10 Years From Now, and 10 Years Ago

Here are a couple of fun twitter activities for the last day of the decade:

#10yearsago: What were you doing ten years ago?  My response:

And I wanted to be an English prof! RT ezraklein #10yearsago I wanted to be a philosophy professor when I grew up

#Headline2020: What headline do you want to see in ten years?  My hope:

@barracudasf #Headline2020 President to preside over Space Elevator opening ceremony

Join in on twitter, or in the comments.  You can follow me, and Open Left, on twitter, here

And Happy New Year!

Analyzing Swing States: Ohio, Part 3

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Ohio. The last part can be found here.

Like most states, Ohio contains several swing areas. Some lean Democratic; others lean Republican. A good politician will usually pick up most of these regions on his or her way to victory.

Swing Ohio

The following map provides a sense of swing Ohio.

Ohio County Lean

More below.

Providing balance, the map encompasses two solid Democratic victories and two solid Republican victories. Bearing this in mind, one can readily make out the structural “7” of Ohio politics. Absent three counties, swing Ohio roughly encompasses the outer edges of Ohio’s northern and eastern borders, creating a shape that resembles the number “7.” Strong Democrats win these swing counties and fatten the “7.” Strong Republicans do the inverse.

Let’s look again at Bill Clinton’s 1996 victory.

Ohio, 1996 presidential election

As noted previously, Clinton is creating a fat “7” in his re-election.

There are several other things that should be observed about Clinton’s victory with regard to swing Ohio. At the bottom of the state, Clinton is winning a group of thinly populated, Appalachian counties. One of these counties is Athens County, home to Ohio State University; it is reliably liberal due to the college. The rest lean Republican. A strong traditional Democrat can and often will win southeast Ohio; if this happens, his Republican opponent is probably going down to defeat.

Bill Clinton is also winning three counties surrounded by red. One of these – Dayton – is the Democratic equivalent of southeast Ohio: it leans Democratic but will occasionally turn up on the other side. In that case the Republican will soon be receiving a concession call.

The other two counties are moving in opposite directions. In Clinton’s day, Clark County – Springfield – and Columbus were two cities squarely in Ohio’s swing category. Since then, however, Springfield has been drifting right: Gore won the county, Kerry and Obama lost it. Meanwhile, Columbus has been doing a hard swing left, so that neither it nor Springfield are swing regions anymore.

Finally, one may note that many places I define as “swing” are colored light red, rather than purple in the first map. This was because of Barack Obama’s peculiar performance in Ohio. The president won the state with an unconventional coalition: he lost much of swing Ohio and made up for it by performing extremely well in Columbus, Cincinnati, and northern Ohio. Whether this coalition was unique to 2008 or foreshadows a structural shift in Ohio is unknown. Personally, I prefer the former explanation.

Ten New Years Resolutions for the Obama Administration

In 2010:

1. I will inspire. I am one of the most charismatic orators of our generation, but as president, I’ve moved away from that critical element of my leadership.

While my speech to the Muslim world in Cairo and onreproductive rights at Notre Dame were inspirational—if I do say so myself—I haven’t brought that eloquence to my key domestic agenda items, or to my broader vision and goals as president. In 2010, I’ll recapture my eloquent voice, communicating the core values and human outcomes of my policies and presidency, then (and only then) explaining how the wonky details will help to achieve them. The values that I led with in my campaign were Community—the idea that we’re all in it together and share responsibility for each other—and Opportunity—the idea that everyone deserves a fair chance to achieve his or her full potential. Those values will return to prominence in my second year as president, and be joined by the values of Peace and Security in our foreign affairs and national defense. I may even dust off Hope and Change.

2. I will be the progressive leader that Americans elected. It’s long been acknowledged by political scientists and pundits that Americans support progressive ideas and policies, but are attracted by conservative political rhetoric. Ronald Reagan knew how to exploit that reality, and the Bushes (and occasionally Bill Clinton) used it effectively. One of my gifts during the campaign was the ability to reunite popular, progressive ideas with a populist language in which everyday Americans could see their own hopes and dreams. In the coming year, I’ll rekindle that skill to promote the progressive policy ideas that Americans embrace, in a language they can connect to and believe in.

3. I will prioritize a strategic mix of populist victories, as well as major advances that require 60 votes in the Senate. I’ve learned a lot through the bruising debates over economic stimulus, banking and auto industry rescue, financial regulation, and health care. And, like all first-term presidents, I may well lose some votes in Congress at the mid-term elections. So once health care reform is behind me, I’m going to work to achieve high profile victories that virtually all Americans can understand—such as incentivizing job creation, job training and skill-building for the global economy; ensuring that stimulus-funded community health clinics and other infrastructure effectively serve a growing number of Americans; and knocking down practical barriers to voting and political participation. At the same time, I’ll set my sights on a few big changes that are likely to require all the votes I can muster—immigration reform and an end to discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans in employment and the military will be among those priorities. In doing so, I won’t start with compromise but, rather, with the legislation I actually want. And I’ll be sure to highlight the human stories behind policies that work and uphold our values.

4. I will be clear about my legislative priorities and draft and introduce the legislation that is most important to me. Economic stimulus and health care reform legislation suffered from my failure to state my core policy principles and fight for them in the legislative process. Going forward, I’ll make clear to lawmakers and the American people what my goals are in the policy arena, and I’ll push hard for those priorities. And for things that are core to my agenda, my administration will draft legislation that clearly establishes those priorities on my terms. I realize I won’t always get what I want, but Congress and the American people will be clear on what their president believes in and why. And I’ll achieve more this way than by the hands-off approach I’ve used so far.

5. I will elevate the eloquent voices in my administration. An unexpected impediment to my agenda has been a lack of effective communicators in positions of visibility in my administration. That’s meant that I have to be spokesman-in-chief for nearly every initiative, and it’s hampered my ability to move forward on multiple fronts. In 2010 I’m going to address that by giving smart and articulate people in my administration—like Jared Bernstein in the Vice President’s Office and Cecilia Muñoz in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs—a more prominent role in advancing important policies inside and outside the Beltway. At the same time, I’ll make sure that everyone in my administration who goes before a microphone has had the training they need to articulate my agenda in a way that moves hearts and minds as well as policy.

6. I will be post-partisan in my representation of the American people, but realistic about the current partisan politics of Washington. I was right when I said that there is no blue America or red America, only the United States of America. I will continue to listen to and serve everyday Americans of all political and ideological stripes, and I’ll never demonize or play one group of Americans off against another. At the same time, I owe it to all Americans not to let the obstructionist tactics of Washington frustrate our nation’s progress—that’s part of the change that I promised. So while I’ll continue to offer the hand of cooperation to all in Washington, I’ll insist on reciprocation as the price of compromise. And I’ll call out obstructionism–from either party–for what it is. While playing hardball inside the Beltway when I have to, I will more visibly and rigorously cultivate Republican and independent elected officials at the state and local level, many of whom have already shown a willingness to work together on economic recovery, environmental protection, and other important issues.

7. I will respect and motivate my core supporters while connecting their values and goals to those of the broader electorate. As president, I’m not able to mobilize the thousands of volunteers and organizers that I did as a candidate, yet I need that mass movement in order to accomplish the transformative change I’ve promised. Fortunately, there are a range of social justice organizations, faith communities, labor groups, and good government organizations who can turn out the human forces to make change happen. But they need to be motivated by White House policies, as well as oratory, that advance their values and goals. Instead of just handing them marching orders or pushing them to the margins, I’ll connect their priorities to the big goals of job creation, economic security, and opportunity that all Americans seek.

8. I will return to the forward-looking articulation of race in the 21st century that helped to save my candidacy and educate the nation. In my Philadelphia speech during the campaign, I showed that the American people can participate in a nuanced, grown-up conversation about race, and that I can be a leader in that conversation. It was a narrative that praised the progress we’ve made as a nation while acknowledging the distance still to go. It spoke to the reality that barriers to opportunity for any group of Americans are barriers to our success and prosperity as an entire nation. And it reminded us all of the importance of continually building a more perfect union. “Race,” I said, “is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.” Since the election, though, I’ve been mostly silent on racial equality, then I squandered a teachable moment through ham-handed comments when Henry Louis Gates was arrested, then I rebuffed the Congressional Black Caucus’s concerns about black unemployment by implying that paying attention to black joblessness is tantamount to ignoring the employment challenges facing all Americans. I know better than that. And in 2010, I’ll trust the American people to follow (and sometimes lead) me in a mature conversation about race. At the same time, I’ll attend to the unequal barriers facing some groups of Americans while expanding opportunity for all. Those dual goals are mutually reinforcing and, as I’ve said before, the president has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

9. I will nominate constitutional visionaries to the federal judiciary and push for their nomination. After a decade in which 321 mostly ultra-conservative judges nominated by George W. Bush were confirmed and joined the federal bench, the Senate has been exceptionally slow, and often obstructionist, in considering and confirming my judicial nominees—including conservative nominees backed by Republican senators. In 2010, I’ll continue to insist on legal excellence and real-world experience, and I will add to that a search for judicial visionaries who will interpret the Constitution with the forward-looking values of fairness and equal justice for all that the Framers intended.

10. I’ll get more rest and spend more time with Sasha, Malia, and Michelle.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

BoldProgressives.org: 0 -> 330,000 members in 1 year

Got an email from PCCC, recapping their first year.  Really impressive growth. They also got 40,000 grassroots donors. I’ve criticized them for not being nearly bold enough, but dreams die hard, and I will not be holding that against them. Let’s see if they can step it up a notch in 2010. The email is below the fold

As 2009 comes to an end, we’ve been reflecting on all we’ve accomplished together this year.

We wanted to write and say thank you.

When we started the PCCC one year ago, we had no money and no members — just a desire to elect more progressives to Congress and push those already there to be bolder.

Word spread quickly. And thanks to you, the PCCC now has 330,000 members and nearly 40,000 grassroots donors.

Politico called us “one of the most aggressive defenders of the public option” — our big focus this year.

We ran ads across the country, delivered petition signatures into the hands of numerous senators, and commissioned polls that politicians directly responded to. Our activism was featured by virtually every major news outlet, frequently highlighted by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schultz as an example of progressive strength.

We know: With Democrats caving on the public option, right now doesn’t feel like a victory. But the PCCC’s pressure on Sen. Harry Reid is widely credited with getting him to show strength in October — and Sen. Ben Nelson dipped into his campaign funds 3 years early to respond to our hard-hitting TV ads.

Here’s what The New Republic recently wrote:

Disappointed progressives may be wondering whether their efforts were a waste. They most decidedly were not. The campaign for the public option pushed the entire debate to the left…

And if public option supporters lost in the Congress, they won in the country as a whole…polls consistently showed voters thought the public option advocates were right…It was a small victory, but it’s on top of such small victories that political movements are built.

You are part of the bold progressive movement, and we enter 2010 in a position of strength.

While the PCCC will continue to do issue advocacy, our core focus in 2010 will be electing bold progressive fighters to Congress — challenging the power of “Blue Dogs” who put corporate contributors ahead of voters.

There are two ways you can start helping right now:

Sign up as a monthly recurring donor to the PCCC. If 1000 people chip in just $9/month, we can deploy smart organizers to help run several targeted progressive campaigns.


If you have talent, use it to help elect bold progressives in 2010. Though our Next Generation Of Talent initiative, you can tell us that you have dozens of skills that candidates need — and we’ll help connect you to them. Sign up here.

Achieving progressive political power will be a marathon, not a sprint. But we’re in this together — 330,000 of us strong, and growing. In 2010, we’ll continue to make big strides.

Thank you, sincerely, for being a bold progressive.

— Aaron Swartz, Stephanie Taylor, and Adam Green, PCCC co-founders

Should U.S. troops mutiny like they do in ‘Avatar’?


Michelle Rodriquez as Trudy Chacon in ‘Avatar’

It definitely seems morally right to side with the colonized against the colonizer and preemptive invader, the U.S. and the Western invaders now so nakedly aggressively imperialist toward the third world. NGOs’ feeble cover stories notwithstanding, poor people and poor countries are there for the rich and powerful to exploit, otherwise they are ignored.

But much much better never to join the military as it is now, and I think ‘Avatar’ can be an impactful as hell anti-recruitment propaganda video for U.S. high school kids. You really don’t want to join the corporate mercenary imperial shock troops burning down and blowing up native villages and all inside. Those are the bad guys, the assholes, the macho airheads, not the heroes.

But, the above interpretation of U.S. military conduct in the world, though the obvious one, requires wide social support, by you and me, especially all over the progressive blogs and whineytopia. We must counter the huge corporate media lie, the ‘our troops are heroes’ bullshit. Make it so my army of progressive and left bloggers!! Talk up Avatar’s anti-colonial, pro-resistance, anti-U.S.-military-recruitment meaning everywhere your blogging selves reach.

24 Percent, in Avatar And Anti-Colonial Resistance, explains Michelle/Trudy joining the resistance, turning her guns on her former mercenary mates:

The Na’vi . . . win for real, sending the colonizers – represented by the corporate-military alliance of Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and the K.I.A. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) back to Earth at the barrels of guns or in pieces. But it isn’t just theNa’vi sending the invaders away, the scientific team (Skully, Dr. Augustine, avatar guide and science dork Norm Spellman (Joel Moore), their military pilot Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) and Dr. Max Patel (Dileep Rao)) joins the Na’vi very quickly. There is no discussion of non-violent resistance or any real attempt to negotiate, the intellectuals – including all the women and people of color among the humans – show no hesitation in siding with the the colonized against the colonizer and shooting humans. By the end of the film we have a clear division between the white male capitalist imperialists fighting ruthlessly for profit and everyone else siding with the indigenous Na’vi fighting to save their homeland. The best line in the movie is when Quaritch says to Skully in the heat of battle, “How does it feel to be a traitor to your race?” The film’s answer is: Great! In this way, Trudy is perhaps the most interesting character. She’s a member of the military, but through her contact with the scientists gains empathy for the Na’vi. She refuses to fire missiles at the natives’ home, this is according to the traditional script. But what isn’t is when she rapidly turns her guns on her fellow soldiers. There’s no discussion of how she knows the men on the other side and has served with them, nothing about their wives and kids. She dies in combat, and there was never a question of an ethical third-way.

. . . What sets Avatar apart is that it suggests a positive alternative to paralyzing guilt: becoming a traitor to the dominant race. Maybe the violence just makes for a crowd pleaser, but the fact that the movie ends with intellectuals and those outside traditional ideals of white masculinity joining indigenous people to successfully fight off an invading army of corporate mercenaries left me leaving the theater very happy.

More below on the anti-imperial movie of the century:

Rob Kall of OpEdNews:

The storyline is built around an evil corporation that has gone to this gorgeous planet, Pandora, where it has no problem killing indigenous people, destroying their most precious cultural possessions. The corporation and its military personnel act horribly, killing wantonly, destroying some cultural icons, threatening to destroy the most sacred place on the planet, comparable to bombing Mecca or Jerusalem or the Vatican here on earth.

Does this sound like what Blackwater did in Iraq? Does it sound like the way the US is attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan? By the end, the audience has been totallyoffended by the militaristic support of corporate greed. The audience has spent 160 minutes falling in love with the indigenous people of Pandora, then watching military neanderthals heartlessly try to kill them and their most sacred place, where their deity resides.

Comrade Kale (at the website of the American Party of Labor, which I don’t know anything about, btw):

Avatar is very much an anti-imperialist film. This movie does its job properly-it shows the suffering of the people and the destruction they face due to the invasion by the humans. It correctly puts forward the idea that oppressed peoples have the moral right to violently rebel against their oppressors.

The relationship to Native Americans is simply the most prevalent example that can be seen, but Avatar can be related to nearly every atrocity of imperialism. Imperialism, the expansion of economies and nations through force, is the driving motive of the story. The humans attempt to trick the Na’vi into letting them exploit the natural resources of their planet, and when that doesn’t work they resort to violence, a pattern that has been repeated many times in history. Most movies that attempt such a thing would end up taking a moralist approach and thus taking the safe path-teaching its American audience to sympathize with the Na’vi while refusing to connect it with real events-but Avatar does no such thing.

It does not show the brutality visited upon the natives as incidental, or disconnected from the capitalist-imperialist system which spawned it. It shows it as institutionalized and inherent in the system the humans have set up.

Here is plastic pals:

This isn’t a story about being white or blue, but about following the path of righteousness. I don’t view Avatar as another “white guilt” story, but more of the old “Empire vs Rebels” kind of story that is a slam against colonialism, regardless of what race is doing it. The fact it comes from a white director for a predominantly white audience means the main character will probably be played by – surprise! – a white dude.

In Avatar, it is not just white people who are colonizing Pandora; if you look at the soldiers during their conference scenes you will see representatives from many races. In other words, it transcends the “white guilt” story we’ve seen before and presents us with the simple truth that colonialism itself is about taking what you want from another group of people by turning them into your enemy.  You don’t need to look back to the historical record for an equivalent; we are currently living one: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We now know that there were no WMDs, that the majority of the hijackers on 9/11 were actually Saudis, and that the main issue is an oil pipeline through Afghanistan, that the US has used torture. America and its allies are actively engaged in colonialism – it’s just not as obvious as (for example) British and French imperialism was in the past.

A latinobro comment at above site, plasticpals:

It is amazing we are so fucking sensitive to race that no one even mentions that this privileged white protagonist is a poor, less-educated, handicapped ex-marine looking for some fast cash as a security contractor having just lost his twin brother. Way to overlook the obvious as we stretch in order to make everything about racial oppression. Typical knee-jerk bending-backwards hyper-sensitive American racism that continues to shamelessly milk White Guilt.

James Cameron himself:

So certainly it is about imperialism in the sense that the way human history has always worked is that people with more military or technological might tend to supplant or destroy people who are weaker, usually for their resources. . . . We’re in a century right now in which we’re going to start fighting more and more over less and less. The population ain’t slowin’ down, oil will be depleted – we don’t have a great Plan B for energy in this country right now, notwithstanding Obama’s attempts to get people to focus on alternative energy. We’ve had eight years of the oil lobbyists running the country.

Adam Cohen in the New York Times (but note that the mainstream corporate press never specifies how the movie evokes what the U.S. is doing and has done to Afghanistan or Iraq):

The plot is firmly in the anti-imperialist canon, a 22nd-century version of the American colonists vs. the British, India vs. the Raj, or Latin America vs. United Fruit.

Underlying the political message is the running theme of the importance of seeing clearly. “Avatar” opens with the hero’s eye snapping open. The movie’s title comes from a bit of visual deception. The mining company has developed avatars – part-human, part-Na’Vi bodies – that allow its employees to appear more like the natives and help them in winning the Na’Vis’ trust.

The central love story reaches its culmination with the lovers declaring, “I see you.” The movie’s ending, which I will not give away here, brilliantly drives home, one last time, the importance of how one sees things.

The ability to see Pandora’s natives for who they are is the movie’s moral touchstone. The company’s shock troops, who have not seen the Na’Vi up close, view them as nothing more than an impediment to the extraction of ore. When the inevitable battle begins, one employee refers to them as roaches. The two human characters who live among the Na’Vi undergo conversions and come to realize the importance of respecting them and their way of life.

All of this draws on a well-known principle of totalitarianism and genocide – that it is easiest to oppress those we cannot see. This is one reason the Nazis pushed Jews into ghettos, and one reason that the worst Soviet abuses occurred in far-off gulags.

The movie’s rich 3-D technology allows the audience to feel that it has lived among the Na’Vi as well. Through this immersion experience, we undergo the same kind of moral education as the characters who lived with the Na’Vi. The friend I saw “Avatar” with wondered aloud, a bit too optimistically, if people would be able to think of the battles between the developed world and indigenous peoples the same way after seeing this movie.

Even Mr. Insightful, David Walsh of WSWS, who generally dislikes the film, admits that

. . . one of the elements that carries some power is the presentation of the mercenary armed forces in their attack mode. Some water has flowed under the bridge since 1997. Clearly, Cameron is bringing to bear feelings and images generated by the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. (He reportedly dropped his application for American citizenship after the election of Bush in 2004.) The scenes of the brutal ground and aerial assault on the virtually defenseless Na’Vi are chilling and convincing.


Michelle on her side

No Dem incumbent will lose a primary by voting for the health care bill

Even though I favored passing the gutted Senate health care bill, I am heartened by the noise some progressives are making in opposition to it.  Without such noise, there would be no hope to improve the bill, or much hope of getting better health care legislation in the future.  In keeping with the basic principle of the Overton window, there has to be prominent, public left-wing disagreement with Democratic policy, or else the national political discussion will never move to the left.

The degrees of acceptance of public ideas can be described roughly as:
  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy

The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.

Progressives looking to defeat the bill from the left are currently in either the “acceptable” or “sensible” stage.  While it is pretty amazing that they have even been able to get that far in such a short period of time, they have not moved onto the “popular” stage just yet.  That is why efforts like these are bound to fail, and fail spectacularly:

We also dedicate ourselves to Defeating Progressive Caucus Dems who vote for HCR without a Public Option @keithellison #p2 #fb

Such proclamations are necessary both to continue moving the national political discourse to the left, and in fostering a much needed culture of primary challenges.  However, with only 16% of self-identified Democrats favoring defeating the bill (and many doing so from the right), the beliefs backing up those proclamations still have a long way to go before they become electoral winners:

In the first months of 2010, one of my main projects will be working on primary campaigns against incumbent Blue Dogs and Conservadems.  These campaigns will include, but are not necessarily limited to, Marcy Winograd against Jane Harman (Blue Dog), Regina Thomas against John Barrow (Blue Dog), and Joe Sestak against Arlen Specter (recent Republican, current member of Evan Bayh’s Conservadem caucus).  Given the numbers quoted above, it does not take a genius to conclude that all of these primary challengers would be at a real disadvantage if they argue against the health care bill, especially if the incumbents vote in favor of it.

Primary challengers already face in terms of money, name ID, and establishment support. These challengers cannot leverage unpopular positions as compensation for those disadvantages.  The only advantage progressive primary challengers can consistently have is to articulate and represent the hopes and dreams of the Democratic electorate when an incumbent Democrat has failed to do so.

There may come a time when, for left-wing reasons, defeating a bill like the one that passed the Senate becomes a popular position among the Democratic rank and file.  However, that time is not going to be 2010.  As it moves closer to becoming law, liberal and Democratic support of the bill is going up, not down.

The only viable progressive primary challengers we are going to have next year will be candidates who backed the bill even though they thought it had a lot of room for improvement.  By the same token, the only Democrats who I hope vote against the final health care bill are center-right incumbents who face primary challenges from their left.  A vote like that will make my–and I hope our–efforts to defeat those incumbents much, much easier.

Those are features of the Obama administration, not “constraints”

Brad DeLong thinks that the Obama economic team has done a great job, given the “constraints” they faced:

The constraints on the Obama Administration have been mighty: the united, disciplined, destructive opposition of the Republican Party, the extreme and counterproductive perversity of Senators 51 through 60, and the peculiar culture and attitude of the Federal Reserve (though why hasn’t Obama at least made recess appointments for the two vacant Fed governorships?). We are lucky that they have been able to do as much as they have.

Brad DeLong is a smart guy.  However, his list of so-called “constraints” are anything but.  Take a look at each “constraint” individually:

  • ” The peculiar culture and attitude of the Federal Reserve.”  The Obama administration considers the Federal Reserve to be such a “constraint” that President Obama re-nominated its current chair to keep running it.  That isn’t being constrained by the culture and attitude of the Federal Reserve–that is approving of its culture and attitude.
  • “The extreme and counterproductive perversity of Senators 51 through 60.” The Obama administration feels so constrained by Senators 51 through 60 that it considers putting pressure on those Senators to be “fucking stupid.”  Oh yeah-and the Obama administration feels so constrained by Senators 51 to 60 that it shows up in Harry Reid’s office to order Senators 1 through 50 to cave to Senators 51 to 60 (or really, to order Senators 1 through 59 to cave to Senator 60, if necessary).
  • The united, disciplined, destructive opposition of the Republican Party.  Frankly, tough shit.  Stop whining about the opposition party opposing stuff, especially when you campaigned for two years promising that you could prevent that sort of opposition from happening.  Don’t expect the opposition party to deliver on your absurd promise to make the opposition party agree with you.

The current incarnation of the Federal Reserve is a feature of the Obama administration, not a constraint.  Senators 51 through 60 being given free reign to be counterproductive is a feature of the Obama administration, not a constraint.  And having an opposition party that, like, opposes you and stuff, is a feature of governing.

If people really think that the Obama administration is doing everything he can given current political constraints, they should at least offer some examples of exactly what, if anything, the Obama administration is actually doing about those constraints.

McCain Could Have Meant Less War

By David Swanson

After two stolen elections by Bush-Cheney, an election of Grandpa John “Bomb Bomb Iran” McCain and his sorority president sidekick — whether honest or blatantly stolen and tolerated — would have said something hugely depressing and debilitating about the American people.  But arguably it could have saved a great many lives around the world.  Here’s how.

Premise number 1: Presidents will fight as many and as large wars as they possibly can.  Presidents have always loved wars, which they have used to seize greater powers and strip away civil liberties.  As the military industrial presidential complex has grown, so has the financial and institutional pressure for wars.  President Obama is expanding the U.S. empire of bases, escalating wars, and toying with possible new wars to the extent that he has the weapons, troops, and mercenaries available to do it with.  No more, no less.  McCain-Palin, left to their own devices, would have done very nearly the same thing.  Therefore, any major change in war policy effected by the 2008 presidential election would have had to be indirect.

Premise number 2: The height of congressional opposition to wars between 2000 and 2009 came in the two-year period of 2007-2008 because the Congress was ruled by Democrats and the president was Republican, and that opposition was growing.  Granted, it had a long way left to grow, and there’s no guarantee it would have reached maturity with McCain in the White House, but the potential was there.  All that is needed for Congress to end wars is for the House of Representatives to stop passing bills that fund them.  The Senate is not needed.  Passing a bill is not needed.  Holding hearings or impeaching people is not needed.  It just takes 218 representatives choosing not to vote for more money.  As soon as Obama moved into the White House, leaders of war opposition in the House began voting for more war money and publicly announcing that they were doing so because the president wanted them to.

Premise number 3: If anything could possibly compel the House of Representatives to stop funding wars, it would be dramatically escalated public pressure, nonviolent disruption, media influence, electoral challenges — that is to say a vibrant and growing peace movement.  But the U.S. peace movement was disbanded, defunded, and demobilized the moment Obama was elected president.  This didn’t have to happen.  We could have elected Obama and invested more heavily in the peace movement, but the current thinking of many Americans (if “thinking” is the right word for it) would not allow that.  However, if the Democrats had kept a majority in the House, and McCain-Palin had won the White House, all of our ways of thinking, from the sensible to the perverse, could have remained intact and — just possibly — wars have been ended.  Partisanship wouldn’t have had to be challenged at all.  Republicans could have all bowed down before Grandpa Loon and the Prom Queen.  Democrats could have all announced their fierce, if phony, opposition to the same.  But had trends in public opinion and congressional behavior continued as in 2007-2008, and had a peace movement blossomed rather than being yanked out by the roots, we might have been able to end the wars.

The point is not that next time we should elect McCain.  Perhaps doing so would have just encouraged congress members to act like him.  Maybe the Democrats would have all immediately committed to spending four years trying to out-McCain McCain.  Who knows.  The point is that we should think long and hard about the fact that most of us want peace and have taken actions that are at best irrelevant to the cause.  The point is to stop at the break of this new year and ask ourselves what the hell we can possibly be thinking.

Best of the decade and the year: the Internet and Net Neutrality

Let’s face it–from a political, economic and ecological perspective, this past decade pretty much sucked ass.  Lots of war, lots of economic downturn, lots of legislative failure and the continued onset of a new, ecological, Malthusian trap.  Still, looking at the decade from the grand perspective of human history, there was also a huge positive: the continued development and expansion of the Internet.

The Internet is a disruptive technology for our entire species, even if it has a long way to go before it spreads to all humans.  The exponential decline in the cost of information brought about by the Internet and mobile phone technology will be, in all likelihood, the top cultural and technological development of our lifetimes.  The way this has changed, and will continue to change, our economic, social and mental structures puts it on par with the printing press as an agent of change.  The development of the Internet will also be America’s greatest national achievement, and that is saying quite a lot given that we landed on the moon and won some pretty important wars.

Protecting the information distributed on the Internet from control by telecoms is also perhaps the greatest achievement of the Obama administration to date.  In October, the President Obama’s newly appointed FCC commissioners moved to start a rule-making process on Net Neutrality.  Essentially, this means that the telecoms which provide access to the Internet access cannot control, or otherwise discriminate against, what information is produced, consumed and distributed on the Internet.

What is particularly noteworthy and praiseworthy about the FCC moving to enshrine Net Neutrality is that the Obama administration took this step in the face of inaction by a Congress controlled by telecoms:

This happened in spite of a massive astroturf push by telecom companies, and also a letter sent to the FCC by 72 Democratic members of Congress–many of whom are in the Congressional Progressive Caucus–repeating industry talking points about how there is no need for regulation. Because really, if there is anyone you can trust to look out for your interests, large telecom companies are it. Why would anyone think that they would try and take control of content distribution for the largest cultural medium ever created? Leave Comcast and AT&T allllloooonnne.

To the FCC’s credit, they moved forward on Net Neutrality anyway. It is very heartening to see the Obama administration stand up for the public interest, even if it means opposing a few dozen Congressional Democrats.

This was the first clear cut time that the Obama administration stood up for the public against corporate Democrats, instead of siding with them and coddling them.  Further, in doing this the Obama administration moved the United States toward a more progressive Internet policy than most other wealthy democracies, which is something of a rarity for our country.

The continued expansion of the Internet (including wireless phones) is my pick for the top development of the decade.  The Obama administration’s protection of that Internet–particularly because the administration did it in the face of a bi-partisan and transnational corporate coalition–is my pick the top political moment of the first year.  What are you picks?