Monthly Archives: January 2014

The 2013 Stuff Awards: Politics, PART TWO

Continuing where I left off with part one earlier, here’s the second episode of the McLaughlin Group’s 2013 year-end “awards” followed by my own selections for the same categories:

DESTINED FOR POLITICAL STARDOM IN 2014

Last year I predicted that Hugo Chavez would become even more popular in death than he’d been in life — that images of him would start to replace images of Che in Latin America and in Venezuela in particular — and I think that’s certainly proven to be correct. As for this year, I think the safest bets are 1) Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada whose already very popular (indeed I’d say he’s Canada’s Ronald Reagan in that he represents what will be a lasting paradigm shift in Canadian politics from center-left to center-right), and 2) U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who’s already a rock star in progressive circles, but I predict the her star will rise even higher in 2014 amidst the Democrats’ electoral focus on economic populism; a theme that can only benefit her. Getting more risky though, I’ll add Russian President Vladimir Putin to this list of 2014 political stars. Russia gained much more international prestige in 2013 (as explained in Part One) and that trend appears set to continue this year, wherein Russia will be hosting the Winter Olympics next month.

DESTINED FOR POLITICAL OBLIVION IN 2014

The Islamic State of Iraq, also known as Al Qaeda of Iraq. Our media is currently flipping out concerning Al Qaeda’s growing influence in Iraq, given that they’ve recaptured certain major cities (like Fallujah) recently. More specifically, this development is being used in our press to argue that we shouldn’t have left; that we should’ve kept a major occupation force stationed there. I, however, will say that this political ascendancy on the part of Al Qaeda in Iraq is already nearing its end. Think about it: first off, Al Qaeda is a Sunni movement and has only made these major gains in predominantly Sunni territory as yet. By contrast, Iraq is overwhelming Shiite. Do you seriously think Al Qaeda is going to overrun such a country? That in the first place. In the second place, even the Sunni tribal leaders have recently signaled their willingness to work with the Shiite-led Iraqi government to crack down on Al Qaeda again, much like they famously did in 2007. That’s right: believe it or not, most of the Iraqi Sunnis, much like the majority of Syrian Sunnis, don’t like Al Qaeda either! When these elements (the Iraqi government and the Sunni tribes) unite against Al Qaeda again, the latter will start suffering major defeats just like before. What I’m saying here folks is that we should have much more faith in the Iraqi people, whom are perfectly capable of solving their own problems without “benefit” of our masterful hand of thieving guidance. They are NOT a bunch of child-like brainless reactionaries in need of American guidance to find their way in the world like our media invariably paints them. Common sense WILL prevail! I predict that Al Qaeda’s recent gains won’t last the year.

BEST POLITICAL THEATER OF 2013

I’m giving this to Texas state Senator Wendy Davis’s successful 11-hour filibuster of a new law in Texas that was designed to close most of the state’s abortion providers down, and which has actually done so at this point. The victory proved temporary (the Texas legislature later passed the bill and it’s now in effect), but highly inspiring nonetheless because of how unexpected even a short-lived victory was for pro-choice voices in the state of Texas. Davis’s 11-hour filibuster fell only a little short of her plan to block the bill by speaking for 13 hours straight on the topic of abortion, but the gap was filled in by a record-breaking number of protesters in the rotunda who stopped the vote from happening by booing and chanting for 15 minutes straight at the end of the evening, running out the clock. Though the victory was temporary, Wendy Davis subsequently became a household name for feminists throughout the nation and especially in the state of Texas for her boldness and determination. Riding that tide of popularity, she has announced her intention to run for the governorship of Texas this year, in fact! I have little hope that she’ll win, but if there’s any Democrat that could, it’s her. Very inspiring story in consideration of the disturbingly tremendous tide of anti-abortion laws and sentiment that we’ve seen emerge in the last few years in this country. It was EXCELLENT to see some meaningful resistance erupt SOMEWHERE, and both surprising and inspiring to see it happen in a conservative state like Texas! The whole thing is available on YouTube now. There’s obviously too much content there to re-post here, but I’ll link the reader up to part one (which contains the first half-hour), whereupon they can continue from there if they see fit:

WORST POLITICAL THEATER OF 2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s new, short-lived propaganda talk show Ford Nation, which debuted on Sun News (the Canadian analogy to Fox News here in the U.S.) as a response to Mr. Ford’s critics. Hosted by Ford himself, the tone is like a political infomercial. The program was canceled less than 24 hours after its debut. Here’s the first and mercifully only episode:

MOST UNDER-REPORTED STORY OF 2013

America’s war on the youth. These days one finds that our school budgets are shrinking while our prison budgets are expanding; a development perhaps symptomatic of the fact that the next generation of Americans isn’t as white as the current one. (Example.) The youth are bemoaned routinely in our media as worthless parasites for having life harder than their elders did: because, unlike their parents, they have to pay for a college education to get a career now and hence can no longer afford to move out on their own right out of high school. In fact, the only thing that our culture celebrates about the youth is their bodies, which, it is insisted, EVERYONE must have regardless of their age. In all these ways and more, we’re writing off the next generation. As a party thereto, I’ve gotta say to “the adults in the room”, thanks for being so helpful and understanding oh ye of better means!

MOST OVER-REPORTED STORY OF 2013

Obamacare web site glitches and junk policy cancellations, oh my! The end of the world has arrived! No wait, actually that stuff is over now and millions of people are signing up and getting better plans at either cheaper or subsidized rates; a figure that will soon easily overwhelm the number of policy cancellations as the rate of sign-ups continues to accelerate in the coming months. By now, I think you can start to see why I feel that the press’s daily updates on the efficiency of the government’s central health care web site, which went on for two solid months, were unwarranted and overly sensationalized.

BIGGEST GOVERNMENT WASTE OF 2013

This is a tough choice between the entire budgets of military and the Department of Commerce. I don’t think I’ll be able to decide which expenditure is more wasteful.

BEST GOVERNMENT DOLLAR SPENT IN 2013

The main entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

BOLDEST POLITICAL TACTIC OF 2013

I agree with Pat Buchanan: China’s declaration of a Monroe Doctrine in the South China Sea this last year was a big deal that will have major implications for generations to come. Not unlike so many other empires, China is getting progressively more assertive and expansive as gets richer. The forced U.S. government shutdown was a genuinely big deal and all, but it lasted for two weeks. The impact of China’s declaration that it will henceforth militarily exert control over the South China Sea, by contrast, will impact their relations with many countries in our orbit for the foreseeable future. It is therefore the bigger deal.

WORST POLITICAL SCANDAL OF 2013

I agree with both Eleanor Clift and John McLaughlin, at least in essence: the breadth of the NSA’s spying program, revealed by one Edward Snowden, was the biggest scandal of the year, both here in America and internationally. The scandal was so big that, for the first time in my living memory, American spy agencies are set to have their power substantially curtailed this year under new reforms.

BEST IDEA OF 2013

Banning online pornography. The idea was put forward early last year by Iceland’s left wing prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir before she went down to a major electoral defeat with her party a few months later. (No those two things aren’t connected: polling out of Iceland shows that about 70% support taking action against online pornography. Her Social Democratic Party went down to defeat over the question of whether Iceland should join the European Union.) The proposal was the first of its kind for a Western democracy and was quickly embraced by many feminists abroad. Feminists in Britain went on to succeeded in getting their country to introduce a new policy curtailing online pornography (which includes criminalizing the possession of rape porn). The new policy was introduced, it’s worth noting, by a Conservative prime minister, David Cameron. One hence sees that the range of support for curtailing Internet pornography can be pretty broad, spanning from left wing to right wing.

The new, fourth wave of feminism that we’re seeing roll across the Western world today is in many ways a product of the proliferation of pornography via the web in recent years and a movement against its broader cultural impact: the over-sexualization of women’s bodies. This new wave of feminism is mainly about women gaining control over their bodies and over how they are represented in society. The main targets of this movement are the new, post-recession wave of restrictions on women’s reproductive rights on the one hand and, especially in as far as those rights are safer than they are here, the sex and fashion industries on the other The proposal to ban online pornography gets more to the heart of the matter than other proposals running in that general direction, which simply address symptoms and social consequences of it. It’s high time for our culture to start treating women as equal human beings; for us to be represented in the media in ways that are comparable to how men are treated for a change!

WORST IDEA OF 2013

I agree with Mort Zuckerman: the sale of drones for personal use. What could possibly go wrong?

SORRY TO SEE YOU GO

Lots of people! Hugo Chavez (deceased), Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (defeated), and Nelson Mandela (deceased) in particular! 2013 was a pretty saddening year in this sense.

15 MINUTES OF FAME

I agree with Eleanor Clift: the “interpreter” at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. His 15 minutes of fame are up and he’ll soon be forgotten.

BEST SPIN OF 2013

The made-up mental illness known as “affluenza” (which sounds about as scientific as “senioridus”) wherein one is too affluent to go to jail. For those unfamiliar with this story, psychologist Dick Miller took the stand in the trial of 16-year-old drunk driver Ethan Couch, who killed four people in a crash on Father’s Day weekend of 2013. Miller helped convince the judge that Couch was a victim of his family’s wealth. While Couch was facing 20 years behind bars he was sentenced to 10 years probation. That’s right: he killed four people, but won’t serve a day in jail…because, evidently, he’s too rich! On the stand, Miller used the term “affluenza” to describe Couch’s so-called condition, but later acknowledged to Anderson Cooper that “we used to call these people spoiled brats.” So we now how have a BS medical excuse for why rich people deserve special treatment! I believe it safe to say that this development gives entirely new meaning to the term ‘entitlement mentality’.

MOST HONEST OF 2013

Pope Francis. His predecessors have spoken of their commitment to defend the poor. The new pope, by contrast, does not merely speak of the needs of the poor while leading a life of luxury, but leads the lifestyle corresponding to his words. You can’t beat that for a revolutionary concept!

MOST OVERRATED OF 2013

Are you ready for this? Ready for some more anti-Western thinking from yours truly? I say that the most overrated thing of 2013 was the value of choice.

It’s a fashionable thing today to speak of the merits of absolute liberty; complete freedom of choice. It’s become fashionable in politics (see the rise of libertarianism), in video games (see the rise of the free exploration theme and of the ability to play as villains), on TV (need I explain?), and everywhere else, especially among young, white males. The implication of this wave of existentialism that’s sweeping the Western world is that there exists no such thing as exploitation; that no oppression accepted by its victim is genuinely oppressive. In reality (a concept rejected by such subjectivists), exploitation — especially economic exploitation — is the main and most common form of oppression in the world! That’s right: most oppression is at least nominally voluntary, as in to say compelled by conditions rather than by brute force! If you don’t believe me, think about where most of the products you own are made and who makes them. They’re made by the sweatshop workers and poor farmers of the world, most of whom live outside the global northwest! People more often than not choose to work in sweatshops at least nominally. They are compelled to do so not as often by armed force as by a lack of viable alternatives. You see, in the real world (and again, we need to acknowledge the existence of reality — the existence of facts and not just opinions — here!), only so much freedom is possible, for there exists a certain inverse relationship between the QUANTITY of freedom that’s available and the QUALITY thereof; the one inevitably limits the other. We can do the libertine thing and concentrate all freedom in a few hands, giving a few the right to do whatever they want, including to other people…OR we can distribute freedom equitably to all, whereupon one’s freedom ends where the next person’s (or ideally sentient being’s!) begins. The latter is a severely underrated concept and former greatly overrated. Accordingly exploitation should be recognized as real and oppressive and should be combated, with force (the less common kind of oppression) if necessary.

MOST UNDERRATED OF 2013

The American labor movement. It’s been written off as dead for some time now, but a new section of the movement aimed at unionizing the nation’s working poor (among other things) has grown at a spectacular rate over the last year or so; so much so that its politics of economic populism are now taking center stage in Democratic Party politics. Sit up and pay attention folks because Bill de Blasio’s victory in New York City, the election of Seattle’s first Marxist city council member in a century, and the overwhelming popularity of Vermont’s socialist senator Bernie Sanders are no coincidence! America is becoming a poorer country with a staggering wealth gap (one of the three largest in the world) that more and more people are finding unacceptable. Occupy Wall Street launched the first modern-day wave of on-the-ground resistance and the new, alternative labor movement is picking up where Occupy left off, and in more sustainable ways.

MACRO-PREDICTION

Last year I predicted that immigration reform wouldn’t pass in 2013, but rather that the best prospect for it would come in the summer of 2014 when the president’s two-year Dream Act expires. I maintain the accuracy of that prediction, holding that the immigration reform debate will be revived this summer. As to the midterm elections this fall, I predict that neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate will flip (i.e. that we’ll be left with a scenario closely resembling the status quo with Republicans still controlling the House and Democrats the Senate) and that Democrats will pick up more state governorships. And, as mentioned earlier, I’ll also predict that Al Qaeda’s recent gains in Iraq won’t last the year for the reasons I specified under the Destined for Political Oblivion in 2014 heading.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

I resolve to find more ways of getting involved in the movement to unionize the working poor.

The 2013 Stuff Awards: Representations of Women

Not long ago, a private message appeared in my Political Forums inbox that read, in part:

“I think you are one of the best forum propagandists that I have some across.maybe the most important. I know it sucks but being pretty really helps. Its just the truth. Your good looks make give your words so much more power. but better than your appearance is that you are socialist and you are not egocentric like most from the west.* I do not agree with you on everything and I wish you wouldnt worry about feminism because you are so much more than that and the feminism limits and excludes a large part of your audience.”

In reply, I’d just like to say too bad! It’s become part of who I am. Socialism is about equality and so is feminism. The two things logically should go hand-in-hand you’d think. (Or at least I think they do.) Advice like that provided above makes me feel in a defiant mood, so I think I’ll add a couple new categories to my annual Stuff Awards this morning: the best and worst media representations of women in 2013. :D This will be easy because I think the “awards”  in these categories have already been doled out pretty judiciously by the video shown below. Check it out. (Don’t worry impatient viewer, it’s only a few minutes long!)

Note: You may have to click on the circular knob on the progress meter or manually scroll back to the beginning to see the whole video because, at least on my computer, its default setting is to pick up in the middle. I apologize for the minor inconvenience.

* Lest this statement delude you into thinking this individual is from a poor country or something, he’s from Australia, which is basically the eastern version of America.

The 2013 Stuff Awards: Politics, PART ONE

Continuing my arbitrary year-end awards, I’ll now move on to politics. As with last year, I’ll do this by providing the corresponding McLaughlin Group “year-end awards” (linked below), followed by my “awards” for the same categories. Since there are so many categories, I’ll divide this into multiple posts. Here in part one, I’ll post the first episode of McLaughlin Group’s “awards” followed by my “awards” for the corresponding categories. At a later date, I’ll post the second episode of the McLaughlin Group “year-end awards” for 2013 and do the same thing for it.

I can’t really say that I generally agree with anyone on the Group because their perspectives are just way too U.S.-centric in general to be honest, I think. I’ve tried to be more thoughtful (and, in general, original) about who really DESERVES these awards.

BIGGEST WINNER OF 2013

The global gay rights movement. It’s made record-breaking advances this last year. 2013 saw same-sex marriage legalized in a number of places, including such major Western countries as the UK and France. Here in this country, the number of U.S. states that have legalized same-sex marriage doubled in 2013, and the percentage of the population covered more than doubled. Even in the case of Russia, where homosexuality was criminalized this last year, one can consider that development symptomatic of the hitherto growing strength of the gay rights movement there. 2014′s forthcoming World Pride Parade will be the biggest gay pride event in history! No movement gained more strength in 2013 than the gay rights movement! Biggest winner of the year.

BIGGEST LOSER OF 2013

Political Islam. In 2012, people were talking about how the Arab Spring was yielding an increased Islamization of the Middle East. In 2013, I think it safe to say that that whole notion has been discredited. This year political Islam saw major defeats and weakenings (as applicable) first in Syria, then in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, and beyond, and that’s not counting the impact of French imperial actions in Mali driving Al Qaeda back in a big way. All in all, 2013 was probably the single worst year to date for political Islam. Clearly it is not the wave of the future for the region.

BEST POLITICIAN OF 2013

French President Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party. In the year and a half he’s been in office, he’s has reduced the retirement age for most from 62 to 60 and launched plans to hire 60,000 new teachers and to build 500,000 new homes per year (including 150,000 social houses), funded through tax increases on upper class people. (He plans to raise to the top marginal corporate tax rate to 75%.) Besides these economic policies that I strongly approve of, Mr. Hollande pursued a range of social policies in 2013 that I approved of. Namely same-sex marriage was legalized the purchase of sex criminalized. I don’t agree with all of Mr. Hollande’s actions, especially not those in the area of foreign policy (which has been fairly aggressive), but even his foreign policy positions haven’t been nearly as offensive to me as those of my own country. I hate to say it, but even this (an aggressive foreign policy) we must keep in perspective, for France is a downwardly mobile society that’s a qualitatively more advanced state of decline than ours here in the United States.

WORST POLITICIAN OF 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He embodies just about everything I hate, from right wing economics to social conservatism, but most especially a colonialism that knows no bounds. Not only has the Israeli prime minister continued to wage war on the oppressed Palestinians and expanded the Israeli colonization program, but he has gone to truly extraordinary lengths to keep them oppressed. He has, together with our president, become one of the only world leaders to oppose the United Nations’ recent decision to recognize Palestine as a nation-state. He has likewise overseen the actual racial segregation of schools in a certain Israeli community. (Believe it or not, the segregation policy was introduced by Israeli liberals; a fact which goes to show you what the range of debate is around ethnic issues in Israel!) Israel is treating the Palestinian people in a way that’s very similar to how we’ve historically treated the Native American peoples, and yes I feel completely justified in making that comparison. (And no the Holocaust is NOT a valid excuse for treating an innocent people this way! The Holocaust is NOT a blanket excuse for everything!) But it’s more than that. Netanyahu has had such a zealously militaristic foreign policy that he has both ACTUALLY bombed Syria (even we haven’t gone that far yet!) and belligerently opposed even the recent, very small and short-term deal that the United States has struck with Iran concerning its nuclear program. As far as Mr. Netanyahu is concerned, Iran must simply de-nuclearize and unilaterally or face a bombing campaign that he intends to lead. Going further than the United States in terms of Middle Eastern aggression is the deciding factor for me that qualifies Netanyahu as the worst politician of the year overall. Sure there are some other leaders in the region who take a similar policy toward Iran, but those who do 1) cannot as credibly lead a war against Iran, and 2) also oppose Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

MOST DEFINING POLITICAL MOMENT OF 2013

The June 29th Revolution in Egypt ousting President Mohammad Morsi of the Islamic Freedom and Justice Party (controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood). This event of several days saw an estimated 14 to 17 million Egyptians take to the streets to demand that Morsi step down, making this the largest protest wave in history. Considering that it was precisely Egypt that played the main role in solidifying the Arab Spring in the first place, this second revolution served as likewise a harbinger of things to come. Namely, political Islam in general nosedived in support this last year.

TURNCOAT OF THE YEAR

Edward Snowden for his consequential revelations about who our government is spying on. He’s won the argument too. Polls now show that the vast majority of Americans feel that government spying is currently excessive. Consequentially, the Obama Administration has decided to announce plans to reform to the National Security Agency later this month in order to shore up waning public trust. This would never have happened were it not for Snowden’s revelations! I think the whole world owes Mr. Snowden a debt of gratitude!

MOST BORING

Two weeks of non-stop news coverage throughout the Western world for a pair of British royals having a baby, as if that had any significance. To those who found that whole affair enthralling, I offer this tribute:

MOST CHARISMATIC

The hysterical Alex Jones. Here’s a sample from early on in the year:

Incidentally, though Mr. Jones would doubtless reject the label, if you want to know what real, modern-day fascism objectively looks like, the above video is an excellent example of it. Mr. Jones presents a worldview that “logically” connects Nazism, democratic socialism, communism, and liberal capitalism, and denounces all of them in favor of…yeah, ‘real patriotism’ (or ‘anti-globalism’ or however one wants to formulate it), by which is evidently meant deporting perfectly legal immigrants and political dissenters in general. That’s called fascism: radical social conservativism that finds its basis in an extreme variety of reactionary nationalism. There is more paranoia and nihilism here than I think most of us can relate to.

BUMMEST RAP OF 2013

Iran is building nuclear weapons. This myth has been in circulation for a full decade now and there’s still no evidence to support it. So-called experts (like the Israeli prime minister for example) tell us annually that Iran will have a nuclear bomb within months. Years later, it never happens. This is a myth invented by wealthy countries that simply want Iran to be weak until such time as they’ll sell us their oil at prices we like again. This myth will continue to get my Bummest Rap award every year that it persists.

FAIREST RAP OF 2013

George Zimmerman murdered a black child just for being black and you know it! Even those who defended him during the trial are starting to back away at this point, after his second domestic violence incident (both of which involved gun threats on his part) SINCE his trial. That’s simply the kind of person he is. Face it: he got acquitted because the jury was white.

BEST COMEBACK OF 2013

Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad. One year ago pretty much everyone, myself included, saw his overthrow as an inevitability, for he had become so deeply unpopular that the various opposition forces in the country had effectively seized most of the territory. By the end of 2012 though, reactionary jihadists spearheaded by Al Qaeda, mostly imported from Qatar and Saudi Arabia rather than being native to Syria, had won the leadership of the opposition to Assad by virtue of being more battle-hardened. Due to the fact that these elements have so much more combat experience than the other, more secular elements in the opposition, they were able to devise the more effective battle strategies and the corresponding victories proved the best at keeping the rebels’ morale high. However, once it became generally recognized that indeed terrorists WERE in control of the opposition, support for the revolutionary movement collapsed. NATO investigation revealed that between December of 2012 and May of 2013, Assad’s government went from enjoying the support of a minority of the population to that of a 70% supermajority that even includes most of the Sunni population. Having won the battle of ideas, his forces were thereby enabled to go on the offensive and recapture much of the lost territory. Even a concocted crisis over chemical weapons use proved unable to turn the tide back in favor of foreign forces, both Western and Middle Eastern, seeking to overtake the nation, as the regime brilliantly navigated the crisis by agreeing to have all of its chemical weapons rapidly destroyed (a process which is now ongoing), thus evading an otherwise inevitable military confrontation with the United States. Even Assad himself has articulated the belief that neither side can win the conflict outright and that a negotiated solution is hence necessary (hence why a peace conference has been scheduled for January 22nd of this year), but nevertheless I think we can safely say that Assad has come a long way from where he and his regime stood a year ago. A year ago the defeat of the Assad government seemed inevitable. Now it seems almost impossible if only because the Syrian people (including the Sunnis) fear the alternative more, as well they should. (Our government, on the other hand, has proven this year that, interestingly, it does not.)

MOST ORIGINAL THINKER OF 2013

I agree with Mort Zuckerman: it’s Pope Francis, who has indeed taken the Catholic Church into the 21st century by relegating cultural issues (on which the Church takes right wing positions) to a secondary prioritization and instead prioritizing a redress of global economic inequality and poverty. Not only that, but the new pope has made empathy for the poor a lifestyle, not merely a speech heading, by foregoing the traditionally lavish lifestyles of Church leaders, as if to show that he is serious; more serious than any of his predecessors in living memory. While he has rightly said that he is not a Marxist (given his opposition to class struggle), he has also overtly condemned capitalism as a system, implying that he might prefer a kind of democratic socialism. None of this is what we’ve come to expect from Church leaders. I suspect the difference reflects the different priorities of poorer countries, from one of which the new pope hails. First pope from a Third World country, best pope in living memory already.

MOST STAGNANT THINKER OF 2013

Alex Jones (the net’s #1 conspiracy theorist), for whom the response to any news that conflicts with his (very backward) ideas is automatic rejection thereof. He has devised conspiracy theories about the government staging the Sandy Hook massacre of late 2012 and actually somehow directly creating the record-breaking tornadoes that hit Oklahoma earlier this year, among other things.

BEST PHOTO OP OF 2013

Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For Miley Cyrus, the pictures of her twerking to Robin Thicke’s disgusting, chart-topping hit Blurred Lines at the VMAs proved to be worth many millions of dollars too, as she went on to subsequently become the top-selling female artist of the year (trailing 8 male artists who didn’t have to strip down to get attention), whereas previously her career had hit a standstill. These developments go to show exactly what our society values in women. The artist in question has thereby done an excellent job of profiting lavishly at the cultural expense of her own sex. Congratulations to Cyrus on a treason well-executed.

ENOUGH ALREADY!

Related to the above: Enough of Miley Cyrus already! She’s gotten plenty of attention of late and far more than deserved. It seems like every day, or at least every week, there’s a new article about her in the headlines. The VMAs were four months ago people. It’s time to move on.

WORST LIE OF 2013

Same as the Bummest Rap of 2013: Iran is building nuclear weapons.

CAPITALIST OF THE YEAR

I’m giving this to financial capitalists in general. In 2013, stock markets not only here, but across much of the globe grew at a record-breaking pace that far exceeded increases in productivity while living standards broadly either stagnated or declined, going to show yet again that exploitation is the basis of the existence of the capitalist class. By the way this is not sustainable. When financial wealth grows at a pace that exceeds the rate of production, that’s called fabricating value (or, as our economists prefer to say, creating a bubble economy); a phenomenon that’s perhaps consequential of our persistence in allowing it. You cannot fabricate value indefinitely. You cannot simply will wealth that doesn’t exist into existence. You must create it in the realm of the tangible. Whether in the short run (which would be the least painful) or in the long run (which would be more painful), there will be a correction, and probably an according recession. If you’re pinning your hopes for a bright future on the impossibly good performance of stock markets this last year, don’t.

HONORABLE MENTION

I think Jennifer Lawrence deserves an honorable mention. I’m not just saying this because she’s doing a superb job of playing the starring role in what’s turning out to be my favorite film series to date (the Hunger Games trilogy), but also because of who she is in real life. When was the last time you heard the words “straightforward”, “real”, and “humble” associated with a Hollywood actor? These are, and rightly, the words being used to describe Jennifer Lawrence. She’s a breath of fresh air! I think it’s great that she’s become so popular this year, especially with the next generation of girls. She’s a great role model! A prominent young woman who encourages girls to be both strong and humble. I think she deserves some recognition for that.

PERSON OF THE YEAR

Russian President Vladimir Putin. He deserves this award for sparing the Syrian people an unwanted U.S. bombing campaign, for sheltering freedom fighter Edward Snowden, and for through these measures, through the bailout of Ukraine, and all number of other ways, standing up to American and Western imperialism in a way that hasn’t been seen from the leader of a nation-state in decades, attempting to head up a sort of resistance block of poorer countries. A Person of the Year award should go to that individual whose actions changed the world the most in the last year. Love him or hate him, that individual was clearly Vladimir Putin. I don’t agree with all of Putin’s policies — I namely and especially disagree with his policies toward gay people — but I’m basically in his camp when it comes to matters of international affairs, including Russian patriotism. The patriotism of poor countries (and yes Russia qualifies) is objectively progressive, as it lends itself toward the advancement of global equality. In this sense, I see Vladimir Putin as the next Hugo Chavez: that figure who stepped into the political vacuum created by the passing of Chavez earlier this year to fill his shoes, and in a more credible way, in terms of offering leadership to those who would resist Western domination in general and American domination in particular; the figure who is today doing the most to carve out an alternative to the Americanization of the world.