Fragments from a place far, far away and long, long ago

September 24, 2009

Announced quietly last week was the death of Jody Powell, 65, press secretary to Jimmy Carter, ‘A leader for a change,’ whose presidency inadvertently was the last apparently in Americana’s more sane and serene view of itself as an entity of ideal.

On the cover of the Rolling Stone (left), at the height of glory in May 1977, Powell is teamed with Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s chief of staff — Powell has the tie and Ham has the hambones — in an enthusiastic stance of a White House still on a political honeymoon with the media and the US peoples.

After a series of ugly events, however, “voters strongly rejected Jimmy Carter’s honest but gloomy outlook in favor of Ronald Reagan’s telegenic optimism…” Thus, the end began.

(Illustration found here).

I’d started this post Sept. 14, the day Jody Powell died (of a heart attack reportedly), but got sidetracked — personal life before writing/blogging, most likely.
A flash memory a few days ago to some song lyrics from a Powell era  group, America, and “Sister Golden Hair” (1975) and its opening words: “Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed. That I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed…” released a sad sense of time and growing old and a lot of other shit that only somewhat-advanced age can reveal.
Coming upon my 61st birthday in November, some health issues has caused me to reconsider how I live, the foods I eat, how many cigarettes I can smoke in a 24-hour period, and even worse, how my beloved morning coffee has got to go — the old flesh and blood breaking way down — but the human-body problems I’ve experienced are more irritating and frustrating than anything else.
In reality, health-care is not of this world.

And along with this growing great-hatred for anything to do with the word, ‘bowels,’ there’s another even more compelling reason to become “so damn depressed:” This bizarre emptiness and quiet, and no exasperation feelings.
After raising five children as a single parent, now I’m alone — the kids are all off and fending for themselves, more-or-less, and although I’ve always considered myself a loner-type personality, the last three months have been different with a touch of strange.
A friend emailed a similar difference — also a recent “empty nester,” she thought  not having anyone to cook for was fairly sad (sadly, I agree), which might explain my current dumb-ass diet.
Cast as mother/daddy, I lived strange, which I am originally.
And now I feel stranger still (one daughter in particular would respond that would be a lot of strange) and the combination of health and mental issues coming together at the same time led to not wanting to write — which has rarely struck me in 45 years.
Couple that shit with the extreme-ugly pessimistic, but the hard-cold reality of today’s current events: Makes a body sad.

A personal/professional news-addict all of my adult life (as a writer, I consciously began to understand literary scribblings at about age 14 and later worked in actual newsrooms for many years), the current span of people, places and things spread across the news cycle 24/7 are hugely profound — maybe not for eons, or maybe even not never, has the awful scheme of things taken such a planetary, global-like quality, while eventually will explode like an IED (unexpectedly and violently) into everyone’s existence.
(Illustration found here).

Clueless are most of western civilization, especially among the fatted, arrogant Americans.
In the US, as people go about daily lives, eating, sleeping, working, performing mundane tasks like “you help your landlady carry out her garbage,” they’re unaware of the horrors coming.
All of humanity faces two big obstacles not-too-far down the road — global warming and peak oil — I may/may not witness the impact of these two events, but my children sure will, and their children.

In many parts of the world, this hard-cold reality has already IEDed them — in eastern Africa (Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti) a savage drought has effected/affected 19 million people, and with no food: “My month-old baby boy was taken by hyaenas two weeks ago — somebody found his body 10 miles away from here a few days later,” Habiba Malim, 49, a former nomad, told Christian Aid researchers during a recent visit.
And what about the Mars-appearing Sydney, Australia?
What’s happening down under is a ‘horrific glimpse‘ into a not-so-pretty future.
And peak oil?
From Energy Bulletin in 2007:

Peak oil presents a profound challenge; one completely at odds with demand based forecasts of growth in energy consumption.
The poor standard of fundamental information relating to reserves and future production makes it easy to deny or obfuscate the likelihood of a near-term peak in global oil production.
The low level of new discoveries limits the extent to which the industry can continue delivering such a high level of new capacity.
Meanwhile, there is a real danger that decline rates in mature regions will continue to increase.
The balance between these two may tip in favor of depletion sooner than expected.
As Hirsch et al12 have noted, preparing for peak oil requires two decades of intensive, government coordinated effort. Peak oil critics propose that we take a large risk by delaying preparation.
The analysis presented here signals that making changes now would be far more prudent.

And if one had been paying attention, most predictive-research has changed near-dramatically in just the past two years — recent studies on various climate-change and energy issues seem to indicate the situation appears worse than predicted even a year earlier.
Nowadays, this ain’t counting the weird-ass economy, two bad, horribly-run wars, and a Republican Party full of liars, buffoons and deniers — a major problem for the US is the conservative right wing, the so-aptly-called “wingnuttery.”
All enough to get one truly “so damn depressed” to stop.
Yet one must see what is ahead.
Another biggie-problem, which is most-likely tied into global warming and peak oil — getting the grub.
Last week, while sadly surfing the sad news online, I came across a discussion of food distribution at The Oil Drum, one of the better informational, factual sites, and was entitled The Thermodynamics of Local Foods.
The bottom line:

…that only a predominantly local food system will ever be sustainable.
What I mean by sustainable is the ability to endure.
Quite simply and irrefutably I conclude that the current globalized food system is a flash in the frying pan because it doesn’t respect the first law of thermodynamics.
Whatever other argument you might want to make against the global and for the local (and several legitimate ones come to mind) this fatal flaw is insurmountable.
No quibbles, qualification or value judgments need to get in the way of this basic fact.

So, some bad shit coming, huh?
Clueless: How many US peoples understand how food does not originate from Safe-Way?

There’s so much news out there it’s near-remarkable (or has it always been this way, just now there’s more options to get that news out?) and I sit in front of my laptop and watch an age draw to a dramatic conclusion — near-before my very eyes — oh, the vicious cycle of technology!
Indeed, I’m writing/blogging again.

Anyway, back to the late Jody Powell.

(Illustration found here).

In the fall of 1975, a fellow journalist and friend at the Montgomery Advertiser in Montgomery, Alabama (where I was then the paper’s police reporter), told me with forceful enthusiasm the former governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, would be the next president — I didn’t pay a dab of attention, as then Carter didn’t mean shit to me, and the friend, though a nice guy, was kind of a kook.
A year later, in the Advertiser‘s AP wire-room (this was 1976, remember?), my friend and I watched the hammering type proclaim Carter president, beating Gerald Ford and capping a wild political year, and in retrospect, probably the last rational US election.
And Powell was Carter’s for-real, right-hand guy.
From Time magazine in August, 1976:

Except for Campaign Manager Hamilton Jordan, none of the candidate’s 250 full-time staff members has served longer or is paid more ($22,000) than sandy-haired, chain-smoking Powell, 32.
He is also closer to the candidate than even Jordan.
“Jody probably knows me better than anyone except my wife,” Carter has said.
If the candidate wins in November, Powell will probably become one of the more powerful presidential press secretaries in decades.

And life was swell for a couple of years into Carter’s tenure in office.

In the time of the Rolling Stone cover, shown above, life had appeared to soften — the Vietnam war, Watergate, the popular turmoil of the 1960s and early ’70s had left the political/optimism air in the US a bit cleaner, as if a lot of debris had been swept away by all those events.
The US had straightened itself out, would never, ever get into another Vietnam-like situation and the future looked so bright a great many people were forced to wear shades.
However, Carter and his boys — Ham and Jody — knew exactly how to run a campaign, but not a government.
Not only were they inept at handling Congress — even pissing off Ted Kennedy on health care — they got slammed by the economy, a gasoline shortage, Three-Mile Island, among a litany of other shit, and much-of course, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Read a good overview of Carter’s presidency here.

The 1970s in this current age are most-likely similar to what the 1950s were to those in the 1970s — American Graffiti, “Happy Days,” etc. — but nowadays the nostalgia for that seemingly-so-long-ago decade is more for the supposedly lucidity of the time than anything else.

Alexander Cockburn recently posted an excellent look at how the rise of gossip in the 1970s spawned our modern tabloid-cultural society and proclaimed the ’70s “the last sane decade in American political life.”
And Jimmy Carter just a signpost: “It seemed America was tottering into the warm sunlight of sanity. It was Ronald Reagan who truly credentialed nutdom, setting the national thermostat at max degrees F for fantasy.”

And one thing about time: You can think back, but you can’t call back.

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