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The 'Principled Left' Obama Needs

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In the last 18 months, the left has learned the hard way that it needs to be more independent of the White House to realize the change we’re seeking.
The left has lost its nerve and its direction
Hope Is Dead. Long Live The New American Independence Movement.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation

When Barack Obama embarked on what most political insiders saw as an audacious campaign for the presidency, the question was whether a newly-elected senator from Illinois could entice Democrats to consider a contender other than a former first lady who proposed to be the first woman president and a former nominee for vice president who was saying important things about the growing economic divide in America. What ultimately won him the Democratic nomination in 2008 was a decision by the principled left—professional and amateur—that the one leading candidate who had expressed blunt opposition to the war in Iraq before it began had shown better judgment than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards.

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So it was that an exercise in political purism by the broad left put Obama on the path to the presidency. Now that Obama is president, however, his press secretary derides the "professional left" for being too pure in its demands on the White House. In point of fact, Robert Gibbs is wrong; at the most critical point in President Obama's tenure so far—when Congress was deciding how to vote on a health-care bill that Republicans predicted would be his "Waterloo"—the most left-wing members of Congress and their allies (professional and amateur) across America rallied to support a measure that was deeply disappointing to many of them.

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The left has lost its nerve and its direction, Chris Hedges, Philadelphia Inquirer
If the left wants to regain influence in the nation's political life, it must be willing to walk away from the Democratic Party, even if Barack Obama is the (president), and back progressive, third-party (officials) until the Democrats feel enough heat to adopt our agenda. We must be willing to say no. If not, we become slaves.

Hope Is Dead. Long Live The New American Independence Movement. The Pen
We are calling for all citizens of the United to declare that under no circumstance will they vote for any candidate associated with either the Democratic or Republican parties, and that we instead dedicate our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor, to electing worthy independents who can demonstrate a lifetime of public policy advocacy on behalf of the people, true citizen legislators.

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Where Was The “Professional Left” A Year Ago?

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  • 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.
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  • As Gibbs Attacks Progressive Critics, ACLU Says Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies
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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".

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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.

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As Gibbs Attacks Progressive Critics, ACLU Says Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now<http://www.democracynow.org>
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
http://evergreenedigest.org/content/gibbs-attacks-progressive-critics-ac...

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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.

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Book review by Susan Gardner, Daily Kos

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Jonathan Power, Toronto Star | CA

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Ken Mitchell

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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.

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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.

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Legal Marijuana Will Not Increase Crime. Please Stop Saying That. Scott Morgan Chronicle Blog, in StoptheDrugWar.org
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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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America Goes Dark

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  • So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.
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  • America: The Grim Truth
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Paul Krugman, New York Times

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Thomas Sklarski

The lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno.

Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.

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America: The Grim Truth, Lance Freeman, Axis of Logic

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  • I am not writing this to scare you. I write this to you as a friend. If you are able to read and understand what I’ve written here, then you are a member of a small minority in the United States. You are a minority in a country that has no place for you.
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  • We Are A Nation Of Sheep Being Led By Wild Dogs
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The Trouble With Unconstitutional Wars

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  • We should follow constitutional protocol when going to war. It is there for a reason. The founders knew that heads of state are far too eager to engage in military conflicts. That is why they entrusted the power to go to war with the deliberative body closest to the people – the Congress.
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  • Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War
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Ron Paul, R-TX

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Bob Heberle

Our foreign policy was in the spotlight last week (Aug 25-31), which is exactly where it should be. Almost two years ago many voters elected someone they thought would lead us to a more peaceful, rational co-existence with other countries. However, while attention has been focused on the administration’s disastrous economic policies, its equally disastrous foreign policies have exacerbated our problems overseas. Especially in times of economic crisis, we cannot afford to ignore costly foreign policy mistakes. That’s why it is important that U.S. foreign policy receive some much-needed attention in the media, as it did last week with the leaked documents scandal.

Many are saying that the WikiLeaks documents tell us nothing new. In some ways this is true. Most Americans knew that we have been fighting losing battles. These documents show just how bad it really is. The revelation that Pakistani intelligence is assisting the people we are bombing in Afghanistan shows the quality of friends we are making with our foreign policy. This kind of thing supports points that Rep. Dennis Kucinich and I tried to make on the House floor last week with a privileged resolution that would have directed the administration to remove troops from Pakistan pursuant to the War Powers Resolution.

We are not at war with Pakistan. Congress has made no declaration of war. (Actually, we made no declaration of war on Iraq or Afghanistan either, but that is another matter.) Yet we have troops in Pakistan engaging in hostile activities, conducting drone attacks and killing people. We sometimes manage to kill someone who has been identified as an enemy, yet we also kill about 10 civilians for every 1 of those. Pakistani civilians are angered by this, yet their leadership is mollified by our billions in bribe money. We just passed an appropriations bill that will send another $7.5 billion to Pakistan. One wonders how much of this money will end up helping the Taliban. This whole operation is clearly counterproductive, inappropriate, immoral and every American who values the rule of law should be outraged. Yet these activities are being done so quietly that most Americans, as well as most members of the House, don’t even know about them.

We should follow constitutional protocol when going to war. It is there for a reason. If we are legitimately attacked, it is the job of Congress to declare war. We then fight the war, win it and come home. War should be efficient, decisive and rare. However, when Congress shirks its duty and just gives the administration whatever it wants with no real oversight or meaningful debate, wars are never-ending, wasteful, and political. Our so-called wars have become a perpetual drain on our economy and liberty.

The founders knew that heads of state are far too eager to engage in military conflicts. That is why they entrusted the power to go to war with the deliberative body closest to the people – the Congress. Decisions to go to war need to be supported by the people. War should not be covert or casual. We absolutely should not be paying off leaders of a country while killing their civilians without expecting to create a lot of new problems. This is not what America is supposed to be about.

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Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War ~ Andrew Bacevich, Reviewed by Andrew Bast, Newsweek<>

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  • Groupthink is alive and thriving in Washington, D.C., argues Bacevich, who's convinced that America's mightily militaristic and endlessly idealistic approach to the rest of the world is costing the country dearly. Boiling down his argument to the simplest terms: the world would get along just fine without this overarmed global policeman, and more important, the United States would fare far better at home if it weren't squandering so many of its gifts abroad.
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  • The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's
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