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The Nation

November 15, 2007
TomDispatch

Before I met Jonathan Schell, I already knew him in the best way possible: on the page. Even in his days as a neophyte journalist in Vietnam, he committed a writer's greatest act of generosity. First in the pages of The New Yorker, and then in his books, he took readers to places most of us never could have gone on our own -- to The Village of Ben Suc, for instance, as American troops cleared it of its 3,500 peasant inhabitants and destroyed it in what was, in 1967, the largest military operation of the Vietnam War to date; and, not so long after, in The Military Half -- from the back seats of tiny Forward Air Control planes -- to two South Vietnamese provinces where Americans were wreaking utter havoc. (In that book, he offered a still-unmatched journalistic vision of what war looks like, up close and personal, from the air.) In the 1970s, in The Time of Illusion, he would seat us all front-row center at the great Constitutional crisis that preceded our present one, the Nixonian near coup d'état that we now call "Watergate."

In The Unconquerable World (for which I was the editor), looking back from a new century, he considered several hundred years of growing state violence that culminated in a single weapon capable of destroying all before it -- and the various paths, violent and nonviolent, by which the people of this planet refused to heed the wishes of a seemingly endless series of putative imperial masters. I needed to know no more to feel sure, in March 2003, that the shock-and-awe fantasies of the Bush administration would be just that. In other words, he made me seem prophetic at Tomdispatch.

But if one subject has been his, it's been the nuclear issue. Like me, he came into this world more or less with the Bomb (a word which, back when it represented the only world-destroying thing around, we tended to capitalize) and its exterminatory possibilities have never left his thoughts. In his bestselling The Fate of the Earth, as the 1980s began (and an antinuclear movement grew), he approached the subject in print, beginning famously: "Since July 16, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was detonated, at the Trinity test site, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, mankind has lived with nuclear weapons in its midst." And so, sadly, we continue to do, despite his best efforts. He returned to the subject (when critics claimed he had no "solution" to the nuclear conundrum he had so vividly laid out) in The Abolition in 1984, and again in the post-Cold War 1990s, in The Gift of Time, The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, when the vast arsenals of the two superpowers were still sitting there like great unmentionable embarrassments, mission-less and yet going nowhere fast. (It was, of course, a time when people largely preferred to pretend that the nuclear danger was a thing of the past.)

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The Notion
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November 15, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Tonight in Las Vegas--a town best known for slots, boxing, andspectacle--the Democratic presidential hopefuls gather for one ofthe final pre-primary debates.

The Democratic Party moved the Nevada caucus up on the 2008 electioncalendar--third after Iowa and New Hampshire--to allow for a greaterrange of regional diversity in early voting than in the past. (SouthCarolina was also awarded an early primary spot). One issue that won'tbe debated in Iowa or New Hampshire but will loom large in the SilverState is Yucca Mountain.

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November 14, 2007
Richard Kim
Richard Kim

"WE DID NOT VOTE FOR BUSH." Those words were handwritten on the back of a menu by the US women's bridge team and held aloft during the award ceremony at the world team championships in Shanghai last month. The team had just won the tournament, destroying Germany in the final, and were making what they thought was a small political statement. It wasn't a particularly radical message (who else didn't vote for Bush?), and it was made spontaneously, in a moment of international goodwill and humor.

As today's NYT chronicles, the United States Bridge Federation was not amused. Its president, Jan Martel, and executive board are pushing for tough sanctions against the entire team--a one-year suspension, plus a one-year probation, 200 hours of bridge-related community service and a formal apology. Bridge Federation lawyer Alan Falk threatened team members with "greater sanction" if they reject the Federation's offer. Team members have been accused by other players of "treason" and "sedition," according to the NYT. On message boards they've been compared to the Dixie Chicks and Tommie Smith and John Carlos--US sprinters who raised a fist in salute to Black Power at the 1968 Olympics and were subsequently ejected from the games.

This is not your grandmother's card game! I've dabbled in the world of bridge myself, and as anyone who's played a tournament can tell you--bridge is ruthless. Little old ladies, so sweet pre-game, will mercilessly ruff you up once the cards are dealt. But what are the folks at the Bridge Federation thinking? The game's logic is punitive (you get spanked for bidding too high), but the game itself should not be--particularly on matters of free speech. Nothing makes the game look more backwards, small-minded and elitist than punishing a championship team for using their moment of glory to send a political message well within the mainstream of American society. What's next? Banning certain t-shirts? Buttons? Maybe bridge should only be played in uniform?

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The Notion
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November 14, 2007
The Nation

There are so many accusations directed at State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard for preventing inspections of State Department mismanagement in Iraq, it can get confusing. But two things became clear after today's House Committee Hearing on Oversight and Government Reform:

1. Howard Krongard's brother Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard is, irrefutably, on Blackwater's Advisory Board.

2. Howard Krongard is a pain in the ass to work for.

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The Notion
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November 14, 2007

In the autumn issue of the City Journal, Kay S. Hymowitz eulogizes the rise of a new international role model:

"Yes: Carrie Bradshaw is alive and well and living in Warsaw. Well, not just Warsaw. Conceived and raised in the United States, Carrie may still see New York as a spiritual home. But today you can find her in cities across Europe, Asia, and North America. Seek out the trendy shoe stores in Shanghai, Berlin, Singapore, Seoul, and Dublin, and you'll see crowds of single young females (SYFs) in their twenties and thirties, who spend their hours working their abs and their careers, sipping cocktails, dancing at clubs, and (yawn) talking about relationships. Sex and the City has gone global; the SYF world is now flat."

And why is this a good thing? Because it points to a "New Girl Order" where, one, women are getting married and having kids later in their lives. Two, this is because "today's aspiring middle-class women are gearing up to be part of the paid labor market for most of their adult lives; unlike their ancestral singles, they're looking for careers, not jobs." And three, their leaving home to live in big cities to do so, which in turn implies greater economic and personal freedom.

The Notion
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November 14, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

In 2003, an unprecedented groundswell of popular opposition killed then-Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell's efforts to eliminate rules that limit the ability of media conglomerates to monopolize the media.

But, once again, media-industry lobbyists and their allies on the FCC are working to revise the rules on media ownership to allow a single corporation to own most, if not all, of the newspapers, radio and TV stations and Internet news and entertainment sites in your town. Kevin Martin is the current FCC Chairman and he's trying to sneak through a massive giveaway to Big Media before the Bush administration leaves office.

When Michael Powell tried this before he was beaten back by a democratic upsurge of grassroots' organizing on both the left and right. So now Martin is trying to make an end-run around democracy by pushing through a rule change he claims is "modest" but which was immediately challenged in a statement by the two Democrats on the FCC, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein, as anything but insignificant.

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November 14, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

Both openly-gay members of Congress have now endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The New York senator secured the support of Tammy Baldwin, the Wisconsin congresswoman who is the only out lesbian in the House, months ago. And this week Clinton gained the enthusiastic endorsement of House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, the only out gay man currently serving in the chamber.

Frank specifically hailed Clinton's support for gay and lesbian rights in announcing his decision to back the woman who current leads in national polling on the Democratic race and who is the front-runner in most early caucus and primary states.

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The Notion
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November 13, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

The most cynical group currently operating on the American political stage, the National Right to Life Committee has endorsed the most cynical man to seek the presidency in recent memory, Fred Thompson, for the Republican nomination.

It is a perfect match, although not one that can be said to have been "made in Heaven." After all, what brings the National Right to Life Committee and Fred Thompson together is the fact that both the interest group and the candidate have sold their souls to the highest bidder.

National Right to Life gave its blessing to Thompson despite the fact that he has been open during the course of the current campaign about the fact that he does not support what has historically been the highest stated priority of the organization: enactment of a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

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John Nichols
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November 13, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Last month, the Washington Post ran an interview with Oscar winning Director Jonathan Demme. The subject: His documentary, "Jimmy Carter Man from Plains." The Nation has long believed that Carter is the best ex-President this nation has had in the 20th century. If you're sane, why wouldn't you value and celebrate people who redeeem themselves with moral *and common sense* acts and ideas after they leave official power.

So, when Demme--who had the wise and good taste to spend some tough time on the road with "an ex-president {who} moves so much faster than" the rock and rollers he worked with (think Talking Heads in "Stop Making Sense" and Neil Young in "Heart of Gold") --was asked if there were any other politicians he'd think would make a good documentary subject, who knew he'd give the name of one of my all-time favorite politicians? Maurice Hinchey!

Hinchey is one of the congresspeople you may never have heard of. (He representsNew York's 22nd CD, which spans eight counties including the Hudson Valley.) He's why I still have faith in the institution of Congress and the Democratic Party to do some good/ (usually if pushed and challenged..) As Demme put it, Hinchey is "this incredibly decent, well-informed, energetic American elected official. He's a plain talker. We search vainly for anybody who speaks plainly in the Democratic Party."

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