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Christopher Hayes | The Nation

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Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

On the Alert

The ACLU has announced the U.S. "Terrorist Watch List" is veering ever closer to the 1-million mark, reaching over 900,000 names this week (up from 500,000 this past June).

Despite the FBI's effort last year to clear some 100,000 records "related to people cleared of any nexus with terrorism," the list's dubious utility continues to remain something of a running joke. A sampler of names that have made it onto the list: Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Evo Morales (Bolivian president).

Among the thousands of Americans that inadvertently ended up blacklisted, some have called airlines to complain, while others have gone the messier, more bureaucracy-ridden route to try and be officially removed. Meanwhile, Hasan Elahi, a Bangladeshi-born American whose name accidentally wound up on the list is using another method: posting his up-to-the-hour activities and location on the Internet via GPS and cell-phone. Pictures of him noodling at Au Bon Pain, receipts from his purchases at Wal-Mart--everything goes online. That way, he figures, the Pentagon will have no excuse to throw him in Guantanamo....

(You, too, can keep an eye on the dangerous character here.)

US Prisons: Still #1

The United States' rapidly metastasizing prison population has reached a new milestone: as the NYT reports, today, more than one in 100 Americans are behind bars.

For some groups, the statistic is still more grim: one in 36 for Hispanic adults, and one in 9 for black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

With the onset of the U.S. "war on drugs," across states, the growth rate in prison spending has outpaced every other budget item except healthcare. Since the 1980s, national spending on jails and prisons has swelled by 619 percent, and now stands at an annual $60 billion.

Faulty Helmets? Here's Another $74 Million

When it comes to providing helmets for U.S. soldiers abroad, the Defense Department hasn't shown itself to be particularly discriminating in its choice of manufacturers.

Last December, after secret tapes revealed the North Dakota Sioux Manufacturing Company charged with producing helmets for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan had knowingly delivered some 2.2 million helmets made with substandard weave, the Defense Department wasn't fazed by the controversy. Rather, 12 days before the pending Justice Department lawsuit was settled (with a $2-million slap on the wrist), the DOD issued another contract to the Sioux Manufacturing Company worth up to $74 million.

Today, VoteVets.org and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington launched a campaign for Congressional inquiry into the contract. Two whistleblowers from Sioux Manufacturing publicly released their recorded tapes with Sioux Manufacturing employees this morning (available with transcripts here); Sens. Kerry and Clinton have joined them in their call.

"We and our families deserve a government that will only give contracts to companies with an unblemished record," says Jon Schultz, VoteVets.org founder who served in Iraq and Kosovo. "The Bush Pentagon has once again let us down."

Since the Spirit Lake Nation owns the Sioux Manufacturing Company, the company can assert sovereign immunity in any private lawsuits brought by soldiers.

The Air Force Wish-List

To add to its $141-billion spending bonanza in 2009, the Air Force wants another $6 billion for another 120 C-180Js. And another $3.9 billion for 15 C-17s. And, of course, another 381 F-22 Raptors at $160 million apiece (which the Pentagon itself has made clear it doesn't need).

But maybe a snazzy new ad, paid for by the Air Force's new $81-million PR campaign, will change its mind:

TIME has more on the Air Force's budget requests -- which include for $13 million in dorm furniture -- here.

Quote of the Day

Brock Olivo, former running back for Mizzou and the Detroit Lions on why he's qualified to serve as the congressman from Missouri's 9th district:

"Not only was I football player, but I also was in social studies class, and I have a passion for how this country works.

Also: he's never voted before. He's running as a Republican.

Familiar Ghosts

A grinning soldier gives a thumbs-up over a greying corpse. Two captives stand nude, shackled wrist-to-wrist. Ten new Abu Ghraib photos from Wired, posted today.

Buckley

I was sick yesterday so didn't have an opportunity to note William F Buckley's passing. John Nichols has some thoughts here, but I was really moved by Rick Perlstein's tribute:

William F. Buckley was my friend.

I'm hard on conservatives. I get harder on them just about every day. I call them "con men." I do so without apology. And I cannot deny that William F. Buckley said and did many things over the course of his career that were disgusting as well. I've written about some of them. But this is not the time to go into all that. My friend just passed away at the age of 82. He was a good and decent man. He knew exactly what my politics were about--he knew I was an implacable ideological adversary--yet he offered his friendship to me nonetheless. He did the honor of respecting his ideological adversaries, without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhommie. A remarkable quality, all too rare in an era of the false fetishization of "post-partisanship" and Broderism and go-along-to-get-along. He was friends with those he fought. He fought with friends. These are the highest civic ideals to which an American patriot can aspire.

How should we treat our political enemies? It's a moral conundrum, one that weaves its way into every waking second of life in a place like DC. You know someone's ideas are wrong-headed, or ignorant, or event shot-through with true ugliness, but you also recognize that your opponents are human beings, capable of acting decently, of being good. I'm working on a piece right now that is, in some senses, about the possibility of there even being a "good faith conservatism." I'm skeptical, but also aware that the place in which ideology overwhelms basic empathy is a dangerous one.

More Coburn

Te-Ping's post on Tom Coburn's obstruction of the Genetic Non-DIscrimination Act gives me an opportunity to link this great piece by Ryan Grim in the Politico about how Coburn has, through sheer stubbornness and manipulation of the Senate's arcane decorum, made himself one of the most Senate's most important members. And believe me, this is not a guy you want calling the shots.

Banning Genetic Discrimination

Rarely does an issue receive such consensus in Washington as that the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act currently enjoys.

Already, the bill has twice unanimously passed the Senate during the 108th and 109th Congresses; meanwhile last April, the House passed the bill by an overwhelming 420-3 margin. To date, the White House has issued three statements of support of the legislation, which prohibits insurers and employers from discriminating against a person based on genetic information.

One senator, however, still stands in its way: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma).

Coburn--whose habitual contrariness earned him the nickname "Dr. No"--has a long track record of opposing bills that enable lawsuits against businesses and doctors. As Wired reported last November, internal Coburn memos indicate the same concern still motivates his hold on the bill today.

Though in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provided the first fledgling federal protections against genetic discrimination in health insurance, HIPAA doesn't prevent insurance companies from requiring genetic testing for applicants or charging higher rates based on such tests' results.

Accordingly Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York), who first introduced the bill 13 years ago, says the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act's passage is long overdue. "No one is born with perfect genes," she wrote in yesterday's Huffington Post. "We simply cannot afford to wait any longer."

Already, researchers can screen for genes linked to the development of some 1,000 diseases. In one study, the NYT reported this weekend, 7 out of 92 insurance providers said they would deny coverage, charge higher premiums or exclude certain conditions from coverage based on genetic testing.

The Surge: Over by July?

Last January, when President Bush ordered some 30,000 additional troops to Iraq to shock-inject U.S. forces into Baghdad and the surrounding environs, there were 132,000 US. troops stationed there. Now, with the last of the surge campaign troops set to leave Iraq by July, the Pentagon reports 140,000 troops will remain, meaning that about 8,000 troops--over a quarter of the original 'surge'--will be left behind.

When Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress last September, he said he expected troops levels would fall to pre-surge levels by this July. Yet this week, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejected suggestions that the Pentagon's latest update evinced any kind of negative turn. "Rather than look at this negatively, I would say there is an opportunity now to take advantage of the security that has been established by the five surge brigades," he said.

A chipper Dana Perino had more encouragement for reporters at yesterday's White House press briefing. "As long as we keep at it and we keep working at it, we're confident that Iraq will become a country that can sustain, govern, and defend itself," said Perino.

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