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Peter Rothberg | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

No More Trayvon Martins

The facts beyond dispute in Trayvon Martin’s murder offer a shocking, if sadly unsurprising, example of what it’s like to be young, black and male in much of America today.

The 17-year-old high school junior went out unarmed at halftime of the NBA All-Star game to buy snacks at a 7-Eleven and wound up being killed by George Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch captain who had called police to report a suspicious person.

Zimmerman called Martin a “Fu*king Co*n” on the first 911 call, as this chilling recording confirms, and was told clearly by the police dispatcher not to follow Martin and to wait until police arrived without doing anything.

According to the New York Times’s Charles Blow, “Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman had a 9 millimeter handgun. The two allegedly engaged in a physical altercation. There was yelling, and then a gunshot. When police arrived, Trayvon was face down in the grass with a fatal bullet wound to the chest.”

Claiming self-defense with many circumstantial questions to the contrary, Zimmerman has not been charged with police citing Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, one of the broadest set of self-defense statutes in the country which, as Mychal Denzel Smith explains, places the threshold for self-defense so low that you need little more than your word to show that your life was in danger. Zimmerman’s description of events was enough for the police, who evidently feel they know all that they need to know to determine that Zimmerman was acting appropriately.

Outrage has grown as details have emerged and media attention has highlighted the many questions in Zimmerman’s portrayal of events. Rallies are being planned and elected officials and community activists are organizing against “Stand Your Ground” which has seen homicide rates jump from an average of twelve to thirty-three per year in the state since the legislation’s implementation.

In a quest for justice, Martin’s parents posted this Change.org petition calling on Florida’s 18th District State’s Attorney to prosecute Zimmerman. Please sign on today; then join the call to abolish Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. No more Trayvon Martins.

 

Investigate NYPD Violence Against #OWS

As the invaluable Democracy Now! reported this morning, New York City police arrested seventy-three Occupy Wall Street activists in Zuccotti Park on Saturday where hundreds had gathered to mark six months since the launch of OWS. Many people reported excessive use of force by officers; several cases were caught on camera and video. This is the latest in a pattern of police abuse against Occupy protesters.

Consequently, a coalition of community activists is calling for a full, independent investigation by the state Attorney General into the active suppression of the Occupy movement by the New York Police Department, including, but not limited to:

1. The use of taxpayer funds to infiltrate and monitor peaceful Occupy protest planning
2. Departmental practices that lead to, or allow for, the violent dispersal of crowds and the violent arrest of protestors
3. Civil rights violations of protestors by the police.

Join the call today. There's nothing more American than the right to peaceful protest.

 

No More Subsidies for Fossil Fuel

After an enormously successful campaign to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline from being built, 350.org and numerous allies are gearing up for a major new fight to end four billion dollars in subsidies the fossil fuel industry receives each year.

There’s no way to move to renewable energy sources like wind and solar without ending the subsidies to an industry that’s already earning record-breaking profits: Exxon-Mobil is currently the most profitable corporation in the history of capitalism.

These subsidies are delivered through the tax code but they are essentially no different from government spending programs that provide money directly. As Seth Hanlon explained on Think Progress: “Some of these tax earmarks have been around for nearly a century, and the deep-pocketed industry has successfully challenged previous repeal attempts. But today’s high gas prices and inflated profits have undermined the industry’s argument that their tax breaks benefit consumers. Meanwhile, federal budget deficits have sharpened Congress’s focus on eliminating wasteful government spending—of which oil subsidies are one of the worst examples.”

So, the time is right to challenge the longstanding advantages the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed in this country. If you’re ready to join this fight, sign on with 350. Over the next month, the group will issue a series of alerts designed to ramp up the pressure on elected officials by having them publicly declare where they stand on the question of subsidies.

The first step is this petition, designed to show Congress how important this issue is, and to alert every member of Congress that an army of concerned citizens are taking this issue very seriously. As Bill McKibben says in this stirring video message, “This fight is a lifetime fight.” Join the battle now.

 

Occupiers Set Up Living Room in Bank of America Lobby

As this video documents, a crew of intrepid occupiers made a home last week in a New York City Bank of America branch lobby with a couch, a coffee table, a rug and a potted plant. “Bank of America took our homes so we thought we’d move in here!”

 

 

Join the action on March 15 as America turns the tables on the nation’s largest bank and activists call out the avarice and social predation of America’s largest bank with a series of creative actions.

Left Forum 2012

Each spring the Left Forum convenes the largest progressive gathering in North America in a rambling, lively confab unlike anything else in the United States. Originally established in 1981 as the Socialist Scholar's Conference, the event was renamed the Left Forum in 2005 after a split in the ranks forced a year's hiatus and a reconstituted organizing structure.

Continuing a tradition begun in the 1960s, intellectuals and organizers meet to share notes, perspectives, strategies, experience, vision and, of course, drinks! Last year's conference, led by the LF's energetic director, Seth Adler, saw a record 3,500 activists attending more than 300 panels and workshops. This weekend's proceedings, invigorated by the Occupy movement, are expected to beat these numbers.

This year, the Left Forum will focus on the $64,000 question of how best to confront global capitalism: How can American leftists best support the many revolutionary struggles abroad that took root in 2011? How can the Occupy movement be sustained and nurtured in the US? How can new technologies help foster social change? What needs to happen for new chains of solidarity to bloom between workers in the West and their counterparts in the global South? Are democracy and capitalism mutually exclusive? Join an illustrious group of writers, thinkers and activists in this immensely important conversation about the fate of the earth.

Speakers include Medea Benjamin, Michael Ratner, Frances Fox Piven, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Wallace Shawn, Marina Sitrin and Nation writers John Nichols, Laura Flanders, Michael Klare, Ari Berman and Doug Henwood.

Panel topics are, to say the least, wide-ranging: Afghanistan, the impact of tax policy on job creation and poverty, the significance of art in the Occupy movement, Neoliberalism and the blockbuster film, the future of Thorium-fueled nuclear energy, self-mobilization from Johnson-Forest to Global Occupy and the US role in Mexico's drug war are just a few of the many themes that will be taken up.

This video featuring Barbara Ehrenreich at last year's opening plenary gives a good sense of the breadth and depth of the conversations you'll find at the LF.

 

Taking place at on March 18 and 19 at Pace University in Manhattan, the Left Forum, which is co-sponsored by The Nation, is the place to be for progressives this weekend. Check out the full, very extensive schedule, read up on the speakers and register your spot in the conversation.

101 Years of International Women's Day

The world has been celebrating International Women’s Day since 1911 when it was established thanks to the efforts of activist Clara Zetkin. The idea was to create a global forum for celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women and provide a way for women's issues to be raised, discussed and addressed. This video offers a nice capsule history of the occasion.

Today, the occasion is 101 years old. Yet, women around the world still face a plethora of abuses ranging from wage inequality to femicide. In the United States, where women are treated far better than in much of the rest of the world, 1,181 women were murdered by their intimate partner last year; reproductive rights are practically restricted through both state and federal legislation, and women earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Every year on March 8 and throughout the month, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. Find an event near you and help spread the word.

Foreclose the Banks

 

This spring, the Occupy movement plans to take on Bank of America in a protracted, multi-pronged campaign exposing the predatory nature of the giant lending institution’s common practices.

For the last three years Bank of America has been borrowing billions of dollars a day in “emergency lending” from the Federal Reserve at interest rates close to zero. All told, it has taken at least $2 trillion in rolling “emergency” loans since 2008. What does B of A do with that money? Lend it back to US taxpayers at 5 percent interest rates for mortgages and 20 percent or even 25 percent interest rates for credit cards. That’s how Bank of America makes its profits—it lends your money back to you at interest.

In fact, conservatives should be outraged by Bank of America because it is perhaps the biggest welfare dependent in American history, with the $45 billion in bailout money and the $118 billion in state guarantees it has received since 2008 representing just the crest of a veritable mountain of federal bailout support.

Moreover, BoA is facing more than one dozen class-action lawsuits for wrongfully foreclosing on thousands of homeowners across the country. Independent experts estimate that the bank’s electronic foreclosure system, called “robosigning,” may be responsible for illegally forclosing on the homes of 5,000 military members as well as thousands of other US citizens.

The fix is clearly in.

That’s why March 15, April 15 and May 15 will see concerted move our money actions, in which self-organized groups of individuals, community groups, organizations and congregations move their savings and checking accounts out of the big banks, specifically Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo into credit unions and regional lending institutions. It’s an easy way to take a stand against rapacious capitalism. Get more info and tell all your friends.

My Potato Project: The Importance of Eating Organic

This is one of the best (and cutest) arguments on behalf of eating organic food that I’ve ever seen or heard.

Virginia Students Hunger-Strike for Living Wage

The University of Virginia is currently in the national spotlight in connection with lacrosse player George Huguely, convicted for the murder of Yardley Love.

What the media hasn’t noticed, however, is that UVA itself is currently on trial for a long history of economic violence, as UVA English professor Susan Fraiman pointed out in a mass e-mail to the press. As a last resort to end a fourteen-year campaign for a living wage, fifteen students are now on day six of a hunger strike as part of an aggressive public campaign that includes a daily rally and march each day at 12 pm, a sunset vigil each evening at 6 and teach-in workshops from 7 to 8:30 pm.

The facts are stark, if not unfamiliar: the starting wage for UVA workers is $10.65, whereas current figures from the EPI put a living wage in Charlottesville at $13; work is increasingly outsourced to independent companies where contract workers typically earn minimum wage, with no benefits; UVA workers at the bottom of the pay scale are disproportionately African-American; and top university administrators earn over $400,000 and sometimes as much as $700,000.

The UVA Living Wage Campaign has wide support from the community. The city of Charlottesville passed a Living Wage ordinance back in 2000. “We have people going homeless here in the City of Charlottesville…some of them working full time, because of insufficient wages,” said then-Mayor David Norris. In 2010 the body passed a resolution urging the university, the largest employer in town, to do likewise. Amping up the pressure, more than 325 faculty members have signed a petition calling for a living wage.

Check out livingwageatuva.org for images and updates about the hunger strike, testimonials from strikers, information about the campaign and its demands, and suggestions for ways you can support the campaign, including signing this petition imploring UVA President Teresa Sullivan to do the right thing.

Texans Unite Against the Keystone Pipeline

A new front has opened up in the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline, as Rocky Kistner recounts in an inspiring blog post for the NRDC.

As Congressional Republicans and their Big Oil allies continue to try to resuscitate the massive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, landowners and activists are locking arms to fight pipeline builder TransCanada over eminent domain cases that could determine new routes where construction of the 1,700-mile project will be attempted. (For details and background, the Natural Resources Defense Council compiled an extensive document making clear how problematic the project really is.)

TransCanada has used eminent domain to acquire a number of tracts, but critics of the company are challenging that authority, citing a 2011 Texas Supreme Court decision that makes it harder for pipelines to meet the definition of a common carrier.

Last Friday, protesters gathered in Paris, Texas to support Lamar County farm manager Julia Trigg Crawford’s eminent domain court fight with TransCanada, which is proposing to run the Keystone XL pipeline through her 600-acre family farm along the Red River near Paris. Crawford says the pipeline threatens Bois d’Arc Creek, which flows through the Northeast Texas region, as well as Native American archaeological remains. “My hope is that our state leaders will see that their landowners are being bullied,” Crawford told the Kansas City Star-Telegram last week.

The protest included an unusual, and encouraging, mix of tea party supporters, independents, Democrats, Republicans and Occupy Dallas protesters, as this video shows.

Implore your Senators to reject the Keystone Pipeline!

 

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