Hillary Clinton

Weekly Mulch: The Sticky Truth about Oil Spills and Tar Sands

by: The Media Consortium

Sun Jan 16, 2011 at 01:53

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

The National Oil Spill Commission released its report on last year's BP oil spill this week. The report laid out the blame for the spill, tagging each of the three companies working on the Deepwater Horizon at the time, Halliburton, Transocean and BP, and also offered prescriptions for avoiding similar disasters in the future.

As Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard notes, it's unlikely the recommendations will impact policy going forward.

"I think the recommendations are pretty tepid given the severity of the  crisis," Jackie Savitz, director of pollution campaigns at the  advocacy group Oceana, told Sheppard. "Even the small things they're  suggesting, I think it's going to be hard to convince Congress to make  those changes."

No transparency for you!

Last summer, after the spill, the Obama administration tried hard to look like it was pushing back against the oil industry, even though just weeks before the spill, the president had promised to open new areas of the East Coast to offshore drilling.

This week brought new evidence that, despite some posturing to the contrary, the administration is not exactly unfriendly to the energy industry. One of the key decisions the administration faces about the country's energy future is whether to support the Keystone XL, a pipeline that would pump oil from tar sands in Canada down to Texas refineries.  And one of the key lobbyists for TransCanada, the company intending to build the pipeline, is a former staffer for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, filed a Freedom of Information requesting correspondence between the lobbyist, Paul Elliott, and his former boss, but the State Department denied the request.

"We do not believe that the State Department has legitimate legal  grounds to deny our FOIA request, and assert that the agency is ignoring  its own written guidance regarding FOIA requests and the release of  public information," said Marcie Keever, the group's legal director, The Michigan Messenger's Ed Brayton reports. "This is the type of delay tactic we  would have expected from the Bush administration, not the Obama  administration, which has touted its efforts to usher in a new era of  transparency in government, including elevated standards in dealing with  lobbyists."

Tar sands' black mark

What are the consequences if the government approves the pipeline? As Care2's Beth Buczynski writes, "Communities along the Keystone XL pipeline's proposed path would face  increased risk of spills, and, at the pipeline's end, the   health of those living near Texas refineries would suffer, as tar sands   oil spews  higher levels of dangerous pollutants into the air when   processed."

What's more, the tar sands extraction process has already brought environmental devastation to the areas like Alberta, Canada, where tar sands mining occurs. Earth Island Journal's Jason Mark recently visited the Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, which he calls "impressively forthright" in its discussion of the environmental issues brought on by oil sands. (The museum is run by Alberta's provincial government.) Mark reports:

The section on habitat fragmentation was especially good. As one panel  put it, "Increasingly, Alberta's remaining forested areas resemble  islands of trees in a larger network of cut lines, well sites, mine,  pipeline corridors, plant sites, and human settlements. ... Forest  disturbances can also encourage increased predation and put some plants  and animals at risk."

Not renewable, just new

The museum that Mark visited also made clear that extracting and refining oil from tar sands is a labor-intensive practice. He writes:

Mining, we learn, is just the  start. Then the tar has to be "upgraded" into synthetic petroleum via a  process that involves "conditioning," "separation" into a bitumen froth,  then "deaeration" to take out gases, and finally injection into a  dual-system centrifuge that removes the last of the solids. Next comes  distillation, thermal conversion, catalytic conversion, and  hydrotreating. At that point the recombined petroleum is ready to be  refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. It all felt like a  flashback to high school chemistry.

Why bother with this at all? In short, because with easily accessible sources of oil largely tapped out, techniques like tar sands mining and deepwater drilling are the only fonts of oil available. This problem is going to get worse, as The Nation is explaining over the next few weeks in its video series on peak oil.

Energy and the economy

Traditional ideas about energy dictate that even as the world uses up limited resources like oil, technology will create access to new sources, find ways to use limited resources more efficiently, or find ways to consume new sources of energy. These advances will head off any problems with consumption rates. The peak oil theory, on the contrary, argues that it is possible to use up a resource like oil, that there's a peak in supply.

Once the peak has been passed, the consequences, particularly the economic consequences, become dire, as Richard Heinberg, senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute explains. "If the amount of energy we can use is declining, we may be seeing the end of economic growth as we define it right now," he told The Nation. Watch more below:

Light green

Part of the problem is that the energy resources that could replace fossil fuels like oil-wind and solar energy, for instance-likely won't be in place before the oil wells run dry. And as Monica Potts reports at The American Prospect, our new green economy is getting off to a slow start.

Although the administration has talked incessantly about supporting green jobs, Potts writes that the federal government hasn't even finalized what count as a "green job" yet. The working definition, which is currently under review, asserts that green jobs are in industries that "benefit the environment or conserve national resources" or entails work to green a company's "production process." But what does that actually mean?

"That definition was rightly criticized as overly broad," Potts writes. She continues:

While nearly  everyone would include installing solar panels as a green job, what  about an architect who designs a green house? (Under the proposed  definition, both would count.) ... Another problem comes in weighing green purposes against green  execution: We could count, for example, public-transit train operators  as green workers. But how do we break down transportation as an industry  more broadly? Most would probably agree that truckers who drive  tractor-trailers running on diesel fuel wouldn't count as green workers  even if they're transporting wind-turbine parts. And many of the jobs we  would count as green already exist.

It doesn't exactly inspire confidence that the country is moving swiftly toward a bright green future.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of   The Media  Consortium.   It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of  articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The   Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network  of leading independent media outlets.

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10 Reasons NOT to Burn a Koran--and How to Fight Bigotry

by: Sharon Kelly

Wed Sep 08, 2010 at 16:31

Opposition is mounting to the "Burn a Koran Day" scheduled for September 11th in Florida. General David Petraeus said it could harm our troops, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it unrepresentative of Americans. Attorney General Eric Holder called it "idiotic and dangerous," and the Vatican has called the planned demonstration "outrageous and grave."

But the event planners, Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center, are moving forward in spite of the outcry. In fact, they posted five MORE reasons to burn a Koran on their blog just yesterday.

Human Rights First has compiled our own list--we asked our supporters to submit reasons NOT to burn a Koran. We received over 5,000 responses. Below is the Top 10 list:

Ten Reasons NOT to Burn a Koran

  1. Book burning! Do I really need to say why?
  2. By not burning a Koran I'm not burning a bridge to communication.
  3. Burning the Koran because of extremist Taliban and Al-Qeada terrorists makes no more sense than burning the Bible because of the Ku Klux Klan or Nazis.
  4. Hatred breeds more hatred and that is not going to solve any of our problems.
  5. That type of hate-filled religious intolerance has no place anywhere in the world, and is especially abhorrent in a country where religious freedom is one of the pillars of its foundation.
  6. It's a sacred book to millions of people. We should respect all people's beliefs.
  7. It will only inflame. I'd like people to understand each other.
  8. I may not believe in the words of the Koran but I would never burn one out of respect for my fellow humans who do.
  9. Support our troops!
  10. We must learn to coexist. We cannot continue to live in fear and suspicion.

You can make a stand with us. Show the fearmongers and the world that Americans don't stand for bigotry by ordering your free "Americans Don't Burn Books" bookmark (you just need to cover shipping and handling).

Help us urge other leaders--including former President George W. Bush--to speak out against bigotry. He and members of his administration spoke out for tolerance and freedom of religion during his presidency. George W. Bush could make a difference by speaking out now.

We need everyone to speak out--Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Join our efforts--get your bookmark and carry it proudly!

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Prisoners Deserve A Hearing Before Being Sent To Countries That Torture

by: Daphne Eviatar Human Rights 1st

Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 14:16

Last week, the United States government transferred an Algerian national, imprisoned for the last eight years at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to his home country.

Normally, such transfers are a cause for celebration by the prisoners involved. But the reaction of 35-year-old Abdul Aziz Naji was markedly different: he was terrified. That's in part because the Algerian government has a bad track record for its treatment of anyone arrested on "security grounds." In fact, the U.S. State Department reports that in such cases, Algerian authorities still use torture to elicit confessions. A recent decision from the European Court of Human Rights reached the same conclusion, blocking a transfer to Algeria from France.

Naji also argued that he was afraid of local fundamentalist groups terrorizing him into fighting for their cause. In fact, he'd fled Algeria as a teenager precisely because he'd been attacked by extremists. As a result, Naji begged the U.S. government to allow him to remain in prison at Guantanamo rather than be returned to Algeria. But the U.S. government ignored that; it sent him to Algeria anyway.

Although Naji is now back home, reportedly under Algerian government surveillance, there are still another five Algerians left at Guantanamo Bay who are afraid to return home due to fear of mistreatment. Still other prisoners, from countries such as Tajikistan and Morrocco, have similar fears. And terror suspects arrested by U.S. authorities and sent to another country for interrogation and prosecution, under current U.S. rendition policy, face a similar risk.

The U.S. government's actions in Naji's case don't bode well for any of them.

Under international law, the United States isn't supposed to transfer anyone to a country where they're likely to face torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. That's exactly what Naji fears will happen to him if he's arrested in Algeria. But he did not get an opportunity to make his case to any sort of neutral U.S. arbiter. Although the Obama administration said that the Algerian government had promised not to torture Mr. Naji upon his return, Naji never got a chance to explain why he's skeptical of that promise, and why he's still afraid.

Unfortunately, despite the requirements of the international Convention Against Torture, Naji's treatment complies with official U.S. policy. U.S. officials have insisted that they can send a prisoner or terror suspect to a country that's known to torture prisoners so long as that country provides "diplomatic assurances" -- essentially, an official promise -- that the person will be treated fairly. Perhaps the U.S. obtained such a promise from authorities in Algeria. But what are these "diplomatic assurances" worth?

As the United Nations and many other international experts have recognized, not much. According to Manfred Nowak, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on torture, "diplomatic assurances are unreliable and ineffective in the protection against torture and ill-treatment and such assurances," and are usually sought "from States where the practice of torture is systematic." They're also not legally binding.

Thus Maher Arar, for example, a Canadian terror suspect (who turned out to be innocent) rendered to Syria by the Bush administration, was brutally tortured under interrogation there, despite "diplomatic assurances" provided to U.S. authorities by the Syrian government.

Nowak and Martin Scheinin, the U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, last week protested the United States' return of Naji to Algeria.

Although Naji was never charged, tried or convicted of anything by the United States, his imprisonment for the last eight years, supposedly on security grounds, suggests he's likely to be a target of interest to the Algerian authorities.

Indeed, after he was returned home on July 18, his lawyers reported that he had disappeared. He was presumably held and interrogated in secret detention by Algerian security forces.

Then on Monday, Reuters reported that he'd been returned home and was "resting." An Algerian prosecutor said he'd been treated lawfully.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Naji had been indicted on terrorism-related charges and placed under "judicial supervision."

Whatever Naji's status is now, it could change at any time. Even though the U.S. never charged him with anything, Algerian authorities could go a different route. Or they could detain him for questioning and torture him in prison. Now that the United States has released him, it no longer has any authority to determine his treatment.

But the U.S. doesn't have to follow suit for the other Algerian detainees still imprisoned without charge at Guantanamo, who similarly face repatriation against their will. Human Rights First has called on the Obama administration to back up its professed commitment against torture by systematically providing a hearing before a neutral arbiter before returning anyone in U.S. custody to a country where he fears persecution. The United States should stop relying on the "diplomatic assurances" that have proved utterly ineffective in the past.

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Five untouchable symptoms

by: OpenLeft

Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 09:00

During Netroots Nation, we are running Golden Oldies plus a few surprises.  Regularly Scheduled programming will resume on July 26.

A Matt Stoller Golden Oldie
Tue Dec 25, 2007.
Original HERE.


Here's Ezra Klein expressing a fairly common sentiment among both Democratic base voters and Democratic elites.

As a result of my post defending Obama this morning, I'm getting a bunch of links along the lines of "Ezra Klein, no fan of Obama..."

This is, to be sure, my failure as a writer, so just to be clear: I'm impressed with all three of the major Democrats, and, for that matters, most of the other Democrats not named "Bill Richardson."

Ezra is happy with the Democratic candidates; most Democratic voters share Ezra's views.  I don't (and neither do a few others).  The issues we are dealing with today - health care, jobs, even a war in Iraq - are literally the same issues we dealt with in 1992.  How can that possibly be considered progress?  A real progressive candidate would take an apolitical problem and turn it into a mainstream political subject.  None of our candidates have done that.  Here are five easily mainstreamable problems ripe for the picking.  There are more of these, I'm just picking at five that touch on the national security state, secrecy, economic injustice, and attacks on our civil liberties.

Subject: End the War on Drugs 

Factoid: There are 1 million people put in jail for doing what Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush have done.

Marijuana is America's largest cash crop, and it is responsible for around 225,000 arrests a year.  Overall, the war on drugs incarcerates around 1 million people a year.  Direct spending on the war on drugs this year is $50 billion dollars, about $600 a second.  Around half of high school seniors have consumed marijuana (pdf).  Simply put, why do some people go to jail for marijuana and cocaine, and others run for President? 

Subject: End corporate media ownership: 

Factoid: General Electric, a major defense contractor and conglomerate, owns NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC.

Our media is owned and controlled by a few major companies.  One of them, GE, has major defense contracts, and strong incentives for war.  It also has huge interests in the financial industry.  Why is this company controlling our news content again, while we are in two wars?  And why did the FCC just relax ownership requirements in local areas, again?

Subject: End American empire

Factoid: As of 1998, America had troops stationed in 144 countries around the world.

There are any number of ways to talk about this issue, from disparities of foreign aid to complaints about the IMF to the war in Iraq to the CIA and blowback.  The bottom line is that America has troops everywhere in the world, it's expensive, the way it is done now is a bad idea, and we need to bring them home and return to being a republic.  That or we need to figure out how to be a responsible international power again and get rid of the Blackwater-style military we are building and the gunrunning vigilante CIA-style Cold War and post-Cold War nonsense.

Subject: End the war economy

Factoid: Money for Iraq keeps passing in 'emergency' legislation to avoid being subject to budget rules.

For some reason, Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans argue that they are fiscally responsible while ignoring their votes to spend 700-800B a year on war.  Libertarian charlatans like energy expert Amory Lovins think that the corporate sector and the military sector are legitimate parts of the state, but that other spending is wasteful.  The whole notion of the military not being a part of the overall government is crazy, and reflective of a huge, corrupt, and Soviet-style misallocation of capital through secret budgets and fear.

Subject: End the cradle-to-prison superhighway

Factoid: 2 million people are in prison in America, by far the highest total of any other country in the world.

Think slavery has ended?  Think torture is 'new'?  Think again.  With two million people in prison, and tens of thousands of sexual assaults every year, prison is a huge industry and a horrendous abridgment of the idea that is America.

Touching on any of these massive injustices in our economic infrastructure is something no candidate has systematically done.  Only John Edwards has remotely addressed the concept of the war on terror, in a somewhat half-hearted way, and he has made 'poverty' a somewhat commonly repeated theme, though not in any meaningful sense.  Clinton and Obama are disgracefully absent on these topics.  Ironically, Bill Richardson, aside from his great work on residual forces, has also said that the 'war on drugs is not working', which reflects perhaps a more executive oriented and confident worldview.  Chris Dodd has also advocated for marijuana decriminalization, which is a less aggressive but still laudable sentiment, especially in light of his work on core constitutional issues.

So anyway, while the insider wonk community is happy that their issues seem to be taken care of, and Democratic base voters like the different candidates we have, I find that actual progressive reframing of our political system is appearing only at the margins of our secondary candidates like Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and among crazy white supremacist types like Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul.  Each of the five hinges I've discussed starts with the verb 'end', and that was not planned when I started this post.  I think it means that we must end a chapter in American history, and begin a new one.

Restoring healthy communities, healthy citizens, a healthy global order, healthy local media, and a healthy sustainable economy are the key drivers of where need to go as a country.  The cancerous symptoms are all around us, and leading Democratic Presidential candidates are too corrupt and morally crippled to even begin talking about them.  But we'll get there.

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McChrystal situation is about military vs. civilian control of Afghanistan policy

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 15:38

David Sirota reminds us of how General McChrystal used the willingness of military and government elites to turn control of national security over to the military forced Obama's hand on the troop build-up in Afghanistan:

The U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says he wants more troops. His new memo calling for a bigger Afghanistan deployment prompted President Obama to begin carefully considering different ways forward - and Washington to hammer the White House for entertaining any alternative to McChrystal's request.

Republicans lambasted Obama for letting "political motivations...override the needs of our commanders," as Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said. Likewise, the Washington Post insisted that Obama's failure to promptly back McChrystal's surge proposal could "dishonor" America, while the New York Times said no matter what the president wants, "It will be very hard to say no to General McChrystal."

The coordinated assault sharpens that question about who "the deciders" should be - elected officials or the military?

Before Obama had made his decision on whether to escalate in Afghanistan, McChrystal made it known that he wanted an escalation.  This put Obama in a difficult political position, given that our national media seems to think the military should decide whether, when, where and for how long we send troops overseas.  It also probably didn't help that members of Obama's cabinet seems to share that view

"Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs."

I don't mean to avoid casting any blame on Obama for the escalation, as though he did it unwillingly in the face of insurmountable public pressure to listen to McChrystal.  He didn't.

However, by stating his policy preference in public and playing off elite deference to the military on this area of foreign policy, McChrystal set a very dangerous precedent for any possible future time when a President may have different views on troop deployments than the top military commanders.  If Obama had not wanted to escalate, McChrystal's public statements would have put Obama in an extremely difficult political position.  This poses a threat to civilian governance of the military in America.

It is also worth noting that McChrystal may have even violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Artical 88 states:

"Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

According to Rolling Stone, McChrystal was pretty contemptuous of Vice-President Joe Biden:

McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"

If McChrystal were to continue on as the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, it would continue to call into question civilian governance of the military in America. The military does not dictate foreign policy, and it is subordinate either the Executive or Legislative branches of government. Or, at least it should be those things.  But, if Obama were to allow McChrystal to stay on, it is probably about time to start using terms like Secretary Obama and President McChrystal..

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Public opinion now opposes expanded offshore drilling

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 09:38

The oil spill in the gulf continues to create a tectonic shift in public opinion over offshore drilling, making Obama's mid-2008 flip-flop on expanding offshore drilling to placate public option all the more ironic.

From 2008-2010, support for increased offshore drilling was around 2-1 in favor.  Polls from CBS, Pew, ABC News CNN and Gallup all showed over 60% of the country in favor, and less than 35% of the country opposed.  In no poll was the ratio in favor of expanded drilling greater than CBS News.  In two polls conducted in July and August of 2008, CBS found super-majorities in favor, by margins of 64%--28% and 62%--28%.

Support for expanded offshore drilling was do great, and high gasoline costs were such an issue, that between those two CBS polls Barack Obama, then a candidate for President,  made a public flip-flop on the issue.  Once opposed to expanded offshore drilling, Obama said he was open to it.  Eventually, as President, Obama actually lifted the moritorium on expanded offhsore drilling in states represented by ConservaDems, just three weeks before the deadly BP explosion.

Now, however, that same CBS poll, using exactly the same wording it did in 2008, shows the country opposed to expanded offshore drilling, 40-51%.  Other polls--Gallup, CNN, Fox--have also shown support for expanded drilling plummeting.  For supporters of expanded drilling, at best the country is now evenly divided on the issue.  With the plugging efforts and cleanup expected to last another few months, it won't be long before a clear  majority is opposed to expanded offshore drilling.

Just as notably, there is now evidence that President Obama's approval rating has taken a real hit as a result of the BP oil disaster.  As such, this entire episode has become a morality play reminiscent of the Democrats who favored the Iraq war back in 2002.  With public opinion on the side of conservative policy, some Democrats went along with a war that they thought was a bad idea.  Then, only a few years later, that policy caused a huge disaster, and public opinion shifted against that policy.  The Democrats who flipped ended up holding the bag, sitting on the wrong side of public opinion and lacking both foresight and principles.

Hillary Clinton's error in this regard is a significant reason why Obama, rather than Clinton, is currently  President.  Now, Obama's own error is dragging down his Presidency.  That is some remarkably thick irony, about as subtle as the message of an after school special starring Ben Affleck.

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Hillary Clinton is now the most popular politician in America who has held elected office

by: Chris Bowers

Fri May 28, 2010 at 14:00

Here is a weekend factoid for you: among all living politicians in the United States who have ever held elected office, Hillary Clinton the most popular.

That's right.  Ever since she became Secretary of State, her favorables have soared into the mid-60's, putting her well clear of any other statewide officeholder in the country.  The only national figures who are viewed as favorably as Clinton are Michelle Obama, Colin Powell, and David Patraeus. However, they have never run for office, which invariably lowers your favorables.

Hillary Clinton will turn 69 in in the final week of the 2016 campaign, which makes her slightly younger than Ronald Reagan when he first was elected in 1980.  Also, as Secretary of State, a major presidential candidate, a U.S. Senator, and First Lady, she is also probably more credentialed than any other potential Presidential candidate, too.  There is even talk she may become the next Secretary of Defense, further adding to her credentials.

Some have said that, in choosing Joe Biden as Vice-President, Barack Obama did not pick a successor to lead the Democratic Party.  However, that needs rethinking.  Because Barack obama made her Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton remains remarkably well-positioned to run for President in 2016, even more so than she was in 2008.

Anyway, have a good holiday weekend.

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The medium is the movement

by: OpenLeft

Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 06:00

A Chris Bowers Golden Oldie
From Mon May 05, 2008.
Original HERE.


Is there a progressive movement? This question has seemed particularly relevant over the last two weeks, as support for Barack Obama has washed away apparent long-standing principles of the movement: do not legitimize Fox News and Democrats should become more partisan. Now, apparently, we need to go on Fox News as much as possible and we much ditch partisanship altogether. If the Obama campaign can change the principles of the movement so quickly, perhaps there isn't a movement at all.

Perhaps a different question is necessary: what is a political movement, anyway? Thinking back over the 20th century, the defining characteristic seems to be a large-scale political undertaking that not only had goals of changing governmental institutions, but that changed the way people lived by shifting the balance of power in other major institutions as well. A political movement seeks to reorganize society on a far broader level than simply changing governmental policy. Examples include:

  • The labor movement fundamentally changed the economic structure of this and other countries by granting wage-laborers more power over the American workplace.

  • In addition to expanding access to government, the civil right's movement sought to reorganize educational, housing and employment patterns throughout the country. Other examples from this time period include the Black Panthers and the "counter-culture," which were primarily organized around institutions other than governmental policy (law enforcement and cultural consumption).

  • Radical Islamicist movements have worked to reorganize virtually every major institution in a given society, from education to religion to familial structures to cultural consumption.

A political movement always targets more than governmental policy change, since only changing policy would not alter the general framework of how people live in a given society. With that in mind, in what ways is the contemporary progressive movement going beyond seeking governmental policy change, and directly altering the way people interact with other major institutions in our society?

Looking over the major ideological institutions in America--the family, education, mass media, religion, and the workplace--the largest and most rapid changes are currently taking place in the latter three. By lowering the cost of information, the Internet has dramatically changed both the media landscape specifically and cultural production / consumption patterns more generally. Also, in terms of religion, nationally there is a broad movement away from self-identification as Christian, and even a dramatic re-organization within Christianity itself. Within the workplace and our larger economic structures, the rise of the Creative Class has had a major impact on the types of jobs available in America, and also on income inequality. This isn't to say that there are not major changes in other major ideological institutions like education and the family, just that the changes in the above three are far more pronounced in recent years.

Now, which of these three major changes can be identified a part of a "progressive movement?" The religious shifts don't really work, since the movement away from traditional religious identification and institutions is not organized by any group of people, and is simply happening on its own. Since it is at least partially a side-effect of a rising corporate power, income inequality, and de-industrialization, the rise of the Creative Class doesn't really work, whether or not most members of the Creative Class tend to be progressive. This leaves us with the lower cost of information, and resulting explosion in cultural production, brought on by the Internet. Perhaps the de-centralization of mass media consumption, the public sphere interaction, and cultural production brought on by the Internet is the progressive movement. It is the clearest example of how daily life has changed in a progressive way over the last decade. The medium is the movement.

Identifying the medium, and the changing cultural and media consumption / production patterns it has created, as the progressive movement itself helps provide perspective both on Barack Obama and on policy priorities for maintaining a healthy movement. First, changing viewpoints that Obama's campaign has created about Fox News and partisanship will not be isolated incidents. Since the consumption and production patterns themselves are the major change, the movement is ultimately lacking in fixed precepts. We should expect other changes in the future, including an inevitable rejection of Obama's ideas on partisanship and Fox News. Second, in order to maintain a healthy movement and the positive feedback loops the movement creates for progressivism, telecom policy and net neutrality should be understood as top, non-negotiable policy priorities. If net neutrality is ended, then the contemporary progressive movement, along with all progressive policy and lifestyle changes it promises, will come to an end. The movement is not just dependant upon the medium, but is in fact embedded in it. If net neutrality is ended, it will shift control of the medium away from individuals with broadband access, and toward large corporations. If the movement is the medium, then control over the medium for the average Internet user must be maintained, and expanded, at all costs.

Finally, from a "medium is the movement" perspective, the choice between Clinton and Obama isn't really even a choice at all. It's Obama by a mile.  

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Five untouchable symptoms

by: OpenLeft

Sat Dec 26, 2009 at 12:00

A Matt Stoller Golden Oldie
Tue Dec 25, 2007.
Original HERE.


Here's Ezra Klein expressing a fairly common sentiment among both Democratic base voters and Democratic elites.

As a result of my post defending Obama this morning, I'm getting a bunch of links along the lines of "Ezra Klein, no fan of Obama..."

This is, to be sure, my failure as a writer, so just to be clear: I'm impressed with all three of the major Democrats, and, for that matters, most of the other Democrats not named "Bill Richardson."

Ezra is happy with the Democratic candidates; most Democratic voters share Ezra's views.  I don't (and neither do a few others).  The issues we are dealing with today - health care, jobs, even a war in Iraq - are literally the same issues we dealt with in 1992.  How can that possibly be considered progress?  A real progressive candidate would take an apolitical problem and turn it into a mainstream political subject.  None of our candidates have done that.  Here are five easily mainstreamable problems ripe for the picking.  There are more of these, I'm just picking at five that touch on the national security state, secrecy, economic injustice, and attacks on our civil liberties.

Subject: End the War on Drugs 

Factoid: There are 1 million people put in jail for doing what Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush have done.

Marijuana is America's largest cash crop, and it is responsible for around 225,000 arrests a year.  Overall, the war on drugs incarcerates around 1 million people a year.  Direct spending on the war on drugs this year is $50 billion dollars, about $600 a second.  Around half of high school seniors have consumed marijuana (pdf).  Simply put, why do some people go to jail for marijuana and cocaine, and others run for President? 

Subject: End corporate media ownership: 

Factoid: General Electric, a major defense contractor and conglomerate, owns NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC.

Our media is owned and controlled by a few major companies.  One of them, GE, has major defense contracts, and strong incentives for war.  It also has huge interests in the financial industry.  Why is this company controlling our news content again, while we are in two wars?  And why did the FCC just relax ownership requirements in local areas, again?

Subject: End American empire

Factoid: As of 1998, America had troops stationed in 144 countries around the world.

There are any number of ways to talk about this issue, from disparities of foreign aid to complaints about the IMF to the war in Iraq to the CIA and blowback.  The bottom line is that America has troops everywhere in the world, it's expensive, the way it is done now is a bad idea, and we need to bring them home and return to being a republic.  That or we need to figure out how to be a responsible international power again and get rid of the Blackwater-style military we are building and the gunrunning vigilante CIA-style Cold War and post-Cold War nonsense.

Subject: End the war economy

Factoid: Money for Iraq keeps passing in 'emergency' legislation to avoid being subject to budget rules.

For some reason, Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans argue that they are fiscally responsible while ignoring their votes to spend 700-800B a year on war.  Libertarian charlatans like energy expert Amory Lovins think that the corporate sector and the military sector are legitimate parts of the state, but that other spending is wasteful.  The whole notion of the military not being a part of the overall government is crazy, and reflective of a huge, corrupt, and Soviet-style misallocation of capital through secret budgets and fear.

Subject: End the cradle-to-prison superhighway

Factoid: 2 million people are in prison in America, by far the highest total of any other country in the world.

Think slavery has ended?  Think torture is 'new'?  Think again.  With two million people in prison, and tens of thousands of sexual assaults every year, prison is a huge industry and a horrendous abridgment of the idea that is America.

Touching on any of these massive injustices in our economic infrastructure is something no candidate has systematically done.  Only John Edwards has remotely addressed the concept of the war on terror, in a somewhat half-hearted way, and he has made 'poverty' a somewhat commonly repeated theme, though not in any meaningful sense.  Clinton and Obama are disgracefully absent on these topics.  Ironically, Bill Richardson, aside from his great work on residual forces, has also said that the 'war on drugs is not working', which reflects perhaps a more executive oriented and confident worldview.  Chris Dodd has also advocated for marijuana decriminalization, which is a less aggressive but still laudable sentiment, especially in light of his work on core constitutional issues.

So anyway, while the insider wonk community is happy that their issues seem to be taken care of, and Democratic base voters like the different candidates we have, I find that actual progressive reframing of our political system is appearing only at the margins of our secondary candidates like Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and among crazy white supremacist types like Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul.  Each of the five hinges I've discussed starts with the verb 'end', and that was not planned when I started this post.  I think it means that we must end a chapter in American history, and begin a new one.

Restoring healthy communities, healthy citizens, a healthy global order, healthy local media, and a healthy sustainable economy are the key drivers of where need to go as a country.  The cancerous symptoms are all around us, and leading Democratic Presidential candidates are too corrupt and morally crippled to even begin talking about them.  But we'll get there.

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I am so tired of chasing the reagan democrats

by: OpenLeft

Sat Dec 26, 2009 at 10:00

A Chris Bowers Golden Oldie
From Fri Mar 07, 2008.
Original HERE.


Back in 1988, I became obsessed with a compute game called President Elect 1988, which was an early PC game that simulated a variety of historical and ahistorical presidential elections. One of the lessons I learned from the game is that it was a lot easier for Democrats to win if they nominated a southerner, and especially if another southerner was also on the ballot as vice-president. As such, four years later, when I was barely old enough to vote in the Democratic primary in New York, I liked Jerry Brown (despite his horrendous sales tax proposal) but also didn't mind if Bill Clinton won, because I figured Clinton could win some southern states and take the general election. When Clinton chose Al Gore as his running mate, I was pretty happy, since my lesson from playing hundreds of games of President Elect was that there was pretty much no way such a ticket could lose during an economic downturn.

That was all well and good, and it worked well for its time. The civil rights backlash had fractured the New Deal coalition, and white, socially conservative, working class and middle class voters were turning to Republicans in droves. The vast majority of these voters lived in the south, which had once been a solid Democratic region and gave Democrats a nearly unbreakable partisan hold on power in Washington, D.C. The so-called "Republican Revolution" of the time was basically flipping conservative southern whites. These were the so-called "Reagan Democrats" who Dems became obsessed with winning back after the Mondale general election fiasco. While Clinton used them to win in 1992, in 1994, Republicans flipped these voters for good, and took control of Congress. Now, this is a group of voters that chooses Republicans in general elections by margins of more than 2-1.

While this treads into "votes that don't matter" territory, the truth is that after watching politics for more than twenty years, at this point trying to win back those "Reagan Democrats" feels like a lost cause. I've had enough of it. I'm tired of how trying to appeal to these voters basically never seems to work, but always succeeds in pushing the Democratic Party to the right. I'm tired of how it has created a perception in the Democratic Party that the progressive base don't matter, except as an ATM machine. And I'm tired of it because it has just gone on for so long at this point that we now have massive, emerging Democratic voting blocks that we should appeal to instead: non-Christian whites, the "creative class," and Latinos / Asians. While the once-Democratic and now Republican "Reagan" Dems are growing pretty darn old, the future of the country and the electorate can be found elsewhere. Why continue to chase after voting groups that are shrinking in size, that push the party to the right, and who we never seem to win anyway, when instead we can chase after far more fertile voting blocks that will push the party to the left and who represent more than 100% of the population growth in the United States?

One of the reasons is that Reagan Dems are still voting, and still on the brink of swinging not only the 2008 general election, but also the 2008 primary for the same stupid, racist reasons that they put Republicans in power back in the last quarter of the 20th century . Consider the following chart from Brendan Nyahn:


More in the extended entry.

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The Perils of Pragmatism

by: Neil Hicks

Wed Dec 16, 2009 at 18:07

In the past week the Obama administration has taken steps to clarify and disseminate its policy with respect to the promotion of human rights and democracy.  Following on the heels of an administration that liked to define the purpose of U.S. foreign policy as expanding freedom around the world and ending tyranny, the Obama administration has looked for a different approach and a different vocabulary to describe the place of human rights promotion in the foreign policy mix.
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The Mulch: Peaceful Protests Turn Violent in Copenhagen

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Dec 16, 2009 at 13:35

By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop15) turned ugly today when police officers beat back hundreds of demonstrators, including a group of 50 to 100 delegates that were trying to meet with the protesters.

More than 250 people were arrested, including spokespeople for Climate Justice Action (CJA), a global network of NGOs that organized a walkout at the Bella Center today. CJA's spokesperson Dan Glall told Mantoe Phakathi at Inter Press Service that "as a condition for going back to the negotiations, we demand industrialized nations uphold the Kyoto Protocol, commit adequate funds to adaptation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly."

OneClimate has video (below) of today's walkout.

"More than 1,000 people have been arrested, detained and released over the course of the past week," Jennifer Prediger writes for Grist. "Some were made to sit on freezing sidewalks for six hours in a nasty version of time out. The people who threw rocks and set cars on fire were rightfully detained.  But the droves who were dragged in last night for dancing awkwardly in Christiana?  Seems like overkill to me."

The chaos outside reflects the increasing pressure inside the Bella Center, as delegates turn to the United States and China for leadership in the final days of the summit. Together these countries account for 42 percent of the world's carbon emissions.

In order to finalize a global climate agreement in Copenhagen, both countries need to take a big step forward, as David Doniger and Barbara Finamore report for Grist. For the U.S., this means aid for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people; for China, this means making steady progress to meet the country's carbon reduction goals.

The U.S. has already committed to pay its share of a $30 billion fund to last through 2012. "But to lead in Copenhagen, the U.S. needs to back even larger investments to meet these core needs for the longer-term-2015 or 2020," Doniger and Finamore write. "China has the opportunity to enhance its standing as a responsible world leader by building global confidence in the implementation of its carbon reduction goals."

But as David Corn reports for Mother Jones, China and the U.S. are apparently "stuck in a standoff." An Obama administration official insisted that it's not about the money: "'We have to get the developing nations into an international agreement,' the official said... Yet China has forcefully resisted the idea of incorporating their self-professed emissions goals (essentially, slowing the growth rate of emissions) into a binding agreement. China has also repeatedly said that it will not submit its performance to official outside vetting."

Corn writes, "But with 115 heads of states beginning to arrive, the Copenhagen talks have left some fundamental gaps for the last minute. Even if those gaps are bridged, the resulting agreement could fall far short of what experts say is necessary to redress the dire consequences of rising global temperatures. Just ask the scientists roaming the halls."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Copenhagen today in a last minute appearance. Clinton has booked a full day of meetings on Thursday and will join President Barack Obama in negotiations when he arrives Friday. Like Obama's schedule switch at the conference (he originally planned to be there last week and instead will arrive Friday), Clinton's arrival could indicate the U.S.'s intention to seal a deal by the end of the week.

For live updates of the negotiations and protests, check out The Uptake's live video stream from the Bella Center.

<This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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China and the United States - a marriage of convenience

by: Zachary Karabell

Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 21:20

Cross-posted at River Twice Research.

As the United States and China wrap up their two-day "Strategic and Economic Dialogue," it's more apparent than ever that the two find themselves in a marriage that neither can easily dissolve and that neither fully wants.

The speeches struck all the rights notes - "the United States and China share mutual interests," President Obama announced. "If we advance those interests through cooperation, our people will benefit, and the world will be better off - because our ability to partner with each other is a prerequisite for progress on many of the most pressing global challenges" Those sentiments were echoed by both Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal. The Chinese delegation spoke of the two nations as traveling in the same ship, a ship which was wracked by the global financial storm of the past year. In general, the rhetoric could not have demonstrated more clearly that both see themselves as locked in a relationship of mutual dependence.

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The Democracy Index: An Interview With Law Professor Heather Gerken

by: Intrepid Liberal Journal

Sun Apr 12, 2009 at 18:21

Photobucket The topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.


On January 1, 2007, Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken  published a widely read article in the LegalTimes entitled, "How Does Your State Rank on The Democracy Index." Gerken argued that just as the Environmental Performance Index ("EPI") shamed countries such as Belgium to upgrade their environmental practices, a "Democracy Index" would embarrass state and localities into reforming their electoral administration through competition.


Since Bush vs. Gore in 2000, the debate about electoral reform has been dominated by anecdotes and overheated abstractions. Liberals like me have long suspected that states such as Ohio and Florida were deliberately disenfranchising minority voters sympathetic to Democratic candidates. Conservatives complained that voter fraud and urban political machines were allowing ineligible voters to cast ballots at the expense of Republican candidates. With her article, Gerken contended that a Democracy Index would replace a debate dominated by shouting with data driven arguments instead:

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Hillary Clinton's Favorables Skyrocket

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 12:22

Congressional Democrats have scored positive, or even, favorable / approval ratings according to all eight polling firms that have conducted public opinion surveys on them since the Inauguration. These figures are remarkable because, in most polls, they are the first positive approval ratings from Congressional Democrats since early 2007 (and, in some cases, since early 2002, after the September 11th attacks).  However, it is not just Congressional Democrats who have seen a dramatic improvement in their image since President Obama took office. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also entered stratospheric, 2-1 positive territory on favorabliliy over the past few months.

Check out Clinton's favorability ratings compared to this time one year ago (more in the extended entry):

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