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The Nation

November 27, 2006
The Nation

I'm happy to report some insta-progress on the Delta Air Lines breast-feeding scandal, which I've been chronicling hereat the Notion. For those who've been out of the loop: a mother (in crunchy Vermont!) was thrown off a plane for the dire national security breach of nursing her baby. A remarkable number of people -- over 20,000 -- signed a petition by MomsRising, an online mothers' political group (an excerpt from the founders' new book, by the way, recently appeared in the Nation). Countless numbers of people were inspired to call Delta about the incident, and many also participated in protests and "nurse-ins" at Delta terminals across the land. Last week Delta issued an apology, as well as chiding its subsidiary, Freedom Airlines, which operated the plane from which the lady was so rudely escorted. Here's Delta's morsel of holiday crow: "Delta Air Lines supports a mother's right to breastfeed her baby onboard our aircraft. We regret the decision to remove the passenger from Flight 6160 as it was not in keeping with Delta's high service standards, and we are coordinating with Freedom Airlines to ensure that they deliver the level of service we expect for all of our customers."

MomsRising also reports that thanks to all the pressure, Delta is considering officially supporting the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, currently before Congress, to stop discrimination against nursing mothers. To that end, it can't hurt to get more names on MomsRising's petition.

Speaking of small but sweet victories, Wal-Mart's high-priced PR firm is humiliated and mired in scandal over fake blogs and "grass-roots" organizations it created to, um, improve the company's terrible image. Wal-Mart Watch deserves credit for exposing this bit of fraud. Today, Online Media Daily reports that the PR firm, Edelman, may be kicked out of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (sounds like a joke, but there really is such a thing, and even corporate bloggers have standards!).

The Notion
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November 27, 2006
The Nation

Congressman Charles Rangel announced earlier this month that he willpush to renew the military draft. Rangel argues, forcefully, that thedraft will spread the burden of war more equitably and force politicalleaders to think twice about starting wars. "There's no question in mymind that this president and this administration would never haveinvaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented tothe Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and theadministration thought that their kids from their communities would beplaced in harm's way."

The 18-term Representative, and incoming Chair of the powerful Ways andMeans Committee has already introduced a bill. Lawrence O'Donnell overat the Huffington Post has a strong piece supporting Rangel's move. Let hisbill come to a vote, O'Donnell insists. House Majority Leader NancyPelosi "should let the House debate the draft. Let the Republicans givespeeches listing all the good reasons why we should have a volunteerArmy. But let's hear Rangel's speech about how the burden of war is notfairly shared in this country. Let's get America thinking about exactlywho is being left in the line of fire in the war Americans have turnedagainst and know we can't win. Let's get America thinking about JohnKerry's line about Vietnam--who is going to be the last soldier to diefor a mistake? A real debate on the draft will do that. Don't worry, thebill has no chance of passing."

It all makes a lot of sense. But if you want to read a powerful counterto O'Donnell's take, check out Nation columnist Katha Pollitt'slucid column, "Do You Feel aDraft" from June 7, 2004.) " For many," Pollitt writes, "the draftsummons up ideals of valor, adulthood, public service andself-sacrifice--SHARED self-sacrifice. Those are all good things, butthe draft is still a bad idea."

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The Notion
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November 27, 2006
John Nichols
John Nichols

In radio and television interviews since the election, I have argued repeatedly that the November 7 vote did not just empower Democrats to do the right thing with regard to the Iraq debacle. It also freed up Republicans -- particularly Senate Republicans who have long been ill at ease with the neoconservative nonsense peddled by the Bush administration.

Now that the votes have been counted, the American people are ready for swift steps to extract U.S. forces from a no-win situation.

Yet, while Democratic leaders talk of "going slow," smart Republicans are recognizing the political opening and seizing it.

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November 26, 2006
Katrina vanden Heuvel

After progressive victories across the nation on Election Day – with winning candidates at the federal, state, and local levels, and on issues ranging from the minimum wage to tax policy – two things are clear: the American public is much more receptive to progressive ideas than suggested by the media, and the conservative movement is in disarray.

So it was disappointing on November 17th to read the New York Times recycling of an old story written time and again about the power of rightwing think tanks: "Policy institutes have been central to a national organizing strategy that has long won the right a reputation for savvy, and state-level versions are growing in number and clout."

Yes, it's true, rightwing think tanks have been effective through their ideological discipline and ample resources. But the progressive community recognizes the importance of defining issues and advancing a policy agenda, too. There is now a network of savvy progressive think tanks working at the state level – and they are winning. So here's a modest proposal: perhaps it's time for the paper of record to create a beat on the progressive movement.

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November 26, 2006
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 one corporation to monopolize all the media outlets in a given place.

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. Last June, new FCC chairman Kevin Martin issued a draft policy proposal -- called a Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making -- that kick-started Big Media's latest attempt to weaken the rules protecting local voices, vibrant competition and diverse viewpoints.

Now the battle is on. Martin, a far more savvy politician than his predecessor, is keenly aware that Powell was roundly criticized in 2003 for trying to ram through radical regulatory changes with virtually no public input. So he has opened up the decision-making process somewhat and permitted hearings on the proposed policies nationwide. But Martin and the two Republican members of the commission have restricted their involvement to six public meetings, while pro-regulation commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein have hit the road to chair additional sessions. (The next official hearing with all five commissioners takes place on December 11 in Nashville, TN.)

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November 24, 2006
Katrina vanden Heuvel

On Thanksgiving eve, writer and activist Tom Hayden posted an explosive article at Huffington Post about what may be elements of the US's secret diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq. Hayden details a possible endgame strategy--including reports of US officials having contacted Sunni nationalist insurgents to explore a cease-fire and replacement of the Iraqi Al-Maliki government with an interim one. He also alleges that in October Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appealed to the Gulf Cooperation Council to serve as intermediaries between the US and armed Sunni resistance groups [not Al Qaeda].

Such contacts, Hayden also makes clear, "may be nothing more than 'probes'--in the historic spirit of divide-and-conquer, before escalating the Iraq war in a Baghdad offensive....Yet Americans who voted in the November election because of a deep belief that a change of government in Washington might end the war have a right to know their votes counted." Confronted with an escalating humanitarian disaster in Iraq and increasingly horrific sectarian violence, it appears the US may be offering significant concessions without its citizens knowing.

"It is wild," Hayden wrote in an email Friday afternoon. "Bush-Rice-Maliki to Amman, Cheney to Saudi Arabia. The Iraq Study Group preparing its conclusions, the Pentagon preparing proposals of its own. Is it all just a reshuffling after the November elections, and in response to the devastating casualty levels in Iraq? Can the Democrats cohere around a proposal of their own? Or should we expect it all to go on, behind masks of diplomacy and management of our perceptions?"

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November 24, 2006
John Nichols
John Nichols

When Franklin Roosevelt and the first New Deal Congress faced the question of how best to organize broadcasting on the public airwaves, they enacted the federal Communications Act of 1934. That law brought into the modern age the principle that had underpinned the "freedom of the press" protection in the first amendment to the Constitution: that a competitive and responsible media was essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy.

Though the airwaves belonged to the people, private owners would be allowed to broadcast on particular frequencies. Ownership would be diverse, competition would be encouraged and all who used the people's airwaves would be required to do so in the public interest.

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John Nichols
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November 23, 2006
The Nation

It is Thanksgiving Day, a moment when Americans celebrate the abundance of our harvest.

There is much to be thankful for. Most, though certainly not all, Americans will be well fed this day.

We enjoy the gift of residence in a land that is far more wealthy, far more productive and far more secure than most.

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The Notion
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November 23, 2006
John Nichols
John Nichols

Sixty-five years ago, in that tense passage after the worst of the Great Depression began to ease but before the bombings at Pearl Harbor drew this country into the wars of Europe and Asia, Franklin Roosevelt penned the most remarkable of Thanksgiving Proclamations.

Unlike most of his predecessors and successors, including the current occupant of the Oval Office, Roosevelt saw the writing of the annual statement as something more than a perfunctory task. Each of the 32nd president's dozen Thanksgiving Proclamations was unique, and as his tenure progressed, Roosevelt used them to express the values of the New Deal and the internationalist struggle against fascism.

Though Roosevelt's proclamations retained a spiritual character, he deemphasized explicitly Christian references in favor of a more universalist approach, which recognized the contributions of different religious groupings within the United States and abroad. He also added inclusive language, which he and his aides hoped would be read as an encouragement to overcome racial and ethnic divisions.

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