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Books, Literature & Ideas

What We Lost After We Won in 2008

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  • An anti-war activist explains what the Democratic establishment fails to understand.
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  • Two years after an election that saw record voter turnout and engaged huge numbers of new voters, a sense of anomie and disconnection has replaced euphoria.
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  • This article is part of In These Times' December issue cover package, Where We Go From Here. The other cover story is Amy Dean's "A New Blueprint for Change."
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Marilyn Katz, In These Times

On a sleepy Sunday in September 2002, I was awakened by a call from Bettylu Saltzman, a longtime progressive activist and fundraiser in Chicago, who, disturbed by a dinner conversation the night before, asked, “What are we going to do about this war that Bush is going to lead us into in Iraq?” Awakened also from nearly a decade-long slumber in which there were no mass demonstrations, we realized that if we didn’t do something, it was more than likely that no one would. Gleaning names from our phone books, we called together a small meeting of about 15 people from various former alliances—Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Harold Washington coalition.

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It was only a year after the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, and the repression in the country was palpable. John Poindexter, director of the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness project, was rumored to be compiling a list of subversives. It was a scary time—and even among these long-tested activists, there was apprehension: What would be the repercussions of our acts? One year after 9/11, would people really speak out? What if no one came?

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Banks, Bankers and Hedge Funds Robbing Us Dumb And Blind

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  • Americans have shut their eyes and their minds to the fact that they've been robbed; bankers, brokers and hedge fund managers continue to live high and to receive public respect, if not adulation.
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  • The “land of the free and home of the brave” indeed.
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Jim Fuller, Dick & Sharon's LA Progressive

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Lydia Howell

Most European governments, if not all, are pushing austerity programs that range from harsh to extreme.

All of those plans will result in massive loss of jobs, lowered incomes for those fortunate enough to retain their jobs, lost homes, and even genuine hunger for large portions of European populations.

None of the plans will adversely affect the very rich who caused the western world's present economic stress; even the most blatantly criminal among them -– Ireland's top bankers come to mind –- will retain their positions. Their wealth and power will be, if anything, enhanced.

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The Myopic Selfishness of Libertarians

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One way or another, if the problems of a city, a state or a nation are neglected, those problems will spread and eventually end up on everyone's doorstep. Forget empathy, generosity, humanitarianism or Christian charity. Be selfish, but still grasp this hard truth: Taxes are anarchy insurance, the fee we pay to guarantee we don't lose it all.

David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer | WA

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David Horsey

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Almost half a century ago, Bob Mays, the young pastor of a small church in north Seattle, envisioned a retirement complex where the elderly could find loving care, no matter how poor they might be, and a permanent home, even if their money ran out.

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Mays shared his vision with his congregants at Olympic View Community Church. They enthusiastically embraced it. A number of them mortgaged their own homes to raise capital for the project. And, in 1972, Northaven, a non-profit retirement community, opened its doors.

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Last week (Oct 31-Nov 6), my wife, Nole Ann, and I helped host a fundraising celebration for Northaven, and recalled Bob Mays' selfless dream. Nole Ann talked about how her father joined with Mays to help build Northaven. At the time, it seemed clearly the right and Christian thing to do. My father-in-law could not have known that, after his death, Northaven would become a wonderful final home for his wife, my mother-in-law.

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New Yorker trashes Bush memoir

Over and over again: ‘Was Bush this incurious all his life?’

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John Byrne, Raw Story

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Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Thomas Sklarski

For Bush, decisions happened without the weighing of evidence and options. He merely had to ask himself, “Who am I?”

If it were a question of the George W. Bush maxim "if you're not with us, you're against us," The New Yorker's George Packer is against us.

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In a sprawling, multi-thousand word review of Bush's new memoir, Decision Points, Packer is generous with aquiline, laser-like criticism. He begins by predicting the book's rapid demise (“Decision Points” will not endure) and concludes equally as sharp.

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"During his years in office, two wars turned into needless disasters, and the freedom agenda created such deep cynicism around the world that the word itself was spoiled," Packer writes. "In America, the gap between the rich few and the vast majority widened dramatically, contributing to a historic financial crisis and an ongoing recession; the poisoning of the atmosphere continued unabated; and the Constitution had less and less say over the exercise of executive power. Whatever the judgments of historians, these will remain foregone conclusions."

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Dead Certain: The Presidential memoirs of George W. Bush, George Packer, New Yorker
President George W. Bush prepared for writing his memoirs by reading “Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant.” “The book captures his distinctive voice,” the ex-President writes, in his less distinctive voice. “He uses anecdotes to re-create his experience during the Civil War. I could see why his work had endured.” Grant’s work has endured because, as Matthew Arnold observed, it has “the high merit of saying clearly in the fewest possible words what had to be said, and saying it, frequently, with shrewd and unexpected turns of expression.” Grant marches across the terrain of his life (stopping short of his corrupt failure of a Presidency) with the same relentless and unflinching realism with which he pursued Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On several occasions, he even accuses himself of “moral cowardice.” Grant never intended to write his memoirs, but in 1884, swindled by his financial partner, broke, and with a death sentence of throat cancer hanging over him, he set out to earn enough money to provide for his future widow. He completed the work a year later, just days before his death, and Julia Dent Grant lived out her life in comfort.

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The liberals’ lament: “Why won’t Obama fight?”

The pundits also assume that there is some fundamental difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties, an assumption that several decades of bipartisan support for war, budget cuts, and social reaction should have put to rest.

David Walsh, World Socialist Web Site

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor John Stoltenberg

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Mike Thompson

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It is difficult for anyone who observes the American political scene not to notice the spinelessness of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in the face of the Republican right and its media fronts. The Democrats’ capitulation all along the line is a glaring fact of daily life and one of the defining features of the current administration.

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In their latest cave-in, White House spokesmen and Democrats in Congress have indicated their willingness to cede to Republican demands for an extension of the Bush administration’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

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This has provoked another round of handwringing from members of the official liberal media who, in one fashion or another, all lament Obama’s latest surrender and ask if or when the president will summon the internal fortitude to begin fighting. The collective wailing has become a virtual genre of political commentary.

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