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.
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.