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The Nation

August 5, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama arrives in Indiana at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night and he will remain in the state until 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The question of the day is whether he will leave with a running mate.

Currently, he has one event on his schedule -- a town hall meeting in Elkhart, a city that has been hit hard by the auto-industry downturn, where he will be introduced by Indiana Senator Evan Bayh.

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August 5, 2008
Max Blumenthal

Last week, I reported for the Huffington Post that country singer Toby Keith had performed a pro-lynching anthem on the Colbert Report, and would be playing the same song soon on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and a slew of nationally televised talk shows.

The lyrics of Keith's song, "Beer For My Horses," which I transcribed, could hardly be less explicit -- "Hang 'em high, for all the people to see." In my piece, I also noted the racially tinged nature of the song's video and the forthcoming movie that Keith's song inspired.

Toby Keith's latest: Obama "talks, acts, and carries himself as a Caucausian."

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The Notion
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August 4, 2008
Katha Pollitt
Katha Pollitt

When pro-choicers accuse anti-choicers of being anti-contraception they're often taken as crying wolf -- even though no anti-choice organization explicitly endorses birth control and despite the prominent anti-choice role of the Catholic Church, which explicitly bans contraception. After all, goes the complacent point of view, most women, and most couples, use some form of birth control. Opposition to it seems like something out of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, a novel whose futuristic vision of women's subjection to rightwing Christian patriarchs no less a shrewd social critic than Mary McCarthy found preposterous when she reviewed it in the New York Times Book Review in 1986.

The Bush Administration seems bent on giving Atwood material for a sequel. Last month, Health and Human Services issued a draft of new regulations which would require health-care providers who receive federal funds to accept as employees nurses and other workers who object to abortion and even to most kinds of birth control. This rule would cover some 500,000 hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities-- including family planning clinics, which would, absurdly, legally be bound to hire people who will obstruct their very mission. To refuse to hire them, or to fire them, would be to lose funds for discriminating against people who object to abortion for religious or --get this -- moral beliefs.

This represents quite an expansion of health workers' longstandingright not to be involved in abortion. And, incidentally, this respect for moral beliefs only goes one way. A Catholic hospital has no corresponding obigation to hire pro-choice workers or accomodate their moral beliefs by permitting them to offer emergency contraception to rape victims or hand out condoms to the HIV positive; a "crisis pregnancy center" would not have to hire pro-choice counsellors who would tell women that abortion would not really give them breast cancer or leave them sterile. Only anti-choicers, apparently, have moral beliefs that entitle them to jobs they refuse to actually perform.

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August 4, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

On June 12, the Supreme Court issued the landmark ruling Boumediene v. Bush, which affirmed that detainees at Guantanamo Bay are entitled to the Constitutional right of habeas corpus--the fundamental right to challenge the legality of one's detention.

Though a tremendous victory for the rule of law, far more work must be done to ensure that the United States government halts torture and effectively ends Constitutionally-suspect detentions. When the Supreme Court ruled that detainees have the right to habeas corpus in the June 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, Congress responded by passing the Military Commissions Act -- an effort to diminish that right in practice. With approximately 270 detainees from approximately thirty countries currently at Guantanamo Bay, robust and sustained advocacy is critical to prevent Congress and the Bush Administration from once again circumventing the Supreme Court's judgment.

Enter Amnesty International USA's "Counter Terror With Justice Campaign." After joining the International Bar Association, the International Federation for Human Rights and the International Law Association to provide an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the Supreme Court in the Boumediene proceedings, AI launched a multi-pronged advocacy program to stop torture, close Guantanamo and end the practice of extraordinary rendition.

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August 3, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Progressive Democrats of America continues its campaign to add a firm commitment to universal health care to the 2008 Democratic platform. PDA activists were at the platform committee's gathering in Cleveland last weekend, and they plan a major presence at the key pre-convention session this coming weekend in Pittsburgh.

Getting language as strong as PDA seeks will be difficult. Illinois Senator Barack Obama, whose campaign controls the platform-writing process, has been cautious about committing too firmly to the mandates that would be required to insure universal coverage.

That was clear at last weekend's Cleveland gathering.

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John Nichols
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August 1, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

This video by Elizabeth Klein of the University of Cincinnati was the recent winner of the I *Heart* Tap Water Student Video Contest.

The contest is a part of Food & Water Watch's Take Back the Tap college campaign which encourages students to organize their campuses and communities to cut contracts with bottled water companies and promote the use of tap water. The case against bottled water is easy: Tap water is better for consumers' health, their pocketbooks, and the environment. Millions of barrels of oil are used to produce and transport plastic bottles annually, and in the end, 86 percent of the bottles end up in landfills.

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August 1, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

The Democratic Party will get serious about the platform-writing the process, as hearings of the 2008 convention's platform committee kick off in Cleveland.

But not too serious.

As has been the case since the 1980s, the real writing of the platform will be done by the campaign of the presumptive nominee.

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August 1, 2008
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

Here's a choice for would be foreign policy makers: is the solution to the current crisis in Pakistan (a) a comprehensive Pakistan-India accord, with full Iranian and Russian support, to strengthen Pakistan's civilian government and assert civilian control over Pakistan's rogue ISI intelligence agency, or (b) stepped-up US military intervention in Afghanistan, unilateral US strikes into Pakistan's lawless border areas in the northwest, and thuggish American threats aimed at Pakistan's fledging regime?

If you picked (a), good for you. If you picked (b), well, the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain might offer you a job.

Recent revelations in the New York Times about Pakistan's ISI and its ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, including reports that the ISI was indeed responsible for the deadly bombing at India's embassy in Afghanistan, have pushed the Afghan-Pakistan-India nexus to the very front of the news.

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Bob Dreyfuss
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July 31, 2008
Christopher Hayes

An idea that could revolutionize workers' rights in the country: from Tom Geoghegan via David Sirota:

eoghegan reminded me that data show the more union members in an economy, the better workers' pay. The problem, he said, is that weakened labor laws are allowing companies to bully and fire union-sympathetic workers, thus driving down union membership and wages.Enter Geoghegan's six words. If the Civil Rights Act was amended to prevent discrimination "on the basis of union membership," it would curtail corporations' anti-labor assault by making the right to join a union an official civil right."Hang on," I interrupted. "Joining a union isn't a civil right?"Correct.Under current law, if you are fired for union activity, you can only take your grievance to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) - a byzantine agency deliberately made more Kafkaesque by right-wing appointees and budget cuts. Today, the NLRB takes years to rule on labor law violations, often granting victims only their back pay - a tiny cost of doing business.Union leaders are now focused on reforming the NLRB - an admirable goal - but Geoghegan's plan implies that workers are harmed by being legally leashed to Washington in the first place. His proposal says rather than being forced to rely on an unreliable bureaucracy for protection, workers should be empowered to defend themselves.The six words would do just that. Regardless of whether the NLRB is strengthened or further weakened, persecuted workers would be able to haul union-busting thugs into court. There - unlike at the NLRB - plaintiffs can subpoena company records and win costly punitive damages.

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