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The Nation

February 23, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

Having served his none-too-subtle role in the grand scheme of the 2OO8 presidential competition -- keeping as many Iowa Democrats as possible "locked up" until New York Senator Hillary Clinton got her campaign up and running in the first caucus state -- former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack today announced his exit from the race for the Democratic nomination.

Vilsack launched his run early and made as much noise as could be expected from a nowhere-in-the-polls candidate with a vague message and even vaguer hopes of raising the funds needed to mount a truly national campaign. But his brief candidacy -- which was quietly advised and encouraged by Democratic strategists with long and close ties to the Clinton camp -- never really amounted to much more than a blocking move for the New York senator with whom he worked closely as a leader of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council centrist.

For his trouble, the Iowan will earn a little bit of speculation about his vice presidential prospects -- nil. And, if Clinton actually wins the presidency, about his Cabinet prospects -- pretty good, if he's willing to settle for Secretary of Agriculture; a bit slimmer if he wants something muscular like Energy.

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John Nichols
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February 23, 2007
The Nation

Yesterday I was invited to attend a fundraiser for the CATO Institute with special guest PJ O'Rourke who is on a book tour for his new book, which is a pretty ingenious idea. He basically slogged his way through the entirety of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (a book I've tried to read numerous times with no success) and then wrote a kind of digest/rumination.

Because I'm an idiot, I misread the invitation and came late, which meant I missed the free lunch (further proving Milton Friedman's famous dictum on the matter), but was able to catch O'Rourke's talk. It was pretty standard libertarian fare. But two things struck me. One, I may be totally biased here, but I think it's far more mainstream in conservative circles to compare Democrats to evil, odious figures than it is on the center-left.

At one point O'Rourke said, Smith's lesson was that either you have unfettered free trade of goods and services or you start meddling in trades and you have, and I quote, "North Korea and Nancy Pelosi." Big laugh. I'm trying to come up with an equivalent statement that would have been said at, say, a Center for American Progress fundraiser. "Either you regulate markets to enforce some moral order or you get Tom Delay and slave ships"? That's not quite right, but even so, I can't imagine it getting uttered at a CAP function.

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The Notion
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February 23, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

A new film called Amazing Grace, opening today, marks the bicentennial of the end of slavery in Britain, portraying the British abolitionist movement as led by activist and Member of Parliament William Wilberforce. In conjunction with the movie, Bristol Bay Productions has launched the Amazing Change campaign in an effort to raise people's awareness about the continuing existence of slavery and build a movement of 21st century abolitionists "to complete William Wilberforce's unfinished work."

There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today and at least 10,000 in the United States--144 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 200 years after Britain ended its participation in the slave trade. In contrast, there were approximately 15 million people enslaved during 150 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

"Anything that brings awareness to slavery in history of the present is positive," says Eric Foner, the leading historian on post-Civil War reconstruction. "If people fighting slavery today identify with the abolitionists, that's good."

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February 23, 2007
The Nation

A story The Nation broke eight weeks ago about the growing movement of active-duty military dissenters against the war will get a nationwide television audience Sunday on CBS News' 60 Minutes.

The soldiers and sailors who organized the Appeal for Redress and who petitioned Congress last month to bring the troops home from Iraq will be interviewed and profiled by CBS correspondent Lara Logan. At the time The Nation published its story, we found about 1,000 officers and rank and file personnel had signed on to the effort, from all branches of the military, some stationed stateside and others on the frontlines in Iraq.

At latest count that number had grown to more than 1,300. After 60 Minutes airs its report, that number could multiply quickly. Read our original report here.

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The Notion
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February 22, 2007
The Nation

Ouch. It hurts to listen to. This was Representative John Conyers,speaking to a troops-out demonstration this past January in WashingtonDC:

"George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him theIraq war is failing. But let me tell you something. He can't fire you.He can't fire us. But we can fire him!"

Many took those words to mean that Conyers, the chair of the HouseJudiciary Committee, was serious about firing this president, meaning,impeaching the man, along with the vice president he rode in on.

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The Notion
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February 22, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Guerrilla documentarian Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Films team have been in the forefront of pioneering innovative ways to fund, produce and distribute progressive and timely films and videos. Their recent web video, The Real McCain, rapidly made its way around the internet and was featured on 360 blogs who linked to it.

Now, Brave New Films is turning its attention to Fox News' regular distortions and dissembling on behalf of right-wing candidates and causes. Fox's recent crusade against Barack Obama has been relentless and dirty as a new short video by Brave New Films demonstrates.

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February 22, 2007
The Nation

Italian Prime Minister resigned yesterday after his center-left coalition government lost a crucial foreign policy vote in the Senate.

Maybe George W. Bush should do the same. After all, the House of Representatives is now on record opposing his plan to escalate the war in Iraq, as is a majority of the US Senate. In Italy, that would certainly be grounds for dismissal. If Bush were Prodi, he'd be resigning every day. I nominate Chuck Hagel as his replacement.

Prodi came only two votes short of passing a measure that would keep Italian troops in Afghanistan and allow the US to expand a military base in northern Italy. The vote offers further confirmation of just how unpopular US foreign policy has become. Iraq is not the only place where the coalition of the willing has chosen to cut and run.

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The Notion
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February 22, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

The Democratic Party's sweep in November was due in no small part to its promise to clean up Washington. For those turned off by the K Street "politics as usual" deforming our democracy check out a new initiative by the Sunlight Foundation – a nonpartisan organization dedicated to using technology to achieve greater openness between members of Congress and their constituents. Urging all Representatives to post their daily schedules online is a good step towards some much-needed transparency.

So far only two freshmen, Representative Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Jon Tester, are heeding the call. Every day Tester reveals each lobbyist, constituent, and colleague he meets with--as well as the duration of the meeting. Gillibrand identifies meeting participants. (In order to address safety concerns schedules are posted the next day. Also, items pertaining to national security are omitted.)

"I believe in transparent government and this is my effort," Tester told the Washington Post.

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February 21, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

Vice President Dick Cheney, keeping as far from federal prosecutors as possible these days, arrived in Japan Wednesday to officially thank that country for supporting the Bush-Cheney administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq.

What made the trip absurd was that Cheney was campaigning for a war that he wanted, plotted and defended with a disregard not just for the laws of the land but for reality. And what made it ludicrous was that he was thanking an ally that is not exactly in the alliance.

Japan was a part of the original "coalition of the willing" -- more precisely referred to as the "coalition of the coerced" – that signed on for the quagmire run.

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