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The Nation

March 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

America has a penchant for declaring war on abstract nouns. But while Bush may go down in history as the failed architect of the global "war on terror," when all's said and done, he's also succeeded in doing what no Democratic president has before him: help shift direction in America's "war on drugs." Last December, for example, Bush cut funding for the Byrne grant program (initially supported by his father, later made notorious by related civil-rights abuses) by a radical 67%. And since the 2004 (faith-propelled) launch of his Prisoner Reentry Initiative, nationwide, the push to expand rehabilitative services has gained steam. Last November, the Second Chance Act passed the House by an overwhelming 347-62 vote; a Senate vote is expected this spring. (If passed, the Act would be the first legislation Congress has passed that takes a restorative, not punitive approach to crime.)

To be sure, the White House's actions haven't been monolithic: Bush's crackdown on medical marijuana patients is about as poignant an illustration of the drug war as one could design. Nevertheless today, it's quite a turnaround from the "get-tough" 1990s to see 56 Attorneys General be reduced to asking Congress, hats in hand, to please stop cutting funds for drug enforcement efforts.

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March 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Some proposed designs.

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March 4, 2008
TomDispatch

How far off were they? Well, it depends on which figure you choose to start with. Here's the range: According to key officials in the Bush administration back in 2002-2003, the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq was either going to cost $60 billion, or $100-$200 billion. Actually, we can start by tossing that top figure out, since not long after Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsey offered it in 2002, he was shown the door, in part assumedly for even suggesting something so ludicrous.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz championed the $60 billion figure, but added that much of the cost might well be covered by Iraqi oil revenues; the country was, after all, floating on a "sea of oil." ("To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he told a congressional hearing.) Still, let's take that $60 billion figure as the Bush baseline. If economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes are right in their recent calculations and this will turn out to be more than a $3 trillion war (or even a $5-7 trillion one), then the Bush administration was at least $2,940,000,000,000 off in its calculations.

That definitely qualifies as a ballpark figure for an administration that never saw a budget estimate for one of its imperial dreams that it couldn't hike. Take just one of its major "reconstruction" projects: getting the vast US embassy staff out of a former palace of Saddam Hussein and into a brand-new, almost Vatican-sized "embassy," a genuine mother ship, being built from the ground up inside Baghdad's heavily fortified (and often heavily shelled) Green Zone. Originally scheduled to open in mid-2007, what will undoubtedly be the largest "diplomatic" mission on the planet was initially budgeted for $592 million. Predictably, its price tag soared another $144 million, and now comes in at $736 million, as yet unopened. In December 2007, the State Department officially certified it "substantially complete," but, as with most Bush administration construction projects in that country, it remains in a state of staggering unreadiness; two of the State Department employees who worked on it are now "under criminal investigation"; and the State Department is dragging its feet about handing over relevant documents to Congress. Ho-hum.

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The Notion
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March 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

The first clue that Comcast had paid seat-fillers to keep people out of the FCC hearing might've been when several attendees started snoring....

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March 4, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

The Democratic presidential campaign could be decided today in Texas--the nation's most populous state with one of its most diverse populations. (Candidates have likened campaign there to stumping in five states.)

The Lone Star State also has the most complicated set of voting rules of any state in the union. The document detailing the delegate selection process is thirty-seven dense pages long. Some people call the system the "Texas Two Step." Others have termed it a primacaucus -- a hybrid of a primary and caucus. Whatever you call it, the youth voter group, Why Tuesday?, established to make election reform an issue that our elected pols can't keep ignoring, has created a new video to explain how Texas really selects its delegates.

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March 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

As the economy coils rapidly into a recession, the Bush administration is using its regulatory power to cut the legs out from under already-floundering state finances and shift $50 billion in federal Medicaid/Medicare spending onto state budgets, the House reported yesterday.

Since his election, Bush has made no bones of his opposition to entitlement spending, and these days, Bush is pummeling away at such programs with an ever more vigorous hand. In 2006, he proposed cutting $60 billion over 10 years for Medicaid. In 2007, Bush pushed $77 billion in cuts to Medicaid/Medicare spending over the next five years. This year, as Bush prepares to leave office, his proposed cuts to Medicaid/Medicare's five-year budget have swelled to $200 billion.

It goes without saying that the growth in U.S. healthcare spending (which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projected last week will balloon to $4 trillion in the next 10 years) has to be checked. But unilaterally using the executive's regulatory power to roll back entitlements blindly forces states to either pony up (no easy feat when 21 states face budget shortfalls) or, more likely, simply cut people from their rolls.

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March 4, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

March 4 was not supposed to be a "Super Tuesday." But, as voters head to the polls today In Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island, this could be the definitional day of the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Just as the first Super Tuesday, on February 5, was once expected to "seal the deal" for Hillary Clinton, so this Super Tuesday, could "seal the deal" for Barack Obama.

Will it happen?

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John Nichols
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March 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Ezra makes a point here about the sense that Sen. Clinton was the next in line and has been pushed aside by a younger male colleague. Clearly that psychological dynamic has some deep resonances for a lot voters, but it reminds me of an email exchange I had with an editor when I was a 23-year-old reporter, pitching my first-ever campaign piece. I wanted to do a profile of Nancy Kaszak, a local community activist in Chicago's Lincoln Park, who'd served in the state legislature, and previously run for congress in the 5th district. Back in 2002, with Rod Blagojevich running for governor, there was an opening and she had thrown her hat into the ring. I pitched a profile about her to my editor, noting that she was facing a millionaire challenger who'd just moved into the district (a man named Rahm Emmanuel), but that "by all rights it's her turn." My editor wrote back and said something like, "Chris, if you're going to cover campaigns the first thing you have to learn is that there's no such thing as "turns" in democracy."

I've never forgotten that advice, and as grumpy as it made me at the time, it's true. Experience counts, but it counts as much as the voters think it should count. There are no turns in democracy.

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March 4, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Anyone feeling menaced by the long shadows cast by the White House these days should check out David Ignatius's plug for former CIA officer Marc Sageman's new book, Leaderless Jihad. Sageman has a clear prescription for the U.S. handling of terrorism: drop the act. Quit ratcheting up talk about Muslim extremists--today's 'third wave' of jihadists are less extremists, more chatroom-based 'terrorist wannabes,' and glamorizing the 'global war on terror' just incites them further.

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