2014 in Review: Revisiting WC’s Wishes for 2014


Once again, WC opened the year with wishes for the upcoming months. And once again, WC’s wishes and hopes were mostly dashed. But with just a week or so left in 2013, let’s look at the specifics (Wishes in bold face; outcomes indented below):

Overpopulation. Yes. Still at the top of the list. The root of much is what is wrong and going wrong on this tired, over-crowded and badly abused planet. Back in 2011, we rolled the odometer over to an estimated  7.3 billion. To a deplorable extent, especially in the Western world, the rate of population growth is a function of religious teachings. The Catholic church and the Latter Day Saints’ crazed obsession with large families would be two obvious examples. When religious dogma have counter-survival effects, it’s past time to change them. WC calls on all those latter day saints and infallible pontiffs to have a revelation: that further growth of human populations is terrible, and must be controlled, that more than two children is a sin by whatever definitions they use.

Mostly Fail. Pope Francis came a bit closer to admitting the world’s exploding population is a problem, but he framed it as an issue of insufficient resources, not population growth. The Mormons and other religions made no concessions at all. In the meantime, the planet added another 79 million mouths to feed.

Anthropocentric climate change. Another repeat from 2011, 2012 and 2013: the second great crisis facing humanity is the changes we are forcing on the climate. The way things are going, to paraphrase Pratchett and Gaiman, we are going to scourge all intelligent life from the planet, leaving nothing but dust, cockroaches and fundamentalists. The time for denying man-caused climate change is past. Can we at least shift the debate about how to deal with it? The Arctic Ocean will soon be ice-free.  Can all the global warming-denying politicians who have sold their small, dark, crabbed souls to the fossil fuels industry have a look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Do I care about my grandchildren?” There will come a day when fossil fuel lobbyists and the politicians they have purchased will be held in the same contempt as Congressmen who defended slavery, or claimed tobacco was harmless. It’s past time to act. Why not now?

Slight Progress. President Obama reached a modestly helpful climate accord with China, although the Republicans in Congress seem determined to sabotage it because, you know, Obama. The Lima Climate summit wasn’t a complete failure. But the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere continue to climb, and the goal of capping global warming at 2°C appears to be impossible now. Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic continues to melt at accelerating rates. Ocean acidity continues to climb. 2014 appears destined to be the warmest year on record. And the climate change-denying clowns are now in charge of Congress.

Our national government still remains broken. For the first time since the prelude to the Civil War, a political party has set its agenda as obstructing everything a president proposes. Up until the recent past, the “loyal opposition” meant cooperating with the guy who, you know, won the election. No longer. WC wishes that the Republican-controlled House would, just this once, place the interests of the nation above their own failed agendas. Obstructionism didn’t work. President Obama was re-elected. Shutting down the government didn’t work – again. Why not try compromise as an alternative? The recent budget settlement demonstrates it is possible. There’s a long list of critical issues facing Congress. So long as that branch of Congress remains divided, compromise is the only path to resolving those issues.

Didn’t Happen. And with control of Congress in the hands of the Republicans it is, if anything, even less likely to happen. It’s increasingly difficult to see how this is gong to be fixed. At one level, it reflects the badly fractured American society. At another, it reflects the increasingly worrisome abandonment by Americans of the high principles they once held. A recent survey found that a strong majority of Americans approve of torture in some situations. Partly it is a failure of leadership, but it’s hard to see a truly transformative leader on the political horizon.

Reversing $2 billion tax giveaway to Big Oil. The Republicans gerrymandered themselves into control of the state senate. Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell forced through his absurd tax giveaway, and then promptly introduced a hatchet job of a budget based on the fiscal crisis he created. There’s some hope that the referendum to repeal the tax giveaway will pass, but Big Oil is already ramping up to lobby voters against it. Big Oil will outspend the citizens 10 to 1 in the upcoming campaign, and the lies, distortions and disinformation will be fierce. It will be a true test of citizens versus multinational corporations. WC hopes the referendum passes despite Big Oil’s lies and extortion.

Didn’t happen. But might. Obviously, the initiative to reverse the repeal of ACES and enactment of SB 21 failed. SB 21 was valuable enough to Big Oil that the industry invested tens of millions of dollars into the primary election to defeat the initiative; WC was right to predict that the initiative’s proponents would outspend SB 21’s supporters by 10 – 1. But with the collapse of oil prices, SB 21 and the repeal if ACES matters a lot less. ACES was fundamentally a surtax imposed when crude oil prices were high. Ironically, the collapse of oil prices also greatly reduces any incentive to increase North Slope production. Captain Zero’s giveaway to Big Oil failed. At least until the next supply-demand cycle loops around. The invested crisis of declining production remains. Although WC doesn’t expect the next Legislature to mention it. Maybe Governor Bill Walker can accomplish something? A faint hope, WC admits.

Senator Mark Begich is re-elected. WC admits Senator Begich isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, and whether it’s his constituency or his natural predilections, he takes some very conservative positions on issues WC cares about a lot. But in Alaska, as everywhere else, you have to temper your idealism with a bit of pragmatism. Mark Begich is so far preferable to any of the crowd of Republican clowns, carpetbaggers and klutzes that the decision is straightforward. Hold you nose if you must, but the alternative – Sullivan, Treadwell or Miller – is so bad that the choice is easy. WC may even break out his checkbook.

Didn’t happen. In January, it will be Senator Carpetbagger, who owes his election and his small, mean soul to the Kochtopus and the ignorance of Alaska voters. And yes, WC actually invested some campaign contributions in the Begich candidacy. If Adlai Stevenson was right, and we get the government we deserve, Alaskans must have done something really, really bad.

And there you have it. And unmitigated disastrous outcome for WC’s quite moderate, quite reasonable wishes. It’s enough to make even an optimist a bit gloomy. But not gloomy enough to not make a wish for 2015 in a week or so.

We’ll move on from where we are.