EYE ON THE NETROOTS:

We are excited to announce a new department for the magazine:

Net Movement

, led by Nation contributor

Ari Melber

. Dedicated to assessing how people use the Internet to affect public policy and organize political and social change, Net Movement will take a special interest in progressive innovations that can empower the disenfranchised, create and connect communities, inform public discourse and strengthen meaningful democracy. Melber has written about politics, activism and public policy for a variety of publications and websites. He is a contributing editor of the

Personal Democracy Forum

, which analyzes technology’s impact on democracy, and has been a featured speaker at

Blogging Liberally

and

YearlyKos

, the national netroots convention, where he served on the advisory committee of the first netroots debate for Democratic presidential candidates in 2007.

TAXI WINS:

The “dark side” infamously referred to by Dick Cheney as a euphemism for torture has come into the light–the spotlight of the Oscars.

Taxi to the Dark Side

, directed and produced by

Alex Gibney

, was named Best Documentary of the year at the eightieth Academy Awards. Following the case of

Dilawar

–an Afghan taxi driver who was captured, tortured and murdered by American interrogators at Bagram in 2002–Taxi searingly documents the use of interrogation tactics like sleep deprivation and waterboarding. Dilawar’s ordeal, sadly, was a harbinger of things to come, as such techniques migrated to Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, with approval from the highest echelons of the White House.

But while palatable enough for Oscar accolades, Taxi has been deemed too controversial by the

Discovery Channel

, which had purchased rights to broadcast the film. Just before his Oscar win, Gibney was notified that Taxi “doesn’t fit into Discovery’s plans” and that the film’s content might damage Discovery’s public offering. Gibney responded by calling the move “tantamount to political censorship.” Fortunately,

HBO

has been only too happy to pick up the slack. Look for Taxi to the Dark Side in theaters nationwide (distributed by THINKFilm) and on HBO in September.   BRETT STORY

SPACE CHARADE:

The Pentagon scored a direct hit February 20 when it convinced journalists that the launch of a missile from a Navy Aegis-class cruiser was not an antisatellite weapon test–something the United States roundly condemned China for carrying out in January 2007–but rather a heroic mission to save the inhabitants of earth from flaming death. Few questioned the claim that the satellite posed a danger. None noted that the chances of any satellite hitting a human is about one in a million or that the odds of this satellite coming close enough to injure a human with noxious fumes is about one in a thousand. Or that any human would have to be a moron to have a flaming gas tank land nearby and then hang around long enough to breathe in enough fumes to cause damage.

Administration spinners won this one. But it might prove a Pyrrhic victory, says

Theresa Hitchens

, director of the

Center for Defense Information

. “This highlights the major problem plaguing our space policy for the past eight years,” says Hitchens, “a focus on the short-term gains rather than our long-term strategic interests.” After China’s test and now America’s, Russian officers may push to answer in kind. India might get in the race, having just launched two satellites last year and formed its first Aerospace Command. Japan might not be far behind; it launched a satellite this month and proposed a law allowing the government to use space for military purposes for the first time.

With the most satellites in orbit and a heavy dependence on them for everything from military surveillance to phone communications to ATM withdrawals, the United States has the most to lose from a weapons-in-space race. And we have just declared it open season.   JOSEPH CIRINCIONE

OUTFLANKING NADER:

During the 2000 presidential campaign, I interviewed Democrat

Al Gore

several times about the candidacy of the Green Party’s

Ralph Nader

. Gore always answered that his own environmental record was pretty good. He never got that most of Nader’s appeal had to do with the public-interest campaigner’s blunt criticism of US trade and foreign policies that had grown increasingly imperial under successive Republican and Democratic presidents. Similarly, when I interviewed

John Kerry

about Nader’s independent challenge in 2004, the Democrat struggled to respond coherently–although memories of the 2000 race and intensity of the passion to end

George Bush

‘s presidency made Nader less of a factor. Comes the 2008 election season and Nader is back, mounting another campaign against corporate greed, militaristic foreign policies and presidential crimes. Having engaged in some sort of presidential campaigning each year since 1992, Nader is becoming a new

Norman Thomas

, the perennial candidate and great crusader for peace and social justice who ran on the Socialist tickets from 1928 to 1948. And just as Thomas’s most frequent Democratic foe,

Franklin Roosevelt

, understood how to respond to his challenger from the left–with respect, consultation and a smart borrowing of ideas that frustrated Thomas but strengthened Roosevelt–so it seems the Democrats might finally nominate a candidate who “gets” Nader. Instead of grumbling about Nader running as a “spoiler,”

Barack Obama

says, “I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage [points] of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.” Obama recognizes that Democrats must campaign smarter and better on the trade and foreign policy issues that Nader addresses. Obama’s begun to do that–he’s far clearer in his criticism of free-trade deals and a big-elbows foreign policy than were either Gore or Kerry.

The Illinois senator’s agile campaign has borrowed a page from Nader’s “Super Rally” strategy of 2000, as has his rhetoric about the need for a transformational politics. Obama’s not going to be exactly like Nader on issues. But, like FDR, he recognizes that instead of grumbling about spoilage, a smart Democrat can and must embrace issues and ideals in a manner that narrows the space left for challengers from his left to maneuver.   JOHN NICHOLS