June 11th, 2006

Voted for Dean

But who'll play Crockett and Tubbs?

An exercise in unlikely outcomes: It will be George Bush's fault when, in a couple of years, they make a big-screen movie adaptation of the old TV show Miami Vice (which will have little or nothing to do with the original show). George Bush may even have set the wheels in motion that will lead, in a few years, to a big-budget movie adaptation of the classic computer game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Because the Iraq War has used up and worn out just about every soldier, weapon, and other asset in the US Army's inventory, on Thursday Donald Rumsfeld proposed that the US stop using the fleet of seven Blackhawk helicopters that are currently patrolling the Caribbean to interdict cocaine smugglers, so the choppers and their crews can be sent to Iraq. Instead, their current job will be turned over to the Coast Guard, which has only three much slower, much shorter ranged Jayhawk helicopters. Those Blackhawks were sent down there 20 years ago specifically because the Jayhawk helicopters couldn't do the job.

In part because of a few of the CIA's "self funding operations" in Central America in the early 80s, but also because of how easy it was for cocaine smugglers to out-maneuver and out-run the Coast Guard, two things happened in the Caribbean at the time that had a powerful influence on popular culture. The first was that the "cigarette boat," a deep-water racing boat with top speeds that could almost impress a jet pilot, became a cultural icon. Even then-President George H.W. Bush bought one. The other was that, since nearly all of the US's sixteen and a half million dollar a day cocaine trade was coming ashore in Miami, the "Casablanca of the Caribbean" became literally awash in money. With those kinds of profits concentrated in that small a space, even trickle-down economics eventually works, sort of. As a result, Miami politics achieved legendary levels of corruption far, far beyond Florida's already famously high baseline. Miami real estate prices soared, as cocaine importers had so much money they were desperate to find anything, anything at all, to buy with it. And at the intersection of Guys With Too Much Money Street and Way Too Much Cocaine Avenue you always find supermodels hanging out, so the cutting edge of the American fashion industry rushed to finish its migration from New York City to South Beach, Miami, Florida. In the 1980s, Miami became legendary throughout the world for glitz, fashion, conspicuous consumption, political corruption, and murderously deadly drug traffickers.

Many artists and writers of the time sought to capture this cultural moment. Not the least of them, political satirist and hard-boiled thriller author Carl Hiaasen owes his entire career to the fact that he picked just that time to be assigned to that classic awful entry-level job in journalism, the night-shift crime reporting beat, at the Miami Herald. But the two works of popular art that captured the imagination, that came to fully symbolize the excesses of Miami, Florida during the height of the cocaine boom, were a buddy-cop TV show about two detectives working the cases at the intersection of cocaine and assassination, called Miami Vice, and the first major upgrade to the now-famous computer game franchise, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in which a convicted former Miami drug dealer who's released from prison at the height of the cocaine boom tries to force his way into the new, bigger money.

Well, with the US so desperate for military assets to send into Iraq, desperate enough to give cocaine traffickers in cigarette boats a free pass into Miami, everything old will be new again. And there was already a long-standing trend towards cherry-picking the pop cultural icons of Hollywood financiers' childhood and remaking them as big-budget movies -- consider, if you will, the Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie's Angels, Josie and the Pussycats, and Super Mario Brothers movies. A few years from now, the odds were already uncomfortably likely that we were going to get a Miami Vice movie and a Grand Theft Auto: Vice City movie. But with the current administration's policies all but guaranteeing that in a few years the old classic Miami Vice and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City plotlines will suddenly be topical again, has the President raised those odds from merely likely to nearly guaranteed?