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April 13, 2005, was a dark day for Democrats. As House Republicans gleefully passed legislation to repeal the estate tax permanently, 42 Democrats--about on...

TRADE AIN'T NOTHIN' IF IT AIN'T FREE

Washington, DC

Last month, with the Terri Schiavo case at its most hyped, two physicians, who also happen to be Republican legislators, offered free medical advice in an extraordinary melding of their legal and political vocations.

With nothing but a short videotape to aid them, Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), a heart and lung surgeon, and Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL), an internist, felt able to rebut the diagnoses of numerous neurological specialists who had examined Schiavo. The reps contended from their film viewing that she "[seemed] to respond to visual stimuli," cleverly suggesting, without actually asserting so, that the doctors on the case were wrong. Saying he "spoke more as a doctor than a senator," Frist went further, adding that "there seems to be insufficient information to conclude" that Schiavo was in a "persistent vegetative state" that would justify allowing her to die.

But maybe Frist and Weldon are on to something and this diagnoses-by-videotape is the wave of the future. And since these doctor-legislators seem so willing to help out needy citizens, why not consider clicking here to ask if they'd be willing to diagnose your ailment as well. With fifty million Americans currently uninsured, many folks could really use their pro bono expertise.

The Sacred College of Cardinals is supposed to be one of the world's great deliberative bodies.

Yet, despite the many challenges faced by the Catholic church, the deliberations regarding the selection of a successor to the late Pope John Paul II put more of an emphasis on speed and continuity than creative consultation or soul searching.

Barely 24 hours into the first conclave of its kind in more than a quarter century -- and after only a handful of votes -- the cardinals settled on the frontrunner for the job: German Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger.

After reading that New York Times article about the President's iPod, I couldn't resist putting together a Top Ten playlist for Dubya. So, in my Editor's Cut last week, I nominated songs like Kid Rock's "Pimp of the Nation," Eminem's "Mosh" and REM's, "The End of the World as We Know It." I even suggested that Bush add that old jazz standard, "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."

But I knew my list included only a tiny fraction of what this President needed to hear. So, I asked readers for their nominations for the "First iPod." Within minutes, terrific song suggestions were pouring in from across the United States. Many of you nominated Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief;" Green Day's "American Idiot" ("custom-written for Dubya," one reader observed); Black-Eyed Peas, "Where is the Love?;" and Edwin Starr's "War--What is it Good for?" Greats like Frank Zappa (especially, "The Torture Never Stops,"), Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs were also at the top of many lists.

I've compiled a readers' playlist from all your emails, but first I wanted to share a few of the interesting comments that came in from across the country:

An NYU law student asks a Supreme Court Justice, "Do you sodomize your wife?"

Marla Ruzicka deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Unlike Paul Wolfowitz or George Tenet, she shouldn't get it for botching the job in Iraq. No, she ...

What a progessive pope might have looked like.

When hundreds of thousands of global justice campaigners flocked to Genoa in the summer of 2001 to protest at the G-8 summit of major industrialized nations, the found an unlikely ally in the powerful and respected cardinal of Milan.

While many influential figures in the Italian political and business spheres sought to dismiss the labor, farm, environmental and human rights activists who confronted authorities in Genoa with mass demonstrations that mirrored the protests two years earlier at the World Trade Organization ministerial in Seattle, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi wrote in a widely-circulated Catholic newspaper that, "There is a clear conflict between capital and labor, and the ones who are suffering aren't the industrialists but the men and women who are working."

As the 115 elector cardinals of the church gather this week to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Tettamanzi has emerged as a leading contender. He is not the frontrunner – most observers assign that designation to German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a far more conservative player on issues of church doctrine and economics – but Tettamanzi is very much in the running. (Some observers have identified him as the chief rival to Ratzinger.) So, too, are several other cardinals who have been in the forefront of raising economic justice issues.

If Bush's proposed funding cuts go through, many Americans seeking basic literacy will have nowhere to go.

The Drum Major Institute grades Congress.

With the federal government content to let Wal-Mart run amok,it has been left up to the states to protect workers from the retailbehemoth's excesses. This past Saturday, April 9, Maryland showed America'slargest corporation who's boss.

Maryland's House of Delegates voted 82 to 48 to approve a bill thatwould require all businesses in the state with more than 10,000employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on healthbenefits for workers (or, alternatively, donate the funds to thestate's Medicaid program). Wal-Mart, with its 15,000 employees, is theonly such company that does not already spend 8 percent on health care foremployees--and thus, the direct target of the bill. Spearheaded byMaryland for Health Care, the legislation was supported by a coalition ofover 1,000 organizations representing Maryland's health, business, andcommunity interests.

"We're looking for responsible businesses to ante up...and provideadequate health care," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles). Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr., who is expected to veto the bill, lashed out atDemocratic legislators. Cowed by Rush Limbaugh's criticisms of themeasure, Ehrlich claimed the bill had made a mockery of Maryland.[Note to Marylanders: when your Governor cares more about Rush'sopinion than yours, you're in trouble. Thankfully though, with a widemajority of the Senate having approved the bill, Ehrlich's vetodoesn't stand a chance.]

Foreign aid is not dead but it seemed so last month, as the International Development Conference (a meeting of foreign aid experts that has been held in fifteen of the last twenty years) opened her

Terri Schiavo's life and death raise issues of acceptance, equity and rights.

Most television viewers don't know it, but a huge portion of what they watch on the local news programs aired by their favorite stations is not actually "news." Rather, local television stations around the country have in recent years been taking "video news releases" from the federal government and major corporations – particularly the big pharmaceutical companies – and airing them as if they were news reports.

Video news releases (VNRs) are so common these days that they actually dominate some newscasts, blurring the lines between advertising and news more blatantly than product placements in movies do the lines between advertising and entertainment.

But, from now on, VNRs will be identified as productions of the corporations that developed them, rather than pawned off as part of the news.

As celluloid guinea pig for the American left, I am perfectly willing to
report on the effects of exposure to this month's pop hit, Sin
City
.

A new book on Isaeli courts in the West Bank and Gaza.

The retreat from Lebanon threatens the survival of the regime in Damascus.

Women seeking refuge in the United States receive a cold welcome.

Rebuilding is no longer the primary purpose of the reconstruction industry.

I never thought I would miss unfair, infuriating, over-the-top Andrea Dworkin.