The Nation is America’s oldest weekly news magazine, and one of the most widely read magazines in the world for politics, news and culture.
Pultizer Prize-winning author David Halberstam, who has died in an automobile accident at age 73, was one of America's most thoughtful critics of media excess and abuse. The Powers That Be, his 1979 account of the rise of big media in the United States -- with its profound profiles of CBS's William Paley, Time's Henry Luce and other broadcast and print titans -- remains required reading.
But whatever his topic -- the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War era -- Halberstam always kept a sharp eye on the role played, for better or worse, by media. He was one of the greatest reporters of his time, and a man who loved the journalist's craft. But Halberstam was no apologist for the missteps or the misdeeds of those who owned major newspapers and broadcast networks.
In 2003, shortly after the Federal Communications Commission moved to loosen controls on media consolidation, Dave Weich of www.powells.com asked Halberstam about the way in which big media shapes American society:
There is an attempt in Congress to undo the damage done by a rightwing-trending Supreme Court (and the lower courts ain't too pretty either) intent on eviscerating a woman's right to privacy and control of her own body. Â
The Freedom of Choice Act was reintroduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Representative Jerrold Nadler just one day after the Supreme Court's paternalistic and frightening decision to uphold an abortion-procedure ban (intact dilation and extraction--all too often referred to by the media as "partial birth abortion,"Â a phrase coined by the right decades ago) that makes no exception to protect the health of the mother.Â The new legislation "would codify in federal law the rights established in Roe v. Wade," Allison Stevens of Women's eNews reports.
The bill's chances for passage are gloomy.Â But since the courts can no longer be relied upon to protect a woman's right to choose, new strategies are needed.Â And what's critical is that Democrats stand strong--not only in championing legislation that will help prevent pregnanciesÂ (and here), promote affordable childcare, and provide real family values funding--but also support the right of a woman to control her own body and health choices.
I'm still in northern France. Today, French voters particiapted in record high numbers in the first round of the presidential elections. The Gaullist Party's Nicolas Sarkozy got around 30% and the Socialists' Segolene Royal got 25.2%. The voters also delivered a sharp rebuff to the far-right, anti-immigrant candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, giving him only 11.5%.
That means that Sarko and Sego will go to the second round run-off on May 6. Five years ago, Le Pen shocked much of the French intelligentsia by beating the Socialist candidate (Lionel Jospin) into second place, and thus got into the run-off ballot against Chirac a couple of weeks later.
Lille is in a traditionally leftwing part of the country; and many leftists here were shocked in 2002 that even this district had put Le Pen top of the ballot. This time, in the "département" of which Lille is a part, Le Pen got some 14.7%, Sarko got 29.7%, and Sego got 23.0%.
The Vermont Senate voted 16-9 Friday morning to urge the state's congressional delegation to introduce and support articles of impeachment against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Dozens of communities across the country -- including forty towns in Vermont -- have urged that Congress begin the process of impeaching and removing Bush and Cheney. But this is the first time that a state legislative chamber has done made the call.
The move, which is the latest win for Vermont's large and active impeachment movement, puts pressure on freshman Democratic Congressman Peter Welch.
Many of you may not have had the time to tune into the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. So, as a public service, here's just the nub of what you need to know about his morning appearance, as taken down by your trusty scribe. Think of it as a little 3-minute primer for a busy world on the state of (in)Justice (Department ofâ€¦) in America:
Gonzales' introductory statement: "I shoulda been more preciseâ€¦ My misstatements were my mistakes, no one else'sâ€¦ I have been extremely forthcoming with informationâ€¦ not the actions of someone with something to hideâ€¦"
Responses to Committee Chairman Sen. Leahy (D-VT.): "I can only recallâ€¦ I don't recallâ€¦ I did not knowâ€¦ it appearsâ€¦ I was not responsible forâ€¦ I have no recollectionâ€¦ Again, Senator, I was not responsible for compiling thatâ€¦ I don't recall a specific mentionâ€¦ It appearsâ€¦ as I recallâ€¦ I don't recall Senator Dominici everâ€¦That rationale was not in my mind, as I recallâ€¦ Senator, that's an answer that I have to get back to youâ€¦ Senator, I'd like to give you that information, butâ€¦"
On May 3, the voters of Scotland are headed to the polls to vote for the third Scottish Parliament since that body was created in 1999. There is apparently a pretty strong chance of a Scottish Nationalist Party victory there. The SNP's manifesto calls-- in reasonably argued terms-- for Scotland's independence from the Union it has maintained with England for exactly 300 years now.
The newly emerged "Scottish question" is impacting London politics in some very significant ways. Only one of these is the newly emerging possibility that the Holyrood (Scottish) Parliament might move towards secession. Another is the fact that the Labour Party's anointed successor to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, who has loyally stood in line for years to wait for his turn as party and national leader, is now seen by many English people as far "too Scottish".
Until very recently being seen as Scottish would have been viewed by most English people either as a plus or as something fairly netural. But now, suddenly, a surge in anti-Scottishness among many English people suddenly has Brown's chances of winning the intra-party succession vote thrown into a serious degree of doubt.
It's really pretty amazing to see the way that a consensus is forming, one that crosses the political spectrum, that the Bush administration has been an historic disaster. I was at a lunch this past weekend with a very, very conservative young law student, and even she could only muster a half-hearted defense of the administration and seemed to almost apologize for her support of it.
That's all well and good, but the next battle will be over how to understand the Bush failure. You're already seeing conservatives rushing to distance themselves from the administration and chalk up its manifest failtures to mere incompetence. But while that's part of the story, it's not most of it.
Enter Rick Perlstein and The Big Con to fill in the story. Rick's written two books (the latter of which is forthcoming) documenting the rise of the modern conservative movement, from Goldwater through Nixon. He's now writing a blog over at Campaign for America Future, in which he documents the ways in which the failures of the Bush administration are the failures of conservatism as an ideology and governing approach. Check out this opening post on E Coli Conservatives.
In reading Gloria Feldt's commentary on the Supreme Court's heartbreaking and groundbreaking decision to deny women the right to choose, I'm reminded of what the former President of Planned Parenthood Feldt calls "the travesty of language" around this issue.
In late 2005, I published a book titled "Dictionary of Republicanisms." One of the many reasons for doing the book was my belief that before we can win the great battle of ideas, we must first debunk the Right's political discourse--a veritable Orwellian code of encrypted language that twists common usage to deceive the public for the Republicans' own purposes. "The key to their linguistic strategy," I argue in the book's introduction, "is to use words that sound moderate to us but mean something completely different to them."
I think of what Feldt calls "the travesty of language" and the Right's longterm, well-funded battle to hijack our language as I read the Court's decision--one that in plain language eviscerates a woman's right to control her own body. I also thought--Shame on major news outlets--like the Washington Post's editorial this morning--for simply lifting and using the Right's language of "partial birth" abortion. (The procedure--as the New York Times pointed out, is known medically as "intact dilation and extraction.")
Many families head for Walt Disney World over April vacation. It's a fun place to take kids of many ages, and even the most cynical and grouchy grown-ups are likely to end up enjoying themselves. Encouraging this cheery mood has always been part of the job of Disney World workers, and it's a job they do well. But this April, these workers are not feeling so cheerful, and the Magic Kingdom, for all its splendid illusions, looking an awful lot like the real world of low-wage service work in America.
Disney World pays entry-level workers only 33 cents above Florida's minimum wage of $6.67, and about 41% of its employees make less than $8.50. Disney workers must also pay thousands of dollars a year for their health insurance. Like many service workers, Disney workers are expected to make themselves available to work at almost any time of the day or night, but are only guaranteed 32 hours a week, and are often not told when they will be working until the last minute; this policy wreaks havoc on family life. Disney has also been "outsourcing" --using outside contractors instead of hiring its own workers -- a practice that lowers labor standards significantly for all its employees (Walt Disney himself renounced this practice as he found it resulted in lower standards of hospitality and service). You can learn all this and more from We Are Disney.Info, a website set up by the Service Trades Council Union, a coalition of union locals representing Disney World workers. The site has personal testimonials from Disney workers, people like Judy Claypool, who has been with the company 17 years and feels personally insulted by its conduct. "When Walt Disney World outsources our jobs," she says, "they disrespect our hard work and years of service." Others describe the material hardship of low pay and unaffordable health insurance. The Disney workers will be re-negotiating a contract beginning April 28, and they're hoping to improve their lot.
If you're planning a trip to Disney World, don't cancel your plans just yet. The workers are not encouraging the public to boycott. But do keep in mind that underneath that Mickey Mouse or Goofy costume may be a disgruntled worker struggling to pay his own family's rent, and let Disney know you support him.