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The Nation

March 1, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

"The good historian does not stop with the history. As the situation requires and compels, he goes on to making it."-- John Kenneth Galbraith on the legacy of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who has died at age 89, remained an active and important commentator on American politics until his last days. In New York City, where he resided, he was a steady presence -- not merely on the op-ed page of The New York Times but at events like the debut of Robert Greenwald's documentary "Outfoxed," where I recall talking with him at great length about our mutual sense of the sorry state of American media in the 21st century.

There will be much discussion about Schlesinger's legacy; wise and well-meaning commentators will diverge with regard to the important contributions of this multifaceted man. He played a central role in defining post-war liberalism, helping Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey and others to forge Americans for Democratic Action -- and then explaining the ideology, with his 1949 book, The Vital Center. He authored essential texts on American democracy and the presidency, especially his first-hand recollection of serving in the administration of John Kennedy, A Thousand Days. He advised presidents, including Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and he challenged presidents -- Schlesinger's high-profile departure from the Johnson administration was followed by his emergence as one of the most articulate and aggressive critics of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He nurtured and encouraged several generations of young historians and writers, including this one, who even as we sometimes disagreed on fine points regarding Henry Wallace or multiculturalism had the great pleasure of spending many an afternoon talking politics with the historian in his old offices at the Graduate School of the City of New York.

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John Nichols
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March 1, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

In 2001, Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced legislation to create a Department of Peace and Nonviolence to "not only make nonviolence an organizing principle in our society, but to make war archaic," as he told Studs Terkel in an article for The Nation in 2002.

Six years later, H.R. 808 has 59 cosponsors – including Rep. Jim McDermott – who writes that the bill "embodies the dreams and aspirations of Americans to live in a nation that uses its great strength to support the cooperative efforts of people throughout the world to create peace." The legislation calls for $8 billion in annual funding – less than one month of spending on the Iraq War and in stark contrast to the $439 billion allocated to the military in the recent Bush budget.

The Department of Peace would develop policies and allocate resources to support cutting-edge approaches to issues like domestic violence, child abuse, violence in schools, and racial violence. McDermott writes, "Internationally, a Department of Peace will advise the president and Congress on the most innovative techniques to establish and promote peace among nations, and will research and analyze the root causes of war to help prevent conflicts from escalating to the point of violence."

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March 1, 2007
David Corn

I'm still at the federal district courthouse waiting for the verdict in the obstruction of justice tral of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of sta...

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February 28, 2007
The Nation

The US government and military have undergone a series of jolting expansions in the Bush years. We got, for instance, a second Defense Department called the Department of Homeland Security. We got a military command for North America called United States Northern Command. More than anything else, however, while we already had an "imperial presidency," we also got an add-on--an imperial vice-presidency, a new form of shadow government in the United States, a startlingly unbound, constitutionally unmandated new institutional power.

On taking office, Dick Cheney promptly began to set up a vice-presidential office that essentially mimicked, and then to some extent replaced, the National Security Council (NSC). Just as promptly, his office plunged itself into utter, blinding secrecy--as journalist Robert Dreyfuss discovered when he simply tried to chart out who was working in this new center of power. No information, it turned out, could be revealed to a curious reporter, not even the names and positions of those who worked for the Vice President, those who, theoretically, were working for us. Cheney's office would not even publicly acknowledge its own employees, no less let them be interviewed.

From that office (and allied posts elsewhere in the executive branch and the federal bureaucracy), the Vice President and his various right-hand men like I Lewis "Scooter" Libby and present Chief of Staff David Addington, both fierce believers in the so-called unitary executive theory of government (in which a "wartime" commander-in-chief president is said to have unfettered power to command just about anything), elbowed the State Department, the NSC, and the Intelligence Community. With the President's ear, and in league with Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (among others), they spearheaded a series of mis- and disinformation operations that led to Iraq and beyond. (Reporter Jim Lobe wrote about this at Tomdispatch in August 2005, "Dating Cheney's Nuclear Drumbeat.")

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The Notion
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February 28, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Last week, the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee voted yes on the Employee Free Choice Act. This was a huge step forward in the fight to restore the ability of workers' to form unions.

Some 57 million US workers regularly tell pollsters that they would join a union if they could. But current US labor laws are often too weak to stop the intimidation, harassment and retaliation workers often face from employers when they try to organize.

The Employee Free Choice Act would ensure that when a majority of employees in a workplace decide to form a union, they can do so without the debilitating obstacles employers now use to block their free choice.

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February 28, 2007
The Nation

Over the last month PBS's Frontline has produced a terrific series on the future of news. Last night's third-part, on the business of journalism, was particularly compelling--and alarming.

No longer is reporting judged and valued by the people who read and create good journalism. What increasingly matters is what Wall Street cares about: the bottom-line.

Take one example featured in last night's show: the Los Angeles Times. For most of its history the paper was owned by the Chandler family, which generously supported it. In 1995 the Chandler's relinquished their publisher role and the paper entered a period of turmoil. The Tribune Company of Chicago bought the paper in 2000 and installed John Carroll, formerly of the Baltimore Sun, as editor, and Dean Baquet, formerly of the New York Times, as managing editor.

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The Notion
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February 28, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Last weekend, I wrote here about the history of US government attempts to suppress information. My case study was the Kennedy Administration's successful effort to delay publication of the New York Times' story about CIA planning for the Bay of Pigs disaster. (Since then, several generations of Times editors have publicly regretted that decision. "Our biggest failures," Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote last year, "have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After the Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco.")

Yet in these last two days, the Times has acceded to Bush Administration requests to withhold information from the American public.

In yesterday's edition, the paper of record reports that it was "asked to withhold any mention of [Cheney's] trip until he had left Pakistan." What conceivable national security purpose was served by swearing the press pool to secrecy about this trip? And doesn't accepting these ground rules play into the hands of a hyper-secretive Vice-President whose signature contribution to our security has been misleading us into a disastrous war and carpet bombing our constitutional system? The secrecy does expose a national security problem: the "war" on terror is a rank failure and Pakistan is not the stable country that White House talking points try to sell us.

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February 27, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

Nancy Pelosi has proven to be a far more politically savvy Speaker of the House than most of her critics, and some of her fans, expected. This is not to say that she has done enough to end the war in Iraq or hold the Bush administration to account, nor that she has avoided predictable pitfalls that are discovered by new congressional leaders. But she has kept her caucus together and drawn significant Republican support as the House has addressed minimum wage, stem cell research and ethics issues that were neglected by her Republican predecessor.

Even conservative commentator Bob Novak, via the anything but Pelosi-friendly Evans-Novak political wire, commented that, "The ‘hundred hours' program of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been a success beyond all anticipation. The passage of poll-approved measures came with a unanimous Democratic vote and heavy -- in some cases majority -- Republican support. This performance shows the error and futility of Republican expectations that Pelosi as speaker would fall on her face…"

But Pelosi's achievement ought be measured merely by reviewing the legislation that has passed the House. It is also important to pay attention to her outreach to constituencies that Democrats tended to ignore during the Clinton and early Bush years -- to the party's dramatic detriment.

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John Nichols
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February 27, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

The right has been generously funding conservative student activists for years. On the other side, the Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund is currently taking applications for grants for progressive student activists for the 2007-08 academic year. These need-based scholarships are awarded to both full-time undergraduate and graduate students actively working for peace and justice.

The maximum grant is $8,000 and awards may be considerably smaller depending on the applicant's circumstances and the funding available. There are 25 to 30 grants awarded each year with all funds come from individual donors. Grants are for one year although students may re-apply for subsequent funding. The deadline for applying is April 1.

Created in 1961, the Fund was originally established as the Marian Davis Scholarship Fund, a memorial to a teacher and outspoken advocate for racial justice and the rights of labor who died of breast cancer in 1960. While raising her family, she was also at home in the classroom, on the picket line, or in a jail cell. Marian's husband, Horace B. Davis, organized the Fund as a tribute to a talented teacher, loved by her students, who was persecuted for her work for peace and freedom.

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