Archive for the ‘The Nation’ Category

Although I left The Nation, I have continued my role as the Noted page’s unofficial international monitor of minor elections, this time reporting the results from Greenland. On a loosely related note, the new Greenlandic PM Kuupik Kleist is on Facebook.  My editor friended him.

flag 2On June 2 the incongruous forces of global warming and indigenous self-determination combined to bring the leftist Inuit Ataqatigiit Party (IA) to power in Greenland, forcing a social democratic/conservative coalition out of office on the eve of the nation’s transition to self-rule. Greenland, a semi-autonomous Arctic province of Denmark with a population of about 57,600, has been disproportionately affected by global warming, which has made large swaths of its permafrost-covered landmass increasingly accessible to oil and mineral exploration for the first time.

Emboldened by the prospect of resource-driven self-sufficiency, more than 75 percent of Greenland voters opted in November for increased devolution from Denmark, which has controlled the country since the early eighteenth century. Self-rule measures, including greater control over natural resources and a switch from Danish to Greenlandic as the national language, are due to come into effect on June 21 and will likely pave the way for a vote on full independence in the near future. In advance of Greenland’s empowerment, former Prime Minister Hans Enoksen of the social democratic Siumut Party, which had run the island since it was granted limited autonomy in 1979, called an early election because, “it seems fitting to ask the people who should lead them into that new epoch.”

Greenlanders chose to award a plurality–fourteen of thirty-one seats in the Parliament–to the pro-independence IA Party. Speaking in the capital, Nuuk, where close to a quarter of the island’s population lives, IA leader Kuupik Kleist told jubilant supporters, “Greenland deserves this.”

Click here to see the full contents of the issue in which this piece was published. (The Noted section is available to subscribers only.)

Picture credit: leszekwasilewski(via Flickr)

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This is the section lead in the magazine this week.  Even though it’s hidden behind the subscriber wall, most of it shows up here. That said, you can also read about these ground-breaking ladies and comment on their achievement below.


From L-R: Aseel al-Awadi, Massouma al-Mubarak, Rola Dashti,  Salwa al-Jassar

As six years of turmoil in Iraq have clearly demonstrated, the transition to democracy in the Persian Gulf can be painfully slow. The United Arab Emirates, home to the Gulf’s financial capital, Dubai, limits women’s suffrage to a few hundred state-nominated electors, while US ally Saudi Arabia still denies women the right to vote. Until four years ago the same was true of Kuwait, where men have had the right to vote since shortly after the nation was granted independence from Britain nearly half a century ago.

Universal suffrage came to Kuwait in 2005, and after three contests in which no women were elected, four were voted into the Gulf’s oldest elected parliament on May 17. Massouma al-Mubarak, who had previously been appointed Kuwait’s first female cabinet member, and Salwa al-Jassar and Aseel al-Awadhi, both university lecturers, join women’s rights activist Rola Dashti in the fifty-member National Assembly. All four hold doctorates from US universities, and two, Awadhi and Dashti, do not wear Islamic headscarves.

The election results included a further bit of good news for the million women who live in Kuwait: the Islamic fundamentalist bloc, which opposes women’s suffrage and right to run for office, saw its share of seats in parliament decrease. Indeed, the day after the voting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her commencement address at Barnard College, described the historic elections as “a major step forward for Kuwait, the region and, I would argue, the world.”


Picture credit: Kuwait-Ra’ed Qutena (via Flickr)

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This short piece led the Noted section of the June 8, 2009 issue. Because Noted is only accessible online to subscribers, comments are allowed on this post.


Picture credit: uscgpress (via Flickr)

The oddly controversial Rightwing Extremism report, issued by the Department of Homeland Security on April 7, was officially withdrawn by Secretary Janet Napolitano in mid-May. The nine-page report was a routine threat assessment issued to law enforcement and counterterrorism officials that warned of the potential for a rise in homegrown terrorists. It concluded that the combination of an economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president could cultivate a right-wing “resurgence in radicalization and recruitment,” including among disgruntled veterans.


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Although The Nation is legally registered as a for-profit company, it has lost money for nearly all of the magazine’s 144 year history and has only survived through the unwavering support of what are now some 30,000 Nation Associates. This profile was written for The Associate, the quarterly newsletter that goes out to all those rabid Nationistas.   Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Associates.

As one might expect of someone who donates to a for-profit corporation without the benefits of a tax deduction or voting shares, the Nation Associates are very passionate about the magazine so the content of each newsletter (the full PDF version of which can be downloaded here) is very Nation-centric.  The topic I wrote on, a profile of a Pulitzer Prize-winning contributing editor now living in Nepal, was already formulated when I agreed to write it up.  Although it was time consuming and uncompensated (!), I really, really enjoyed the experience–this is perhaps the first piece I’ve written since my “Green.view” articles where I was almost entirely removed from the frame of the article.  Kai Bird is the focus feature and he’s a fascinating subject.



 “George Orwell once pointed out that political chaos may be both a cause and an effect of the decay of language, adding, ‘A man may take a drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.’ Nowhere is this semantic vicious cycle more apparent than in the American vocabulary of Middle East politics.”

This analysis could easily apply to the Israel lobby’s character assassination of Charles Freeman, the failed nominee for National Intelligence Council Chairman, or the Obama administration’s urge to double down the troop count in the failing war in Afghanistan, yet it first appeared in the opening article of a special issue, Myths of the Middle East, which was published on December 5, 1981. That unsigned editorial, like many written between 1978 and 1987, was authored by Kai Bird. During those nine years, first as associate editor in the New York office and four years later as a Washington editor, Bird played a major role in both the weekly production of The Nation as well as the broader progressive discussion about the focus of American foreign policy.


This was a role for which Kai was uniquely well suited. Bird was born in Eugene, Oregon, but at age four he moved to East Jerusalem in what was then Jordan and, with the exception of two years spent in Washington, DC, lived abroad until he returned to the US for college. The experience of growing up as the son of a Foreign Service officer sparked Bird’s interest in American foreign policy and led him to major in South Asian and Middle Eastern history at Carleton College. Before graduating he managed to get arrested protesting the Vietnam War with a young professor named Paul Wellstone and to do an independent study in India and Bangladesh during the tumultuous months that followed the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. His experience abroad helped him win a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to return to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. After completing a one year master’s in journalism at Northwestern, Bird married his wife, Susan, who had also recently graduated from Carleton and been awarded a Watson Fellowship. The couple—who now live with their 16-year-old son in Nepal, where Susan is the country director for the World Bank—took their first trip abroad together using her Watson money to travel by land from Europe to Bangladesh for 15 months.


Throughout his time with The Nation, Bird, regardless of what it said on the masthead, was thought of as the “foreign editor,” as senior editor Richard Lingeman referred to him in an interview for this profile. Along with Max Holland, Bird wrote the “Dispatches” column from Washington about American foreign policy and even managed to string together a couple of trips abroad. (more…)

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3073565061_4ee6aeaaa4The rejected title was “Promising Polls.”


The month of January featured not one but two notable inaugurations. As Barack Obama headed toward the White House, the arrival of John Atta Mills in Ghana‘s presidential palace also signaled a hopeful advance for democracy. In a free and fair runoff election monitored by EU observers, Atta Mills of the social democratic National Democratic Congress (NDC) defeated Nana Akufo-Addo of the free market-oriented incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) by a margin of less than 0.5 percent. Atta Mills campaigned to bridge the country’s development gap and stop the growth of corruption, which ballooned under the NPP. His peaceful accession to power in Accra stands in stark contrast to the widespread violence that marred the outcomes of similar contests in Nigeria and Kenya in 2007, and recently in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Akufo-Addo and the outgoing president, John Kufuor, who stepped down after serving the constitutional maximum of two terms, attended the January 7 inauguration. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the “democratic achievement” of Ghana and its leaders for “setting an admirable example.”

Click here to see the issue this piece was featured in.


Picture credit: bbcworldservice (via Flickr)

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