TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.
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.
“If you could have dinner with one person in the history of sports, particularly connected to the African American experience…who would it be?” The Nation’s Dave Zirin puts this question to an all-star panel as part of a larger discussion on the role sports have had in improving the lives African Americans. Author Michael Eric Dyson, FanHouse columnist Kevin Blackistone and former football player Bobby Mitchell join him on CSN in a four-part series to mark Black History Month.
For Dyson and Blackistone, it was Muhammad Ali and Paul Robeson, who at their time were controversial for their outspoken anger at systematic racism. But for Mitchell, who desegregated the Washington Redskins 50 years ago, its revisiting the summers of his youth where he had the opportunity to play with athletes like baseball players Roy Campanella and Monte Irvin.
“I’d like to sit with Roy…because I have a lot of questions for him now," Mitchell says. "And again, I want to thank him for buying my graduation suit my senior year in High School.”
In his State of the Union Address, when Obama asked America’s youth to celebrate science fair winners, not just Super Bowl champions, he downplayed the fact that sports have historically been an important avenue toward empowerment for many African American youths, author Michael Eric Dyson says.
To mark Black History month, Dyson joined a panel conversation moderated The Nation's Dave Zirin including FanHouse columnist Kevin Blackistone and former football player Bobby Mitchell on CSN to explore the role sports has played for the African American community over the last century.
Mitchell, who 50 years ago integrated the Washington Redskins—the last whites-only football team in the NFL—said that even though his childhood dream was to become a dentist, when his football talents were noticed he had to seize the opportunity available to him.
Sports—and the high salaries the nation's top athletes make—can also help support communities in other ways, Blackistone says. The late DC sports magnate Abe Pollin, for example, built a $220 million sports venue in in downtown Washington, and athletes often give back to their communities in ways ranging from community service to investment to even coaching future generations of athletes and students.
On Pacifica's Uprising Radio, The Nation’s John Nichols says that the $315 million deal just reached between AOL and Huffington Post will not actually benefit readers or writers. The Huffington Post business model depends on aggregating content and not paying journalists. "Journalism cannot survive as a useful small d democratic force,” Nichols says, if people who call themselves citizen or professional journalists are not getting up in the morning and going out to investigate stories and “speak truth to power."
Read Nichols's latest blog post for more on the deal.
The Nation’s Ari Berman appeared on MSNBC Live with Third Way's Matt Bennett to debate whether the soon-to-be-defunct Democratic Leadership Council brought “important strength and values to the Democratic Party.” Bennett claims that saying organizations such as the DLC or Third Way are just “corporate folks in the Democratic Party” is a “ridiculous” accusation often levied by those on the “internet left.”
But Berman argues that though the DLC may have been helpful for Democrats during the Clinton years, more recently DLC leaders like Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh supported the war in Iraq and did not contribute to the rise of politicians and groups like Howard Dean and MoveOn.org. It was Dean and MoveOn.org, Berman says, who ultimately brought new grassroots energy to the Party.
Read Berman's "The DLC Is Dead" for more on the demise of the Leadership Council.