TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.
On a day when tens of thousands are taking to the streets in Wisconsin, The Nation's Madison-based reporter John Nichols joined Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Chris Larson and Madison teacher Susan Stern on Democracy Now! to talk about the protests. Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s move to take away collective bargaining rights and slash the pay and benefits of workers in Wisconsin has created a massive backlash in the state because so much is at stake for workers around the country. Nichols says the governor and his Republican allies are trying to “disempower” unions like the American Federation of State and County Muncipal Employees (AFSCME) that have been key political players in Wisconsin for a long time.
According to Nichols, rolling back collective bargaining protections has little to do with economics and everything to do with politics. The widespread outrage can be measured in the diversity of the crowds, with high school students protesting alongside older workers. “There’s simply no doubt that these Democratic state senators who really were expected to go along with the process, make some objections, be very angry about it but ultimately go along, they looked out the windows of the capital and saw these incredible, very peaceful and positive protests.”
For more on Wisconsin's protests as they unfold, read Nichols's latest on-the-ground updates.
It may surprise you, but The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel and Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief of Reason.com, agree on a few things. One big point of consensus: both believe cutting the amount of money going to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be a good starting point for rebuilding our economy. But on just about every other point, vanden Heuvel says, this country is having the wrong debate at the wrong time.
When there are "25 million people out of work, underemployed, seeking work," vanden Heuvel says, nobody should be talking about cutting vital services to the most vulnerable Americans. Instead, we need "additional spending to rebuild and to recover." We should view all of the issues and problems facing this country, vanden Heuvel says, through a "pro-growth, pro-jobs, lens over everything."
The Nation's John Nichols joined MSNBC's The Ed Show live from Madison, Wisconsin last night to report on the growing outcry against Governor Scott Walker's anti-labor policy proposals. Nichols says that Walker is attacking unions because in a state like Wisconsin, “public sector unions are the most likely to stand up and object to service cuts, to battering of education.”
In protests on February 15, “about 15,000 people” were out “at a noon rally outside the capitol,” Nichols says, and eight to ten thousand more, mostly teachers who are “having to give up their careers because of the pay cuts and benefit cuts,” came out to demonstrate as well.
For more on the fallout from Wisconsin's attack on labor, read Nichols's latest post on the unprecedented protests.
When President Obama announced his budget plan this month, he proposed cutting or eliminating over 200 federal programs and expanding military spending and funding for the construction of nuclear power plants. The Nation's John Nichols joined Democracy Now! today to talk about the president’s misplaced priorities.
The proposal includes cutting half of the funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program, money that will have to be made up for by already-strained state, county and municipal governments, Nichols says.
“The LIHEAP program is not some... benefit that the government throws out if it’s got a little extra money. It’s life and death. This is something that decides whether people can heat their homes in frigid climates. It’s also something that really decides whether communities can maintain their services. Remember, we’re talking about places that don’t have a choice on whether you’re going to use home heating oil, whether you’re going to use heating oil to heat your schools and your community centers. You have to do it," he says.
When he announced the program, Obama explained that these cuts will bring domestic discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.
“I wish President Obama would remember what Dwight Eisenhower said about defense spending versus domestic spending. Dwight Eisenhower said, every time you buy a bomb, every time you pay for a bullet, that’s money that comes out of building a school or putting a roof on a house. I just think the President is making a lot of wrong choices here,” Nichols says.
The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel joined Cenk Uygur on MSNBC Live yesterday to explain the flaws in President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget. The budget is a “moral document” that reflects the “nation’s values and aspirations,” vanden Heuvel says, but this budget appears to be more a product of a system “rigged through the power of establishment money.”
For vanden Heuvel, Obama’s budget is just another concession that abets his opponents and demoralizes his supporters, and further highlights the need for “independent organizing.” She explains that there needs to be a change in the balance of forces, the nature of political power and an effort to “find a way to have a different debate.”
Wisconsin's new Republican Governor Scott Walker announced this month a plan to end collective bargaining for nearly all public employees, as well as cut their pay and benefits. On Democracy Now!, The Nation's John Nichols says this radical assault on a historically progressive and pro-labor state is part of a nationwide conservative strategy to take down public employee unions.
Unions threaten Republicans because of the power they have over our politics and because they’ve been the primary advocates for public sector spending and public education, Nichols says. “If Governor Walker pulls this off, if he succeeds in taking away collective bargaining rights from the union, AFSCME, which was founded in Wisconsin back in the 1930s, if he takes down…one of the strongest and most effective teachers’ unions, WEAC, in the country, then we really are going to see this sweep across the United States. There is simply no question of that,” he says.
Walker has notified the National Guard to be on alert for actions taken by unsatisfied state, county and municipal employees. The real shame, according to Nichols: Wisconsin is not broke, and in fact, the Fiscal Bureau of Wisconsin announced it will end this year with a $123 million surplus.
“The fact of the matter is that this is not being done because of a lack of money. This is being done because political forces, conservative political forces, would like to disempower public employee unions and remove that voice for a strong public sector,” he says.
Sarah Posner joined GRITtv with Laura Flanders to talk about her experience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this weekend. She says the "annual gathering of conservative activists" in Washington, D.C. is significant because it gives Americans a chance to see Republican presidential hopefuls in action.
Posner says the extent of homophobia and Islamophobia at the conference was striking, noting that the fact that a conservative pro-gay organization GOProud was included in the conference and attempts to be more inclusive of Muslims created tension at the event. On Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) winning the CPAC presidential straw poll again, Posner says we shouldn't take this as the right's final vote for their candidate in 2012: Paul supporters have come out in force in many of the past years, but that does not mean Paul enjoys wide support among conservatives. Also important to realize, Posner says, is that the booing and shouting at Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's on-stage appearances does not mean conservatives now care about prosecuting former Bush-era officials for war crimes.
The right has so successfully demonized the mere word "socialism" that the vibrant periods of US history in which we have embraced and even generated socialist ideas are often overlooked. But for The Nation's John Nichols, who joined Political Affairs for a podcast on the rich history of socialism in the US, to blacklist socialist ideas from our discourse is to do a great disservice to our national political heritage.
In his new book, The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition...Socialism, Nichols explains that Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Paine are two of the nation’s leaders in socialist thought. After he wrote Common Sense, Paine's thinking continued to evolve until he had essentially outlined the foundations for a social welfare state. Lincoln headed the Republican Party in its early days when some of its key founders were socialists, friends of Karl Marx.
“The notion that Barack Obama is somehow the face of contemporary socialism or that the people around him—who are actually in most cases very centrist, even at sometimes relatively conservative democrats—are somehow advancing a socialist agenda is absurd,” Nichols says.
If Obama had been operating on the model of mainstream international social democratic ideals he would not have responded to the financial crisis by using tax dollars to strengthen and reward the very institutions that pose the greatest threat to our economy and welfare, the banks.
Yesterday afternoon, a group of protesters emerged from their four-day occupation of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s office in opposition to mountaintop removal mining. The group, which included author and Nation contributor Wendell Berry, are part of a growing movement across the central Appalachian coalfields to abolish the devastating mining technique.
On Sunday, Berry spoke to Huffington Post blogger Jeff Biggers and Kentucky filmmaker Ben Evans about the reasons behind the group's protest. Coal extracted from mountaintops provides less than 8 percent of national production and has irreversible, harmful impacts on the environment and the health of the local community.
The governor, Berry says, admitted to believing the coal mining could take place without damage to the land or people. Measurable evidence shows its already impacted the region.
For more information and for more videos of Berry and other activists, see Jeff Bigger’s Huffington Post article.
The Nation's Greg Mitchell has been covering the WikiLeaks cable dump for nearly eighty days now, and his MediaFix blog continues to be a first stop for readers looking for the latest on all things related to WikiLeaks. In a radio appearance on Antiwar Radio, Mitchell talks about some of the stories he has been highlighting, like the Julian Assange extradition hearing in the United Kingdom, cables on Egypt's Omar Suleiman and the detention of former Pfc. Bradley Manning.
During a discussion of how many of these stories should be bombshells that send shockwaves but remain overlooked, Mitchell explains part of what he has been doing has been an "answer to people who have said going back to the 'Collateral Murder' video, 'What's the big deal?'"
Mitchell, author of The Age of WikiLeaks, highlights how WikiLeaks likely fueled the Tunisia Revolution, which has inspired Egyptians and others in Middle Eastern and North African countries to protest state repression. He says if they had only done that they would be a big deal, but in reality they have done much more and, for key examples, here are thirty-two revelations that have come to light thanks to WikiLeaks.