PHOTO NATION. With this issue, we begin a new series, Photo Nation. The
first photo essay and accompanying text are by Eugene Richards, a
photojournalist and filmmaker, is the author of Stepping Through the
Ashes (Aperture) and The Fat Baby (Phaidon). Richards is a fellow at The Nation Institute. Research support was provided by the Investigative
Fund of The Nation Institute.
PRIZES. We're looking for thoughtful, provocative student voices to tell
us what issue most concerns their generation. Essays shouldn't exceed 800 words and should be previously unpublished work that demonstrates fresh, clear thinking and superior craftsmanship. The winning entry will be published in The Nation, and the winner will receive $500. Five finalists will be published at thenation.com. Deadline: March 31. Send entries to: firstname.lastname@example.org (for more information go to www.thenation.com/student).
AWARDS. Bryan Farrell has won the Gertrude Blumenthal Kasbekar
Fellowship for his web article on NASA climatologist James Hansen's refusal to let the Bush Administration mute his work on global warming. The award is given to Nation interns who conduct research on science and healthcare issues.
ON THE WEB. The Notion, The Nation's new blog, features Richard Kim's comments on the uproar that greeted a Harper's article by an AIDS
denier. Marking International Women's Day, Cynthia Enloe reports on protests by antiwar feminists against the increasing militarization of American society and the attendant cult of masculinity.
Pete McCloskey, the first Republican member of Congress to call for Nixon's impeachment and withdrawal from Vietnam, has resurfaced at 78 to challenge Richard Pombo and the Iraq War.
The antiwar messages most likely to be heard and acted upon by Congressional Democrats and wavering Republicans will come from their hometowns, where a growing number of activists are organizing with an eye toward communicating to Congress.
In the first installment of a new series called Photo Nation, a young soldier from Missouri recounts the ambush of his unit in Iraq.
Jack Abramoff is singing to Vanity Fair and planning to "name names" when his trial begins in Florida later this month. Duke Cunningham will soon serve eight years in the slammer, the longest sentence ever given to a congressman for crimes in office. Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Conrad Burns and others may share a similar fate.
But things are eerily business as usual on Capitol Hill, as the Senate takes up lobbying reform this week and the House plans a vote before Easter. Already the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee last week voted against one of the few good proposals--introduced by Senator Barack Obama--to create an independent ethics enforcement agency that would compliment and bolster the pathetically inactive ethics committee. The proposal went down 11-5, a telling precursor of things to come. Wrote Public Citizen's Craig Holman:
The committee hearing was extremely disheartening. Most members argued there simply is no Congressional ethics problem; that the public's perception of corruption on Capitol Hill is a myth. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had to the gall to mock the public's concerns by offering several ridiculous amendments, including one that would prohibit government buildings from being named after living senators. Coburn said he was planning to introduce the amendments in "jest," as a way of snickering at our calls for reform.
Let's extend the discussion we're having here on immigration reform another round or so. Below this post you can read of my colleague Sam Graham-Felsen's hopes for the much-needed DREAM act to come to fruition.
Frankly,just as the Senate starts marking up its immigration reform bill before a March 27 deadline, the lights on the whole border enhcilada are alarmingly dimming out. Dreams are more likely to end as nightmares. Yes, the Republican restrictionists on Capitol Hill are doing a fine job of sandtrapping more moderate reformers.
But let's stop for a moment and ponder what a piss-poor job the Democrats are also doing.
LIBERALS, LIBERALS EVERYWHERE
In his March 6 "Liberal Media" column, titled "The Gasbag Gap,"
which discusses the Sunday-morning public affairs broadcasts, Eric
Alterman writes that "every week" on This Week With George
Stephanopoulos, Mr. Stephanopoulos seeks the wisdom of George Will and
Fareed Zakaria "with no balance whatsoever." By that, he means no
liberal or progressive voice. Had Alterman done some basic research, he
would have seen how false that statement was.
It is true that Will appears almost every week and Zakaria has been on
more than fifteen times in the past year (though not every week). Both
provide keen insight for our viewers. However, it is not true, as
Alterman suggests, that Sam Donaldson no longer appears on the
roundtable. In fact, he appeared eleven times over the past year.
Alterman also fails to note, perhaps because he failed to check, that
the following liberals and progressives have also appeared on the
roundtable over the past year: E.J. Dionne (four times), Robert Reich
(two times), Donna Brazile (six times), Kweise Mfume (two times), Mario
Cuomo, Paul Begala, Paul Krugman, Howell Raines, Cynthia Tucker, Walter
Dellinger, and last--but certainly not least--Nation editor and
publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel (three times).
Executive Producer, This Week With George Stephanopoulos
New York City
"Basic research" or no, Katherine O'Hearn's critique strikes me
as a kind of bait-and-switch operation. I never said liberals are
unrepresented on This Week. I said, based on the careful research of
Media Matters for America, that they are consistently overmatched. And
they are. The study, which offered an extremely generous definition of
"progressive," found that during Clinton's second term, Republicans and
conservatives outmatched Democrats and progressives on the show by
a margin of 45 percent to 39 percent. During the first Bush term,
the figures were 40 percent Republican/conservative and just
28 percent Democratic/liberal. With progressive journalists, as
opposed to officials, the figures are more heavily weighted toward the
right; 54 to 33 during the second Clinton term and 36 to 17 during the
first Bush term (with the rest coded as "neutral," again extremely
That O'Hearn can name a few progressives who have appeared with Will in
no way contradicts anything I wrote; nor do the few appearances of
liberal journalists like E.J. Dionne (who, I noted, was the only
exception in the study) and my boss, Katrina vanden Heuvel. Will's
appearances probably number in the four figures over the past twenty
years, and he is frequently offered the last word or one-on-one
interviews with public figures. If we round down that estimate to 800
for argument's sake, is ABC News asking us to believe that Will is 400
times as perspicacious as E.J., or 800 times as thoughtful as Krugman?
Obviously not. But it is saying that it is wholly comfortable inviting a
right-wing pundit to be a central player, and equally forceful liberals
need not apply. (If O'Hearn is going to count appearances by liberals
who came after the study concluded and after my column appeared, I guess
we're going to have to throw in yet another powwow with "Mr. Straight
Talk," John McCain, occurring as I write this.)
Moreover, This Week has a rather expansive definition of "liberal." For
instance, even with Donaldson and (the then-liberal)
Stephanopoulos as regulars, I recall no unapologetic defenses
of Clinton during the impeachment debacle, nor any full-throated critics
of Ken Starr, even though a majority of Americans supported the
President and pronounced themselves appalled at Starr's behavior. For
that matter, I'm having a little trouble remembering many opponents of
Bush's war. But I'm a liberal, so what do I know?
THEY DON'T KNOW JACK
James Dobson is hardly a close ally of disgraced lobbyist Jack
Abramoff, despite the insinuations Max Blumenthal lays on Nation readers
["Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers," Feb. 20]. Abramoff's personal
e-mails have led some people to believe that Dobson helped him defeat a
tribal casino in Louisiana, but it's an empty boast--like a rooster
taking credit for the sunrise. Dobson didn't do anyone's bidding.
The fact is, gambling has been mentioned as a destructive force to
families roughly 200 times on Focus on the Family radio broadcasts
during the organization's twenty-nine-year history. So when we took
action against Louisiana gambling expansion in 2002, it was a
continuation of a long-established pattern. We used our own money, and
Dobson had no contact with Abramoff and no knowledge of his activities.
Focus on the Family is getting mentioned in the sad Abramoff story only
because we quite coincidentally fought the same casino at the same time.
Dobson needs no one's pressure to oppose gambling in all its forms,
because he's motivated by only one thing: the desire to safeguard
families from the crime, bankruptcy, corruption and divorce that
proliferate whenever a casino comes to town. We did it because gambling
destroys families. Why, or how, Jack Abramoff did it is a story we have
no connection to.
Focus on the Family
Tom Minnery omits any mention of the man who prompted and
coordinated Focus's involvement in Abramoff's schemes--Ralph Reed,
Abramoff's go-between with Dobson and the Christian right, whom he then
rewarded with $4 million in casino money. As documented in the e-mail
exchanges among Reed, Abramoff and Abramoff's business partner, Michael
Scanlon--subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs--they
delighted in manipulating Dobson like a puppet on a string.
In February 2002, when Abramoff learned that the Jena Choctaws, a tribal
competitor to one of his casino clients, had contracted the
lobbying services of DC super-lawyer and current Mississippi
Governor Haley Barbour, Reed asked Dobson to attack Barbour on his radio
show. In a February 6, 2002, e-mail Abramoff tells Reed, "Let me know
when Dobson hits him [Barbour]. I want to savor it." That same day, in
an e-mail titled "Ralph and Dobson," Abramoff tells Scanlon that Reed
"got to Dobson who is going to...get on the radio!" On February 19 Reed
got a direct request from Abramoff. "Can we get Dobson on the air?" Reed
responded that day in an e-mail, "yes. We're negotiating that now." In
an e-mail later that day, Reed told Abramoff, "called Dobson this a.m."
The next day Abramoff wrote to Scanlon: Reed "wants a budget for radio
in the state. I'm inclined to say yes, so we can get this Dobson ad up.
He asked for $150K. We'll play it in WH [the White House] and Interior."
Later that day Abramoff was jubilant. Reed "may have finally scored for
us!" he wrote to Scanlon. "Dobson goes up on the radio next week." On
February 26 Abramoff asked Reed, "where are we with Falwell, Robertson,
Dobson, etc.? we need to see some action in D.C. That's what I sold them
for $100K." Doesn't James Dobson know that lies make baby Jesus cry?
HILLS ALIVE WITH SOUND OF MONEY
In "Can Justice Be Trusted?" [Feb. 20], on the Abramoff/Guam
story, Ari Berman mentions Howard Hills, the Abramoff conduit for Guam
lobbying funds paid in $9,000 increments. Hills's irregular practice of
law is well known to the islands. Just ask the people of Rongelap, who
were exposed to US nuclear tests in the Marshalls. As a State Department
lawyer, Hills led the move to dismiss their cases in the US Court of
Claims. Then he offered the people of Rongelap his services as a
"connected Republican lobbyist and political strategist" to restore
their claims and get Congressional funding. Oh, but for a fee of more
than $300,000 a year. This is not representation, this is a shakedown,
like closing casinos and then offering help to reopen them--for a fee.
Varmints like Hills should be exposed and brought to justice.
TONY de BRUM
NUKING THE NUKES
La Jolla, Calif.
Richard Falk's "Storm Clouds Over Iran" [Feb.13], on the dangers
associated with a US aerial attack on Iran, omits the crucial fact that
such an attack is likely to include the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
New US nuclear weapons policies have "integrated" nuclear weapons with
conventional weapons and envision their use against underground
facilities and to pre-empt enemy attack with WMD. The drafters of these
policies occupy the upper echelons of the current Administration.
The B61-11 nuclear earth penetrator entered the US stockpile in late
2001. It can be launched from F-16 aircraft and causes twenty to 200
times less "collateral damage" than surface explosion. At low yield in
desolated areas like the Natanz enrichment plant, it would cause few
casualties and achieve US goals. The US "negative security assurance" of
1995 promising not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries
explicitly excludes countries declared in "noncompliance" with the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as Iran was in September 2005.
Pentagon documents emphasize that "no customary or conventional
international law prohibits nations from employing nuclear weapons in
The President has sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.
Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 14 of the Constitution, Congress
could restrict this authority by legislating that its authorization is
needed for the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries. Such
use of nuclear weapons will set off a dangerous chain reaction, leading
to many more countries acquiring nuclear weapons and heightening the
risk of global nuclear war. This path should not be entered on the
decision of the President alone. Congress is derelict in its
responsibilities if it doesn't address this issue while there is still
DINING AT THE CIA'S 3-STAR TROUGH
Victor Navasky's obituary for The New Leader ["In Fact...," Feb.
13] contained an interesting comment: "Arguably it has been drifting
rightward...even dined at the CIA trough," which stirred me to defend
progressive groups that received CIA funds during the cold war.
Accepting occasional support from the CIA in the 1950s might very well
have been a mark of honor and distinction for a leftist journal like The
The CIA was created in 1947 by Congress to fight the cold war using
covert and clandestine methods. Despite its many failures, the agency
was always on "our side." We may have had "rogue" Presidents who used
the CIA for rogue purposes, but we never had a rogue CIA. In fact, The
New Leader's founder, the Socialist Party's Norman Thomas, was involved
with a group that supported elected Latin American leftist governments,
like the one that briefly ruled in the Dominican Republic, 1962-63. This
group was later revealed to have received funds from CIA cash conduits.
That fact does not imply that Thomas had moved "rightward," only that
the US government--in this case, that of John Kennedy--wanted a means of
quickly and quietly helping the reformist government of Juan Bosch
without having to go through Congress.
As a young graduate student, I was involved with the programs of this
group--which ran IDES (the Institute for Economic and Social
Development) in the Dominican Republic, and CIA funding was vital.
(Unfortunately, the Bosch administration was overthrown by a coup in
mid-1963). The CIA, with all its warts, was always on our side in the
cold war. I'm not certain I could say the same for The Nation.
DAVID EUGENE BLANK
A Greenspan memoir will do fine in the marketplace. It is the kind of Important Book daughters buy for father's birthday. In the unlikely event Greenspan tells the truth, it would be a sensational bestseller.
"If we say we need it, the American people can afford it," a high-ranking Pentagon official once told Vice Admiral John Shanahan years ago.
By "it" he meant weapon system after weapon system. Today America can't afford it. But still the Pentagon wants it all and what Shanahan terms the "Military-Industrial Congressional Complex" happily says yes, under the guise of appearing "strong on defense."
Congress is close to passing another $50 billion for the war in Iraq, on top of the $251 billion previously allocated. This funding isn't even part of the Pentagon's $439.3 budget for next year, the highest level since World War II.
With the Pentagon's inspector general suggesting criminal negligence in the
killing of former NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman, it is time to demand
Congressional hearings into the way the Bush Administration cynically spun
the story to serve its political purposes at the expense of the truth.
Well, maybe you can mess with Texas. Scandal-plagued former House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, whose career in Congress imploded after he was indicted for scheming to warp homestate political maps and campaigns, won a clear victory in his Republican primary Tuesday night.
DeLay took 62 percent of the vote to 30 percent for his most credible challenger, Tom Campbell, a lawyer who served as general counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the George H.W. Bush administration. Lawyer Mike Fjetland, a frequent candidate, took 5 percent, while Pat Baig, a retired credit manager, got 3 percent.
Those numbers look good on paper for DeLay. But, on the ground in Texas, the refrain is: "Tom's in trouble."
A single Vermont community's call for the impeachment of President Bush turned into a chorus Tuesday night, with town meetings across southern Vermont echoing the demand that Congress act to remove the president.
Voters in the town of Newfane, where the movement began, endorsed impeachment by a resounding margin. The paper ballot vote was 121-29 for a slightly amended version of the resolution that had been submitted by Dan DeWalt, an elected member of the town's select board. DeWalt's initial resolution declared:
Whereas George W. Bush has:
Two weeks after I wrote about the North Carolina Republican Party's dubious effort to collect church membership directories, the IRS issued a report revealing that 37 of 47 churches investigated nationwide during the 2004 campaign were found to have participated in prohibited political activities.
According to the New York Times, "The infractions included distributing materials that encouraged people to vote for particular candidates and giving cash to campaigns."
And it's not just Republicans who were attempting to blur these constitutional lines. The Baltimore Sun reports that Del. Emmet Burns Jr., a democrat from Baltimore County, has received approximately $16,000 from churches since 2000. In all, over 100 churches in Maryland donated money to 40 candidates since 2000.
Imagine this scenario, as described last week in Washington by defense expert and former Senator Gary Hart.
Overnight, Iraq has descended into a full-scale civil war. Shiites and Sunnis are viciously killing each other. Vying for supremacy, both groups come after American troops--who are unable to take sides or quell the violence. Stuck in urban centers, US soldiers are unable to safely flee in time. A bloodbath ensues.
"America could lose its Army in Iraq," Hart told a crowd of journalists and foreign policy junkies at the New America Foundation last Thursday, repeating the warning twice. "See Black Hawk Down and multiply it to the tenth power. Read the history of 1812. Think of the image of US soldiers on helicopters [exiting] Saigon and multiply it to the tenth power."
It is appropriate indeed that the first time voters will be offered an opportunity to weigh in on the question of whether to impeach President George W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors is at a New England town meeting in a community chartered two years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted.
After all, in a country founded on the principle that executives -- be they kings or presidents -- must be accountable to the people, patriots have always known that, as George Mason, the father of the Bill of Rights, told the Constitutional Convention of 1787: "No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice?"
In Newfane, Vermont, Dan DeWalt, who serves as an elected member of the town's Select Board, has answered that question as Mason intended. "We have an immoral government operating illegally," DeWalt explained, when he proposed that today's annual town meeting vote on articles of impeachment.
This past Sunday, on Meet the Press, would-be-Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards and one-time-Republican presidential candidate Jack Kemp, used the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill's Fulton speech to promote their new Council on Foreign Relations' Task Force Report, Russia's Wrong Direction: What the US Can and Should Do.
Edwards and Kemp didn't use Churchill's rhetoric of 1946. Neither spoke of "an iron curtain" descending across Europe. Yet in 2006, there are whiffs of a new-fangled Cold War. This new chapter in US-Russian relations already has its own codewords, checkpoints and nuances. (Underlying the rhetoric is an American triumphalism, as represented by John Lewis Gaddis's new history of the Cold War.) There is a hectoring tone and a familiar double standard, for example, when it comes to condemning Moscow for seeking allies and military bases abroad just as the Bush Administration is doing. As Russia expert and New York University Professor Stephen Cohen ( as well as longtime Nation contributing editor and, full disclosure, my husband) lamented at a conference on the Cold War held at the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow last week, US-Russian relations are being remilitarized.
Talking before a group of nearly 200 Russian and Western scholars, journalists, and diplomats, Cohen observed that "most alarming, negotiations for reducing nuclear weapons have, in effect, been terminated by the Bush Administrations' unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty, and by the essentially meaningless nuclear reductions agreement it imposed on Moscow in 2002. And all this, including new buildups on both sides, while Russia's means of fully controlling its existing nuclear devices are less reliable than they were under the Soviet system."
For the first time in two decades, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday begins debate on the way overdue issue of comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate Judiciary Committee now has until March 27 to come up with a definitive proposal.
Unfortunately, the debate is mired in a growing Republican civil war that could sink the whole process. On the one side are conservatives like John McCain in the Senate and Jeff Flake in the House who have joined with Democrats to support both a guest worker program and legalization for the 11 million "illegals" estimated to be living in the U.S. They've come together around the so-called McCain-Kennedy proposal which is also supported by immigrant advocate groups and organized labor.
On the other side are the so-called "restrictionists" who want to continue with our current head-in-the-sand policy and merely build bigger and higher walls and fences. While the latter sentiment already manifested itself ina bill passed last December in the House, there had been some optimism that the Senate would do a more reasonable job.
When South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed legislation that effectively bans abortion in his state, the director of the militantly anti-choice Christian Defense Coalition announced that the legal and political foundations that underpin the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision are crumbling. "Roe is slowly, but surely, being chipped away at," declared the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney.
That's not a precisely accurate picture.
In fact, there is nothing slow about the current assault on reproductive rights.
South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds has signed the state abortion ban, which bars all abortions without exception except to preserve the life of the mother. Doctors who violate the law face five years in prison. Although the law will surely be stayed by the courts, this should be a real Aha! moment for the women of South Dakota. Now they know they live in a state that values them only as incubators of fertilized eggs--even when fertilized by rapists. That's valuable information! It's a real Aha! moment for us all, actually--turns out the anti-choice movement really means it when they talk about abortion as murder. While Gov. Rounds and President Bush expressed their preference for the strategy of nibbling away at Roe--a much shrewder political tactic that Democrats are always recommending to Republican strategists--the antis went for the whole pie. Why? Because they're fanatics on a mission from God. They think birth control is abortion too.
If you want to get a sense of what's at stake in the war against legal abortion, take a look at How the Pro-choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex by Cristina Page (Basic Books). It's short and sweet and shrewd and funny, and makes a persuasive case that what is at stake is not just the right of women to terminate pregnancies, but modern sexuality and family life, from the very idea of sex for pleasure not procreation to flexible gender roles in marriage. Page packs in an amazing amount of factual information into 168 pages. Did you know, for example, that one effect of parental notification/consent laws is to push abortions later, as 17 year olds decide to wait till they turn 18 and don't need a permission slip for the doctor? And did you know that not one major pro-life organization has an official policy supporting "artificial" contraception? No wonder those well-meaning attempts to find "common ground" never get anywhere.