December 27, 2011

Will the Thane of Cawdor win the Iowa caucuses?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:04 pm

Christmas at Occupy San Francisco
Is that the local or the express?

Wanna race?

Political pundits will fill their annual New Year’s columns and broadcasts with grandiose pronouncements about the importance of the choices that voters will make during the Presidential election process in the USA in 2012. When JEB Bush gets the Republican Party nomination in Tampa Beach next summer, the upper echelon of the political punditry world will then be invited into the boss’ office and be given a choice of their next assignment. They can either be a part of the national dialogue that sheepishly concedes “Wow! Nobody saw that coming!” and write columns asserting that American voters have absolved the Bush family of any misdeeds, and will (like the return of the prodigal son) welcome them back to the White House, or they can clean out their desks and prepare themselves emotionally to do the necessary gonzo-journalism style research for a book titled “Living among the homeless of America.”

What reporter’s family wouldn’t become very emotional about the chance for the head of the house hold’s opportunity to become a word-slinger’s version of Dorothea Lang or Walker Evans who did epic pioneering photojournalism during the Great Depression?

Most will choose the former rather than the latter. (Didn’t Waylon Jennings sing a song with a line about climbing a ladder that leads to a hole in the ground?)

Any cynic will be quick to point out that there are always exceptions to the rule. Was George Orwell married when he did the “been there done that” aspect of the fact gathering process for his book “Down and Out in London and Paris”? Was Kerouac married when he went on the road with Neal Cassidy?

For any obscure blogger who just happened to start making predictions in 2010 about JEB Bush being the President-elect at Christmas time in 2012, the choices to be faced in 2013 will be different.

No! It won’t be which lucrative offer from the mainstream media to accept. Such an oracle will have to decide how to handle a tsunami of indifference. Obviously a year of “I-tried-to-warn-you” columns would be a major audience turn-off. Feigning surprise at something that the World’s Laziest Journalist has been predicting for two year would be more of a stretch than his lamentable acting ability could cover.

Obviously if the JEB prediction is spot-on, we’ll have earned the right to indulge in fun feature assignments; if we are wrong, a few dozen regular readers will be annoyed with our misplaced confidence in our predicting abilities. Either way there won’t be much of an effect on the stock market or the reader’s retirement funds.

So what sort of columns should a cynical pundit write during the last year on the Mayan Calendar?

The columnist’s quandary was brought into sharp focus during the recent holiday weekend because of several serendipity walkabouts in San Francisco. We discovered some marvelous feature material and also stumbled upon some noteworthy facets of the contemporary political maze.

On Friday, December 23, 2011, we chanced upon the Tenderloin National Park. On Christmas we took photos of a spaceport in San Francisco. A visit to the art installation titled “Defenestration” would produce some eye-catching images.

Obviously, we could weave some political commentary to accompany the photos of those noticeable urban visuals but at this point it seems redundant to dabble in clichés about the tumultuous scramble to become the Republican Party’s Presidential Nominee.

We could race around the country and try to document the effects of the economic slowdown on the average citizen because it seems that the cash strapped Government isn’t going to subsidize a new version of the work done in the Thirties by Dorthea Lang or Walker Evans.

We could just do fact checking on feature topics and know that the amusement and entertainment provided by the process will be our only reward.

How likely is it that some liberal publication with “deep pockets” will step in and subsidize a brutally frank examination of contemporary American culture during these hard times? Will Rolling Stone magazine find a young firebrand like Hunter S. Thompson and send him (or her?) out on the road with a generous attitude about the writer’s expense account?

What ever happened to the old expectation that “edgy” would be the norm on the Internets? Have conservative corporate websites imposed stodgy and timid limits on their contributing writers? If so, how will they expect to attract the young audience that wants (like the hippies in the Sixties) to embrace audacity, artistic innovation, and uniqueness?

After having an Italian style snack in the City Lights Bookstore’s neighborhood, during Christmas Eve afternoon, we chanced upon an urban tableau which might help us land a car-spotting report on the Jalopnik website. We took about two dozen photos of a parked Ferrari that rightly belongs in a major car museum.

The next day while proceeding from the Landmark’s Embarcadero Cinema Center to the Transbay Bus Terminal, we noticed that the Occupy San Francisco folks were having Christmas Dinner in front of the Treasury building. One of the few journalists there was a woman reporter for a newspaper in Chechnya.

Later, we realized that our brief attempt to explain to her why, during a period of extreme dire economic decisions, it was absolute(ly) [Vodka pun alert] necessary to spend money to pay a large contingent of police officers to stand by and make sure no member of the Occupy Wall Street political movement gained access to a public park, could be the basis for a new political punditry column.

Apparently in the old Soviet Socialist Republics it was of utmost importance for the people to have access to public parks.

The reporter from Chechnya noted that since converting over to capitalism the quality of life had deteriorated noticeably in her home country. For her, seeing the homeless being fed while bankers raked in this year’s round of bonuses was a distressing talisman of what the future held for her home county under the capitalist system.

The decision about how to play the material we had gathered on the Christmas weekend will be emblematic of the same choice to be made for all of 2012.

Should the World’s Laziest Journalist go off to Iowa, spend precious funds from the bank account to run around like a puppy chasing his own tail, and be shut out from access to knowledgeable sources, and maybe even apply for credentials to cover the Republican National Convention?

It’s a bit annoying to deal with the Republicans who say that they will let the general assembly in Tampa Bay next summer decided what the platform will be and that no one speaks on behalf of their group because they all will have a say in the denouement for the quest for a candidate.

Isn’t equivocating and sidestepping questions rather tedious and boring if you are not the media superstar being paid to have an orgasm over a non-denial denial?

If the Mayan Calendar is correct and the world is going to end next year, why bother worrying about an audience? Why not (to use another phrase from another Waylon Jennings song) be like the people in Texas and go out and live for all it’s worth?

The odd thing about 2012 already is that none of the highly paid mainstream media journalists seem to really care about who will get the Republican nomination. The use of highly accurate exit polls has been abandoned in the USA. They still use them in Europe. Have you seen any polls of top ranking influential Republicans about the most likely pick?

They all seem more concerned with portraying the selection process as being up for grabs. What happened to the old “confidential sources tell us” style of heads-up journalism? If the stage is set for a dramatic “no one saw it coming” development as the climax of the Republican convention, what’s not to love about a JEB Bush nomination?

Bernard DeVoto, in the first chapter of his book “The Year of Decision 1846,” (on page 4) wrote: “A moment of time holds in solution ingredients which might combine in any of several or many ways, and then another moment precipitates out of the possible the at last determined thing. The limb of a tree grows to a foreordained shape in response to forces determined by nature’s equilibriums, but the affairs of nations are shaped by the actions of men, and sometimes, looking back, we can understand which actions were decisive.”

Now, the disk jockey will play “Just Keep Walkin,’” and Duane Eddy’s “Forty Miles of Bad Road,” and then do what Rev. Dan can’t do and play Elvis’s “Old Shep.” We have to go find a scoop. Have a “hail thane of Cawdor” type week.

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