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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

When one first thinks about it, one  would think the politics of not destroying civilization should be simple. It seems that "Not destroy civilization, Yes/No" would get a very high "Yes" vote.

In the immediate future in US political, however, its far more complicated than that, given that one party's position is "No", and the other party's position is "Maybe, a little bit of not destroying civilization, if its not too inconvenient".

So, how would we go about not destroying civilization, why is the politics of not destroying civilization so messy, and what in the hell can we do about it?

Going About Not Destroying Civilization

First, a caveat: there's a possibility that its too late, our goose is well and truly cooked ~ deep fried, in fact ~ and modern industrial civilization is a calamitous episode to be puzzled out by archeologists in the far distant future ~ whether human, more or less human, or something else altogether. The problem being recognized here is that global warming is not uniformly distributed, but rather global warming in polar regions is more dramatic than the average. As described at Arctic Climate Emergency, quoting from the 2007 IPCC:

"Methane is stored in the soils in areas of permafrost, and warming increases the likelihood of a positive feedback in the climate system via permafrost melting and the release of trapped methane into the atmosphere.

"Both forms of methane [permafrost and methane hydrate] release represent a potential threshold in the climate system. As the climate warms, the likelihood of the system crossing a threshold for a sudden release increases. Since these changes produce changes in the radiative forcing through changes in the greenhouse gas concentrations, the climatic impacts of such a release are the same as an increase in the rate of change in the radiative forcing."
On the other hand, the runaway positive feedback possibility is just that: a possibility. If the positive feedback that results from Arctic methane releases is more limited, it may amplify and accelerate global warming, but without leading to the more explosive situation of a runaway positive feedback loop.

So if we are not sitting on a climate bomb that has already been triggered but just hasn't gone off yet. ...

That is, if its not like the dam blowing up in Force 10 from Navarone, where the damage is actually caused by something that gets a runaway feedback going, and our intervention just gets the process going ...

... well then, if its not too late, what do we do to keep the damage down to a level that allows our civilization to survive? How do we not destroy civilization, assuming its still a possibility?

Lots of people have been looking at this, and in the 2012 edition of their Energy [R]evolution report, Greenpeace argues that it is, Their approach is based on five basic points:

  • Increase human well-being without fossil fuels.
  • Fair energy access for all, including the 1.7 - 2 billion people left without power in our current fossil-fuel based energy system.
  • Respect for natural limits: use no more resources than the Earth can provide us and don’t emit more than the Earth and the atmosphere can take back (in particular CO₂ emissions).
  • Phase out dirty, dangerous fuels like coal and nuclear.
  • Use proven, existing renewable energy. Every technology described in the Energy [R]evolution scenario or pathway already exists and has been proven to work.
The approach follows a two track approach: rapidly invest in increased energy efficiency, and rapidly invest in the conversion of our energy supply system from non-renewable and unsustainable energy sources to sustainable, renewable power.

The Sunday Train has focused heavily on the first of these two tracks, with the substantial energy efficiency gains of a national long haul electric freight rail network, investment in local trolleybus, electric light rail, and electric heavy rail transport, and investment in electric high speed intercity rail transport. If supported by effective rezonining, many of the these investments offer substantial leverage for even greater energy savings through reorienting our sprawl suburban development system that encourages every greater miles traveled per person per year with a clustered suburban and urban village development system that encourages an ongoing reduction in the travel-miles imposed by the sprawl suburban development system.

And in the Steel Interstate policy in particular, the Sunday Train has also looked at the second of these two tracks, with the proposal to utilize the right of ways and physical infrastructure of the national long haul electric freight rail network to also provide for a network of Electricity Superhighways, providing high efficiency long distance grid to grid transport of electricity, which substantially reduces the volatility of sustainable renewable power sources by averaging total supply over a wider area, and which leverages existing hydropower storage capacity.

Now, the program laid out is an ambitious one. However, the potential benefit is in line with the ambition of the program: compared to a Reference scenario in which CO2 emissions increase by 62% by 2050, under the more aggressive of the two Emergy [R]evolution scenarios, Global Energy related CO2 emissions are 85% below 1990 levels.

Changes in the global transport system play a major role in this. From the Energy Blue Print (pdf):  

Global transport: In the transport sector it is assumed that, energy consumption will continue to increase under the Energy [R]evolution scenario up to 2020 due to fast growing demand for services. After that it falls back to the level of the current demand by 2050. Compared to the Reference scenario, transport energy demand is reduced overall by 60% or about 90,000 PJ/a by 2050. Energy demand for transport under the Energy [R]evolution scenario will therefore increase between 2009 and 2050 by only 26% to about 60,500 PJ/a. Significant savings are made from a shift towards smaller cars triggered by economic incentives together with a significant shift in propulsion technology towards electrified power trains – together with reducing vehicle kilometres travelled per year. In 2030, electricity will provide 12% of the transport sector’s total energy demand in the Energy [R]evolution, while in 2050 the share will be 44%. (2012: p. 18)

So, why are the politics so messy?

One party saying to go for saving civilization, and the other saying to wait a minute, think about maybe doing it, but only if it doesn't cost too much ... well, given human nature, that seems perfectly understandable.

But one party saying wait a minute, think about maybe doing it, but only if it doesn't cost so much, and the other one saying hell no, we aint supporting any policy to save civilization, no way and no how, nuh, uhn, uhn! ... that suggests that there is something else going on.

Back in February 2012, Jonathan Chait wrote an analysis in the New Yorker as to what in the hell is going on with the modern Republican Party, 2012 or Never, with the subtitle: "Republicans are worried this election could be their last chance to stop history. This is fear talking. But not paranoia."

The key to the article is the analysis of what has been happening in US politics since the "Great U-Turn" of the early 1970's:

In 1969, Kevin Phillips, then an obscure Nixon-­administration staffer, wrote The Emerging Republican Majority, arguing that Republicans could undo FDR’s New Deal coalition by exploiting urban strife, the unpopularity of welfare, and the civil-rights struggle to pull blue-collar whites into a new conservative bloc. The result was the modern GOP.
The problem is, no governing majority coalition is a permanent governing majority coalition., and the clock is running out on the "Emerging Republican Majority". The GOP is running out of Angry White Men, exacerbated by the fact that many of the younger Angry White Men are angry at the GOP's backers rather than angry at "urban strife, welfare and the civil rights struggle". For example, if the 1988 electorate had the demographics of the 2008 electorate, Mike Dukakis would have been elected President.

How to respond to the demographic challenge that the electorate is no longer structure so your former majority is a majority? Chait points to one obvious line of attack that many saw at the time:

... the most surprising response to the election of 2008 is what did not happen. Following Obama’s win, all sorts of loose talk concerning the Republican predicament filled the air. How would the party recast itself? Where would it move left, how would it find common ground with Obama, what new constituencies would it court?

The most widely agreed-upon component of any such undertaking was a concerted effort to win back the Hispanic vote. ...

In the wake of his defeat, strategists like Karl Rove and Mike Murphy urged the GOP to abandon its stubborn opposition to reform. Instead, incredibly, the party adopted a more hawkish position, with Republicans in Congress rejecting even quarter-loaf compromises like the Dream Act and state-level officials like Jan Brewer launching new restrictionist crusades. This was, as Thomas Edsall writes in The Age of Austerity, “a major gamble that the GOP can continue to win as a white party despite the growing strength of the minority vote.”

None of this is to say that Republicans ignored the rising tide of younger and browner voters that swamped them at the polls in 2008. Instead they set about keeping as many of them from the polls as possible. ...
Jonathan Chait offers this as the explanation that fits political choices made by the Republicans over the past two years that are difficulty to make sense of otherwise:
The way to make sense of that foolhardiness is that the party has decided to bet everything on its one “last chance.” Not the last chance for the Republican Party to win power—there will be many of those, and over time it will surely learn to compete for nonwhite voters—but its last chance to exercise power in its current form, as a party of anti-government fundamentalism powered by sublimated white Christian identity politics.

Democratic Politics in a Democratic Majority Era

Well, so there's the "hell no we aint saving this civilization!" policy choice. How to explain the "maybe we'll save civilization if its not too much trouble?" policy choice?

Here I use an aside in Jonathon Chait's analysis as a springboard:

Bill Clinton appropriated some elements of this conservative coalition by rehabilitating his party’s image on welfare and crime (though he had a little help from Ross Perot, too).
Bill Clinton was more than just a small state Governor that went on to win a 3-Way Race for the White House ... he was the architect of the Clinton Wing of the Democratic Party, what I often call the "Hedge Fund" wing of the Democratic party for short. And it was common in many Western Democracies for the political parties more aligned to Social Democracy in the 30's and 40's to experiment with "Third Wave" policies in the 80's and 90's to adjust to what was called a rising "conservative" tide but which in many cases, as with the "Conservative" movement in the US or the National Front in France, would be more accurately described as a rising reactionary tide.

And of course, President Obama is not just the incubment in the White House, but is also the leader of the Hedge Fund wing of the Democratic Party, as seen in a Justice Department that refused to prosecute the bankers who committed control fraud that led to the Panic of 2008 and the appointment of a bankster supporting Secretary of the Treasury.

The fundamental conservatism of the Obama Presidency should be no surprise to anybody. Given the audaciousness of pursuing a serious run for the White House as a very junior Black Senator from Illinois, with all the automatic reactionary opposition that was guaranteed to generate in any event, it would be unrealistic to expect an aggressively progressive policy stance on top of that.

However, win or lose, there will not be an Obama Presidency in 2017, and so even in looking to the medium term, let alone the long term, we must consider life after the Obama administration.

In the short term, there are people running today who, if elected, will be serving in 2017: the candidates for the US Senate. The Senate is where progressive legislation normally goes to die. The combination of the rising impacts of global warming, the ongoing demographic shift, and the likely economic consequences of the economic cluelessness of both major party establishments means that the Senate races of 2016 will be fighting on a substantially different political terrain than the same seats were facing in 2010. However, no matter how much the terrain will have shifted, it will only be 1/3 of the 2017 Senate being elected in that year, and 1/3 of the 2017 Senate will be those running for election this year.

In terms of the terrain of this race, due to the 2006 "wave" election, in the current Senate seats up for election, 21 Democrats, 2 Independents caucusing with the Democrats, and 10 Republicans were up for election. From the Nate Silver's political horse racing guide,, there are 13 Democrats with a 90% or better chance of winning, 1 independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and 6 Republicans. As far as races rate 70% to 90% chances, there is one independent, in Maine, three Democrats, in Wisconsin, Connecticut and Virginia, and two Republican, in North Dakota and Nevada. And four races are inside 30%:70% chances of victory for either side:

  • Montana 64.1% R
  • Nevada 60.6% R
  • Indiana 53.4% D
  • Massachusetts 64.9% D

In only a few of these races is there anyone running who would be a serious, enthusiastic supporter of not destroying civilization. Most are between politicians who are enthusiastic supporters of destroying civilization and opponents who are either lukewarm supporters of destroying civilization or lukewarm opponents of destroying civilization. Still, the less bad the make-up of the re-elected or freshman Senate class of 2012, the less Senate lag there will be in the event of making a breakthrough in 2016.

In terms of the House of Representatives, in many states the partisan make-up of the House delegations are baked in by partisan gerrymandering. In these states, the partisan primaries decide the House make-up, not infrequently with less than a quarter of the electorate participating. However, there has been a movement to break up corrupt Democratic and Republican gerrymanders that make a mockery of the idea of Representative democracy by having the representatives pick their constituents, rather than the other way around. A system less prone to extreme partisan gerrymandering has been put in place in several states over the past decade, and an issue to bring genuine democracy to the election of the House of Representatives has been brought to the Ohio ballot this fall. Surely, however, the biggest prize in the fight against the gerrymander would be Texas, where aggressive gerrymandering is one important element in depressing Hispanic American turnout in elections.

But if we are indeed entering a period of a natural Democratic Majority, the challenge facing the nation is the entrenched behavior of Democrats, learned over the past four decades, of acting as if their best ideas are minority ideas, combined with the top to bottom corruption of our economic system, which is the most truly bipartisan feature of our political system.

Who Are Going To Be the Whigs?

Over the longer term, the urgency of the fight to save our civilization from its own worst excesses figures to be as traumatic politically as the fight over the institution of slavery in the middle of the 19th century.

Which leads to the question ... which of the present two political parties are going to be the Whigs, with two wings forming up on opposite sides of the most central question of the day, and therefore ripped apart as the question comes to a head?

After all, the Civil War did not mark the transition from the Jacksonian Democratic Majority of frontier development politics fueled by racist treaty abrogation and land grabs to a Whig Majority, it marked the transition to the first Republican Majority, unbroken except for Grover Cleveland, through the rise of the Gilded Age and the rise of the United States to the largest economy in the world.

And as far as the early 21st century, it may be the Democrats who are at greatest risk, with the Democratic establishment dominated by the neoliberal Hedge Fund wing of the party of Clinton and Obama, but a substantial primary base electorate who believe, instead, in Social Democracy. In order to win a national Democratic primary fight, a candidate has to talk a Social Democracy game, as well as the importance of Green Jobs and Civil Rights ... but a primary base electorate emboldened by the vision that their party is the natural majority party might become more demanding regarding candidates who talk the Social Democratic language, but legislate and act as members of the corporatist Neoliberal Hedge Fund wing.

Much of the outcome depends on whether the Hedge Fund wing remains in control of the party. Had the Anti-Slavery Whigs triumphed in their intra-party fight with the Pro-Slavery Whigs, then the Pro-Slavery Whigs would likely have been driven out into some form of alliance with the Democrats, and the Anti-Slavery Whigs would likely have collected many of the same coalition members that in history joined together to form the Republican Party. So in addition to the scenario of the Democratic party ripped apart by intra-party conflict, with those in favor of saving civilization purged from the party and forced to make their own way, there is also a scenario in which the Democratic party takes on the challenge, and those unwilling to join the fight move across to a Republican Party in the national political wilderness.

And The Trains?

As I have argued previously, with Energy Independence front and center of the discussion, there are many things that could be done quite quickly if the United States were to start to act to take on the crises it already faces. If the country is on an emergency footing with regards to transport, and can simply transfer road space that is presently wasted on the motor vehicle transport system, we can very quickly establish safe and effective pedestrian and cycling paths. We could very quickly begin the wholesale conversion of our diesel bus fleet to pluggable hybrid vehicles. With only a little more lead time we could begin establishing trunk trolleybus routes. Indeed, since we would first place pluggable hybrids on key transport routes, at the same time as we establish trolleybus routes, the pluggable hybrid buses can take over additional routes.

In the establishment of clustered suburban village centers to break down grossly inefficient single use zoning, the new suburban village cores can be designated because of accessibility to common carrier public transport routes. The material efficiency of redesigning a sprawl suburb by providing it with a village core is substantial, with a 1/2 miles radius suburban village core occupying only 4% of the area of a 2.5 mile hinterland, while bringing the entire hinterland in reach of the core via neighborhood electric vehicles, ebikes and bikes.

However, for some transport tasks, by far the most energy efficient solution relies on steel wheels on steel rails. And the lead time there can be far more substantial. If pursued as a matter one step below wartime emergency, the Millennium Institute models the establishment of a complete Steel Interstate system as taking six years. A more incremental approach, involving first establishing a pilot project, then establishing a backbone national network, then extending it to the entire Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET), would take ten to fifteen years. Even without funding headaches, building a new light rail line is normally a process that takes years, building a new subway a process that takes even more years. Building an all-new intercity transport alignment for an 500 mile High Speed Rail corridor normally takes ten to twenty years.

As appealing as rail is for its energy efficiency, after over a century of strong financial discrimination against rail and in favor of road transport, we do not have either the local or the intercity rail systems where we can just buy new trains and put on new services to address the need to substantially reduce our automotive mode share. And so there is a lot of track to lay, if we are to build a transportation system with the energy efficiency and ease of electrification to meet the kind of CO2 emissions targets set out in the Energy Blue Print.

The Transport Energy [R]evolution is, of course, only one of many. We need an Energy [R]evolution in Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Commercial and Residential Construction. We need to fight the pernicious influence of our overgrown, bloated finance sector and the gross inefficiency and waste that results from the real resources it diverts as a result of its paper games. None of these are optional: all of these are essential.

So those pushing for the Transport Energy [R]evolution are certainly not in any sense the only or highest priority game in town. However, given the massive CO2 footprint of motor vehicle transport in the US, second only to electricity generation, and sufficient together with electricity generation to account for half of our CO2 emissions, it is one of the important games in town.

Given the likely political turmoil of the coming decade, those pushing for urgently needed investment in more energy efficient rail transport may find it at times most strategic to shy away from becoming embroiled in the partisan fight of the day. The best outcome, for getting an appropriate corridor acquired and the track infrastructure laid down to allow transport services to begin, is for it to go ahead on a basis that will not be upset when one competing party of government gives way to the other.

The former Majoritarian Republican Party of Nixon through W Bush is now, in its last gasp gamble to grab onto and hold power for just a little longer, has in many places gone all in against rail. And so, as I will discuss next week, the fight for a rail project can take on a distinct partisan tinge, and it becomes necessary to do what can be done to try to punish those who have taken a stand in favor of an unsustainable status quo and against allowing a more sustainable alternative to be made available.

But for the vast majority of the people on both sides of the partisan divide, there are strong benefits to having more sustainable transport options available. So the advocacy of the establishment of more sustainable transport options has to take care regarding getting caught up in the partisan struggle for power for its own sake.

Midnight Oil ~ Read About It

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 05:57 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great diary, thanks. (8+ / 0-)

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 06:36:02 PM PDT

  •  Pay people to do your conserving for you. (6+ / 0-)

    When I visited Oakland 7 years ago, there was an article in a paper I read, that said of BART, "people must be paying for someone else to use it, because very few of them ride it themselves.

    I wanted to write back and ask 3 questions:

    1) If people were paying others to ride, would it be any different from a cap and trade system on CO2 emissions? (THis was back when cap and trade was a conservative idea, much like Romneycare' which the conservatives wold disown when they feared Obama would take up the cause.)

    2) If they were paying others to ride consciously, wouldn't they be willing to pay for a more extensive system?

    3)If Republicans accepted it as a variant of cap and trade, would they insist that energy independence should only come through Big Oil, Big Coal, and Big Nuclear?

    Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

    by Judge Moonbox on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 06:49:25 PM PDT

    •  Since those riding are providing net ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... benefits to those driving, why SHOULDN'T drivers pay them to ride?

      Why in the hell should motorists get a free ride on the back of BART passengers? Talk about a bunch of entitled free loaders ~ drivers in a congested urban area, expecting to get the use of crowded streets for free.

      If they want other people to give way by taking the BART, it makes perfect sense for them to pay. What would be outrageous would be them receiving the benefit and NOT paying.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:35:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We're 40 Years Along In Returning Civilization to (10+ / 0-)

    its rightful owners. The political parties are not the drivers of politics, our owners are.

    And our owners understand that humanity can't cause a deep enough, broad enough catastrophe prior to mass human dieoff, to threaten ownership enough for ownership to worry about. Ownership and its support structures are going to be fine no matter what. So that's all that matters in our politics. This isn't the cold war, the climate is not threatening to do to owners what Soviet nukes threatened.

    It's in ownership's interests to drive humanity off the cliff.

    And that's why there's no party for hell-yes-let's-save-humanity.

    And that is what we have to take up beginning Nov. 7th. How to get society to a point where rational ideas like yours are in the interests of whatever forces control it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 06:56:18 PM PDT

    •  Yes, I recall a comment I made in .. (12+ / 0-)

      ... some smaller discussion forum, where a commentator talked about the Iraq invasion of the Republican imagination, and said something like "if only there was an invasion force that could overpower our military and impose a democracy with respect for civil rights and the right to dissent upon us".

      And my comment was, there is indeed a force on earth mighty enough to overpower our military, but climate change has no particular interest in establishing a democracy, respecting civil rights, and maintaining a social space for dissent.

      The world and its ecosystem has been through this before, though as far as we know more as a result of an outbreak of volcanic activity leading to a runaway positive feedback loop. Lots of species go extinct, lots of ecological networks are in tatters, the ocean acidifies due to carbonic acid, but the web life itself on a geological timescale is a self-healing system.

      If we want to work toward all those goodies in some future society, the burden of proof is on us that we can develop a society that does not destroy its own resource foundation. Or else part of the self-healing in the system will be involve knocking our civilization flat, as other civilizations have been knocked flat before us.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 07:11:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We are at that point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, Judge Moonbox

    To the degree that people digest the consequences of global warming in the next few years, we have a chance to focus political system capabilities on the required action.

    Your vision of an environmentally sound transportation system can transform America as much as the highway system did starting under Eisenhower.  We will still exist, function, grow and enjoy life.

    A lot of food for thought in your diary BruceMcF.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:39:51 PM PDT

    •  Today it's clear which party represents... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judge Moonbox

      ...the best chance we have;

      Global Warming Links Democrats, Independents Isolating Romney

      In recent weeks, Maibach and researchers from Yale University polled the 7 percent of voters who said they were undecided and asked them about climate and energy attitudes and policies. Those voters’ views were similar to those of Obama voters, with more than 60 percent saying it was one of the top issues for them.

      Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

      by Shockwave on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:53:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's people ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, Judge Moonbox

        ... that's not parties. A sufficient voting block of Democratic Party elected representatives in Congress are to the right of the Democratic Electorate on global warming to sabotage effective policies for reducing CO2 emissions by 80% over the next four decades.

        Whether the Democratic electorate will let them get away with that is an open question. If the Democratic electorate does not, whether they purge those who put the future of our civilization above the short term interests of corporations, or whether instead they lose their current power inside the Democratic party establishment, is also an open question.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:17:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I do not think you're being particularly (0+ / 0-)

    fair to Obama given the situation he walked into and the hand he was dealt. The fact is that because he effectively threw away 2010 elections we have a health care law finally going fully into effect and while yes people will gripe about it the fact is this law will allow Vermont to have single payer in 2017 among many other things.

    I also don't think climate change will kill humanity but it will change it and the US could be on the losing end of that stick.

    I do agree though that ultimately we must think beyond Obama's reelection if we want to move the needle from anywhere besides insanely regressively conservative

    •  I never said anything about climate change ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... killing humanity. Why read that in? The end of our modern industrial civilization is not the end of humanity (and the end of humanity wouldn't be the end of planet earth).

      Indeed, we have indications of some previous civilizations that have crashed as a consequence of ecological over-reach ~ the early Greek civilization, Easter Island, the Mayans.

      As far as being hard or not on the President, all I point out here is that he is governing as a neoliberal corporatist who supports the neoliberal fantasy view of the economy. That includes cutting the deficit in a period of slack labor markets somehow magically grows the economy. And he is running, after all, on a policy platform of cutting the social safety net, which as a progressive economist I would argue there is absolutely no reason to do.

      Of course, if he had been able to get a serious Green Jobs bill passed in the 2011-2012 Congress, he would be facing under 8% unemployment and 5% or lower unemployment in Ohio, and would be winning the election at a trot.

      But the Hedge Fund wing of the Democratic Party will be as bad as the Republican party lets them get away with, and with the Republican party being this bad, that lets the Obama administration get away with moving quite a bit farther to the right than he could get away with otherwise.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:13:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  my apologies (0+ / 0-)

        I didn't mean to read into your comment (the only thing I can offer is I was having a discussion about that when I wrote the comment so that's probably why I saw it in your diary)

        And I simply just utterly disagree with your characterization of this 'hedge fund'. You can clearly see the difference in clean energy on things like the  wind tax credit. Just my opnion but Obama only 'moved' right when he had to.

        But as I said I agree that we need to think beyond Obama and about moving the needle left. I think that in a way the north east could be a leader in that both in clean energy, rail and single payer because right now we're fightnig 30 years of 'government isn't the solution it's the problem'.

        That imo is the real enemy we're fighting

        •  If 'have to' includes ... (3+ / 0-)

          ... having to aim to get continued large contributions from the finance sector, then yes, you can make a bit of an argument that Obama only moved to the right, appointing a neoliberal Secretary of the Treasury and having his Justice Department avoid prosecuting the largest wave of control fraud in the finance sector since the 1920's, because he "had to".

          However that 'have to' does not seem to include pushing the false neoliberal theories regarding the need for a sovereign economy to "balance its budget" when it is the monopoly issuer of the currency that its debt is issued in. According to Obama's statements on the economy while running originally and as President, he believes in the neoliberal fantasies regarding the economy.

          And that "have to" does not seem to include pushing the corporate unfettered wealth transfer agreements, misnamed "trade agreements", which Senator Obama voted for as a Senator, Candidate Obama supported as a Candidate and President Obama has supported as President. They are raw power grabs on behalf of international and transnational corporations, and given that when they are contested they often pass over the opposition of a large number of Democratic Representatives, they are one of the clearest indicators we have of which elected Democrats are in the Hedge Fund wing.

          If the Democrats want more sluggish economy performance, they would be well advised to nominate another Hedge Fund democrat in 2016, as a Hedge Fund Democrat is going to deliver more of the same. When Bill Clinton claimed that there wasn't any President who could have done more regarding the recovery from the Panic of 2008, that "any President" does not include FDR, Truman, Kennedy or LBJ.

          Its not as if the Hedge Fund Democrats are the worst possible alternative. The Hedge Fund Democrats are in a natural opposition to Big Oil, which is one of the largest backers of the Republican business wing, and while the Wall Street is perfectly happy to see continued government support for Renewable Energy, the Big-Oil backers of the Republican Party are against it.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:54:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  and the credit card reform? (0+ / 0-)

            the stimulus?

            I just don't see how you can make that argument in light of the totality of what Obama did. Yes Getinher (sp) as treasury is not who I would have chosen

            And let's be clear no matter how much we all and likely most of the American people might have wished for a lynching any real investigation was going to take years and frankly I doubt there will ever be charges simply because it's such a fucked up situation. That's not how I wish it was but it is what it is.

            Further let's be clear here even FDR who arguably is the only president ever to inherit a worse situation had issues. In fact even after 8 years of spending the US economy was still struggling it really was WW2 that finally gave gas to the economy so while I salute FDR for all that he is done let's not look though rose colored glasses on FDR.

            Honestly if you think Obama supports big oil I utterly disagree with that it is because of Obama we're talking about removing the susidies for oil, that rail is progressing and that the US is in the begining of a possible explosion in renewables.

            Just imagine what we could do, how much we could move the needle from 'government sucks' with another 4 years and then a even more liberal president.

            That's all I am saying

            •  Can you get a better example than the ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              poligirl, gooderservice

              ... stimulus? Even Paul Krugman, inside the frame of neoliberal economics but in pursuit of progressive objectives, pointed out in advance that the Stimulus was too limited.

              As far as thinking that the President supports Big Oil, I am wondering about your willingness to read the worse that are written:

              Its not as if the Hedge Fund Democrats are the worst possible alternative. The Hedge Fund Democrats are in a natural opposition to Big Oil, which is one of the largest backers of the Republican business wing, and while the Wall Street is perfectly happy to see continued government support for Renewable Energy, the Big-Oil backers of the Republican Party are against it.
              How in the hell can you read "the Hedge Fund Democrats are in natural opposition to Big Oil" and come to the conclusion that I said that President Obama supports Big Oil?

              He certainly supports expanded oil production, oil fracking, and natural gas fracking, but unlike the Republicans he does not exclusively support those destructive activities. He also supports things that Big Oil hates, like High Speed Rail and Windpower.

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              by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 08:34:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  the problem with (0+ / 0-)

                saying the stimulus was too small was it was the largest that could be passed.

                So is it Obama's fault that what may or may not be needed (I'm no economicist to judge really) did not equate to political reality?

                And yes Obama expanded production of oil while also pushing renewables, are you seriously going to argue he should have ignored oil completely in favor of something that won't really be felt anywhere but locally for a while?

                That's a great way to lose the WH and have all that progress undone. Just think what would have happened if Carter had won reelection, instead he lost and Nixon undid all the work Carter had done on renewable

                •  How would we ever know? (0+ / 0-)

                  He never asked for a sufficient stimulus.

                  His policy platform at the convention (that is, his convention speech promises and the filtering of the other prime time convention speeches) is a promise of mild austerity in place of the severe austerity of the Romney approach. At a time when we do not need austerity.

                  He's always talked as if reductions in the structural deficit are a good idea in the aftermath of a financial disaster. Which is more of the neoliberal nonsense from the economists who confidently told us in 2006 that we were not in a property bubble.

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                  by BruceMcF on Tue Oct 02, 2012 at 08:46:28 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  by the by (0+ / 0-)

                if you want to see why I am 'willing to read the worse that are writtien' see gooder's response.

                I barely paid attention to politics till 2008 and even then are got involved near the end (oddly enough because of a post on an anime forum linked to here). I didn't register because by the time I really considered it already the judgement had started. I came back and registered because I wanted to talk about trains to find that within a couple weeks of being here I saw a rather stupid cartoon right in the middle of the DNC.

                So I guess what I have been tap dancing around is just how much blame you want to assign to Obama? You call him a 'hedge fund' democrat as if it's insult (and maybe it should be), you insist that Obama accomplish political miracles  and it's frustrating.

                I get it, I want to snap my fingers and have everything change over night. But that's not how politics in the US works and for good reason. Right now my concern is Obama, the Senate and the House. Then we can talk about building on things in 2016 but that's just my opinion.

                I leave last word to you

                •  I'm not engaged in laying blame. (0+ / 0-)

                  First, that was a typo. It was supposed to be reading the words that are not written. You claimed that I wrote the exact opposite of what I actually wrote. I said that the Hedge Fund interest is in natural opposition to Big Oil. There is no way to from there to your claim that I said Big Oil backs Obama. Your claim is either a careless misreading or a deliberate misrepresentation.

                  Second, I don't see why you keep trying to change the topic I have been addressing and shift it to the questions of blame.

                  I am talking about the policy positions of Obama's wing of the party, and whether they are policies that can solve the problems that face us.

                  Why would I blame Obama for holding the economic part of his positions? He's held neoliberal positions from the outset, he ran on neoliberal positions, he won on them. The way a democracy works is when a politician runs on position A, and pursued position A, he's doing what he's supposed to do. Its up to opponents of those policies to convince people to stop supporting politicians who run on those policies.

                  If there is blame to be laid there, the blame lies with a system that filters out presidential contenders to the representatives of the corporate wing of their parties and the voters who fall for it.

                  The people upset with Obama's brutal foreign policy of blowing the crap out of weddings and funerals and other events to attempt to kill one or a few of the people at the wedding, the reversal on the closure of Guantanamo, the continuation of Bush's assault on our civil rights in the name of fighting terror ~ well, he promised he would do the opposite of what he ended up doing, so they would certainly be in a position to blame Obama if they backed him based on progressive foreign policy position promised that he reneged on in office. I never took those promises seriously, so I never went through the same sense of betrayed promised that they went through.

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                  by BruceMcF on Tue Oct 02, 2012 at 09:07:51 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  I think the system ate my comment :/ (0+ / 0-)

            and I don't feel like redoing the entire thing.

            In summary there's credit card bill, lily ledbetter, student loan reform etc etc yes Geithner (sp) was a disappointing pick but the fact is any prosecutions were going to be unlikely unless you literally caught people with their hand in the cookie jar. I say this because first it is hard to prove most white collar crimes because they depend somewhat on less phyiscal evidence and proving intent (always a trickier subject) and second because Obama is not really a raging populist and he certainly had other things to do at the time.

            Is that a shame? Yes but I don't think it warrants the conclusions you're making.

            Reversing 30 years of 'government is the problem' mentality will not be done by Obama or 2 terms or even possibly by 2020 (assuming we get another democrat elected in 2016). This nation did not go hard right over night and it will not revert back over night either

            just my opinion

            •  :sigh: nvm there is the other comment (0+ / 0-)
            •  We have left the finance system ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              poligirl, gooderservice

              ... in a position of being able to fail catastrophically a second time. We still have private debt at well over 200% of GDP.

              As you say, the President is not a "raging Populist". Which from my perspective sound like you are agreeing with me: any President taking action to reform the finance sector on the level that we need would necessarily be labeled a populist. Shying away from being labeled a populist implies shying away from doing the things that need to be done if the system is to be fixed, and leaving the administration with a series of "engine tune-up" achievements when the transmission remains in danger of falling out of the car.

              You can point to, if you wish, that the minimum necessary is more than the maximum that is politically feasible, but it remains the minimum that is necessary. If our political system cannot deliver the minimum that is necessary to avoid a recurrence of a financial crisis on the scale of the Panic of 2008, then in order to do the minimum necessary to avoid the destruction of our civilization, clearly the maximum of what is politically feasible has got to move, because it is made up of social rules, and the minimum that is necessary is driven by actual physical cause and effect relationships in the real world.

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              by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 08:45:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  to an extent I do agree (0+ / 0-)

                I just also disagree to an extent too in so much of the mindset of 'blame Obama'  that I have seen in various places.

                •  The point I'm focusing on is ... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... that what Obama is trying to accomplish falls short of what we need to be trying to accomplish.

                  I don't see that that's a matter of blaming Obama, since anyone reading his Audacity of Hope would have known in 2007 that he was offering a neoliberal Hedge Fund Democratic approach. The mix of sweeping rhetoric describing the massive challenges we face and small, inadequate policy solutions was out there as public information long before he won the nomination.

                  Now, he also ran as a civil libertarian, especially in international affairs, so those who supported him primarily because of those positions have a right to claim that they were duped. But on economics, he ran as a neoliberal, so it would be silly to "blame" him for governing as a neoliberal.

                  Its not even a matter of blaming the 2008 Democratic primary electorate, since it turned out the only credible candidate offering a platform in line with what we need suffered from slippery zipper syndrome and would have been obliterated if he had won the nomination.

                  But looking ahead, its a mistake to deliberately blind ourselves to the fact that the Hedge Fund Democrats are substantially limited in terms of how far they can go in the direction that we need to go, just because we are in the middle of General Election season and its time to decide which is the better of the two corporatist candidates on offer. Sure, its more emotionally satisfying to convince ourselves that Obama is Great and Romney is Horrible, but in terms of the Economy, the reality is that Romney is Horrible and Obama is Not Nearly So Horrible.

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                  by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 09:43:05 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  and your closing is what I (0+ / 0-)

                    utterly and completely disagree with

                    And before you say it, no that is not saying that Obama is godly either but he certainly is not 'not nearly so horrible'

                    •  If we can't get there from here ... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... economically on the back of promised and counter-productive cuts to the deficit, and on the back of an "all of the above" Energy Policy, then, yes, we have two politicians offering sets of policies that will both do harm, that will neither do the minimum good required, but one will do substantially more harm than the other, and the other will not fall so far short of the minimum good that is required, that's "not nearly so horrible".

                      It cannot be escaped that the hundreds of children killed in a policy that undermines American national security in a "War on Terror" that generates new terrorists as it kills a few terrorists and a large number of innocent civilians is horrible. So when neither party offers to end the "War on Terror" that generates more terror, but one promises to waste less of our blood and terror on that misguided and doomed effort to maintain the American Base Network Empire system, that's "not quite so horrible".

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                      by BruceMcF on Tue Oct 02, 2012 at 08:36:24 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  obviously we disagree so I leave it there (0+ / 0-)
                        •  The disagreement seems to be on how to approach .. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          ... policy.

                          I'm approaching policy from the perspective of first asking how the world works, what are the problems we face, what are the range of possible policies, what are their advantages and disadvantages, what policies to support and oppose and only then looking at what is being offered by Team Red and Team Blue and evaluating it in the light of the citizen's own critical analysis.

                          So when I argue that the policy position of a politician as being incapable of averting disaster, the automatic assumption that I am somehow blaming the politician for the policy positions he holds ... it seems quite bizarre to me.

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                          by BruceMcF on Tue Oct 02, 2012 at 09:28:05 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

    •  And the other 49 states? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The fact is that because he effectively threw away 2010 elections we have a health care law finally going fully into effect and while yes people will gripe about it the fact is this law will allow Vermont to have single payer in 2017 among many other things
      If Obama hadn't made a deal behind closed doors to kill the public option, people FROM EVERY STATE would have had a chance to not only get health insurance but actual healthcare without having to pay the greedy middlemen from the corporate health insurance companies whose only purpose in their business is to make a profit.

      The ACA is so watered down, just like the stimulus, that still millions of people will not have health insurance  but more importantly not have access to affordable healthcare.  

      You can correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the federal government was there to govern for all people, not just some who will be afforded benefits of living in a civil society.

      Obama wasn't dealt a hand, he chose this "hand" years ago for good or bad and has done everything to be in charge of this "hand."

      I do not think you're being particularly fair to Obama given the situation he walked into and the hand he was dealt.
      Granted, he "walked" into, for lack of a better word, and believe me, yeah, there are so many other words to choose form here, an economic crisis.  But it was not unforeseen.  It wasn't like, "Surprise, no one could have ever predicted."  Many people knew this was coming. He choose to walk into it.  Fine.  Good.  I donated, volunteered for, and voted for him and was happy when he won.

      I am not that same person now as to what I think or how I feel about him, nor is he the same person who ran for this office.  He had every chance to really make a difference for the good but he threw that away.  I can't attest to his motives as to why, but he did.  Crumbs are not self-sustaining.

      He's the one who's not being fair, not the diarist.

      •  the public option was DOA (0+ / 0-)

        because of the votes, it happened move on or not.  But if not then you'll excuse me (or not) for having a hard time taking you seriously.

        Progress is almost exclusively incremental and that's what the AHCA is, incremental progress that will also allow for states to set up their own single payer options (which vermont is doing.

        Frankly I think the problem here is perception, you're inclined to see crumbles when really there's a loaf there. It might not have been precisely the type of bread we wanted and it's a little oddly shaped but it's a loaf. And if we want more and better then we work with what we have.

        Pragmatism and praticalism are not dirty words.

        And yes Obama walked into it, the bottom dropped out of the economy literally months before the election. Obama's only other choice was to quit and give it to McCain, are you seriously going to argue he should have done that?

  •  Time to militarize rail transport. (3+ / 0-)

    That's what Eisenhower did to get us Interstates. Put it in the Pentagon budget, where the GOP cannot touch it.

    "Alcohol enables Congress to do things at eleven at night that no sane person would do at eleven in the morning." - George Bernard Shaw

    by Loose Fur on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:57:20 AM PDT

  •  Good piece, but I have some quibbles (0+ / 0-)

    While your science is impeccable, and I mostly agree with your assessment of the state of the political parties, it seems to me that what is totally missing from your analysis (other than the "Senate is where progressive legislation normally goes to die" paraphrase of a famous quote) is a sense that you have a firm grasp of our political system.

    The reason the Senate is the place where progressivism goes to die is embedded in our Constitution. And not by accident. In a parliamentary system, a small change in the aggregate opinion of the electorate can affect policy overnight. But our system was quite deliberately set up with the Senate as a body that all but makes that kind of rapid response impossible.  

    41% of the Senate can hold up progress forever if they choose and the President has very little power to do anything about it. So a few right-leaning states with a tiny fraction of the population can dictate policy to the majority. Without a huge change in our constitution, that is not going to change.  Barring that, the only hope we have is to increase the percentage of progressives in the country to the point that they control 60 or more seats in the Senate.

    The truth is Obama has governed about as liberally as permitted by the Congresses he has had.  

    People who state that Obama governs from the right have to totally ignore a laundry list of a hundred or more actions taken by the President that contradict that, sometimes using some powers that many heretofore were unaware he even had.  

    •  Was there a secret Constitutional Amendment? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The reason the Senate is the place where progressivism goes to die is embedded in our Constitution...
      41% of the Senate can hold up progress forever if they choose
      Excuse me, but where does the Constitution say this? I remember far fewer filibusters during the Bush administration. Was that a breakdown of respect for the Constitution?
      and the President has very little power to do anything about it.
      Why does he not have the option of demanding a straight up or down vote? If he threatened to take away the Republicans' favorite lie--the one about the "liberal media bias," would that have gone against the laws of nature?
      Without a huge change in our constitution, that is not going to change.
      If Romney is elected and the Republicans get a total of 51 Senators, the Secret Constitutional Amendment will be repealed as surreptitiously as it was ratified. I stake my reputation on it.

      Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

      by Judge Moonbox on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:51:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The premise is false. (0+ / 0-)

      If 51 Senators at the beginning of the Congressional session wished to abolish the filibuster, or limit it, or impose a rule that cloture is achieved immediately if 2/3 of the Senators making up a quorum answering a quorum call voted for cloture ... that would be the new rules.

      It was the refusal of a Democratic Senators at the start of the 2009 Congress to kill the filibuster that forced the Health Care reform to be passed under reconciliation, and it was the refusal of the Democratic Senators at the start of the 2011 Congress to kill the filibuster that allowed the abuse of the filibuster by the Republicans to continue.

      The Constitutional theory under which the Senate is a continuing body and bound by the rules of the preceding Senate, including a filibuster on a change in the rules at the start of the session, has already been over-ruled by the Court. Until the new rules of the new Senate have been enacted, the filibuster is open to being killed or constrained.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:40:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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