Tag Archive | "progressives"

How the Left rejects cheap energy for the Third World and the poor

The TVA provided huge amounts of cheap power to people and transformed lives. Credit: tva.com

The TVA provided huge amounts of cheap power to people and transformed lives. Credit: tva.com

Progressives used to believe that big projects, like TVA electrification, would help society at large and the disadvantaged in particular by supplying cheap power. Much of that trend has been reversed by environmentalists embracing “small is beautiful” claptrap. Worse, they sanctimoniously preach the Third World must not bother with electrification, running water, and air conditioning because, darn it, it’s just bad for the planet. Therefore, the Third World should be happy with little microgrids, waving at tour buses of ecotravelers, and supplying the West was cheap labor. For their own good of course. As dictated by someone writing his screed on a laptop in a Starbucks.

“Giving society cheap, abundant energy,” Paul Ehrlich wrote in 1975, “would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

What a snobby, nasty, elitist way to look at humankind. And just why would cheap, abundant energy be bad? Presumably Ehrlich took advantage of it himself, yet wanted to deny it to others.

Elaborate justifications were offered as to why poor people in other countries wouldn’t benefit from cheap electricity, fertilizer and roads in the same way the good people of the Tennessee Valley had.

By the time of the United Nations Rio environment conference in 1992, the model for “sustainable development” was of small co-ops in the Amazon forest where peasant farmers and Indians would pick nuts and berries to sell to Ben and Jerry’s for their “Rainforest Crunch” flavor.

Sounds like colonization, doesn’t it? How did environmentalism and progressivism get so twisted and perverted that it champions keeping the boot on the backs of the poor?

When challenged as to why poor nations should not have what we have, green leaders respond that we should become more like poor nations. In The End of Nature, Bill McKibben argued that developed economies should adopt “appropriate technology” like those used in poor countries and return to small-scale agriculture. One “bonus” that comes with climate change, Naomi Klein says, is that it will require in the rich world a “type of farming [that] is much more labor intensive than industrial agriculture.”

Ah, no. Going back to small-scale farming is no solution at all for a society as a whole. First off, millions would go hungry because small farms don’t have the output per acre that agribusiness does. They just don’t. Naomi Klein apparently wants us to move back to the country and labor twelve hours a day. Sounds like serfdom to me. Is she volunteering to go too? Didn’t think so.

Climate change is a reason to accelerate rather than slow energy transitions. The 1.3 billion who lack electricity should get it. It will dramatically improve their lives, reduce deforestation, and make them more resilient to climate impacts. The rest of us should move to cleaner sources of energy — from coal to natural gas, from natural gas to nuclear and renewables, and from gasoline to electric cars — as quickly as we can. This is not a low-energy program, it is a high-energy one. Any effort worthy of being called progressive, liberal, or environmental, must embrace a high-energy planet.

Posted in Energy

Fundamental flaws in progressive ideology

Cassiodorus details the ways in which progressives fail to provide an alternative to neoliberalism. But what he calls a flaw in ideology is more a flaw in execution, a flaw of will.

Progressive ideology, however, offers only a half-hearted resistance to neoliberal power. Here are some of the ways in which it succumbs:

  • Minimal demands
  • Aversion to the class struggle
  • Incrementalism
  • “Realism”

The problem clearly is that progressives offer no alternative vision and are averse to political combat, hence the continual caving in and incrementalism. Do they want genuine change? Not really.

I am not going to suggest a sweeping abolition of the “free market,” here, as the solution to everything, nor am I going to suggest anything which looks like “Marxist dogma.” We get out of “discussion-on-the-cheap” by real discussion, discussion between actually existing people and not utopian constructs, about what has to happen if the political/ economic situation is to get any better.

Goodness, let’s have none of that socialism stuff instead let’s go to Starbuck’s and talk about what might be done. Sigh. Look, capitalism is clearly in big trouble. What we have now is more a theftocracy than capitalism anyway. The patient needs major surgery not a bandage.

There are a large number of obvious ways in which we can do this: collectives, for instance, and modes of “exchange” (or, more straightforwardly, gift) which are independent of the regimes of corporate production and of money.

This is similar to what John Robb is proposing. But you can’t really live outside the system. Hippies tried that, and found you can’t drop out completely. Plus, the system will intrude upon such modes of exchange. Thus the answer has to include politics and confronting / changing the existing system. That means getting into the battlefield. There is no alternative.

Big Bill Haywood leads march in Lowell MA 1912. He once said "A liberal is the guy who leaves the room when a fight starts." (Library of Congress)

Posted in Politics

Why progressives should love (some) Tea Parties

The Humble Libertarian notes that some factions in the Tea Party strongly oppose bailouts for the wealthy and that Think Progress found that Tea Party rally participants in New Hampshire supported same sex marriage.

The Tea Party is not a monolith. The original Tea Party, the one founded by Karl Denniger, was and is about outrage at the bailouts. As a left-wing populist, I totally agree with that. And he’s not racist. (Yes, some factions of the Tea Party are racist and / or focused on social issues. Denniger calls them “the usual pablum: guns, God, and gays.”)

Thus, there is common ground between some on the Left and some Tea Partiers. As for the omnipresent demonization of the other side by the talking heads:

Yet opposition to the Tea Parties from establishment “liberals” has been vicious and deranged. Why? Maybe, just maybe, most allegedly liberal talking heads don’t care at all about the policies they profess to care about, but instead, like their allegedly conservative counterparts (i.e. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity), simply parrot the party line and will oppose anything at all that threatens the influence wielded by a gang of policymakers with the “correct” letter next to their name.

Posted in News

American progressives need a Tea Party of their own

Socialist Unity

The democratic ideal of empowering the ordinary citizen cannot be achieved without addressing the problem of corporate power. A centre-ground president like Obama will never engage against powerful vested interests without there being an external pressure to do so from trade unions and progressive civil society. The left needs a Tea Party of its own.

The change can and must come from across the political spectrum. The problem of corporate ownership of the political system is a non-partisan issue, it’s not about Republicans vs. Democrats. Our political system itself is rotting and corrupt. That’s the problem

Having said that, then yes, progressives absolutely need a Tea Party of their own. One of the biggest problems that liberals and progressives have now is their bedraggled hope that Obama will somehow do the right thing if he only gets the correct facts. This is illusion. The Tea Party on the right doesn’t ask politicians if they could please do something. Instead they bring about pressure to make them do it. The left needs to do the same.

Posted in News

The next two years: war between the parties, and war within the parties

Major schisms are forming within both major parties, and last night’s election makes this all the more obvious. There will now be open warfare within both parties, as the factions vie for dominance.

On the Republican side, Tea Party candidates did well enough that they can no longer be ignored, denigrated, or cynically exploited by party insiders, much as they might want to. Instead, GOP leaders now want to stop Palin, and by association, the rest of the Tea Party. It’s not just that Palin is unelectable as a presidential candidate; it’s more that her insurgency, along with the Tea Party, is a direct threat to the power base, funding, and influence of the Republican elite. A rambunctious Tea Party simply cannot exist within the current confines of the Republican Party. Something will have to give. What Palin is attempting is precisely what netroots wants to do too: storm the citadels of their party then seize control. But, the Empire will strike back, make no mistake about that. (So far, Palin has been more successful in her attempts than netroots, why is this?)

Progressives and the left are in revolt against Obama. This is certainly a major reason the Democrats did badly in the midterms. “The base was demoralized, not because the Dems went too far left, but because they went too far right.” says Ian Welch. The Democratic Party abandoned, ignored, and back-stabbed its left flank only to find they needed those votes. Oopsie. So what did they do to win them back? Why, they insulted progressives and mocked them for their supposed stupidity. Bizarrely, this tactic appeared to have alienated those it wished to attract. Who could have predicted such a thing could happen? Certainly not the Democrats. On the other side of this are those who want the party to be ever-more centrist and accommodating. As with the Republicans, these two factions can no longer co-exist, even semi-peacefully.

The battles within the parties will likely lead to splits and to the formation of third and independent party runs in 2012. This will happen on all sides of the political spectrum, and maybe in the center too, if Bloomberg runs for president. We are living in highly unstable political times. The implosion of the economy and the resultant unemployment and anger will not be going away soon. That’s what’s fueling the schisms in both parties, along with the belief that elites in both parties are remote, isolated, and don’t have much of a clue about what to do, and that they’re old and in the way.

Of course, with the Democrats getting clocked in the House races, it’s a whole new gridlocked-filled day in Congress. There will be much sound and fury, signifying nothing, as the parties go at each other. Well, the Republicans will certainly go at the Democrats. Whether the Democrats will ever learn to return a punch remains to be seen. But they still control the Senate and Obama has veto power, so in all likelihood, not much will be accomplished in the next two years. But it needs to be. The economy is ailing, the infrastructure crumbling, and can you hear it in the distance, the sound of peasants with pitchforks?

So, what changed in this election? Sure, the Republicans picked up a big victory, but whether they will be able to get a legislative agenda through remains to be seen. Both parties will have to deal with internal revolts. Given such an unstable landscape, long-term predictions are pointless. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

(crossposted from CAIVN)

Posted in News

Spare the rod, spoil the Democrats

The Republican Ogres are coming! This election is of colossal importance and is Very Important (see the diagram) and you must send buckets of money to Democrats then vote for them even though they’ve continually back-stabbed you. Remember, the Republican ogres are coming, so be scared, be very scared.

Newshoggers says hooey to all that cynical fear-mongering and hopes the Democrats get a good clobbering. Maybe it’ll knock some sense into their heads.

In 2010 the Dems need to take a cold shower. We finally need to break the vicious circle shown above and ignore guilt-trips about the most important election EVAH designed to get us to vote Dem even though they don’t deliver. We’ll get two years of worse pain than we might otherwise have but the end result will be Dems who are far, far more likely to listen to progressives in 2012 and beyond…and if we’re really lucky/work hard, an actual working-class political movement than can send working-class representatives to D.C. instead of fat cats with millions in their banks.

The Blue Voice wonders if progressives have the clout or the will to break from the Democratic Party.

Among even the Democrats most critical of the Obama Administration’s shortcomings on health care reform, financial regulation and the Afghanistan War – criticisms which I share – I don’t know of anyone pushing for an election boycott or third party protest voting. No labor unions that I’ve heard of. None of the major progressive bloggers, like Digby or the folks at Daily Kos or even those at Firedoglake, whose Jane Hamsher is often mentioned as one of Obama’s harshest critics on “the left.”

In my view, the left begins where the Democratic Party ends and continues leftwards from there. Rarely do the big liberal or progressive blogs ever speak about structural reform or that the Democratic party is as corrupt as the Republican Party. Instead there’s too much squeaking about what the Ogres are doing.

The Blue Voice also wonders if progressives not voting would lead to perilous or better times. Well, you never know until you try. And with the status quo quickly becoming untenable, new strategies and tactics are needed now. Unless you want to vote Democratic and have them bitch-slap you again for two more years, that is.

Posted in News

Leftists should take credit for bringing down Democrats

Look, if the left is so powerful that is is responsible for Democratic fortunes, well, that’s not something we should shrink from. We should say “Yes, we can destroy Democratic prospects. If you don’t do what we want, we WILL do so.”

Don’t run from this, embrace it, wrap yourself in it. You are part of the left, and the left is capable of destroying governments which don’t do what it wants. And this is good, because objectively Obama has not fixed the economy, has presided over further destruction of civil rights, has reduced access to abortion, and so on.

Maybe if liberals and progressives stayed away from the polls out of protest and disgust with the do-nothing Democrats and their endless compromising, it might wake that party up. Something sure needs to.

The same thing is happening on the right too. Increasing numbers of conservatives are frustrated with the Republican Party. The time is now for the creation and strengthening of third parties.

Posted in News

Blogger asks White House if they know what hippie-punching is

Susie Madrak

I just got off a White House conference call in which I asked David Axelrod if he ever heard of the term “hippie punching”.


“Are you there?”

“Yeah, I heard you. Go on.”

Basically, after Axelrod told us how wonderful we were and how much they needed us to close the enthusiasm gap in this election, I called him on it. Like, yo Dave, here we are, liberal activists who give money and GOTV, and the White House needs to punch us in public so no one thinks they take us seriously?

And then he said, like, your feelings don’t really amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world when we’re TRYING TO SAVE THE COUNTRY, and then I said excuse ME, we’re not talking about my feelings here, how am I supposed to motivate my readers when you treat them like the town ho?

Or words to that effect. I do it all for you, my beloved readers.

Folks, is it not abundantly clear by now that the Obama Administration does not and will not ever much care what liberals and progressives think?

Having said that, I applaud what Madrak said.

And as one who was a hippie, may I say that it is a popular misconception now that they never punched back. Not true. And it’s time we did so.

Posted in News

Does Progressivism fail because Democrats are afraid to be progressive?

OpEdNews thinks so.

It’s not hard to figure out what a progressive might stand for: workers’ rights, unions, bank regulations, social programs, equality, the building and re-building of infrastructure, economic protections, antitrust laws and the abolition of corporate personhood, and the strengthening of democracy. Ask yourself: How many of those issues do you hear Democratic Party members discussing openly? What in that list is taboo to the interests and campaigns of Democratic Party politicians either because they fear Republicans will out-message them or they will alienate interests they must court in order to be re-elected?

The heart of the matter is that, most of the time, there isn’t much difference between career politicians of either party. Their interests are generally aligned with the elites and thus opposed to the rest of us. For several decades now the Democratic Party as an institution has consciously and deliberately abandoned its base of union workers, minorities, and the poor. And then wonders why it is adrift with no ideological moorings.

Progressivism has likely failed because of fears that pushing progressivism may result in debate that tarnishes “brand Obama.”

It’s not progressives who have failed but rather the Democratic Party as an institution. It no longer cares for or even thinks much about its traditional base. It has become as corporate as the Republican Party yet must maintain the fiction that it is not.

Yet much of the progressive agenda is already accepted by the mainstream, so really, it’s the Democratic Party that has the disconnect not progressives. Our time will come. Again.

Posted in News

Silly goose expectations: Frustrated left-liberals and Obama

Obama is getting bad advice. That's it! Or maybe we just need to convince him to take progressive stances. Yeah, just a nudge or two. I'm sure he'll come around...

ZNet on the continued befuddlement of some liberals and progressives that Obama didn’t turn out to be a liberal after all.

Key quote, from an interview with Chomsky.

Interviewer Fabian Scheidler: President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 while at the same time escalating the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some days after his Nobel Prize speech in Stockholm he went to Copenhagen and had nothing to offer to the climate talks [except] a reduction of four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions until 2020 – while scientists say 40 percent are needed. Many analysts say that this was the collapse of the climate talks. There were many hopes before Obama was elected, when he was elected. Hopes for change. Where is this “change” that was promised. And why is he falling short of the expectations?

Chomsky: It’s not a comment about him. It’s a comment about the expectations. The expectations were based on nothing. I’m one of the few people who isn’t disillusioned because I had no expectations. I wrote about his record and prospects before the campaign, just looking at his website. And it was pretty clear that he’s going to be a normal centrist Democrat roughly Clinton-style. He never pretended to be anything else. I mean there was rhetoric about hope and change. But it was like a blank slate. You can write on it whatever you wanted. And he is kind of personable. People were desperate for some hope so they grabbed onto it. But there was no basis for any expectations.

I figured Obama as a centrist too. But really, the only constituency he has unfailingly supported has been the banksters, giving them hundreds of billions, allowing accounting rules to be gutted so they could mark their garbage to fantasy then pay themselves huge bonuses, and so on. To be a bit conspiratorial about it, gosh, it’s almost like he was installed. But now he’s got the BP disaster and true to form, has been saying how angry it all makes him while he does little or nothing about it. However this is different from the banksters, which deals with complicated, arcane financial matters. With BP, it’s right out in the open, and the oil keeps coming up on the shorelines. So, he may be forced to do something, even if he is a unyielding corporatist. But he sure didn’t do anything last night and turned the great opportunity of an Oval Office speech into a non-event.

So, liberals, Obama just isn’t going to magically morph into the Liberal Avenger. Not now. Not ever. It’s time to give up thinking that he will.

Posted in News


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