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The Nation

February 20, 2007
David Corn
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Cover-up or scapegoating.

Nine conversations or two.

Scooter Libby the liar, or Karl Rove the liar.

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February 20, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

No one is going to mistake Chris Dodd for a frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nod. The senator from Connecticut is running fourth in the latest poll of voters in his home state. And, while the senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may be a well-respected man about Washington, he is rapidly learning that doesn't count for a whole lot in Keokuk or Dixville Notch.

But Dodd has hit on a campaign theme that is worthy of attention.

He has in recent days made the defense of the Constitution and the restoration of the rule of law central to his outreach to voters.

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John Nichols
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February 20, 2007
The Nation

Over at TAPPED, Scott Lemieux makes the case that we have more to fear from Alito and Roberts than we do from Thomas and Scalia:

Scalia and Thomas, at least when there's no conflict with strongly held policy preferences, will have their ideological conservatism constrained by legal policy goals which don't always produce conservative results. Alito and Roberts, conversely, are free to be much more slavishly pro-business -- marrying O'Connor-style unprincipled "minimalism" to a much more conservative ideology is the most dangerous combination of all. If you're a left-liberal, you'd much rather have Scalia or Thomas than Alito.

The occasion for this commentary was the Supreme Court's decision to overturn a $79.5 million punitive damage award against Altria (nee Phillip Morris). Dissenting were the unlikely foursome of Ginsburg, Stevens, Thomas and Scalia.

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The Notion
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February 20, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

According to the Washington Post, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the nation's capital has treated one out of every four soldiers injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over 700 outpatients reside on the hospital grounds or nearby as they receive continued treatment or await bureaucratic decisions – which can take 18 months or longer. They outnumber in-hospital patients by 17 to 1.

In a two-part series, reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull have done a great service in rendering a portrait of the sad and horrifying state of "supporting the troops" when they come home to Walter Reed.

These soldiers suffer from amputations, brain injuries, post traumatic stress, and other life-changing combat wounds. They are housed in rooms with "mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses," as well as rotting floors and black mold. "Suicide attempts and unintentional overdoses from prescription drugs and alcohol, which is sold on post, are [also] part of the narrative here."

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February 19, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

"If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from."

So says New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who appears to be campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination on the theme that she would rather be wrong than president.

Perhaps, in this post-modern moment, Clinton is on to something. Henry Clay, a frequently unsuccessful contender for the Oval Office in the first half of the 19th century, suggested that he would rather be right than president and he lost. Maybe Clinton believes that by reversing the scenario, she can achieve the victory that eluded Clay.

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John Nichols
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February 19, 2007
The Nation

A teacher, hospital charity worker and father of four, Adel Hamad has been a prisoner at Guantanamo for five years. Like most other detainees at Guantanamo, he's never had a day in court, and never been accused of a crime against the United States. Habeas corpus, for those of you who have forgotten 11th grade civics (admittedly, that's easy to do), is enshrined in our constitution: it means that if the government is holding someone prisoner, it has to say why, and cannot detain that person indefinitely without charge. The detainee has a right to go to court and demand that the state justify his continued incarceration. Last year, with the Military Commission Act, the Congress essentially eliminated habeas corpus for the first time in U.S. history -- and I don't think you have to be imprisoned on Guantanamo to find that scary.

Adel Hamad's lawyers, then, have taken an unusual step: they have given the unclassified documents relating to their client's case to a group of online activists who have formed Project Hamad, a website on the detainee's behalf. They've also made a video about the case and put it on YouTube. The website has a number of actionsyou can take, including signing up to be a "citizen co-sponsor" of Senator (and prez candidate) Christopher Dodd(D-CT)'s proposed Restoring the Constitution Act, which would restore habeas corpus, re-affirm our commitment to the Geneva Conventions, and narrow the definition of enemy combatant, among other civilizing measures. (My colleague Ari Berman mentionedthis bill last week.) Like Hamad's supporters, Dodd, too, is taking the debate to YouTube, encouraging people to make videos of themselves supporting the measure.

It was beyond silly when Time magazine declared "You" the "Person of the Year," but it's inspiring to see people using these technologies to mobilize fellow Americans to demand a little decency from our government. Bush's approval ratings keep slipping, but let's show the world we can do more than simply disapprove.

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The Notion
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February 19, 2007
The Nation

As I write this from Cairo at 11:30 a.m. Monday local time, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The first thing to note is that all three of these officials represent political trends that are currently extremely weak within their respective countries.

So in this summit of three weak reeds, can any of the three expect to gain any strength from the support that the other two may-- or may not-- be able to offer them?

Of these three political trends, Mahmoud Abbas's is currently (at his domestic level) the least weak. This might seem paradoxical. But his Fateh movement is the only one of these three three trends that has actively engaged with its domestic critics and done the hard work of reaching an agreement for internal entente; he did that through the Mecca Agreement that he concluded with Hamas last week.

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The Notion
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February 16, 2007
The Nation

By a comfortable margin of 246 to 182, the US House on Friday adopted a resolution denouncing President Bush's "surge" of more American troops to the Iraq quagmire.

All but two Democrats--southern conservatives Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi--voted in favor of the non-binding resolution, as did 17 Republicans.

That allowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to describe the vote as a historic "bipartisan" break with the president.

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The Notion
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February 16, 2007
The Nation

In summer 2004, citizens who peacefully protested during the Republican National Convention in New York City were subject to mass arrest, lengthy detention under horrible conditions and a wide range of other civil liberties violations. Civil liberties exist, much of the time, to protect minority rights, and that's important. But most of these protesters, in opposing the war and other Bush policies, were expressing the views of New York City's majority. If such mainstream dissent is punished severely, many wondered, what lies in store for those expressing unpopular opinions?

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) brought a number of lawsuits challenging the city's conduct during the 2004 convention. One of the best things about lawsuits -- from a public interest viewpoint -- is the fascinating documents obtained during discovery (the period before the trial in which the parties can compel each other to give up relevant information). In this case, the NYCLU had sworn testimony from high-level New York Police Department (NYPD) officials, thousands of pages of city memos, minutes and other documents, and many hours of videotape. When the City tried to prevent the NYCLU from making this information public, the organization yet again took the City to Court. A couple weeks ago, a judge ruled in the NYCLU's favor. The city is still trying to stop the civil liberties group from releasing the documents, but it's lost the legal battle. Beginning around noon next Wednesday, the documents will be open to the public, at www.nyclu.org. The videos will be available soon as well.

I'll be writing about these documents in more detail soon in the magazine (and next week, please check them out for yourselves). But briefly, here are some details that stand out:

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The Notion
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