Sonogram machines arrive in every town and hamlet in China. The unintended consequence? Female birthrates plunge as parents heed early warnings. Craig Newmark starts his little email list in 1995 about what's going on for friends in San Francisco. Unintended consequence 10 years later: the death of the American newspaper (and maybe most of the papers in the world) as Craigslist siphons off the classifieds in 70 countries so far. Other unintended consequences: rabbits take over Australia, giant carp may destroy the Great Lakes, Big Gulp sizing triggers a tidal wave of childhood diabetes.
And there're some little ones we don't want to overlook, like global warming and the eventual destruction of the home planet. All unintended, but very real consequences.
And that, my friends, all of that is a mere ant's sneeze (bless you!) compared to what the Supreme Court dropped on us yesterday. The Decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, will change everything. It will raise military spending, corrupt local governments, make the next generation or two of Americans the most cynical in the nation's history. And that's just the obvious unintended consequences. We may well see members of Congress no longer be identified by party, but more likely by owner.
Remember the fantastic crash scene in Cast Away, when the FedEx plane flying over the middle of nowhere suddenly gives a little shudder? Hanks asks if he should worry. And then seconds later, all hell breaks loose. The plane is falling apart, plunging into the ocean.
Where's that first shudder going to be for us? I've got a guess. I've always wondered about the ulterior motives of those companies that sponsor The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, now simply called PBS NewsHour.
Ever wonder why one of the biggest global petroleum firms, Chevron, is dropping a few million on the NewsHour? And what about Intel (Antitrust! Us? We're just a bunch of way smart people) and for many years, everyone's favorite purveyor of fine foods, Archer Daniels Midland (convicted of conspiring to control the world price of lysine.) The reason is that sponsoring the NewsHour was one of the few legal ways the big corporations could woo a particularly influential audience. The message that has been pounded in day after day is quite simple: how nefarious could Chevron really be if every night they remind us how much many millions they are investing for our benefit? Don't they seem like such nice people?
Jim Lehrer -- heads up! This just might be it. Chevron just doesn't need you anymore. They don't need the National Geographic and The New Yorker, the NY Times and even the Wall Street Journal. They don't need to influence the voters any more. They don't care how we vote anymore. That part of our democracy will soon seem, as John Yoo might put it, quaint.
Why go through the voters when you can now go direct? All the Chevrons of the world now need to do is buy up our representatives. It's legal. And don't think in a close race it will make any difference who wins: Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Anything will buy both sides of the race. They will never be losers again. Us? Not so good.
This nightmare scenario is not out there somewhere, waiting to happen. It happened yesterday. Now it's us flying over the South Pacific on a dark and stormy night. A massive wind shear is moments ahead. We're about to feel that first ominous shudder. Look around, find the exit signs. Think about those life raft instructions. We're going in. And even if Sully himself were at the controls it won't make any difference at all.