicans and Democrats would just sort out their priorities and get back to the rest of the country when they’ve chosen their nominees. Why should I waste my mental energy hating Giuliani or Clinton if they’re not even in the running?

I’m not feeling particularly cranky these days, but I still have these thoughts.

Bring a Presidential Debate to New Orleans

Friends of New Orleans is mounting a campaign to bring a presidential debate to New Orleans.

I have mixed emotions about this.

The presidential debates are something of a farce. They should be organized by a nonpartisan group, but they’re not. They’re organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. They claim to be nonpartisan, but they were founded by the Democratic and Republican Parties and have strong ties to them. They’re also funded by corporate underwriters. In my view the debates are highly problematic at best.

Having debates in New Orleans would surely lead to some campaign promises regarding federal assistance in the recovery. These promises would be easily made and easily broken. If New Orleans becomes a political football, it could actually do us substantial harm depending on how the dialog evolves and who actually wins the presidential election.

Debates here would bring a little more media attention to our tragic city, but that in and of itself is not an unqualified good. The slow pace of recovery could be viewed as a negative by a nation that’s become accustomed to instant gratification and quick fixes. We could be further vilified and hated by those who are tired of hearing about our problems.

Still and all, I think it’s a chance we ought to take. I’ve outlined the dangers, but in the final analysis the fact is that having the debates here would represent an opportunity for New Orleans, and we desperately need to take advantage of every opportunity we can get.

Furthermore, it might be good for the nation. The Friends of New Orleans put it this way:

It makes sense that discussions about the nation’s domestic agenda take place in New Orleans, a city that is rebuilding its infrastructure and confronting social, environmental, and security issues on a daily basis.

So if you agree, please, take thirty seconds to add your voice to the campaign. Do it today, and please share this link with others.

Screaming & Kicking

For the last century, almost all top political appointments [on the planet Earth] had been made by random computer selection from the pool of individuals who had the necessary qualifications. It had taken the human race several thousand years to realize that there were some jobs that should never be given to the people who volunteered for them, especially if they showed too much enthusiasm. As one shrewed political commentator had remarked: “We want a President who has to be carried screaming and kicking into the White House — but will then do the best job he possibly can, so that he’ll get time off for good behavior.”

— Arthur C. Clarke, Imperial Earth, 1976

Votes per Dollar

My friend Jason Neville put this together from data collected at opensecrets.org and CNN. He couldn’t find a vote total for Peroutka, but I found a number on the candidate’s website. I thought it put an interesting perspective on the 2004 presidential race.

Candidate Votes Money Raised Votes-Per-Dollar
Cobb 104,087 $133,576 0.78
Badnarik 373,729 $841,498 0.44
Peroutka 129,255 $654,757 0.19
Kerry 55,546,066 $317,788,245 0.17
Bush 59,106,230 $360,651,752 0.16
Nader 391,330 $3,950,963 0.10

Update — Perhaps the point is better made by figuring dollars per vote:

Candidate Votes Money Raised Dollars-Per-Vote
Cobb 104,087 $133,576 $1.28
Badnarik 373,729 $841,498 $2.25
Peroutka 129,255 $654,757 $5.07
Kerry 55,546,066 $317,788,245 $5.72
Bush 59,106,230 $360,651,752 $6.10
Nader 391,330 $3,950,963 $10.10

Tragic Gaiety

It doesn’t take a genius to discern that, even though the election results are not official yet, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention rending of garments and beating of breasts, amongst those who voted for Kerry and those who despise the Bush administration.

But that’s absolutely the wrong attitude!

Yes, the results of this election seem overwhelmingly negative, with conservatives sweeping into office and anti-gay measures passing everywhere. But tough times call for courage, not despair. Suck it up, people.

Now is not the time to weep and bemoan the state of affairs in our country. Instead, it is all the more necessary that we adopt an attitude of tragic gaiety. We need to be brave. We need to laugh in the face of doom.

We need to look square into the face of what our country is becoming, and redouble our resolve to change it. And we need to be joyful, relishing the task ahead of us, or we’ll just burn out.

Remember, voting is a basic duty in an alleged democracy, but it is really the least of our duties, and one of the least effective ways to make real change, given the system we have. We are not going to vote our way out this mess.

Today is the International Peace Holiday, a good time to reflect on what we can do to make our world a better place. Locally, some people are gathering at Lee Circle from 3-6 p.m. for “public art, public expression, public dissent, public fellowship in a public space.”

Do whatever you need to do, but do it with celebratory anger. Show ’em a fist and a smile.

Electoral Vote Predictor

There’s a lot of presidential poll data flying around these days, but I’ve noticed very little of it mentions the electoral college. That’s kind of dumb, considering we don’t directly elect the president, more’s the pity.

The Electoral Vote Predictor website breaks it down the way it needs to be done: electoral vote count. It currently projects Kerry to win. It’s still too close to call, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

I keep noticing that all the Bush states (except Alaska) are contiguous. Bush could go on a road trip to every state in which he’s leading and never have to drive through Kerry country. That’s kind of weird.

Frankly I’m less interested in the horse race and more interested in the racetrack. I think it’s absurd how our current system leads the candidates to campaign in just a few key states. I think it’s absurd that, if you live in a state that is strongly in favor of a given candidate, your vote for the opposition doesn’t really count. I think direct democracy would be an improvement.

Neo-McCarthyism

I just had the most bizarre conversation with our temp secretary. She actually called me a “commie” becuz I posted some antiwar posters from protestposters.org.

She said I was un-American becuz I didn’t fully support our president. Under my line of return questioning, she refused to admit that any elected official has ever done anything wrong — in America.

Ultimately I decided she was just having fun with me, but she wouldn’t admit to that either. If she’s acting, she’s got her deadpan down cold.