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January 14, 2003

What Will Be in 2003?

Hi hi hi hi. After a looong and luxuriously stress-free break from school/work and other demands of "real" life, the time has come for getting back to business—both here at ai and elsewhere. But rather than bore you with a litany of the mundane and unfun things I now must do to prepare for the spring semester (which begins next week), I'm going to indulge in the belated but fun ritual of annual predictions/hopes. I'm no oracle, so these are just a few ideas that are a combination of what I think might happen, as well as what I hope will happen in 2003.

First, we're going to war. [1] I still have hope that this won't happen, but not much. What I think will happen is that the U.S. will commence battle during sweeps month (is that Feb. or March?), both to get maximum viewers for the show when they want to brag about something, as well as to make sure there are plenty of other diversions (in the form of a new tv lineup) for American couch potatoes if things don't go smoothly. There seems lots of reason to believe things won't go that smoothly for the U.S.—Iraq could attack Israel or gas U.S. troops, or the growing peace movement could reach critical mass and U.S. leadership could find itself engaged in a war w/out popular support. (This would be especially likely if Rep. Charles Rangel is successful in his attempt to bring back the draft. He won't be, but his effort has opened a new avenue for critique of Bush's war plans.) At this point it's looking like the best outcome here is that an attack on Iraq creates enough global anger at the Bush administration that the U.S. will be forced to start playing nicely with others and the Bush administration will have zero hope of being re-elected in 2004.

Many things in 2003 will likely hinge on what happens w/Iraq and N. Korea. If there is war on Iraq, and if it is "successful" (meaning not too many Americans die and somehow international and domestic opinion blesses it as a "good or at least not bad thing"), the Bush Administration will probably have carte blanche to continue its insanity of tax cuts, increased military spending, and starving all other domestic and social programs. But that's a big if. On the other hand, if the Iraqi war doesn't happen or goes south somehow, perhaps Americans will wake up and start being a little more critical of the dismal places Washington is sending our country (and our world). Already it's starting to look like Democrats (and many Republicans) are gaining traction w/their criticism of Bush's tax cut/"stimulus" plan—very few people seem convinced that allowing the wealthiest Americans to keep more cash is really good for anyone but the wealthiest Americans. [2]

In 2003 we'll see a shakedown of democratic candidates for President. I haven't had a chance to really take a look at the field as it's forming, but from the little I've seen, John Edwards looks like a great potential candidate. I'll be following his campaign via Oliver Willis' blog, Americans for John Edwards. If Edwards can maintain his "raw potential" approach as something of a Democratic outsider (and if he really turns out to be the people's candidate he claims to be), he just might be able to re-invigorate the Democratic Party and have a good chance at getting the nomination. With regard to the 2004 election, I predict (hope) that as the contest heats up, a vigorous national debate will begin about the value of the electoral college. [3] Following an earlier post on the subject, I also predict that blogs will begin to play a bigger role in the political process. [4]

In an issue of special local interest, I predict (hope) that Illinois Gov. George Ryan's commutation of death sentences in Illinois will trigger a nationwide debate about the justice and necessity of the death penalty. Have you ever stopped to think about the connection between the death penalty and the U.S.'s militant foreign policy? Is it merely a coincidence that one of the only "free" countries in the world that still sanctions state executions is also the "free" country that is most aggressive militarily? We seem to have a culture that says that when someone does something we really don't like, that person has to die. On a micro level, this means the death penalty; on a macro level, it means war. In most free countries, people do not sanction state executions; they put a higher premium on human life than we do. Perhaps this also makes them much more reluctant to go to war. I submit that this is a good thing. So here's hoping that Americans will pause to seriously examine their approach to state-sanctioned murder on both micro and macro levels.

Another domestic conversation that will continue to heat up in 2003 concerns America's dependence on foreign oil, global environmental degradation, and the morality of driving SUVs. I've talked about this before, but also look for an upcoming post to return to this—it's becoming one of my favorite topics.

In my own life, it's looking more likely that by August I will be living in D.C., where I hope to be attending law school. Right now my ideal scenario is that I'll be awarded the Public Interest Scholarship at American University, which will allow me to afford to pay rent, eat, and be a good student. Honestly, the prospect of attending law school without a really significant scholarship is looking pretty scary. How do you concentrate on your classes when every breath you take costs approximately $5?

Finally, I have yet to hear from any marketing/video maestros with brilliant ideas of how I should go about selling myself to the producers of "Survivor," so whether 2003 will see me taking a critique of social darwinism to national prime-time television remains an open question. ;-)

[1] This "war" will not only ultimately prove a mistake for America's long-term health and security, but it will also be illegal and reveal some of the deep problems with our so-called "democracy"—primarily that Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to declare war. This is such a crazy fact that it deserves a post of its own—look for it to follow this post.

[2] I heard Cokie Roberts on NPR this morning saying that the Bush Administration is breaking new ground in attempting to use tax policy for purposes of social engineering by reducing the so-called "marriage penalty," rewarding investment in the stock market, etc. I couldn't believe what I was hearing; tax policy has always been used for social engineering—it's called redistribution of wealth! The problem with the Bush vision is that it wants to do all it can to make sure wealth is redistributed up into the higher classes, rather than the other way around. If there's anything new about this it's simply the brazeness with which it's now being done. In the past the plutocrats tried to be more discrete about their attempts to shortchange the poorest Americans in favor of the wealthiest; now they seem to feel they don't even need to pretend anymore.)

[3] For those readers who have detected any cynicism in ai, please attempt to recall the last time there was a vigorous national debate about anything. If, like me, you have trouble thinking of a recent example, I think you'll agree that my predictions in this regard are quite optimistic—utopian, even. ;-)

[4] If you haven't heard it already, check out the story of Tara Sue Grubman, the woman who sort of ran for Congress via a blog. She didn't win, but she did show the value of a blog to allow voters to get to know a candidate, and to allow a candidate to communicate directly w/voters in a relatively raw way. Sure, a blog could be "spun and polished" just like a tv commercial, so blogs will likely have a positive effect on the political process only if candidates use them honestly. Yes, another big "if."

Posted January 14, 2003 09:39 AM | life generally

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