Quantcast

The Nation

California Demands Health Care For All (Again)

After a brief hiatus, I'm re-starting "Sweet Victories" as a weekly feature. Launched in the bleak aftermath of the 2004 elections, "SV" chronicles progressive wins--from legislative and electoral victories to successful organizing efforts, protests and boycotts, to the launching of a promising new idea, organization or initiative. I hope these stories will serve not only as a source of information but as inspiration. The victories may sometimes be small, but they'll always be sweet. And I hope Nation readers will contribute their own ideas for "sweet victories" by emailing us at nationvictories@gmail.com

A few months before Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a healthcare plan that, according to Shum Preston of the California Nurses Association "will take us backwards by increasing the income and influence of insurance companies," he vetoed Sen. Sheila Kuehl's California Universal Healthcare Act. The legislation, which was reported on in an Editor's Cut last fall would have guaranteed "truly affordable healthcare to all."

The veto was no doubt a setback for those who struggle to go through life without health insurance, but Sen. Kuehl and the people of California have a message for their governor: we still demand health care for all and this bill is not going away.

Sen. Kuehl has reintroduced the bill and on May 8, thousands of health care activists rallied at the State House in Sacramento to urge its passing. The bill has already been passed by the Senate Health Committee and there is optimism that bill will once again make it through the state legislature and back to Schwarzenegger's desk.

Will he deprive Californians again, or will he be a healthcare hero? Thanks to the work of Sen. Kuehl and others, he may well have to decide, publicly, whether or not to adhere to the will of his constituents.

And that is indeed a sweet victory.


This post was co-written by Michael Corcoran, a Nation intern and freelance writer based in New York City.

The Old Time Hypocrisy Hour

The various and sundry Republican presidential contenders will be stumbling over one another tonight--as they debate in South Carolina--and in the days ahead to curry favor with the religious right by expressing their sorrow at the passing of the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

It's not that most of the Republican candidates really cared much for Falwell. Aside from Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, the most seriously evangelical of the bunch, none of the GOP runners really qualifies as a Falwell follower in the classic sense.

But the Republicans who would be President care for those whom Falwell claimed to speak for, the millions of fire-and-brimstone Christians in states such as Iowa and South Carolina who are expected to participate in next year's caucuses and primaries. It may be true that Falwell had ceased to be a definitional figure on the Republican right some years ago--perhaps even before he blamed the 9/11 attacks on pagans and feminists.

But few of the Republican candidates will chance it when it comes to praising the preacher.

So get ready for the "Old Time Hypocrisy Hour."

Arizona Senator John McCain got things rolling with a statement released just minutes after the announcement that the man who for many years was the face of evangelical politics in America had died from an apparent heart attack at age 73.

"I join the students, faculty, and staff of Liberty University and Americans of all faiths in mourning the loss of Reverend Jerry Falwell," said McCain. "Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country."

Distinguished accomplishment? Would that be when Falwell regularly featured segregationists Lester Maddox and George Wallace on his Old Time Gospel Hour television program in the 1960s? When he condemned the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and referred to the civil rights movement as "the civil wrongs movement"? When he opposed sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime in the 1980s? When he produced an infomercial in the 1990s accusing President Clinton of orchestrating murders of journalists and political critics, even though he would eventually admit that "I do not know the accuracy of the claims"? When he attacked Teletubbies character Tinky Winky as a gay recruitment tool? When he asserted that the Antichrist "must be, of necessity, a Jewish male"?

Falwell is a fascinating and significant figure in American political life, a man worthy of study and serious consideration. But McCain did not always see the preacher as a servant of his country.

Indeed, McCain's praise of the preacher today is a far cry from what the Senator said in 2000, when, in a much-heralded speech in Virginia, he described the fiery Falwell as "an agent of intolerance."

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right," McCain declared, as he accused Falwell and others like him of narrow-minded ideologues who would "padlock the Republican Party and surrender the future of our nation."

As he was battling George Bush for the Republican presidential nomination that year, McCain told Tim Russert on MSNBC's Meet the Press that "Governor Bush swung far to the right and sought out the base support of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Those aren't the ideas that I think are good for the Republican Party."

McCain has gone through some changes since the days when he was preaching "big-tent" Republicanism. He learned an ugly lesson in 2000, and he's playing hard to the right this time around. As such, he has made his peace with Falwell.

Last year, the Arizona Senator made his way to Lynchburg, Virginia, to deliver the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University. Was it a pander to the people by way of the man he once referred to as an "agent of intolerance"? And he got called on it. "Are you freaking out on us?" Daily Show host Jon Stewart, once a McCain fan, asked the Senator. "Are you going into the crazy-base world?"

The short answer is "yes." And McCain will have plenty of company in the rush to the crazy-base world.

While there are serious debates opening up about just how strong a force the religious right remains within a Republican Party that is struggling to position itself for the post-Bush era--after all, prochoice gay-rights supporter Rudy Giuliani is the GOP poll leader of the moment--there is no question that McCain and most of the other contenders fear the wrath of the evangelicals Falwell did so much to lead into the Republican fold more than a quarter-century ago.

That fear is uglier than anything Falwell ever did or said.

It is possible to treat Falwell with respect in death, to recognize that he apologized for some of his more divisive and destructive statements and that he grew beyond his segregationist stances and some of his other intolerances. It is certainly possible to regard him as a political figure of consequence and deeply held views.

But for McCain to heap praise on Falwell at this politically convenient moment is an embarrassing example of how the maverick of the 2000 race has become the predictable politician of the 2008 contest.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Chalmers Johnson's Journey

Way back in 1999, when I was still a Tomdispatch-less book editor, I read a proposal from Chalmers Johnson. He was, then, known mainly as a scholar of modern Japan, though years earlier I had read his brilliant book on Chinese peasant nationalism--about a period in the 1940s when imperial Japan was carrying out its "3-all" campaigns (kill-all, burn-all, loot-all) in the northern Chinese countryside. The proposal, for a book to be called "Blowback"--a CIA term of tradecraft that, like most Americans, I had never heard before -- focused on the "unintended consequences" of the Agency's covert activities abroad and the disasters they might someday bring down upon us. Johnson began with an introduction in which he reviewed, among other things, his experiences in the Vietnam War era when, as a professed Cold Warrior, a former CIA consultant, and a professor of Asian studies at Berkeley, he would have been on the other side of the political fence from me.

In that introduction, he recalled his dismay with antiwar activists who were, he felt (not incorrectly), often blindly romantic about Asian communism and hadn't bothered to do their homework on the subject. "They were," he wrote, "defining the Vietnamese Communists largely out of their own romantic desires to oppose Washington's policies." He added:

 

"As it turned out, however, they understood far better than I did the impulse of a Robert McNamara, a McGeorge Bundy, or a Walt Rostow. They grasped something essential about the nature of America's imperial role in the world that I had failed to perceive. In retrospect, I wish I had stood with the antiwar protest movement. For all its naïveté and unruliness, it was right and American policy wrong."

 

It was a reversal of sentiment to which no other American of his age and background, to the best of my knowledge, had admitted. It reflected a mind impressively willing to reconsider and change--and, as it happened, it also reflected a man on a journey out of the world of Cold War anti-communism and into the heart of the American empire. When Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire finally came out in 2000, it was largely ignored (or derided) in the mainstream -- until, that is, September 11th, 2001. Then, "blowback," and the phrase that went with it, "unintended consequences," entered our language, thanks to Johnson, and the paperback of the book, now seen as prophetic, hit the 9/11 tables in bookstores across the United States, becoming a bestseller.

Johnson's intellectual odyssey had begun when the Cold War ended, when the Soviet Union disappeared and the American imperial structure of bases (and policy) in Asia remained standing, remarkably unchanged and unaffected by that seemingly world-shaking event. An invitation, five years later, to visit the heavily American-garrisoned Japanese island of Okinawa, in turmoil over a case in which two U.S. Marines and a sailor had raped a 12 year-old Okinawan girl, also strongly affected his thinking. There, Johnson saw firsthand what our global baseworld looked like and what it did to others on this planet. ("I was flabbergasted by the 37 American military bases I found on an island smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands and the enormous pressures it put on the population there… As I began to study it, though, I discovered that Okinawa was not exceptional. It was the norm. It was what you find in all of the American military enclaves around the world.")

Now, five and a half years after the 9/11 attacks, Johnson has reached the provisional end of his quest and the single prophetic volume, Blowback, has become "The Blowback Trilogy." In 2004, a second volume, The Sorrows of Empire, arrived, focused on how the American military had garrisoned the globe and how militarism had us in its grip; and finally, this year, a magisterial third and final volume, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, appeared. No one should miss it. It lays out in chilling detail the ways in which imperial overstretch imperils the American republic and what's left of our democratic system as well as the American economy.

Now, in a step beyond even his latest book, in a piece called "Evil Empire" at Tomdispatch.com, Johnson considers whether we can end our empire before it ends us. He concludes:

 

"When Ronald Reagan coined the phrase ‘evil empire,' he was referring to the Soviet Union, and I basically agreed with him that the USSR needed to be contained and checkmated. But today it is the U.S. that is widely perceived as an evil empire and world forces are gathering to stop us. The Bush administration insists that if we leave Iraq our enemies will ‘win' or -- even more improbably – ‘follow us home.' I believe that, if we leave Iraq and our other imperial enclaves, we can regain the moral high ground and disavow the need for a foreign policy based on preventive war. I also believe that unless we follow this path, we will lose our democracy and then it will not matter much what else we lose. In the immortal words of Pogo, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.'"

 

McNulty Packs Up

I saw Paul McNulty, who announced yesterday that he was resigning as Deputy Attorney General, at the Dallas airport on Sunday. He was coming from a prosecutor conference at San Antonio and I was returning from a wedding. The similarities end there. McNulty sat in first class and I trudged back to coach.

The next morning news broke that McNulty was stepping down as DOJ's #2 official so that he could go make money to pay for his kids' colleges. Or at least that's what he said.

The news was really no surprise. Alberto Gonzales's deputy, after all, was never qualified to serve. McNulty was a longtime Republican operative who acted as spokesman for House Republicans during Bill Clinton's impeachment and had never tried a case before becoming US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, one of the country's most important offices, three days after 9/11. Loyalty to the Republican Party allowed McNulty to rise rapidly at DOJ. He was the first official to tell Congress that the dismissals of the eight US prosecutors were "performance-related." He was also implicated in the shady circumstances surrounding the replacement of the acting US attorney in Guam, which I explored in the recent article, "Attorneygate in Guam."

Many commentators are now arguing that McNulty was simply the fall guy for Gonzales. Probably so. But either way, the deputy deserved to go.

The Wolfowitz Report: How He and Riza Gamed the Bank

World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz broke the rules and engaged in an actual conflict of interest when in 2005 he arranged for a rather generous salary boost for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a communications official at the Bank.

That's the conclusion of a special panel of the Bank's board of directors, which on Monday released its report on the Wolfowitz matter. This judgment was no surprise; the basics had been leaked days earlier. But the report presented more information that places Wolfowitz in a tough spot--for it suggests that he and Riza brazenly took advantage of the situation created by his appointment to the Bank to guarantee her a promotion and pay rise she had failed to obtain previously. And the question of the moment is the obvious one: can he survive?

Here are some interesting portions of the report:

According to Mr. [Xavier] Coll [vice president of human resources], he met with Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. [Robin] Cleveland, Counselor to the President, on August 10, 2005, in preparation for a meeting on August 11 with Ms. Riza. During that meeting, Mr. Coll was told to stop consulting with the Bank's General Counsel on this matter.

In retrospect, it's clear there was the need for more legal advice, not less, about what to do about Riza, who could not continue to work at the Bank in a position under the supervision of Wolfowitz. Yet Wolfowitz kept the circle small. He has claimed it would have been a conflict of interest to involve the Bank's general counsel--a contention rejected by the special panel. But even if Wolfowitz had been right about that, he could have sought another way for the human relations department to obtain appropriate legal guidance. He did not.

According to Mr. Wolfowitz, he knew of Mr. Coll's "discomfort" with the proposed agreement with Ms. Riza. He stated that Mr. Coll did not tell him the proposals were outside the Bank's rules, and that, in any case, "there were no established Bank practices for a situation like this." According to Mr. Coll, he told Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Cleveland that the terms proposed by Ms. Riza, regarding her promotion increases and guaranteed promotions...were "outside the Staff Rules" and that moving forward with them was a reputational risk to the Bank. In Mr. Coll's view, there is "no doubt that the President knew or had been made aware of by me that this was outside the rules."

If this is so--if the Bank's board believes Mr. Coll--it's end of story. Had Wolfowitz indeed proceeded with a deal after he was warned it was "outside the rules"--a deal that was rather lucrative for his girlfriend--that ought to be a firing offense.

According to Mr. Coll, after he received the written August 11 [2005] instructions from Mr. Wolfowitz [dictating the terms of the Riza deal], he asked again whether he could consult with the Bank's General Counsel, or anyone in the Bank's Legal Department, and was told he could not.

Two strikes for Wolfowitz.

According to Ms. Riza, she arrived at the figure of $180,000 [for her new salary] by taking into account her view that "two consecutive MENA [Middle East and North Africa] Vice Presidents" had not promoted her due to "discrimination," because she is "a Muslim, Arabic woman who dares to question the status quo."

This explains it. Riza was angry. She was mad (as the report notes) that she had to leave the Bank because her romantic partner was taking over. But she also harbored a grudge, believing, rightly or wrongly, that she had been the victim of discrimination at the Bank. (In a previous article, I explained how she was turned down for a promotion to a job for which she did not meet the minimum qualifications.) According to the panel's report, it was Riza who came up with the specific terms of her reassignment. It seems she was trying to turn lemons into champagne--that is, using the opportunity to settle old scores and award herself the money she believed she deserved. And Wolfowitz went along with his gal-pal.

The report is clear: "The salary increase granted to Ms. Riza far exceeded an increase that would have been granted in accordance with the applicable Staff Rule." The report notes that even had she received a promotion at that time, she could have expected a boost in her annual salary of between $5000 and $20,000--not the $47,000 Wolfowitz awarded her. The report also says that the agreement Wolfowitz arranged called for an annual salary increase more than twice the customary rate and that the automatic promotions awarded Riza in the deal violated the Bank's rules.

The special panel is unequivocal. Wolfowitz engaged in a conflict of interest by setting the terms for Riza's package. "It is the view of the Ad Hoc Group," the report notes, "that these actions show that the relationship between Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Riza went beyond the appearance of conflict of interest...and constituted an actual conflict of interest situation." It adds, "these actions manifest a lack of understanding and a disregard for the interests of the institution as a public international organization." The report also finds that Kevin Kellems, a senior aide to Wolfowitz (who recently resigned) made misleading public statements about the Riza deal and that Wolfowitz's "actions are inconsistent with his obligation to "maintain the highest standards of integrity in [his] personal and professional conduct."

This is a damning document. One doesn't have to read far between the lines to see that panel members believe that Riza tried to pull a fast one and that Wolfowitz enabled her, even cutting out other Bank officials who might have questioned the deal. "Her desire for compensation for a past grievance, not related to Mr. Wolfowitz [sic] arrival," the panel says, "appears to have driven the most controversial elements of the agreement she reached with the Bank (with Mr. Wolfowitz directing the Bank's side of the negotiations)." The report slams Wolfowitz for not accepting "responsibility or blame for the events that transpired....The Ad Hoc Group sees this as a manifestation of an attitude in which Mr. Wolfowitz saw himself as the outsider [at the Bank] to whom the established rules and standards did not apply. It evidences questionable judgment and a preoccupation with self interest over institutional best interest."

The board of directors was scheduled to discuss the report with Wolfowitz on Tuesday evening. The issue is, what will the board do in response to the report? It can vote to reprimand or remove Wolfowitz. A reprimand might not be enough for many board members. But the board may not want to pull the trigger. It can issue a vote of no confidence, hoping Wolfowitz will resign. But does Wolfowitz want to put up a fight? Is the White House willing to stick with him, as it has done (so far) with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? George W. Bush can be a stubborn fellow.

The report is a strong indictment of Wolfowitz. It shows he and his girlfriend tried to game the system in a way that could bring her (over the course of his tenure and beyond, thanks to a generous pension) millions of extra dollars. If Wolfowitz manages to stay on after the release of the report, it will be quite an accomplishment for the accountability's-not-us Bush administration.

******

DON"T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris "the most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations" and "fascinating reading." The Washington Post says, "There have been many books about the Iraq war....This one, however, pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." Tom Brokaw notes Hubris "is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For highlights from Hubris, click here.

Motives Behind Virginia Tech Massacre Found! Lit Profs to Blame

Virginia Tech's commencement exercises took place this week. Columnists across the country weighed in to consider the impact of last month's massacre on the surviving students, to walk a minute in the shoes of the grieving families of the 32 dead, and to speculate again about the motives that drove Cho Seung-Hui to gun down his fellow students.

But rest easy, Nation readers, because one intrepid columnist has solved the riddle of Cho's rage: Literature professors who stray from the Western canon are to blame.

Not lax gun control laws. Not campus security or local police. Not holes in the system for treating psychologically disturbed students. But reading the wrong kind of poetry.

So says Phyllis Schlafly of the uber conservative Eagle Forum in her column this week. "Why was he consumed with hate, resentment and bitterness?" Schlafly asks rhetorically. "Cho was an English department major and senior."

Thanks to her frequent forays into enemy territory--the college campus--Schlafly has located the hotbed of insurrections, that petrie dish where murdering radicals are bred,: "English departments are often the weirdest and/or most left wing."

Okay, she has to acknowledge she doesn't know what courses Cho Seung-Hui took, but the entire English department at Virginia Tech is clearly rife with femi-nazis and their multi-culti kin teaching just the kind of classes to "confuse an already mixed-up kid."

Schlafly comes down particularly hard on Professor Bernice L. Hausman's English class where students read such "fringe" academics as Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and Theodor Adorno. Worse, Schlafly says, is the corrupting feminist theory these impressionable youngsters are introduced to: Margaret Atwood, bell hooks, Joan Brumberg, Susan Bordo.

"Did Cho get evil egotistical notions from Professor Shoshana Milgram Knapp's senior seminar called ‘The Self-Justifying Criminal in Literature?'" Schlafly wonders. "Did Cho take Professor J.D. Stahl's senior seminar, English 4784, on ‘The City in Literature?'" Schlafly finds the prospect horrifying since the assigned reading, she reports, begins with a book "about an urban prostitute who finally kills herself and a book about a violent man who kills his girlfriend." (And I am not even going to get into the loopy logic here, where someone who objects to literature about suicide or murder has to logically throw out the whole western canon with the bath-water: Good-bye Oedipus, MacBeth, Hamlet, Crime and Punishment, Libation Bearers!)

Schlafly concludes by going after poet Nikki Giovanni, a Virginia Tech professor who read "what purported to be a poem" at a convocation to honor the victims. Schlafly writes:

"On behalf of the English Department, [Giovanni] declaimed: ‘We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it.' Maybe others will render a different verdict and ask why taxpayers are paying professors at Virginia Tech to teach worthless and psychologically destructive courses."

So there you have it.

And why do we care what Phyllis Schlafly, this aging guardian of aproned-femininity and the western canon thinks?

Oh yeah. We don't. Forget this blog.

Hagelberg! Bloomha! For '08! Maybe

"This country is in trouble. The world is in trouble. And we need some new, fresh, independent ideas to lead this country forward."

Sounds a like the opening line from a presidential campaign announcement speech. And it may just be.

Or, perhaps, it is a line from a vice-presidential campaign announcement.

What it almost certainly is not, however, is the message you'd expect to hear from a sitting senator who plans to seek reelection next year.

So it goes on Chuck Hagel Watch, which is rapidly becoming the most unconventional beat in American politics.

Today's indicators suggest that the renegade Republican solon from Nebraska is leaning toward launching an independent bid for national office.

Which office remains a matter of speculation.

Which party may be coming into focus. And here's a hint: It is neither grand nor old.

Hagel met two weeks ago with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another outsider Republican who has made little secret of his interest in stepping up the political ladder. Bloomberg has been exploring prospects for an independent run at the presidency for at least a year, even going so far as to make 2006 campaign appearances with an eccentric collection of non-New York candidates that included Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, a different breed of maverick who was reelected last fall as the candidate of a self-named third party but caucuses somewhat uncomfortably with the Senate Democrats.

Now, Hagel is openly speculating about a Hagel-Bloomberg ticket, or perhaps a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket running on an independent line next year, or perhaps on the line of the Unity08 movement. Unity08 is the multipartisan grassroots coalition that has for months been trying to forge what its spokesman, actor and Nation reader Sam Waterston, refers to as "a third force in the middle" to fix a system that he describes as having been "broken" by consultants, spin doctors and hyper-partisan Democrats and Republicans.

Bloomberg has openly flirted with the Unity08 crew.

Hagel, who has flirted with a Republican presidential bid, an independent presidential bid, a campaign for reelection on the GOP line or an exit from politics, now sounds as if he is reading from the Unity08 playbook.

The senator says his Republican party, the party "of Eisenhower, of Goldwater, of Reagan" has been "hijacked by a group of single-minded almost isolationists, insulationists, power-projectors." He peppers his commentary -- most recently on the CBS Sunday morning show "Meet the Press" -- with that talk of "new, fresh, independent ideas." And he says there is something appealing about "a New York boy and a Nebraska boy... teamed up leading this nation."

No, that's not an announcement. Just a big hint.

Bloomberg and Hagel still have a lot of differences to sort out.

The two men may be essentially on the same page regarding the Iraq imbroglio -- both are critics of President Bush's approaches, though Hagel is by far the more aggressive objector. But they have said very different things about U.S. relations with Israel. And when it comes to domestic policy, well, these guys are not just out of tune with one another, they are singing from different hymnals altogether. Bloomberg is a social liberal of the first order: pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-diversity, pro-strict separation of church and state, pro-gun control, pro-drug law reform, very friendly to immigrants and very open to raising tax rates when revenues are needed to maintain schools, public services and basic infrastructure. Hagel tends toward the other side of the debates on those issues.

Then, of course, there is the matter of who would top the Hagelberg ticket.

That said, Hagel really wants to be in the White House. And Bloomberg, a billionaire who can self-finance a national campaign, may be holding the best ticket. By the same token, Bloomberg also appears to be desirous of a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address, and he knows he could use a Midwesterner with military and legislative experience to broaden his appeal.

So the two men are talking, and hinting.

Bloomberg aides suggest that an in-or-out decision by the mayor won't come before early next year.

Hagel says he'll make some kind of announcement by late summer -- although if his track record is any indication it may only be the declaration that he isn't seeking a third term in the Senate.

For now, Hagel says, "I don't forgo any options."

Truer words have never been spoken by an American politician.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Big Business Invades Your Mailbox

Note: I appeared on American Public Media's Marketplace todayto talk about sharp increases in US postal rates that will have a serious impacton independent journals. Here's a transcript:

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: On July 15 postal rates for magazines are slated to go up...dramatically. It's nothing new really…postal rates are always going up. But this is different. In the past, most postage hikes were applied more or less across all publications. This time, big magazine publishers will get a big discount, small fry won't. A coalition of small magazines from The National Review on the right to The Nation magazine on the left say that's not fair. Here's Editor and Publisher of The Nation: Katrina vanden Heuvel.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: The radical restructuring that small publications face could end upsilencing the diverse voices our Founding Fathers tried to foster whenthey created the national postal system.

Sure, like everyone else, we'd like to avoid a massive increase incosts. And it's not that we're afraid of intellectual competition; wewelcome it.

But postal policy for the past 215 years has played a pivotal role increating an extraordinarily free press. And we shouldn't let thismagnificent tradition change.

In this latest postal rate hike, the US Postal Service itself hadproposed a 12 percent increase that would have affected most magazinesmore or less equally.

Surprisingly, the Postal Regulatory Commission rejected that proposaland adopted a complicated alternative devised by the giant publisherTime Warner.

That proposal would give huge discounts to big magazines. But smallermagazines would have to swallow hikes of between 15 and 30 percent.

It looks like the Postal Service will adopt these rates withoutresearch into how it affects small and medium sized magazines, andwithout any meaningful public input.

For some small publications such huge and unexpected increases mayprove fatal. New periodicals will find it very tough to enter themarket. That means magazine publishing will get much lesscompetitive.

Time Warner argues that this is simply sane pricing by the postalauthorities to reward efficiency.

But wait a minute. The Postal Service is a monopoly. If magazineslike ours that require the post office to distribute our wares dislikethe onerous new rates, we have nowhere else to turn.

For decades, the Postal Service has always used its pricing mechanismto encourage smaller publications and competition.

From Madison and the Founders in the 1790s on, the idea was that lowrates for small publications made it possible to have the rich, open,and diverse media a self-governing people required.

No less than that is at stake today. For every American.

For more information, go to The Nation.com or stoppostalratehikes .com

For Mothers, the US is Not Number One (Not Even Close)

Last week your humble correspondent learned, over a dry repast of catered chicken with some of our nation's most influential men, that unlike Canada and many other civilized democracies, we cannot have single-payer health care because Dennis Kucinich is short. I wonder what these luminaries would say about a new report from Save the Children showing that the United States compares poorly to other developed countries on an equally basic measure.

Thomas Friedman and other pundits worry -- rightly -- that America is not going to remain competitive in the global economy for much longer. But we're lagging behind in other ways, too. Save the Children's eighth annual Mother's Index ranks 141 countries, and found Sweden, among more developed countries, the best place to be a mother. The United States is not even in the top twenty. The rankings are based on criteria for women's well-being -- lifetime risk of maternal mortality, maternity leave benefits, ratio of female-to-male earned income, expected number of years of formal female schooling, female life expectancy at birth, percentage of women using modern contraception women's participation in national government, and percentage of births attended by skilled health care professionals -- as well as the country's score on the organization's Children's Index. (Italy, by the way, is the best place in the developed world to be a kid, while the United States ranks a disgraceful thirtieth.) The criteria for the Children's Index are: mortality rate for kids under five and percentage of children enrolled in school (apologies to home-schoolers, but this does tend to be a decent indicator of how children are faring in a society). Interestingly, among the least developed countries, Cape Verde is number one for both mothers and children. Malawi didn't do badly either -- maybe Madonna should take that kid back!

In other Mother's Day news, fourteen national women's groups -- representing a combined constituency of 10 million women, according to Wake Up Wal-Mart -- signed a letter to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott asking him to bring an end to the discrimination and mistreatment endured by the company's female employees. The letter launched a Mother's Day campaign by Wake Up Wal-Martwhich included actions in at least 43 cities, and a "Million Moms Call" reaching out to over one million families asking them to pledge not to buy Mother's Day gifts at Wal-Mart. In New York state, Governor Spitzer -- in response to a dogged campaign by the United Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers (of which I'm a member because I teach at CUNY) and ACORN -- has issued an executive order granting over 60,000 government-subsidized family day care providers the right to form a union and collectively bargain. That's great news for those hard-working women, who make about $2 an hour, and for the low-income mothers who send their children to them -- child-care workers who are better paid have access to further education and professional development, and can do a better job.