The Nation

The Soldiers Speak Out

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for US troops to come home."

This statement – the Appeal for Redress – has been signed by over 600 active-duty soldiers who have had enough of seeing their brothers and sisters sacrificed to the disastrous war in Iraq. In this month alone, 101 American soldiers have been killed, more than in any month since January, 2005 and the fourth highest monthly total since the war began in March, 2003.

Seaman Jonathon Hutto and Marine Sergeant Liam Madden spearheaded the Appeal which is co-sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. It is the latest effort stemming from the antiwar energy that has emerged among military families, veterans, and active military, including generals and other high-ranking officers. It's also the first antiwar movement organized by active military personnel since the Vietnam War.

Hutto, who served off the Iraq coast from September 2005 until March, told the Washington Post, "I hear discussions every day among my shipmates about the war in Iraq and how it doesn't make any sense at this point. There is no victory in sight."

Madden served in Anbar province from September 2004 until February 2005. "I don't think any more Iraqis or Americans should die because of the US occupation," he told ABC News. "If people want to support the troops, then they should support us coming home." Madden cited his disillusionment with a war based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction and phantom links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

One soldier, speaking under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said, "I don't think that the American public realizes just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about what is going on over there….It's very hard. These soldiers seeing all this tribal fighting, ethnic fighting going on around them.…There is not really anything you can do to stop this."

Another soldier said he believed the Appeal would have "a snowball effect" and more and more people would sign on. "Once they start seeing momentum going forward and more and more service members coming out, they will be much more inclined to come out as well."

The names and comments of those signing onto the initiative are not made public. The Military Whistleblower Protection Act allows for "a protected communication" with Congress – but only while off-duty and out of uniform. The Appeal will be delivered to Congress on Martin Luther King Day, 2007.

These brave men and women, who put their lives on the line for our nation every day, must be heard.

New Voter ID Requirement: Platinum AmEx Card

What are the new voter ID requirements set by Republicans? "You can vote if you present a Platinum Visa or American Express card; a signed golf scorecard; a yacht license, a $10,000 bill, or a large public building named after you." That was Samantha Bee's report on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Tuesday night.

The new voter ID requirements were established in Ohio by Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is African- American. Stewart asked how minority voters were responding to these new requirements. "Minority voters are excited – and proud," correspondent Aasif Mandvi explained. "It's a milestone. For the first time in our history, a black man will have the chance to disenfranchise everyone else."

Blackwell himself is also running for governor. Stewart asked, "doesn't that give the appearance of conflict of interest?"

"No, John," Mandvi responded. "It's the definition of conflict of interest."

If young people are indeed getting their news from Jon Stewart, as many have reported, our future seems to be in good hands.

The Real Iraq Scandal

Ten Iraqis were killed and 21 injured this morning in a series of attacks in Baghdad, according to CNN. Yesterday, a car bomb struck a wedding party, killing 15 more.

One hundred and four American troops died in October, the fourth deadliest month for the US since the war began. Pick up a newspaper and look at the fatalities. Soldiers ages 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, their lives taken prematurely in an unnecessary war.

If anyone should apologize for the mess in Iraq, it's George W. Bush. But Republicans--who brought us this tragic, brutal war--want to once again turn John Kerry into the scapegoat.

Here's what Kerry meant to say at a speech Monday in California: "I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

Here's what he actually said: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

As Michael Crowley of The New Republic notes, Kerry bungled a joke. Bush bungled a war. What's worse?

A New 'Moyers for President' Twist

Several months ago, Molly Ivins and I wrote columns suggesting that Bill Moyers should consider seeking the presidency in 2008 [Molly] and that, if he did, he should mount a serious campaign [John]. Despite the fact that the journalist and author who has become in many senses the moral voice of the nation did not leap at the opportunity to wade into the swirling political waters of this turbulent moment, the columns sparked an enthusiastic response -- hundreds of emails, several websites and a busy Draft Bill Moyers for President weblog.

Now that the 2006 election season is coming to the close that in this era of the permanent campaign marks the opening of the 2008 election season, the Moyers movement -- if a campaign without an announced candidate can be called that -- has attracted an unexpected enthusiast.

Consumer activist Ralph Nader, something of a regular on the presidential campaign trail himself n recent years, has penned a sharp, well-articulated case for a Moyers candidacy.

Nader begins by asking "How does 'Bill Moyers for President' sound to you?"

It's a rhetorical question, which Nader has clearly answered for himself.

"The long time Democrat and special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson would surely widen the political debate inside the Democratic Party and its primaries in 2008," he writes.

The man who carried the Green Party banner in the 1996 and 2000 lays out a savvy proposal on behalf of a Moyers run for the Democratic nomination in the next presidential election:

For over a year, since leaving Public Television and his luminous Friday night program /NOW/, Moyers has been completing a book about President Johnson. His periodic lectures on the politics of progressive populism and the dangers of corporate power and abuses have thrilled large civic audiences and circulated widely on the Internet.

A few months ago, columnists Molly Ivins and John Nichols wrote about the desirability of Moyers' tossing his hat into the ring. In his private conversations with friends, I am told, he has not ruled out a run. On the contrary he showed some interest in an exchange with an old Texan friend.

Moyers brings impressive credentials beyond his knowledge of the White House-Congressional complexes. He puts people first. Possessed of a deep sense of history relating to the great economic struggles in American history between workers and large companies and industries, Moyers today is a leading spokesman on the need to deconcentrate the manifold concentrations of political and economic power by global corporations. He is especially keen on doing something about media concentration about which he knows from recurrent personal experience as a television commentator, investigator, anchor and newspaper editor.

As millions of viewers and readers over the decades know, Bill Moyers is unusually articulate and authentic in evaluating the unmet necessities and framing the ignored solutions in our country.

He has interviewed hundreds of authors, scholars, politicians and activists demonstrating his penchant for being well prepared in advance.

Moyers would bring to the Democratic Party a much needed understanding of the South, its political, populist and religious history and contemporary dynamics. His Baptist, Texas background would help his Party understand how to stop writing off the South to the Republicans from the Presidential to the state and local levels and how to become engaged in this fastest growing region of the nation.

Few people can bridge the perceived gaps between political regions. His books demonstrate that unique and calm ability to persuade people to come to grips with fundamentals. His presence in the Presidential primary debates would not be marginalized.

Moyers has done numerous television programs on the corruption of money in politics-commercial money given to incumbents and candidates with the understanding that there is a /quid pro quo/. He wouldn't follow those paths. Still he would have to raise money without strings attached to be credible to the media and the pollsters.

This is where Moyers has an advantage over other progressive candidates either within the Democratic Party, like Dennis Kucinich, or in the Green Party, like Peter Camejo and Howie Hawkins.

Moyers has the best contacts among well-to-do progressive Americans of anyone I know. People, who want nothing in return but clean politics, responsive government and more power to the people to make corporations servants, not masters, respect Moyers.

My guess is that with a good campaign staff he could raise $30 million during the primary season and receive millions more in federal matching funds. Such a sum would not come close to the cash that Hillary Clinton or John Kerry could raise. But carefully spent and connected to a community based movement of new leaders to freshen and redirect the Democratic Party, something of a breakthrough could happen.

At the least Moyers would quicken the pulse of his Party and give it some moxy.

Nader closes off by taking things a step further, suggesting a willingness to serve as a pointman for a Moyers campaign by closing his statement with the line: "If you have any interest in this proposal contact me at P.O. Box 19312, Washington, DC 20036."

Ralph Nader has plenty of critics, especially when he starts stirring the presidential waters. But this is a proposal that both his supporters and his critics should read with interest, as should a certain journalist from Texas.


John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com

Moral Depravity Week

I never pegged Senator George Allen as much of a reader. Nor, after his sister's memoir, did I imagine he spent much time worrying about the mistreatment of women. But last week he sounded more like a English major with a minor in gender studies than a foul-mouthed ex-football jock when he complained that his opponent's novels portrayed women as "servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these."

It seems like a Saturday Night Live parody of a political attack until you focus on two of the adjectives: promiscuous and perverted. That is because the Republican's October surprise turns out to be moral depravity.

In Wisconsin they accused one Democratic Congressional candidate of spending tax dollars to study Vietnamese prostitutes and another of having connections to a child molester. In New York, they accused a Democrat of dialing a fantasy hotline. And in Tennessee, they accused Harold Ford of taking money from a porn producer and meeting a white woman at a Playboy party.

After ten years of corrupt Republican rule, this is apparently the best that Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman can come up with. Let us pray that election day the American public makes it their last, dying gasp.

Osama's Party

Who's trying to use the war in Iraq for political gain, the Bush Administration or the insurgents?

"It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we have got an election scheduled," Vice President Dick Cheney said of the insurgency yesterday on Fox News. "Their basic proposition that they can break the will of the American people."

Oh yeah, and it's just a coincidence that Saddam Hussein's verdict will be delivered on November 5. "Shouldn't that raise a few eyebrows somewhere?" our own Tom Engelhardt wrote earlier this month.

The Bush Administration has a long and documented history of politicizing the war in Iraq. They marketed the war after Labor Day in 2002 to swing the midterms to Republicans. They delayed major assaults on insurgent strongholds until after the '04 election. So delivering a death sentence to Saddam two days before election day certainly wouldn't be out of character.

And since the Administration consistently confuses the insurgency with Al Qaeda, who do you suppose bin Laden is really rooting for in '06?

President Bush bungled the war in Afghanistan, failed to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora and played straight into bin Laden's hands by invading Iraq and turning a secular Muslim country into an Islamic extremist breeding ground. If Al Qaeda had their way, the US would probably stay in Iraq forever.

Bin Laden's pre-election videotape in '04 is widely credited with swinging the election towards Bush. So Osama, if you're reading this blog in your wireless equipped underground cave, I have a special message for you. Please sit this election out.

Outsourcing Al Gore

Do you get the feeling that every project the United States might once have undertaken is now either outsourced or simply handed over to others elsewhere on the planet? GM and Ford, for instance, took the SUV money and ran, handing over the market in fuel-efficient cars, and part of our economic future, to Japanese and other foreign automakers. Now, it turns out that the federal government has done both of those companies one better. In a front-page piece in Monday's New York Times, "Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming," Andrew C. Revkin points out that, as the global energy crisis revved up, American dependence on foreign oil imports grew, and military research of all sorts rose by 260 percent "annual federal spending for all energy research and development… is less than half what it was a quarter-century ago. It has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979."

Practically speaking, what that means is: From solar power to wind power, the US is ceding a lucrative energy future to other countries. Whatever breakthroughs might be achieved in alternative fuel development are ever less likely to happen here. Imagine what our world might have been like, if -- instead of laughing him out of American living rooms --- we had listened to Jimmy Carter in that "peak" investment year of 1979 when he gave his famous "crisis of confidence" speech in a sweater. "To give us energy security," he announced that night, "I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel." Talk about what-if history…

In the meantime, here's an inconvenient truth to consider. In the America of George Bush and Dick Cheney (who undoubtedly expect to be driving their Ford and GM SUVs on some quail-hunting expanse in the middle of the country when global warming really hits), a former vice-president with a sideline expertise in climate change, is a totally exportable commodity.

On Monday, the British government released a major global-warming study, commissioned by Gordon Brown, leading candidate for Tony Blair's prime ministership. It suggested that, in the coming years, the impact of global climate change could make the Great Depression look like a tea party. The study's author, Sir Nicholas Stern, suggested that the possibility of avoiding catastrophe is "already almost out of reach." The Brits then promptly hired former Veep Gore, clearly unemployable in our country, to advise them on climate change and lobby on their behalf. Talk about a brain drain.

It's hard to imagine Gore as a foreign lobbyist jollying up to the Bush administration. Could it be that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are betting on another kind of climate change in the US soon?

The Quiet Revolution

Over the past quarter century, an increasingly influential legal movement on the far right has been working stealthily to impose a narrow social agenda on the broader body politic. The basic idea is to get judges appointed to the federal bench who will shred popular laws protecting workers, consumers and public health while expanding executive power--at the expense of basic civil liberties.

"If they succeed," says University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, "we will, without really seeing it happen, end up with a very different country--one that's both less free and less equal."

This story is succinctly exposed in a new, short documentary (The Quiet Revolution) produced by the Alliance for Justice (AFJ), a national association working to oppose reactionary court appointments, to strengthen the public interest legal community's influence on public policy, and to foster the next generation of progressive legal advocates.

As the visionary Nan Aron, president and founder of AFJ, explained to a Nation editorial meeting recently, the failed nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 forced a change in tactics as the right learned that being open and honest about its views--as Bork had been during his confirmation hearings--would trigger widespread opposition to its nominees. So the fictitious "liberal activist judges" became the enemy and rightwing nominees learned how to duck, charm and dissemble--a strategy perfected last year by the ultra-smooth John Roberts.

As Aron explained on the Huffington Post on October 12, "most people would never buy the far right agenda if it were clearly labeled. Most people want the government to protect public health and safety, our environment, our civil rights and our reproductive freedom. So the right relies on stealth marketing behind the smokescreen of abortion, gay marriage and other hot-button issues. That's how George W. Bush was able to appoint two Supreme Court Justices with only token resistance from Senate Democrats."

The AFJ's film is one attempt to blow away this smokescreen. Narrated by actor Bradley Whitford of West Wing fame, The Quiet Revolution traces the growth of the far right legal community's development and exposes extremist hopes for reshaping American law and life around a narrow agenda alien to much of the American citizenry.

What You Can Do:
Watch Quiet Revolution online by clicking here. Better yet, order a free copy and share it with your friends and neighbors. Write letters to your local newspaper, comment on blogs, and call talk radio shows to explain how court decisions affect our daily lives.

If you are a student or a professor, click here to find out how to arrange an event on your campus.

If you're not a student, please consider contributing just $20 to Alliance for Justice to help distribute the film to schools, libraries, student groups, nonprofit organizations and activist groups all over the country, as well as to ordinary Americans nationwide.

Whose Morality?

A version of this post appeared in The Guardian's Comment is Free blog.

In 2004, the American news media made much of the finding that a fifth of voters picked "moral values" as the most important issue in deciding their vote--as many as cited terrorism or the economy. Many pundits quickly concluded that moral values were ascendant as a political issue. What soon emerged, however, was that this poorly devised exit poll --and a dose of spin --threatened to undermine our understanding of the 2004 presidential election. What the poll failed to address, for example, was the definition of "moral value." It's common sense to understand it's a phrase that means different things to different people. But many in the media quickly concluded that "moral values" only appealed to people who oppose abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research. But why not consider that "moral value" also appeals to people who oppose torture, poverty, war, the death penalty and environmental degradation?

Fast forward to 2006 and the midterm Congressional elections. It's still hard to predict but I think the minimum wage will emerge as the moral values issue of November's midterm elections. Two large reasons: the war and the economy. The other, and related to the first two: "hot button" social issues like same-sex marriage or abortion have dimmed in importance. In Ohio, where one of the hottest Senate races in the country is being waged (it looks like the populist Democratic candidate Sherrod Brown will win) on-the-ground reporting shows that not much is being said on the campaign trail about what are often called the three "Gs"--gays, guns and God. One article quotes a longtime Republican--someone who saw President Bush in 2004 as a man who reflected his own moral and Christian beliefs--as fed up with how his party has "overplayed its churchiness."

What's resonating this year in Ohio--and in most parts of the US--is the reality that the economic prosperity President Bush and the GOP constantly tout isn't to be found in factories or on Main Streets around the country. It certainly isn't benefiting people who are working harder than ever just to keep up with mounting personal debt, healthcare costs and pension obligations. And it isn't benefiting Ohio's economy --where 200,000 jobs have been lost since 2000. That's why the minimum wage ballot initiative is capturing some 70 percent support. (The initiative would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85 and index it to inflation. And, according to Policy Matter Ohio, a progressive think tank, increasing it would benefit about 700,000 low wage workers.)

Advocates of the measure --a coalition of faith groups, labor unions and progressive activists --are consciously framing an increase in the minimum wage as a moral values issue. As one activist put it: " Rewarding hard work with a fair wage is not just an abstract pocketbook economic issue but a statement of values." And it's made easier considering that for nearly a decade a Republican-controlled Congress has repeatedly refused to raise the federal minimum wage from its shameful low of $5.15 per hour, yet they have raised their own salaries nine times--to about $165,000 a year.

The "Let Justice Roll" coalition (letjusticeroll.org) --an alliance of religious denominations, including Baptists and evangelicals--community, labor and business groups--is playing a leading role in five states (Ohio, Montana, Missouri, Arizona and Colorado) where raising the minimum wage is on the ballot. In a recent statement, "Let Justice Roll" organizers pointed out that "The Golden Rule--Do to others what you would have them do to you--is the most universal value, found in most religions. CEOs who make millions while paying poverty wages, Congress members who approve pay raises for themselves while denying a raise to low-wage workers: these are widely seen as violating the Golden Rule."

In just a few days, we'll know whether the minimum wage is the values issue of the 2006 election. And we'll also find out if we're witnessing the emergence of a new economic populism in America.