Columns » Max Brantley

Left-handed complement

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These are trying times for liberals. He lost the popular election, but George Bush nonetheless occupies the White House. Republicans are in control of the House and Senate and the odds seem to favor bigger Republican majorities. Few Republicans are centrists, no matter what signals the president might send. They are dedicated brand of ultra-conservatives - on social issues, the environment, taxation and government (it should be very limited except in the favors it does for private business). Public opinion polls tend to show the public closer to the center of the political spectrum than this. But elections tend to be driven by the committed and the Republicans have had a real advantage in fervor, thanks in part to cheerleading from a seemingly limitless number of privately funded conservative interest groups. Outfits such as the Heritage Foundation, nominally tax-deductible nonprofits, generate a steady diet of election propaganda for their team. The noise echoes on the radio and TV talk shows dominated by right-wing hosts. Lefties are fighting back. The Internet has helped. I depend on Media Whores Online (now back from sabbatical), Eric Alterman, the Daily Howler and a variety of other sites for the other side of the Republican spin. A particularly useful, and deadly earnest option, is the Center for American Progress (www.americanprogress.org). It's a nonpartisan, nonprofit, too. But it presents policy discussions from a progressive (AKA liberal) point of view. It's a cool drink of water for those parched by right-wing heat. If you go to the website, you can sign up for a daily e-mail newsletter. It rounds up important news stories that don't always make major headlines in local newspapers or network broadcasts. Some recent dispatches are typical. The newsletter provided links to articles on: Still more reports on the failure to find mass weapons. The failure of U.S. diplomacy to meet the threats arising from instability in the Arab world. Questions about accountability for Halliburton billings of the federal government in Iraq and a French investigation of Vice President Dick Cheney as a potential player in an African bribery scheme during his time as Halliburton CEO. The meager benefit in the Bush tax cuts for working poor. Stagnant or eroding wages in various employment sectors, record levels of part-time employment for people who want full-time jobs (a factor that makes the still-bad unemployment figures appear better than they actually are). Plus, the export of white collar jobs to overseas. The impact of rocketing federal deficits. The Bush administration's failure to fund the No Child Left Behind Act. The importance of the background of judicial nominees in closely divided legal issues affecting the environment, free speech and due process. Flaws in the recently passed Medicare legislation. Bush administration-imposed secrecy on government information. A detailed list of rollbacks of environmental laws. If these issues are important to you, you should go to the website and sign up. If you're on the opposite side, you can sign up to research the opposition. Like any dedicated right-winger, I prefer to believe that my side would prevail on the evidence - not merely on emotion and propaganda - if only enough people would become educated. Thanks to the Center for American Progress, and a number of others, you now have a bit more choice about where you get your education.

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