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The Nation

February 26, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

The White House will do everything it can to push its reckless, European-based missile defense plan forward. Not only is there growing citizen opposition in the host countries to the proposed ten interceptor missiles in Poland and radar military base in the Czech Republic, but the system fuels a new arms race and militarism that is a far greater threat to our national security than any nuclear missile from Iran it would purportedly defend against.

As Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund and author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons told me last year, "President Bush is rushing to deploy a technology that does not work against a threat that does not exist."

But even worse than this rush to deployment is the destabilizing impact it has on relations with Russia and the prospects for real security and peace. Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison--co-directors of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy--recently wrote in Foreign Policy In Focus, "When the Soviet Union first built a limited missile defense system in the late 1960s, the United States responded by building up a nuclear strike strategy to overwhelm the new technology. The cycle of nuclear one-upmanship was partially halted by the ABM Treaty, but then the Bush administration withdrew from the treaty in 2002. Now… history repeats itself, but the table has been turned. Today it is the United States building a limited missile defense system… and it is the Russians who say they need to target it to maintain the effectiveness of their deterrent. The Cold War may be over, but military and policy planners in both countries still think in Cold War terms."

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February 26, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Jacob Hacker wades into the great mandate debate this morning in the LA Times. He argues that the sturm und drang over mandates is overblown:

Still, I do not believe that the individual mandate is essential to healthcare reform, as its supporters suggest. That's because Obama and Clinton have rightly rejected reform based on the individual purchase of insurance, choosing instead to allow most people to obtain subsidized coverage through their employers. By emphasizing the individual mandate, Clinton is shifting attention from this fundamental and popular feature of her (and Obama's) approach and actually may be hurting the cause she cares so deeply about.

The cornerstone of both Clinton's and Obama's plans is the same: Employers must provide coverage to their workers or enroll them in a new, publicly overseen insurance pool. People in this pool could choose either a public plan modeled after Medicare or from regulated private plans. Both candidates have promised help for middle- and lower-income Americans, and both have said they will cut costs through administrative streamlining, prevention and quality improvement.

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February 26, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Bipartisan support for reforming the two-decade-old federal sentencing structure that treats crack cocaine offenses one hundred times more severely than crimes involving powder cocaine is growing in Congress. (Click here for why this disparity is both absurd and racist.)

The Senate Crime and Drugs Subcommittee held historic hearings on the issue two weeks ago. Today, almost a dozen advocacy groups are co-sponsoring a national lobby day, bringing in voters from Alabama, California, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and others states to pressure key members of Congress to eliminate the disparity. You can help by joining the Drug Policy Alliance's campaign by calling your two US Senators and urging them to eliminate the crack/powder disparity by supporting S. 1711, The Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act. If you can't call today, call as soon as you can this week. Just click here for phone numbers and talking points.

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs. Among many other activities, the group hosts an annual International Drug Policy Reform Conference. Check out an online archive of last year's conference in New Orleans, where you can see photos, watch videos, hear panel audio and read media stories and blog posts about the conference and the ideas expressed for new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

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February 26, 2008
Christopher Hayes

While over its tenure, the Bush administration has increased baseline military spending by 30% to fight a global "war on terror," this month with the release of the President's last budget, Bush delivered a final, parting blow to 9/11 victims of terror at home.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the cost of treating sick ground zero workers has reached $195 million a year, a cost likely to expand. Nevertheless, Bush's proposed budget cuts 2009 funding for 9/11 healthcare to $25 million--a 77% drop from the previous year's appropriations.

Meanwhile this December, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt eliminated plans for the center that would treat the 10,000-plus First Responders suffering health problems as the result of their service after the attacks.

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February 26, 2008
Christopher Hayes

It seemed an apt coincidence of timing that as legal scholars and industry representatives debated the future of the internet at yesterday's FCC hearing at Harvard Law School, here in Washington, the House was holding somewhat more anachronistic-sounding hearings on railroad antitrust enforcement.

As Tim Wu put it at a Free Press panel on net neutrality earlier this month, at the turn of the century, the railroad was the new technology driving commerce in the United States. Likewise today, high-speed cable internet is the U.S. economy's new highway. So by blocking or discriminating against competitors' content--as both Verizon and Comcast have done--cable giants are not only protecting their own bottom line, they are crippling America's innovation economy, possibly for good. (A particularly odious turnaround when you consider that cable networks were heavily financed by government tax breaks and guaranteed returns.)

Yet net neutrality isn't just a question of whether Comcast allows us to download high-speed online TV, or the size of our monthly cable bills (which, since 1996, have gone up 93 percent). It's also at the heart of what's inspiring about the Internet: its democratic latitude. Yes, it's a political question (it doesn't take more than Verizon blocking subscribers' ability to receive NARAL Pro-Choice text messages to see that); it's also a question of connectivity and communication.

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February 26, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Time magazine political analyst Mark Halperin (formerly of ABC and The Note) has a post up dispensing free advice to John McCain on how he can attack Obama. The pearls of wisdom dispensed include:

5. Make an issue of Obama's acknowledged drug use.6. Allow some supporters to risk being accused of using the race card when criticizing Obama....11. Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama's unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism.

Aside from this being gratuitous and morally blinkered, I'm wondering what exactly Halperin thought the value-added of this post was. If he wants to be a campaign strategist for the McCain campaign (or any other for that matter), I'm sure he could get a job doing just that. But he's, in name at least, a journalist, with some basic responsibility to provide his readers with insight into the race. There's no insight in this list -- every attack he mentions has been made in the wingnut'osphere and in emails. So, really, what's the point? As far as I can tell it's mostly to burnish a reputation as being a savvy and unsentimental insider. If you were looking for artifacts to collect under the heading Why People Hate The Media, this would be at the top of the list.

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February 26, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Last week, we broke a story about Pentagon general counsel William Haynes, the man charged with impartially overseeing the tribunals at Guantanamo telling a subordinate that "[they]can't have acquittals." Yesterday, came word that Haynes has resigned. We always get our man.

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February 26, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Of course it would have been great if Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig had run for an open San Francisco Bay-area congressional seat on the reform platform he proposed.

Lessig, a pioneering battler against digital monopolies in the Internet age, would have been an exceptionally welcome addition to a Congress where senior members still admit that they don't really know how to use computers. And if Lessig had arrived in the manner he imagined -- as a proponent of fundamental reforms in the way the political process operates – it would have been a great moment for those who want the word of the moment, "change," to mean something.

Lessig, brave enough to take on Microsoft and smart enough to challenge federal copyright laws that are as corrupt as they are outdated, might even have figured out how to get the House talking in a serious manner about the campaign finance and ethics initiatives that are the "dreams deferred" of contemporary American politics. And if his "Change Congress" project succeeded, he might even have gotten Congress functioning again, as a check and balance against executive excess, a chain on the dogs of way, a facilitator of the common good and all the other purposes intended by the founders.

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John Nichols
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February 25, 2008
Jon Wiener
Jon Wiener

Reagan Democrats played a key role in electing a new present in 1980; now Obama Republicans seem to be emerging as a significant political force - at least in the primaries.

In the Wisconsin primary, almost nine per cent of Obama's vote came from Republicans, according to exit polls. Other states that permitted Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary include Virginia, where almost seven per cent of Obama's support came from Republicans - and the Democrats dream of carrying Republican Virginia in the fall. In Missouri, almost six per cent of Obama's support came from Republicans. Missouri is a key swing state that has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1904 except one.

The next state where Republicans are permitted to vote in the Democratic primary is Texas.

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The Notion
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