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The Nation

April 8, 2009
Katha Pollitt
Katha Pollitt

Thursday, April 9th, is the deadline for comments on the proposed rescission of the Bush administration's last-minute HHS regulation expanding provider "conscience" clauses to allow just about any health worker to deny contraceptive services to women. Under this vague, confusing rule, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a birth-control prescription, and also refuse to get another pharmacist to do so. A nurse could refuse to give emergency contraception to a rape victim, and give her a lecture about "babykilling." Abortion clinics would be forced to hire, and retain, personnel who refused to carry out the very duties they were hired to perform. Nor does the regulation stop there. Conceivably, a health-care worker could refuse to care for a gay, lesbian or transsexual person, on the grounds that to do so would violate their religious beliefs.

The law already provides "reasonable accomodation" for religious beliefs, by the way. This regulation is just President Bush's farewell gift to the religious right. It only takes a few minutes to encourage President Obama to return that gift to the store.

(Thanks to intrepid reporter Cynthia Cooper for the heads up.)

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April 7, 2009
Zephyr Teachout

As a friend of mine said to me last week, it seems the economic team advising Obama has an unfortunately limited imagination. This limitedimagination leads to a limited range of kinds of responses, as all aretied to "getting back to where we were" or "recovering,"--even in thelanguage used there are metaphors of recreating a past, or healingsomething like a hurt shoulder--recovering after bypass surgery-- instead of creating a different kind of future.

One of the things I hope to do, blogging here over the next month, istry to be imaginative, and hopefully learn from the readers here abouta much greater range of ideas about how we might choose to organizeour economy: how we organize how things are made, how people are paid, and how risks are punished and rewarded. I think our short term solutions and responses ought be tied to long term structural protections against similar crises.

Recently, much of my thinking has involved antitrust policy. Instead of imposing after-the-fact regulations on corporations, why not pass a new antitrust policy that limits the size to which companies can grow? Current antitrust law limits a variety of anticompetitive behaviors, like price fixing, and is focused on consumer welfare and market manipulation. But antitrust could become a tool for limiting size qua size, not just size when it becomes anticompetitive. It would require a major overhaul, but in the long term a size-based antitrust policy might actually be simpler than the complicated and often unworkable measures of market share and examinations of inchoate consumer needs.

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The Notion
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April 7, 2009
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

What seems most immediately alarming about the bailouts and the $787 billion stimulus, write Leo Hindery and Donald Riegle in the April 20 issue of The Nation, are the countless indications that the rescue packages still fall woefully short of what is needed to confront the emergency economic conditions we face.

With the US economy having contracted at a stunning rate of 6.3 percent in the last three months of 2008, a quarterly performance rivaled only four times since the Great Depression and getting worse in '09; a growing unemployment rate, now at 12 million people, and foreclosures up 81 percent, many economists are arguing that this current stimulus is bound to fail, inevitably pushing perhaps millions more Americans over the brink of financial collapse.

This is compounded by the central problem with Obama's bailout from the point of view of experts like former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, James Kwak, George Akerlof, and Robert Shiller -- that recovery will fail unless America breaks up the financial oligarchy. The solution is to have the government temporarily take over failing banks, break them up and sell them off in the private markets. This is not the current plan.

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April 7, 2009
John Nichols
John Nichols

In spring, they say, human hearts incline toward love. And from the Midwest to New England, the love that once dared not speak its name is being formally recognized and celebrated.

Just days after the Iowa Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in that state, the Vermont state legislature has removed the last barriers to gay and lesbian couples marrying.

While progress in Iowa came via the judicial route, and is likely to spark ongoing political struggles, the victory in Vermont was a political one that comes at the culmination of a long struggle in a state that nine years ago was the first in the nation to authorize civil unions for same-sex couples.

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April 7, 2009
Melissa Harris-Perry

Here in Cape Town I have had to confront the global reach of U.S. black cultural exportation.

I have heard the following statements from black South Africans:

"Racism seems to be much worse in the United States. From television I can see that even though you have so much education you are always complaining that there are not enough opportunities in America. It must be very hard to struggle against such a powerful system."

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The Notion
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April 6, 2009
Betsy Reed
Betsy Reed

The LA Times is calling it the "he-cession." The stark facts show that the economic crisis is hitting men particularly hard: The official male unemployment rate just spiked to 8.8 percent, while the figure for women is on a slower rise, now at 7 percent. So we can add to the old-fashioned gender gap in wages (favoring men, who make one dollar to a woman's 80 cents for the same job), a new gender gap in unemployment, favoring women.

With women working more, there has been a role reversal of sorts, but it's hardly the kind feminists envisioned. As men lose their jobs, households are depending increasingly on the relatively meager wages of women to stay afloat. And the newly unemployed men aren't spending their freed-up time packing lunches and schlepping the kids to soccer games. According to an analysis of time use data by economists Alan B. Krueger and Andreas Mueller, they're more likely to devote those hours to looking for new jobs--and sleeping more, and watching more TV.

The picture of domestic life that emerges is not the gendered suburban dystopia of Revolutionary Road. But vestiges of that old order persist, mixing in new and potentially combustible ways with the legacy of feminism (the increased participation of women in the labor force), its unfinished business (their lower wages, and the lack of social supports for working motherhood), and the vagaries of this particular downturn, which has been especially merciless in male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing.

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The Notion
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April 6, 2009
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus held its second of six scheduled forums on Afghanistan. It was the first non-classified public forum on Capitol Hill to address the Obama Administration's newly released Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.) -- a Vietnam Veteran and former chief of staff for Secretary Colin Powell -- offered some powerful words of caution.

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April 6, 2009
Melissa Harris-Perry

Last week I delivered the W.E.B. Du Bois lectures at Harvard University. In this series of lectures I took up issues surrounding African American citizenship in the contemporary United States. I tried to think about how the years between Hurricane Katrina and the election of Barack Obama have created new opportunities for African Americans to address the problematic explained by Du Bois as "double consciousness."

Immediately after the lectures I boarded a plane for Cape Town, South Africa. This is my first trip to South Africa and it has proven to be a perfect destination for continuing engagement with the issues of black citizenship.

Tourist areas reflect the power of global capitalism and cultural imperialism; making shopping for groceries and clothing entirely indistinguishable from an American shopping experience. Television and radio are completely familiar, as are brands, styles, and dining.

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The Notion
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April 5, 2009
The Nation

This Tuesday a rally in Gainesville calls for saving higher ed in Florida.

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