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The Nation

December 1, 2008
TomDispatch

If you want to catch something of the fears and hopes of Americans right now, go to News.Google.com and try searching for a few words. For instance, put in "FDR" -- the well-known initials of the man who was president four times and took America through the Great Depression and all but the last months of World War II -- and endless screens of references pop up.

The Nation and the National Review have both devoted space to him. Paul Krugman and George Will both thought this was the moment to focus on him. Checking out the headlines you might think that the intervening sixty-four years since his death had simply vanished: ("Will FDR Inspire Obama?" "Obama's jobs plan could echo FDR's," "Clinton's potential pitfalls seen in FDR's secretary of State," Channeling FDR," "FDR saved capitalism -- now it's Obama's turn," and so on); headlines galore, not to speak of that Time Magazine "Obama as FDR?" cover.

Or, if you have another moment, try "the New Deal," or even the 2008 Barack Obama version of the same, "the new New Deal"; or, if you really want to get a sense of the moment, try "since the Great Depression," which now seems to be embedded in any article about the present economic situation -- as in the "worst crisis since the Great Depression," or "the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," or even "the most severe credit crunch since the Great Depression." It's a phrase that hovers between horror and euphemism, between the urge to invoke the word "depression" for our moment and an almost superstitious fear of doing so.

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The Notion
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December 1, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Despite the dramatic costs that the AIDS virus is still exacting, many people have the mistaken impression that the epidemic has been virtually conquered in the US and is now just a scourge of poor nations abroad.

Today -- the 20th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day -- is a good time to check the numbers, usefully compiled by the Think Progress blog.

AIDS is the number one killer for black women between the ages of 25 and 34.

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December 1, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraqbut , as he told us earlier this year, "I want to end the mindset thatgot us into war." So it is troubling that a man of such good judgmenthas asked Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense--and assembleda national security team of such narrow bandwidth. It is true thatPresident Obama will set the policy. But this team makes it moredifficult to seize the extraordinary opportunity Obama's election hasoffered to reengage the world and reset America's priorities. Maybebeing right about the greatest foreign policy disaster in US historydoesn't mean much inside the Beltway? How else to explain that not asingle top member of Obama's foreign policy/national security teamopposed the war--or the dubious claims leading up to it?

The appointment of Hillary Clinton, who failed to oppose the war, hasworried many. But I am more concerned about Gates. I spent the holidayweekend reading many of the speeches Hillary Clinton gave in her tripsabroad as First Lady, especially those delivered at the UN BeijingWomen's Conference and the Vital Voices Conferences, and I believe shewill carve out an important role as Secretary of State through elevatingwomen's (and girl's) rights as human rights. As she said in Belfast in1998, "Human rights are women's rights and women's rights are humanrights." That is not to diminish her hawkish record on several issues,but as head of State she is in a position to put diplomacy back at thecenter of US foreign policy role--and reduce the Pentagon's.

It's the appointment of Gates which has a dispiriting, stay-the-coursefeel to it. Some will argue, and I've engaged in my fair share of sucharguments, that Gates will simply be carrying out Obama's policies andvision. And a look at history shows that other great reformPresidents--Lincoln and Roosevelt--brought people into theircabinets who were old Washington hands or people they believed to beeffective managers. Like Obama, they confronted historic challenges thatcompelled (and enabled) them to make fundamental change. But Gates willundoubtedly help to shape policy and determine which issues are givenpriority. And while Gates has denounced "the gutting" of America's "softpower," he has been vocally opposed to Obama's Iraq withdrawal plan. Andat a time when people like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz are callingfor steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons (a position Obama hasadopted), Gates has been calling for a new generation of nuclearweapons.

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December 1, 2008
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

The Wall Street Journal, evidently keen readers of this blog, devoted an editorial on Friday to my criticism of Barack Obama's foreign policy team. Its November 28 editorial, entitled "Obama's War Cabinet," quoted thus from a piece I posted here last week. The Journal began:

The names floated for Barack Obama's national security team "are drawn exclusively from conservative, centrist and pro-military circles without even a single -- yes, not one! -- chosen to represent the antiwar wing of the Democratic party." In his plaintive post this week on the Nation magazine's Web site, Robert Dreyfuss indulges in the political left's wonderful talent for overstatement. But who are we to interfere with his despair?

Despair might be too strong a word. But certainly glum fits. As the Journal gloats:

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Bob Dreyfuss
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November 30, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

So it will be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The senator from New York, who lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama because she supported authorizing President Bush to attack Iraq when her rival from Illinois opposed the move, will now be the face of President Obama's foreign policy.

The final detail of the plan to put Clinton in charge of the State Department -- an agreement by former President Bill Clinton to work with the Obama transition team to address potential conflicts of interest arising from his international financial dealings -- has been settled. Obama made the announcement Monday morning in Chicago, at a press conference where he confirmed that he'll retain Defense Secretary Robert Gates and name retired Marine General Jim Jones as his national security adviser, former deputy attorney general Eric Holder as attorney general, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary and Obama campaign foreign-policy aide Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

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John Nichols
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November 28, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Tens of millions of Americans will prayed for peace as they celebrated Thanksgiving Day, and they will do so many more times during the coming Holiday Season.

Even non-believers will acknowledge that prayer can be powerful – providing measures of solace, insight and inspiration.

But prayer is made meaningful when it is linked to action.

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John Nichols
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November 28, 2008
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

The bloody terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, have the potential to cascade across the region. If Pakistan's army and intelligence service, which have long supported anti-India terrorist groups, are deemed responsible for the attacks, the results could be catastrophic.

In 2001, an attack on the Indian parliament, carried out by Pakistan-based Islamist terrorists, brought the two countries to the brink of nuclear war.

This time, even if it doesn't go that far, the results could be far deadlier than the attacks themselves, which killed more than a hundred people. The assault could upend the peace process now underway between Pakistan and India. That, in turn, would strengthen the hand of Pakistan's military establishment, which is already brooding about the new civilian government that replaced President Musharraf, the army dictator. And the army could use the renewed tension to redouble its alliance with radical-right, anti-Indian Muslim groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. By doing so, the idea of negotiations between various Islamists components of the Taliban movement, on one hand, and the civilian governments of President Karzai in Afghanistan and President Zardari in Pakistan, on the other, might be put on indefinite hold.

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Bob Dreyfuss
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November 27, 2008
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

Secular and nationalist opponents of the Baghdad regime of Nouri al-Maliki failed, and spectacularly so, to block the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and their failure is not a surprise. The ruling alliance of Shiite religious parties and Kurds, who moved forward with the tacit support of Iran, steamrollered opposition to the accord, which passed with at least 144 votes out of 198 members of parliament in attendance.

"A huge number of members left the country, supposedly on hajj [to Mecca] or for other reasons," said a leading Iraqi insider.

But, although the vote is a victory for Maliki, it says little about the future stability and security of the Iraqi state. And it says even less about the future of US-Iraq relations.

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Bob Dreyfuss
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November 27, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

The surrender to corporate greed and Wall Street excess that is the legacy of the Bush-Cheney interregnum left Americans in a difficult spot this Thanksgiving.

To a greater extent than at any moment since the days of the Great Depression, our Holiday celebrations are colored by uncertainty, even fear, about an economy that shows every sign of having been badly broken by the wrecking crew from Texas and the scavengers of Wall Street.

Bush offers little solace. His Thanksgiving Proclamation for 2008 makes no reference to the hard times that have befallen the land under his watch.

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John Nichols
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