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The Nation

April 5, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Do you think the US should spend another $102 billion on the Iraq War?

Well, later this month, Congress will consider President Bush's demand for just this amount to continue full steam ahead with his disastrous occupation of Iraq. This is on top of the $562 billion Congress has already authorized Bush to spend on Iraq since 2003. (For a good look at what we could be doing at home with the money we're using in Iraq, check Robert Pollin's lead piece in the Nation's recent special issue on the costs of war.) It's unlikely that Congress will do anything other than roll over but if sufficient pressure can be applied, votes can change. It's up to the antiwar public to press legislators to make every effort to get us out of Iraq.

Write your elected reps and implore them to reject Bush's Iraq budget request.

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April 4, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Last Monday, well over 300 Vermonters packed City Hall in downtown Burlington. It was standing room only with every seat on the floor and in the balcony occupied. The occasion was a town hall meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders, a forum he thoroughly enjoys and frequently hosts throughout the state because, as he said later, "it brings the government close to the people."

Ambassador Pekka Lintu of Finland was the guest speaker. Sanders invited him because he wants his constituents to know about a country that has quality universal healthcare, free childcare, free college education, employment benefits unimaginable to most American workers, virtually no childhood poverty, and one of the most competitive economies in the world. While Sanders anticipated a good turnout, the actual attendance exceeded his expectation. "It shows," he would later say, "that people are hungry to hear about alternative visions to the way we are doing things in this country."

Neither Lintu nor Sanders denied the differences between the US and Finland – in population, size, and diversity. "Yet as we acknowledge the difference we should also acknowledge that we are all human beings with very much the same DNA, the same kind of intelligence and the same human needs," Sanders said. "Is there something that we can learn from [Finland's] model?"

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April 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

In the House...This week, a global AIDS bill authorizing $50 billion over five years secured passage by a 308-116 vote. The White House endorsed the legislation (somewhat tepidly, given how it authorizes $20 billion more than the President requested); the bill now moves to the Senate. Less than three weeks after the Senate rejected a similar ban by a 71-29 vote, on Wednesday, an effort to force consideration of an earmark moratorium failed. And in a rather embarrassing development for the GOP--which aggressively pushed the election-season measure--out of a tally of Congressional earmarkers subsequently released, Republicans topped the list. In other moves, the House also voted to speed up the visa approval process for foreign artists and entertainers and reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration.

In the Senate...On Tuesday, Sens. Reid and McConnell jointly promised across-the-aisle cooperation to address the housing crisis's "core issues" and help families avoid foreclosure. Yet the plan--announced Wednesday--abandons the Dems-backed provision that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages (killed yesterday by a 58-36 vote) and cuts in half proposed foreclosure counseling funding. Fully 40% of the bill's costs go toward business tax breaks to help homebuilders--who, as one workers' union noted, "helped cause the mess by pushing subprime loans through their mortgage subsidiaries." According to the Joint Tax Committee, the bill offers $25 billion in tax cuts to banks and home builders, but just $3 billion in tax relief for homeowners. (Threatening to withhold campaign contributions--as the National Association of Homebuilders did this February--ain't classy, but evidently it works.)

Meanwhile this week, scandal-dogged Bush crony Alphonso Jackson--one of the key players entrusted to handle the housing crisis--announced his resignation as HUD secretary. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Paulson unveiled sweeping changes in the regulatory schema that oversees America's financiers, including a near-freeze on new regulations. The House Commerce Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill (backed by 220 House members and 55 Senators) to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco.

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April 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

If Wall Street thinks the public is angry at it now, wait till stories like this start getting wider play.

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April 3, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Forty years ago today, on the Democratic presidential campaign trail in Indiana, one of the most remarkable moments in American political history occurred.

New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy was locked in a race for the Democratic nomination with another liberal insurgent, Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, and the party establishment's emerging choice: Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

Kennedy had not yet won any primaries. His candidacy remained untested, as did his faith that it was possible to cross lines of racial division and unite a nation that was struggling to overcome the awful legacies of racial segregation, discrimination and fear.

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John Nichols
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April 3, 2008
Christopher Hayes

(Full text)

You can listen to NPR's morning interview with Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles-- who was listening to King's speech just a few feet away--here.

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April 3, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Just three months after Jamie Leigh Jones' horrific account of Halliburton gang-rape was heard in Congress, Karen Houppert talks to Lisa Smith, a KBR contractor who alleges she was raped by a co-worker.

And thanks to KBR's secret arbitration process, like Jones, Smith's case may never see the light of a courthouse.

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April 3, 2008
Christopher Hayes

The problems facing progressives in a post-Bush landscape are not problems of "what". We know more or less what has to happen: withdrawal from Iraq, closing gitmo, universal healthcare, a cap and trade program for carbon emissions. (I could go on). And there are technical policy debates about the best policy architecture to achieve each of these, but those debates are, I think, fairly secondary at this point. Because the major intellectual and political problem to untangle, for everyone from journalists like myself charged with chronicling the capital, to activists and organizers and staff members, is how. How, in the face of tremendous entrenched interests, in the wreckage of a system that has been discredited and gutted over the last seven years, how do you get actual, positive, progressive reform actually enacted.

This is why you should read Ezra Klein's piece in Slate about how to fix healthcare. Notice this:

On health care, the vital question for the next president isn't merely what to do but how to do it. Reform requires much more than a willing executive, as anyone who worked in the Clinton White House between the years of 1992 and 1994 can tell you. The problem is not just policy--Washington is stuffed with wonks and idea entrepreneurs eager to explain how to fix the health care system--it's politics. Without 60 votes in the Senate, you don't have a policy. You have a position. And nobody is going to get good, affordable medical care from a position paper. Sadly, there's a long history of executives coming in with a clear position paper explaining what they want to do to fix health care but no political strategy for how to achieve it. The next president need not repeat that mistake. He or she needs, first, a clear political approach--based, in part, around a solid understanding of the mistakes made by the Clintons in 1994--that's backed up by a solid set of policy principles.

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April 2, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Following up on Chris's post, a quick stat from the current Foreign Policy's military survey on a related theme: an overwhelming 78% of officers support granting citizenship to legal permanent residents in exchange for service.

And an equal percentage think that we really, really can't afford to wage another major war right now.

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