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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since July 2010

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Progressives in the Age of Obama

July 15, 2010 ·

After eight years of being on the outside under Bush, we need to now take advantage of the opportunities now afforded us under Obama, who is allowing progressives more access to power. How do we work with the administration while not succumbing to "Well, at least he's not Bush" or "At least he's letting us in" mentality?

From the Frontlines: July 14, 2010

July 14, 2010 ·

The debate over federal stimulus rages here, with Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz announcing his support for the federal stimulus, saying, “Keynesian economics worked: if not for stimulus measures and automatic stabilizers, the recession would have been far deeper and longer, and unemployment much higher.”

But in the meantime, Dean Baker argues on Common Dreams, we should treat reckless corporate behavior like drunk driving -- and these corporate drunk drivers, who got us into this fine mess, should pay for it.

In defiance of basic mathematics, not to mention common sense, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that Bush tax cuts did not reduce revenue. Really.

BP finally got a containment cap on their gushing oil geyser, but senior vice President Kent Wells cautioned that this is just the first step in a multi-step process and this method holds no guarantee for success. Meanwhile, a majority of Republicans are now against offshore drilling (and this according to Rasmussen). When will Congress follow suit?

On the six month anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake this January, less than 2% of Haitians displaced by the quake have moved back into housing of any form in Port au Prince. Associate fellow Bev Bell also has a report from Haiti, six months after the earthquake.

What could we do with a trillion dollars? Frida Berrigan re-examines the Pentagon's spending habits. (Eurasia Review, via FPIF)

Gallup Poll on 'Progressive' Identity

July 13, 2010 ·

A Gallup poll out this week demonstrates that many Americans have no idea what it means to be a “progressive.” Fewer than half of Americans polled can say whether “progressive” does (12%) or does not (31%) describe their own views. Fully 54% are unsure.

At a time when political movements are developing clever names like the Tea Party to camp under, confusing language is nothing to scoff at. Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported on efforts by a coalition of 170 “liberal and civil rights groups” to energize the progressive grassroots and counter the Tea Party movement.

SpockThe name they chose? One Nation. Google it: The first few references are to an Islamic American organization and a far-right nationalistic party in Australia. One liberal friend said it sounds like something from Star Trek.

Will the name come to define progressive grassroots activities in time? Maybe…if the 12% of Americans who identify that way find the coalition.

Words matter. Leaders of political parties and grassroots movements must take care to continually define and repeat the words they use to define themselves. It doesn’t matter why, historically, the words liberal and progressive diverged. The key today is to define them so people who are naturally drawn to those points of view are willing to assume them as badges of honor.

The Coffee Party is a cautionary tale for our time. Have you heard about its activities lately? No? A similar fate awaits the moniker “progressive” unless we proudly claim it, define it, and elevate it to its rightful place at the forefront of American politics.

From the Frontlines: July 6, 2010

July 6, 2010 ·

The DOJ finally files suit to block Arizona's immigration law.

Oil threatens Louisiana tribal life.  “If we have to leave, we’ll be spread out and no longer be a community,” she explains. “We don’t know where we’d go. BP should try to keep this community together because it’s their oil that’ll cause us to separate. Our attachment to our land is everything to us. We live off the land, so when you take us away, it won’t be the same. It’s like taking a fish out of water and seeing how long it will live.” (Eurasia Review)

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote in his most recent column that additional stimulus spending would "risk national insolvency on the basis of a model." CEPR's Dean Baker demonstrates how very, very wrong he is.

OpenLeft's Chris Bowers has an extensive roundup of what we won, lost, and compromised in the financial reform bill. The passage of the bill looks likely as Scott Brown (R-MA) appears to have signed on. While a few IPSers were looking specifically at tax reform and CEO compensation, both of which received tepid reform measures, the bill does not close this case. As Bowers put it, "no one I know in the Wall Street reform community thinks this bill ends the overall fight."

Ethnic Wiretap Magazine takes a closer look at the Equal Justice Initiative's investigation of racial discrimination in jury selection.

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Pass Christian's Last Crawfish Boil

July 6, 2010 ·

Hurricane season has officially begun again for the battered Gulf Coast communities. The first big tempest of the season, Hurricane Alex, caused coastal evacuations and sent clean-up boats and oil skimmers home to safe harbors this week. While Alex veered west of the oil-impacted shores, hitting Texas and northern Mexico, the storm will have an unforeseeable impact aggravating the oil spill clean-up. And Alex is just the first in a season predicted to contain an above average payload of mega-storms.

I talked with Gulf Coast residents who are fearful that the coming hurricanes might not so graciously avoid their shores. After surviving Katrina and coping with BP’s oil, there’s fear one more catastrophe could wipe out once and for all both the economic and cultural roots of these resilient Gulf Coast communities.

Crawfish boil in Mississippi.There was no sign of alarm or pessimism, however, among the Gulf Coast natives of Pass Christian, Mississippi last week. I joined them for what was to be their final traditional Southern crawfish boil for the foreseeable future. It was a spirited gathering, boasting 80 pounds of fresh seafood, young children beside their toothless elders, and lively local storytelling late into the night. Crawfish boils are a cultural spring tradition on these shores, and this one held special gravitas; the Mississippians and guests like myself were all gathered for a symbolic last hurrah before the impending oil inundation hits their shores.

“This will be our last crawfish boil for a while. We have no idea when we’ll get back out there on the water to get them fresh, if ever,” Biloxi resident Brian Southwick remarked.

While the mood remained festive and the crawfish delicious for over five hours of finger-licking revelry, an undercurrent of sour oil fumes tainted the air around the outdoor gathering, a lingering specter reminding all that this was to be the end of an era of abundant local seafood. Crawfish harvesting season lasts from December through July, but the fishermen here are ending their season early this June due to the encroaching oil. The oil is doing more than simply robbing these fishermen of revenue and a livelihood, the spill is robbing these Gulf Coast communities of age-old cultural traditions and the backbone of their civil society.

Michael Logan, a native of Biloxi, Mississippi and avid Gulf kayaker, predicts the oil spill will hurt fishermen the most, but added that “our whole livelihood here is based around our water.” Biloxi and the surrounding gulf coast region rely on the fishing and casino industries for the large majority of their employment and income. Biloxi in particular has a vibrant tourism industry with over a dozen casinos, the home site of Jefferson Davis, and long stretches of prime white sandy real estate.

“Would you want to come to a place with petroleum beaches? It’s going to kill all the tourism...our casinos will close down, it will be a ghost town situation, we’ll be done,” predicts Logan.

Biloxi beach before the oilTourism is already visibly declining. Biloxi’s long white sandy beaches lay vacant in the shadows of quiet casinos and docked boats. I spent an afternoon on one of these beaches, swimming in the Gulf’s waters the last day possible before they were proclaimed off limits the following day by local authorities. They were fearful of the chemicals being used as oil dispersants, another unknown variable in this catastrophe crippling the Gulf shore communities.

Mark Vanaman, a lifelong resident of the Mississippi coast and former oil rig employee, says he took a lower-paying construction job over his offshore employment after Katrina took his home and forced him to move inland. Vanaman reinforced the message of Biloxi’s empty beaches, saying, “Another storm could wipe us off the map, literally. After Katrina they said 75 percent of our population moved back, but this is turning into a nightmare. Pray for us.”

For an area all too familiar with nightmarish catastrophes, the predictions that the oil spill will be more damaging than Katrina are daunting. Biloxi was battered by Hurricane Katrina, losing 90 percent of its coastline structures, and as the six year anniversary of Katrina approaches this August, reconstruction and revitalization of the region’s economy are still incomplete.  The forecasts for a particularly active hurricane season have these residents worried that their entire communities could be forced to uproot and resettle on higher ground.

The silver lining to this apocalyptic prediction for the Gulf Coast: It could make a potent catalyst for a nationwide energy evolution. The answer to Logan’s prediction of Gulf Coast ghost towns and the prospect of Bryan Southwick’s next crawfish boil may just depend on whether the U.S. government and citizens get serious about shifting away from our destructive oil dependency. Until then, go enjoy some fresh seafood while you still can.

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