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The Nation

December 18, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

No matter what the Federal Communications Commission does today with regard to media ownership -- and it is likely to do the wrong thing -- members of Congress are ready to push back. And that sets up a clash between Congress and the White House that will be a vital fight over the future of American democratic discourse.

The Bush-Cheney administration wants FCC chair Kevin Martin and the Republican majority on the commission to approve a rewrite of media-ownership rules that would allow big media companies to own daily and weekly newspapers, radio stations, television stations, cable systems and key internet news sites in an individual community.

There is no longer any question that Martin, a Republican operative with close ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney who has been talked about as a likely GOP candidate for the governorship of his native North Carolina, is moving at the behest of the White House.

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December 17, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Today Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a bill that ends capital punishment in New Jersey. "This is a day of progress for us and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder," Corzine said. In a powerful and eloquent speech delivered Monday morning, the Governor thanked advocacy groups for their hard and courageous work in creating "a fundamental grass roots groundswell that put pressure on those of us in public service to stand up and do the right thing."

New Jersey becomes the first state since 1965 to legislatively repeal the death penalty, and the state's move is being hailed around the world as a historic victory against capital punishment.

The momentum to repeal capital punishment has been growing in the state since January, when a 13-member legislative commission recommended its abolition. "It took 31 years," noted a recent New York Times editorial, "but the moral bankruptcy, social imbalance, legal impracticality and ultimate futility of the death penalty has finally penetrated the consciences of lawmakers in one of the 37 states that arrogates to itself the right to execute."

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December 17, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

In less than 24 hours, Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin plans to hold a vote on rules that will let the largest media companies swallow up more local newspapers and TV stations.

As I posted about last week, Martin is forging on with the vote, which he knows he will win, despite bipartisan Congressional requests to delay the vote and the adamant opposition of two of the five FCC commissioners. If you care about the dismal state of the media, please stop what you're doing and lend a hand.

The media reform group Free Press is operating on overdrive trying to generate at least 100 calls to every US senator before 5:00 p.m. today asking the lawmakers to pressure the FCC to delay tomorrow's vote until Congress can vote on the Media Ownership Act of 2007 (S. 2332), which is waiting for a vote on the Senate floor. Click here to find your Senator's phone number and click here to check out useful talking points.

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December 15, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

More and more Americans are fed up with watching their tax dollars support the greatest foreign policy disaster of our time. Over the past year, millions of US citizens have voted, lobbied, marched, written and taken direct action to end the war in Iraq. Yet Congress continues to appropriate billions of dollars for an occupation that has become a humanitarian catastrophe. And despite the recently released NIE report on Iran, the Administration's saber rattling stunningly continues.

That's why Chris Hedges recently pledged in The Nation, " will not pay my income tax if we go to war with Iran… I will put the taxes I owe in an escrow account. I will go to court to challenge the legality of the war." It's also the reason a coalition of antiwar groups – including CODEPINK, the 2008 War Tax Boycott coalition, United for Peace and Justice, Goldstar Families for Peace, Institute for Policy Studies, and others – are using this weekend's Boston Tea Party anniversary to begin circulating this pledge: "When I am joined by 100,000 other US taxpayers, I will join in an act of mass civil disobedience and refuse to pay the portion of my taxes that pays the US military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan." The organizers hope to reach the goal of 100,000 tax resisters by April 15 who will hold in escrow or redirect the war taxes to humanitarian aid projects--such as those providing relief to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

The social democrat in me has always been uncomfortable with tax resistance, despite my admiration for the War Resisters League. As progressives, we want to enlarge the public sphere, and elevate the primacy of politics, engaged in collectively, as the means for solving social problems. Taxes are obviously a crucial element of meeting our common goals. In that respect, opting out of the collective decision making of the polity about how to spend the nation's money is problematic.

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December 14, 2007
The Nation

Is the Department of Veterans Affairs finally turning a corner or is the worst yet to come?

From Walter Reed to false diagnoses of personality disorder, a Department that was never given the resources to provide health care for returning Iraq soldiers has relied on scandalous shortcuts. A glimmer of hope was provided yesterday, though, when the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously approved the nomination of James Peake as new department secretary. Peake promised that he will hire more medical staff and stop using so much of the department budget on bonuses to senior officials.

A separate House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, however, offered a depressing glimpse at the escalating health care problems the next secretary will inherit. The hearing was prompted by a CBS News report that veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as the rest of the population. Each day an estimated 17 veterans commit suicide.

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The Notion
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December 14, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Recently I wrote about the grassroots fight to keep billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for the nuclear industry off of the historic Energy Bill (and also here ). So far, that fight has been successful.

But, as I suggested in my previous post, it looks like Big Nuclear's cronies – led by Senator Pete Domenici – are trying to slip $25 billion in nuclear giveaways into the Appropriations bill, as the New York Times reported today: "Congress reached a tentative agreement on a major energy package that it plans to enact outside the energy bill….The agreement would guarantee loans of up to $25 billion for new nuclear plants and $2 billion for a uranium enrichment plant, something those industries had been avidly seeking. It would also provide guarantees of up to $10 billion for renewable energy projects, $10 billion for plants to turn coal into liquid vehicle fuel and $2 billion to turn coal into natural gas."

Despite the carrot of a renewable energy subsidy in this package this is no way to embark on a new, green future of energy independence. Use this link to let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and your representatives know that it's time to oppose regressive, failed, brought-to-you-by-yet-another-corporate-lobbyist energy policies, and promote a bolder and brighter future.

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The Notion
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December 14, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

Three senior members of the House Judiciary Committee have called for the immediate opening of impeachment hearings for Vice President Richard Cheney.

Democrats Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Friday distributed a statement, "A Case for Hearings," that declares, "The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens."

In particular, the Judiciary Committee members cite the recent revelation by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan that the Vice President and his staff purposefully gave him false information about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent as part of a White House campaign to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. On the basis of McClellan's statements, Wexler, Gutierrez and Baldwin say, "it is even more important for Congress to investigate what may have been an intentional obstruction of justice."The three House members argue that, "Congress should call Mr. McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to ‘unknowingly [pass] along false information.'"

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December 14, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

There are plenty of what might charitably be referred to as "unsavory" characters associated with the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, who tends to attract the seamy political hangers-on who like to attach themselves to candidates who have money and good poll numbers.

One of the worst of these, Bill Shaheen, was serving as co-chairman of the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire.

Now he's suddenly out of his official role. But don't think this shady character is gone for good.

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December 12, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

This January 22 will mark the 35th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized the right to abortion, Roe vs. Wade. Choice USA is trying to celebrate the occasion with a YouTube video montage, bringing together footage from young reproductive rights activists on campuses and in communities nationwide. The idea is to have young people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and hues explain, in their own voices, what Roe means to them. Choice USA offers tips and guidelines for creating the videos here. Submissions are being accepted through January 11th, 2008.

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