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This Week: A Beginning in Mortgage Settlement. PLUS: Lessons From Planned Parenthood | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week: A Beginning in Mortgage Settlement. PLUS: Lessons From Planned Parenthood

A BEGINNING, NOT AN END IN MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT. Thursday’s announcement of the massive $25 billion mortgage fraud settlement comes as a piece of good news in the effort to aid struggling homeowners while holding banks accountable for their role in the economic crisis. While the full details have yet to emerge, DC reporter George Zornick offers up a preview of the good, the bad and the ugly in the settlement between federal and state officials and five major banks. The deal certainly falls short in helping borrowers cope with the costs of underwater mortgages, but as Zornick points out, the immunity to prosecution granted to banks remains narrow. More importantly, the authority granted to the new federal unit charged to investigate fraud, co-chaired by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneirderman, remains intact. As I’ve argued, Schneirderman is the right man at the right moment and is already at work issuing subpoenas. He exemplifies the commitment and willpower necessary to ensure we finally see some accountability and restitution for the havoc wrought by recklessness and greed. The biggest battles, however, have yet to be fought.

LESSONS FROM PLANNED PARENTHOOD. In a long line of targeted attacks against the progressive infrastructure, right-wing zealots met their match when they pressured the Susan G. Komen foundation to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screenings. An inspiring outpouring of online and offline outrage and criticism led Komen to promptly reverse itself and send its vice president (and political opportunist), Karen Handle, packing. But her exit, as Ilyse Hogue points out this week, is largely symbolic, and reflective of “a sophisticated political operator who may have gotten exactly what she wants.”

I explained this week that there are key lessons to be drawn from the power of organized outrage. We’ve seen it on display in Ohio: popular opposition to a proposal that would gut union rights, and in Wisconsin where over a million citizens organized to recall Governor Scott Walker. In the end, these victories for workers and women are defensive ones; they don’t advance collective bargaining rights or reproductive healthcare for women and instead stymy efforts to take them away. With enough people power channeled through grassroots activism, battles over raising the minimum wage or paid sick days for working people can begin on our ground and on our terms.

HOW WISCONSIN RENEWED THE POLITICS OF PROTEST. For nearly a year, Wisconsin has been the epicenter for the battle over labor rights. From Governor Scott Walker’s vicious proposals to cut collective bargaining rights for workers, to the inspiring protests and ensuing political drama, to the historic recall efforts currently underway to remove Walker from office, The Nation’s Washington correspondent John Nichols has covered it all. A seventh-generation Wisconsinite, Nichols brought us to the front lines of the historic battle over hard-won labor rights. On Monday, February 13, join me and Nichols for a lively discussion about his new book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest (Nation Books), the culmination of his tireless reporting for TheNation.com and which offers a comprehensive look at how change is sweeping the world, from Tahrir Square to Wall Street to Madison, Wisconsin. More details on the event here.

VOICES OF CONSCIENCE. Nation contributing writer Eyal Press’s forthcoming book, Beautiful Souls, takes us on a journey into the minds of nonconformists, whistle-blowers and “refuseniks,” people who do “something risky and transgressive when thrust into a morally compromising situation…[who] stop, say no, and resist.” In a powerful essay in this week’s issue, adapted from the book, “Voices of Conscience in Israel” introduces us to Avner Wishnitzer, an IDF solider who refused to serve in the occupied territories on account of the harsh treatment of Palestinians. Press weaves powerful narrative with deeply reported interviews to glimpse inside the mind of what impels people like Wishnitzer to stand up and resist. Be sure to listen to this week’s episode of Nation Conversations with Press and managing editor Roane Carey for more on Wishnitzer’s refusal to serve and what it means to ask bigger questions about ones role within the confines of Israeli democracy.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF DRONES. While much of today’s national security reporting focuses on the use of unmanned drone aircraft in covert military operations, little has been written to help us understand their development and implications of use. In this week’s cover story, John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, weaves current reporting and understanding of drone technology, with the history of their use in modern warfare and impact on our understanding of violence in war. “The unique technology,” he writes, “allows the mundane and regular violence of military force to be separated further from human emotion…” foreshadowing “the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity.” Be sure to read that here, and listen to Sifton and executive editor Betsy Reed discuss the policy implications as well as how the use of drones relates to animal behaviorist theories of aggression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m on Twitter—@KatrinaNation. Please leave your comments below.

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