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Books, Literature & Ideas

Books, Literature & Ideas

RJ Matson | Ground Zero /


Where Was The “Professional Left” A Year Ago?

  • The under-reported scandal here is not that the White House tried to control and muzzle the professional left. The scandal is that the left, for the most part, complied.
  • As Gibbs Attacks Progressive Critics, ACLU Says Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies

Sally Kohn, Common Dreams

On May 12, 2009, I attended a briefing at the White House as part of a group of grassroots activists and community artists. Mike Strautmanis, Chief of Staff for the Office of Public Liaison and top White House advisor Valerie Jarrett, made some remarks about how community activists have a seat at the table as the Obama Administration sets the agenda for change. I raised my hand. Sometimes, I said, the role of advocates isn't to be inside at the table, but entirely outside the room, "creating the political space needed for change".

Strautmanis bristled visibly. He criticized the "professional left" (he didn't use this exact phrase, but it's what he meant) for approaching the Obama Administration with an "outdated mindset", holding protest signs outside the fence instead of realizing what it means to be "inside the fence". At the same time, he not-so-subtly warned that those who criticized the Administration, instead of cooperating, would find themselves back on the outside.

As Gibbs Attacks Progressive Critics, ACLU Says Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now<>
It’s disappointing that the administration uses this kind of language to respond to thoughtful and considered criticism. I think it debases political discourse in this country. And part of the Press Secretary’s job is to make sure that political discourse is civil and informed.
ACLU Report: Obama Continuing Bush-Era Torture Policies


Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance ~ Alexander Zaitchik

How we, as progressives, engage with a population that yearns for this non-existent version of America, particularly when so many of our citizens are in economic crisis, is something that Common Nonsense can at least begin to help us with. Glenn Beck and his appeal, no matter how ridiculous we may find it, is most certainly real. This sensational book is a great place to start exploring the phenomenon.

Book review by Susan Gardner, Daily Kos

Glenn Beck, perhaps more than any other figure on the conservative right, presents a dilemma for movement progressives: Is it bad politics for us to take him seriously? Are we merely giving him more oxygen by giving him attention, feeding his popularity by highlighting his extremism? Is fact-checking his numerous distortions and outright lies worth the effort? Surely, we think, anyone rational can see his buffoonery, and those who would be convinced by any fact check already are not believing him. And yet his camp followers won’t be switching any allegiances based on anything Media Matters—or, for that matter, neutral traditional media outlets--debunks. So what’s the point?

Well, the main point for journalist Alexander Zaitchik in his excellent critical biography Common Nonsense, is that Beck is tying into a dark side of America that’s been with us for a long, long time, combining the fan-flaming of Elmer Gantry and Billy Sunday with the mushy, god-based, red-white-and-blue streak of reactionarianism that rejects modernism and embraces an America that never, ever was. It’s not so much Beck's getting history so very wrong that is so disturbing—it’s that so many Americans are eagerly egging him on, seemingly begging to be brought into his Very American Fantasy.



Legalizing drugs the only answer

The zeal to repress in most countries of the world has become quite counterproductive, building up the wealth and criminal reach of the drug barons who have become so powerful that they often have a political influence that distorts, even threatens, good governance.

Jonathan Power, Toronto Star | CA

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Ken Mitchell

During the difficult years that preceded the British handover of Hong Kong to China, the Chinese government's intense antipathy to opium and the still fresh memories of the evil that 18th century buccaneering Britain had inflicted on China and Hong Kong added an extra emotional charge to what, anyway, was a most complicated transition. Without opium there would have been no Hong Kong. The British only acquired it because of the Opium Wars, and the city's early economic success was built on the opium trade.

It was the British who fed the Chinese propensity for opium. Historians point out that the Chinese would have found it elsewhere, even grown some of it themselves. But the truth is the Indian-grown opium was the brand the Chinese smokers savoured and the British East India Company marketed it with commercial élan.



Legal Marijuana Will Not Increase Crime. Please Stop Saying That. Scott Morgan Chronicle Blog, in
We don't need to prove that legalization is 100% perfect and invincible in every conceivable way in order to justify our position. We can easily show that it's the safest and best available option. If that's not enough for you, then you're either an obstructionist, an idiot, or both.


These Empty Spaces

We are an idea, and all of us are bound to it through the ink that explains us on old pieces of parchment. We are an idea, and in that idea, we can locate our nobility, our strength, and the better angels of our nature. Too many of us, including our president and congressional representatives, have forgotten this. Perhaps, if we remind them in strong enough terms, if we make We The People a true force for right instead of a catch-phrase, things would get better. Until then, the idea that is America will continue to wither, and the empty spaces within will endure.

William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t

(Illustration: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)

My purpose in this life is to chronicle the events of our time, to shine a light on events and actions that damage us all, to reveal good works whenever they actually happen, and when possible, to show people places and times where they can make a difference should they choose to get involved. In the ten years I've been at it, I have seen everything: wars and rumors of wars; economic collapse and environmental calamity; state-sanctioned murder and torture and rape; theft, graft, fraud, deception and greed vast and dense enough to bend the light.

I have also seen millions upon millions of people pour into the streets to raise their voices as one against all these terrible things. I have seen people hurl themselves into political campaigns that have no hope of succeeding because they believed in the candidate, because the campaign message mattered as much as winning, and was made of so much truth that it required their labor. I have seen previously disconnected people get plugged in somewhere, anywhere, because they could no longer abide the silence of the sidelines.