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Katrina vanden Heuvel | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

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

Sweet Victory: People Over Profits in Brazil

Each day, while pharmaceutical companies prosper, 8,500 people in the global South die of AIDS. Thanks to strict intellectual property laws that keep drug prices sky-high, only 7 percent of HIV-positive people in low to middle-income countries have access to antiretroviral medicine.

But last week, Brazil--already renown for having one of the most progressive AIDS policies in the world--took a bold stand against big pharma. On June 25th, health minister Humberto Costa announced that Brazil will break the patent of the antiretroviral drug Kaletra, which is manufactured by the US company Abbott Laboratories, unless the company dramatically reduces its prices. Brazil intends to make a generic version of the drug, which it says will cost barely half of the $2,630 per patient the country annually pays Abbott. In doing so, Brazil will be able to extend its free AIDS treatment program to tens of thousands more HIV-infected citizens.

Brazil maintains that its decision is completely legal under the WTO framework, which allows poor countries to break patents in cases of national health emergencies (Brazil will still have to pay a 3 percent royalty to Abbott). Costa hopes that Brazil's action will embolden other poor and disease-ridden countries--which have been bullied into submission by trade pressure from the United States and other powerful nations--to follow suit.

"Brazil's decision to put people with HIV and public health first, before protecting big pharma's monopolies…will decrease the price of that critical medicine not only in Brazil but also worldwide," says Asia Russell of Health GAP, an organization that advocates for affordable AIDS treatment.

As of last Friday, Brazil has given Abbott a final ten-day window to voluntarily lower prices before creating a generic version of Kaletra. Russell hopes that Brazil will stand firm: "Because generic competition continues to depress prices over time, a compulsory license [to produce the generic version] will help Brazil save more lives than relying on Abbott--a US drug company that recently increased the American price of one of its AIDS drugs 400 percent--with no justification."

You don't have to be a die-hard fair trade activist to agree that when corporate avarice comes before saving lives, enough is enough. To learn what you can do to be a part of the global fight for affordable AIDS treatment, click here .

We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing nationvictories@gmail.com.

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.

Rove on the Couch

As you all have heard, Karl Rove said liberals wanted to offer the terrorists therapy after 9/11. I know a lot of liberals. None of them were talking about counseling Osama bin Laden in that terrible time. But there is one person liberals would like to see in therapy: Karl Rove. How else to understand the enemy?

I'd like to know what terrible childhood trauma caused an Episcopalian from Utah to believe establishing a permanent Republican majority was his life's calling. Was he abused by a homeless man? Did feminists burn his American flag notebook at a pro-choice rally? Was he humiliated by a member of the liberal elite during graduate studies at the University of Texas?

I'd like to see Rove take a word association test. How does Karl feel when he hears the phrase "push pull polls" or "merge/purge" or "dirty tricks"?

But I'm most fascinated by his submissive and self-abnegating relationship with George W. Bush. Does Karl thrill every time Bush calls him by his nickname, "Turd Blossom"?

Yes, liberals would like to offer Rove therapy…and then prepare indictments.

Sweet Victory: Vilsack Restores Voting Rights

This August marks the fortieth anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Upon sending the bill to Congress, Lyndon Johnson stated, "But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America…to secure for [African-Americans] the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too."

Yet, with approximately 4.7 million US citizens still disenfranchised--a vastly disproportionate number of them African-American--the promise of the Voting Rights Act remains unfulfilled. Today, 13 percent of all American black men are ineligible to vote due to draconian felony disenfranchisement laws.

But last week, Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa announced that on July 4th, he will restore voting rights to thousands of Iowans, reversing an unjust state law that imposes lifetime disenfranchisement for anyone convicted of a felony

Reform was badly needed in Iowa. Despite the state's two percent black population, 25 percent of those affected by the disenfranchisement law were African-American--the highest percentage in the country. "This is a huge victory for voting rights and for civil rights," says Catherine Weiss, of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, one of the partners in the Right To Vote Campaign "… it is a bold strike for justice and equality."

In March, Nebraska also overturned its lifetime disenfranchisement law for convicted felons, and currently only four states--Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia--continue to uphold this absurdly punitive law. For information about felony disenfranchisement laws in your state, click here and to see what you can to be a part of this new wave of the voting rights movement, click here.

We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing nationvictories@gmail.com.

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.

Recruiters Sink to New Lows

During the Vietnam War, protesters burned draft cards, rallied on campuses and marched on Robert McNamara's Pentagon. Today, with the war in Iraq raging on and on, parents, teachers and other community leaders are spearheading a new antiwar effort, telling the military to keep their hands off the children. The Times' Bob Herbert put it well: "The parents of the kids being sought by recruiters to fight this unpopular war are creating a highly vocal and potentially very effective antiwar movement."

The debacle in Iraq has made recruiting an impossibly difficult job and recruiters are sinking to new lows in the face of growing pressure to fulfill monthly quotas as well as fierce opposition from parents who don't support the President's botched Iraq war mission.

While the stunning list of recruiting abuses has received some needed media attention, it's worth reviewing the extremes to which the military has gone to fill its ranks. In Houston, one recruiter warned a potential recruit that if he backed out of a meeting, "we'll have a warrant" for the potential recruit's arrest. In Colorado, a high school student, David McSwane, who wanted to see "how far the Army would go during a war to get one more soldier," told recruiters that he didn't finish high school and that he had a drug problem. "No problem," the recruiters responded. McSwane was told to create a diploma from scratch and to buy products at a store that would help him beat the drug test.

Recruiters have urged teens to lie to their parents and have ignored medical and police records of potential recruits to not compromise recruiting goals. In Ohio, two recruiters signed up a 21-one-year-old man with bipolar disorder who had just been released from a psychiatric ward. The violations, all told, forced the Army into halting all recruiting for a day last May so it could re-train its recruiters and remind them of the ethical considerations entailed in their jobs.

Despite this recent recruit-at-all-costs mentality, the Army has now failed to meet its monthly recruiting quotas for four months straight. (It's beginning to re-jigger its goals in mid-stream and even then it still can't meet its quotas.) There's even talk among retired military brass and other defense experts that the all-volunteer Army is stretched so thin in Iraq that it can't sustain the mission much longer.

Hence, recruiting violations in the Army have nearly doubled to 320 in 2004 from 199 in 1999, and as my colleague Ari Berman pointed out the Army has added 1,200 recruiters, "upped enlistment bonuses from $6,000 to $20,000 per recruit," and created 15-month enlistments as an alternative to the standard two-year enlistment period. The Army is also accepting into its ranks a greater number of high school dropouts and lower-scoring applicants as well.

"The problem is that no one wants to join," one recruiter recently told the Times. "We have to play fast and loose with the rules just to get by." The standards for those already in are also being adjusted: The Wall Street Journal recently reported on an internal army memo which said that battalion commanders could no longer kick out of the military enlistees who had abused drugs and alcohol, gotten pregnant or were unfit for duty.

If you want to understand just how dire the situation is, you need to know that the Army is busily exploiting a provision in the No Child Left Behind law that allows recruiters to go into public schools receiving federal funding, gain access to students' personal data and cultivate potential recruits with a virtually unfettered hand. According to an Army manual, savvy recruiters should eat in the school cafeteria, befriend administrators, bring coffee and donuts for teachers and buddy up to team captains and student body presidents to win the hearts and minds of other students.

Activists are holding rallies to raise awareness, urging families to tell schools to keep their personal data private. A student-led campaign at a high school in Montclair, New Jersey, convinced more than 80 percent of the student body to keep their private information hidden from recruiters.

Then there's NASCAR. Our US military is spending millions of dollars a year recruiting young men at NASCAR races. As the Air Force's superintendent of motorsports said (according to the AP, that's actually his job­superintendent of motorsports), NASCAR is the military's "target market." The Army alone is spending $16 million a year at NASCAR events. Each branch of the Armed Forces sponsors NASCAR race drivers and they set up recruiting booths outside of NASCAR events. This "belly-to-belly selling," the superintendent of motorsports explained, enables the military to woo potential recruits "face to face."

Recruiters are paying a high price, suffering from depression, headaches and stomach problems brought on by the tremendous pressure of having to find two new recruits per month to meet their quotas, avoid their commanders' wrath and fulfill their mission. One Texas recruiter told the New York Times' Damien Cave that he'd rather be fighting on the front lines of the war in Iraq than recruiting weary teenagers and coping with anxious parents in the states.

"The evidence is overwhelming that the Army is slowly being worn down by its commitment in Iraq," a Pentagon adviser and military analyst at the Lexington Institute told Newsday. The handwriting is on the wall: This is a failed war, and the American people are refusing in their wisdom to fight it.

The Beginning of the End?

"We see this as the beginning of the end," said Tom Andrews, a former Democratic representative from Maine who is executive director of the antiwar group Win Without War. "It's the very beginning of a new wave of activism on this war. There's a real sense that something is beginning to move."--Los Angeles Times, Friday June 17, 2005

Earlier that day, a friend and longtime antiwar activist left me a voice mail message. Just ten days earlier he told me that he was more depressed about our politics than at anytime in the last 40 years. "Hello, this is..." he said. "I was in Washington yesterday at the rally and at the Conyers hearings. And since I laid a heavy statement on you last week, I just wanted to make a correction. It's finally over. My despair is over. Something has happened these last ten days that has revived the antiwar issue. It has to do with public opinion polls and casualties and Republicans like Walter Jones and more Democrats standing up. I won't say how optimistic I am. But something is coming together--you can feel it."

You can feel it.

*Every day brings news of public opinion turning against the occupation--and the President's conduct of the war. Last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that for the first time since the war began, more than half of the public believes the US invasion has not made the US more secure; and nearly 40 percent described the situation there now as analagous to the Vietnam War. A new Gallup survey finds that almost 60 percent of Americans say the US should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, the largest number in that category ever. And for the first time, most Americans say they would be "upset" if President Bush sent more troops. Gallup also found that 56 percent now feel the war was "not worth it," and 73 percent consider the number of casualties unacceptable.

* Every day brings news of more Democrats coming forward, standing up and introducing "exit strategy" resolutions. (Though, as of yet, leadership isn't coming from the leadership.) Lynn Woolsey forced a Congressional vote on bipartisan legislation that would have asked Bush to submit a plan to Congress explaining the outlines of an exit strategy from Iraq. Senator Russell Feingold has introduced a nonbinding resolution calling on the Bush Administration to set specific goals for leaving Iraq.

In the House, the International Relations Committee last week voted overwhelmingly, 32 to 9, to call on the White House to develop and submit a plan to Congress for establishing a stable government and military in Iraq that would "permit a decreased US presence" in the country. Congresswomen Maxine Waters (D/CA)--along with 41 Congressional progressives, including Woolsey, John Lewis, Charles Rangel, Jim McGovern, Rush Holt, Marcy Kaptur and Jan Schakowsky--has just formed the "Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus." Its sole purpose, Waters says, "is to be the main agitators in the movement to bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan." And Rep John Conyers' impassioned efforts to bring attention to the Downing Street Memo--on Thursday he held hearings on Capitol Hill and then delivered to the White House letters that contained the names of more than 560,000 Americans demanding answers to questions raised by the British memo--has reenergized and refocused opposition to the war.

While the Administration and its allies in Congress are trying to make it seem as if these new initiatives merely reflect Democrats' reading of the polls, I say--bring it on. Let's welcome more Democrats--and sane Republicans--giving legislative expression and voice to the majority of Americans who want to see our Iraq policy changed. (In fact, according to the recent Gallup poll, Congress appears to be lagging behind the public on the issue: Some 72 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 41 percent of Republicans say they favor a partial or complete withdrawal.)

*Every day brings news of another Republican signing on to the bipartisan resolution introduced last Thursday by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)--the man who brought us "Freedom Fries"--and Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii). That resolution calls for the Bush Administration to announce a plan for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq by the end of the year and to initiate the plan as soon as possible. Maverick Congressman Ron Paul (R/Texas) is already a sponsor, Jim Leach (R/ Iowa) signed on Friday and Howard Coble (R/North Carolina) is considering adding his signature. (With 2006 midterms fast approaching, more Republicans will be hearing from constituents who are growing uneasy about the war. And more GOP members up for reelection may start sounding like Jones, who said in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous last weekend that he votes his conscience first, his constituents second, and his party third.)

But much hard and grinding organizing work remains ahead.

On Monday afternoon, Abercrombie and others are going to sit down with Congressman Jones and other House members to discuss options to advance the resolution and build activism against the war.

They'll be supported by a national coalition, that includes Win Without War, MoveOn.org, The National Council of Churches, True Majority, Sojourners, Working Assets and the National Organization of Women, which is planning a grassroots outreach campaign encouraging Members of Congress to sign onto the newly introduced bipartisan resolution.

These organizations are going to be concentrating on those members of Congress who should be particularly susceptible to constituent demand about the war. (As Tom Andrews of the invaluable Win Without War group says, "Take it from one who has been there, in Congress loyalty to one's party leaders and president stops at the 'waters edge' of the voters at home.")

"A prairie fire of activism has started," Andrews argues. "Our job now is to fan these flames and get a conflagration of opposition spreading across the country. We are working with our member groups as well as others on a range of action options to build momentum over the next several months. These will include a major action in Washington in September with what I hope will include a complementary Internet based component. Between those marching in DC and those joining through the Internet around the country I am certain that we could have a million Americans demonstrating against the Bush war in September."

The combination of dropping poll numbers, the grinding images of chaos and violence in Iraq, the daily news of young Americans dying in what seems a senseless war and the increasingly active and visible opposition of constituents is bad news for the president and his Congressional allies.

This really can be the beginning of the end of a disastrous war and a bankrupt national security strategy.

Blogging Iran

Today, voters in Iran cast ballots for a new President--choosing from a field of eight candidates that includes hardline clerics and reformers. The campaign has underscored how dramatically political life inside Iran has changed in recent years.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, has been in Iran during the final days of the presidential election, interviewing a wide range of people. In an article this past week, he reported: "The Moin campaign [Mostafa Moin is the leading reformist candidate who polls show as the second choice. He is also the only candidate with an active blog] drew 10,000 people to a rally at Tehran stadium Tuesday night. A number of speakers emphasized that the campaign is aiming to lay the groundwork for a movement--and this election is just the beginning...The Tehran Time reported Wednesday [that] the outspoken Moin 'referred to the upcoming establishment of a Democracy and Human Rights Front in Iran to defend the rights of all Iran's religious and ethnic groups, the youth, academicians, women and political opposition groups whose rights are often neglected..'"

"In a country, " Solomon observed, "where political imprisonment and torture continue, such public statements are emblematic of a courageous movement struggling to emerge from the shadows of the Islamic Republic. "

But that movement for human rights and democracy needs to develop indigenously. As Nobel Peace Prize winner--and Iranian human rights lawyer and activist--Shirin Ebadi warned last year, US government support for Iran's dissidents might not only deprive them of authenticity in their own land but, worse, could stigmatize them as proxies of American neocons intent on regime change.

Or, as Solomon argues: "Iran's most repressive clerics and the USA's most militaristic neocons share a common interest: They're very eager to see the failure of Iranian activism for democracy and human rights...The hardliners in both countries need each other. Theirs is a perverse, mutual dependency that dares not speak its name."

If you want to diversify your newsfeed about this fascinating election--and understand what it may mean for the future of that country--check out the ten blogs I wrote about earlier this month.

As one of Iran's leading bloggers Hossein Derakhshan recently pointed out, the country's many blogs (Iran has 75,000 bloggers) are generating "an unprecedented amount of information." In fact, as he observed: this election "will probably be one of the most open and transparent" Iran has ever seen.

From Freedom Fries to...

Congressman Walter Jones is a Republican from North Carolina, he voted for the war in Iraq, and he coined the term Freedom Fries. So he's obviously no peacenik, but he is the first Republican to break with the White House and call for a firm date to withdraw American troops from Iraq. He says he had a change of heart when he saw the devastation this war has caused to military families across the country.

Military families aren't just speaking to their Congressional representatives; they are speaking loudly to all of us by refusing to allow their sons and daughter, husbands and wives to enlist. President Bush interpreted the November election as an affirmation of his agenda, but as we see from his plummeting poll numbers, the unpopularity of his policy proposals, and the dramatic drop in recruitment numbers, he was wrong.

Congressman Jones said in an interview last Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he votes his conscience first, his constituents second, his party third. Even if this is just a good line, it's exactly the way we need our politicians to think if we are ever to get out of this terrible mess in Iraq.

The House of Labor…and the Future

So, with the heaving sound of an old tree suddenly splitting apart in a storm, the labor movement is finally breaking up. Last weekend the SEIU executive board authorized its leadership to leave the AFL-CIO.

Today, the five unions now comprising the Change To Win Coalition (CTWC)--along with SEIU, the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, Laborers, and UNITE HERE--meet to form what amounts to a rival federation, whether they all formally leave the AFL-CIO or not. These unions' collective 5 million membership represents 40 percent of the AFL-CIO's 13 million total. If the mammoth 2.7 million member National Education Association aligns with the effort, CTWC will hold exactly half of all union members in the United States.

The avowed basis of the break is a fundamental disagreement on strategy, often depicted as a choice by the insurgents of organizing over politics. This is misleading. Many of the unions remaining in the federation are every bit as committed as the CTWC group to organizing new union members. And some CTWC unions, particularly SEIU, are keenly aware of the importance of politics in increasing union membership. The fight is really about consolidation and political focus. SEIU has argued that the current practice of having several unions competing in single industrial sectors--"15 separate organizations in transportation, 15 in construction, 13 in public employment, 9 in manufacturing, and so on"--defeats the scaled effort needed to take on business in today's climate. It wants to compel fewer, bigger, more clearly sectorally-based unions, as in northern Europe. And it has argued that labor must find ways to mobilize support outside itself, chiefly through more engagement in state and local politics.

It is hard to argue with any of these claims, though whether CTWC can realize its promise is an open question. Even unions without competition in their declared industries are showing declines in density, as indeed are the new Coalition's own members. And outside SEIU itself, and UNITE HERE in a few cities, few of CTWC's members show much commitment to the community links and coalition work needed to gain greater influence over state and local politics. In all the shifting of positions over the past seven months, as this "coalition of the willing" has been constructed, the present result sometimes seems less the principled conclusion to a principled debate than the final triumph of testosterone over inertia.The latter is largely produced by the fragmented governing structure of the AFL,which makes it very difficult to undertake bold initiatives.

But so be it. Barring some miracle at the AFL-CIO convention in late July, or some last-minute membership or governance concession to SEIU offered by one of the loyalists with something it wants (most likely AFSCME)--labor is now split more or less in half. We can look forward to a long ugly period of dissension in America's most important single progressive movement, facing an administration intent on its complete destruction.

I don't think this split was necessary, and still think it would have been best for the state of progressive politics if both sides could have worked out a deal on federation reform. But I also recognize that in the areas of greatest need for labor--organizing, and political engagement and programs in the states and cities--it's hard to do much worse than what is being done now.

So, while I believe that solidarity in the face of an onslaught is preferable, I respect those who argue that standing together may not make sense if they aren't standing in the right place. And I appreciate the difficulty of changing a dysfunctional organization from within. So I wish the insurgents luck. This country desperately needs a labor movement that is again "the collection of many that speaks for all," that can provide an organized and intelligent moral center to a majoritarian progressive politics--the folks who brought you the weekend, the eight-hour day, and so much else that makes this country (almost) civilized. I just wish we weren't starting this way in reclaiming that.

It’s Class, Stupid!

In recent weeks, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have run a series of articles about issues of class and inequality in America.

These two media pillars have comprehensively taken on the root myth of the American way, reporting facts that are so stark and clear that they can no longer be ignored. The gap between rich and poor is widening dramatically; There's been a startling lack of upward mobility over the last three decades; And Americans face no better odds today that they will climb the ladder to a higher economic rung where their parents stood than they did 35 years ago.

As Sylvia Allegretto wrote in the Economic Policy Institute's "The State of Working America 2004/2005," which she co-authored: "The costs of basic necessities like health care, housing, and college keep rising, and many working families' incomes are not keeping pace."

Moreover, as the New York Times recently editorialized, education in this country is "heavily dependent on wealth and class"; and the richer people become, the greater their odds that they will live longer as beneficiaries of the best health care money can buy. All in all, a bleak picture, but one that the media is only slowly starting to grapple with.

As Paul Krugman noted, commenting on his paper's series in his column, "Since 1980 in particular, US government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families--and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless." Conservative economic policies are fueling this phenomenon of an increasingly stratified America. Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage, which has remained stuck at a paltry $5.15 an hour since 1997. Bankruptcy "reform" savages the working class. Meanwhile, Bush's tax cuts handed a tax reduction of more than $4,500 to the top fifth of income-earners while those in the lowest quintile received an average of only $98 annually off their tax bills.

Another fine series of stories--in the Los Angeles Times--pointed out that policies like deregulating industries, coupled with a right-wing assault on social programs have eroded Americans' safety net and shifted "economic risks from the broad shoulders of business and government to the backs of working families." (The reporter Peter Gosselin received a 2005 Sidney Hillman Award for journalism reporting for this series. Disclosure: I served on the panel of judges. And there were other fine articles submitted on this crucial issue, including a fine series in the Detroit News documenting how Bush tax cuts badly hurt the poor.)

There's a good resource called Toomuchonline.org that I recommend to reporters and anybody else interested in a reality check on America's economy. Sam Pizzigati, a veteran labor journalist, runs and edits the site, which is chock full of useful information. The site has a simple message; it argues that "our society would be considerably more democratic, prosperous and caring if we narrowed the vast gap between the very wealthy and everyone else."

To promote this vision, Pizzigati highlights the gap between the rich and the poor, sheds light on the excesses of the super-wealthy, advocates a "maximum wage" that would cap excessive income and wealth and applauds public and private-sector efforts to reduce inequality and make America a more equitable nation.

The kinds of reforms Pizzigati wants to see enacted are also on display at Toomuchonline.org. Pizzigati praises former SEC chairman Richard Breeden, who proposed a plan that said MCI, which rose out of the ashes of WorldCom's collapse, should prevent a repeat of WorldCom's train wreck by banning executive stock options and capping total CEO compensation. And then there's Congressman Martin Sabo's proposal to ban corporate tax deductions for executive compensation that exceeds more than 25 times what the lowest-paid worker at the company earns.

While Pizzigati commends the Times and the Journal's series on social mobility as "a mainstream media watershed," he also argues that a lot of work remains to be done. The Times, he says, for instance, ignored "inequality's impact on our social health"--i.e. how vastly unequal societies have negative health consequences for all people, not just for the poorest sectors of society.

As Vermont Senate candidate Bernie Sanders says, the corporate-owned media tend to ignore the economic problems that face millions of people on a daily basis. The press doesn't cover, he argues, things like the fact that Americans are "working longer hours for lower wages," living standards have declined, and "we have the most unequal distribution of wealth of any major country on earth…[and] we are the only industrialized country in the world without a national health care system." One result of people not seeing their lives reflected in the media, Sanders argues, is that they think their problems are unique to them, and are not social or political problems that we as a nation can solve by working together.

I believe there's a constituency and an appetite for more stories about class lines in America. Readers want to see their lives and problems treated in our media. There may also be an appetite for real "reality shows." A new FX show, 30 Days, hosted by Supersize Me author Morgan Spurlock premiers this week and could generate a new trend. In the show's first episode, Spurlock and his girlfriend go to Columbus, Ohio and try to live on a minimum-wage income--raising issues of class that we rarely see on our TV sets.

In April 2004, I argued in this space that attention must be paid to those being left behind. More than a year later, the LA Times, the New York Times and the Journal's good series on class are steps in the right direction. Let's hope that these articles (and even that FX show) are just the beginning of a national effort on the media's part to show how people are living in these times. Here's a motto the media should adopt: It's Class, Stupid!

Dumping on Dean

Congressional Democrats never supported Dean for DNC chair. They wanted someone lower-profile and less hyperbolic. Apparently they wanted someone like RNC Chair Ken Mehlman. Still, it was more than a little surprising for Senator Joe Biden, who is not renown for his diplomatic temperament, to take a potshot at the chairman of his own party for rhetorical excess.

When George Stephanopoulos played a clip of Dean on ABC's This Week saying that perhaps Republicans can wait in line to cast ballots because "…a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives," Biden responded, "He doesn't speak for me with that kind of rhetoric. And I don't think he speaks for the majority of Democrats."

Really? Outside the beltway, Dean is immensely popular with the party faithful. He has raised tons of money and is using it to rebuild the infrastructure at the state and local levels. The same infrastructure Biden will need if he decides to run for president.

Besides, Dean's statement is precisely the kind of red meat party chairmen are supposed to throw to rev up their base. You don't hear Republicans pulling any punches.

So enough of the infighting. (Or enough of this kind of infighting. If Dems want to get serious about real internal debates, let's have one about how to end the war and occupation.)

But when it comes to taking on the GOP, Dean and Congressional Democrats should get together and smoke a peace pipe with some cancer patient's now illegal supply of medicinal marijuana. It will help ease the Party's suffering, and lead, perhaps, to better communication.

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