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10 Great Things To Be Thankful For in 2011

From Occupy and Elizabeth Warren to the Nissan Leaf and Col. Ann Wright, progressives have quite a few things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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Most recently, Sanders spearheaded an inquiry into the corporate influence of the State Department's handling of the environmentally disastrous  Keystone XL pipeline, a fossil fools' errand whose implementation would essentially mean game over for Earth's hospitable climate, according to NASA's outspoken atmospheric physicist  James Hansen. That triumphant stall kicked Keystone's toxic can down the road to 2012, where it can fully become the hot-button election issue it should be. For reasons like these, Sanders remains America's finest progressive of any political persuasion.

Judges Tom Nelson and Aleta Trauger: Nashville hasn't had much great news since the White Stripes' Jack White opened his own label Third Man Records there in 2009. But once the Occupy movement took hold in late October, progressive-minded judges started cropping up like pop hits. First, there was  Night Court Judge Thomas Nelson, who refused to sign criminal trespassing warrants for Occupy Nashville protesters that called bullshit on a sneaky curfew instituted by Republican governor  Bill Haslam, taking pains to note that it "is of particular consternation that the rules and curfew were enacted after a protest movement and occupation of Legislative Plaza had been tolerated for just over three weeks, with no notice that the group members were involved in criminal activity."

After that comparatively brave bit of correct legal interpretation, United States district judge  Aleta Trauger granted the protestors' ACLU-backed  temporary restraining order against Haslam and his officials, which rightly asserted that both the arrests and curfew violated their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. The ruling could be a progressive legal precedent that sparks a nationwide rethink of the Occupy movement's political and legal freedoms. 

Governor John Kitzhaber: Progressives understand more than everyone that citizen deliberation is an inextricable component of a fully functioning democracy. But few politicians besides Oregon governor  John Kitzhaber have actually put that principle into practice, probably because most of them fear citizen deliberation more than they fear loss of office. Yet in July, Kitzhbaber signed into law a bill that institutionalizes the  Citizens Initiative Review, which puts randomly chosen voters into a public hearing where they analyze ballot measures and submit their findings to the public as election-day aids.

It's a level of public service that the nation has mostly forgotten, lost as it has been in the civically bankrupt ideology of privatization. The National Science Foundation conducted an academic evaluation of the CIR, and found that its significant local popularity and sound politics was no fluke. Progressive activists looking for an instantly applicable and rewarding program for civic cooperation and analysis need look no further. 

The Ohio Electorate: To be fair, they don't get points for sleeping at the wheel as a shock doctrinist like Republican governor  John Kasich took power in 2010. But better late than never, Ohio seemed to say in early November, as it  overturned Kasich's ridiculous law that restricted collective bargaining rights for hundreds of thousands of public employees. It was an outright progressive victory that should have never happened, because Kasich should never have become governor in the first place.

Hopefully, Ohio learned an important civics lesson after thinking that it could nominate a years-long Fox News host and expect anything less than doomed austerity measures. Given that Kasich's current approval rating hovers in the low 30s, and that Ohioans who would vote for a different governor given the chance register in the mid-50s, it seems that Ohio's Kasich -- like Tennessee's Haslam (yeah, him again) -- is living on borrowed time in a state that might be ripe for a progressive takeover. Stay tuned. 

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