Quantcast

Peter Rothberg | The Nation

  •  
Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

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

Mohamed Nasheed Ousted as President of the Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives has been one of the most enlightened world leaders since his election in 2008. As the first democratically elected leader of the small island nation, he has been a tireless voice for action against climate change and a strong advocate for international environmental safeguards.

“For us, this is a matter of life and death,” Nasheed has said. The 2011 documentary The Island President tells the story of Nasheed’s continuing struggle with the consequences of climate change.

 

Now it is Nasheed specifically who is at risk. A military coup forced President Nasheed from office on Tuesday morning with threats of violence. The former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience—who became the leader of 330,000 people on the island archipelago in 2008 when he ended the three-decade rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the Maldives’ first democratic election—is no stranger to the inside of his country’s jails. He’s been jailed ten times and tortured twice and now stands at great risk after being forced  “at gunpoint” to give up his office after three years and three months of his term.

As Bill McKibben told Democracy Now! this morning, Nasheed “was in certain ways the first precursor of the Arab Spring, the ‘Mandela of the Indian Ocean,’ who really brought democracy to a country where it hadn’t been before,” as well as “the most outspoken head of state around the issue of climate change on our planet.” McKibben further argues that Nasheed “was a thorn in the side [of the United States] because he kept bringing up the topic of climate change, a topic they’re not that keen on. On the other hand, he—almost to a fault—was cooperative with US efforts about climate change. The State Department owes him and I hope that they take this seriously.”

One of Nasheed’s strongest organizational allies in the United States, McKibben’s organization, 350.org, has mounted a petition drive imploring our national leaders to use diplomatic means to keep him safe in this time of turmoil, and to work for a peaceful, democratic solution to their conflict. Join the more than 30,000 of your fellow concerned citizens who have signed on and add your name today.

Occupy Press Freedoms

Last week police arrested seven journalists covering Occupy events in Oakland and one award-winning documentary filmmaker, Josh Fox, who was trying to cover a federal hearing in Congress.

This comes on the heels of repeated harassment of the press in past Occupy protests in numerous spots around the country, notably in Zuccotti Park on November 14 when the NYPD unexpectedly cleared out the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street. Overall, at least fifty journalists have been arrested covering the Occupy movement since it began last September.

Freedom of the press is under attack. The situation has gotten so bad that the United States recently plummeted twenty-seven notches in the Reporters Without Borders’ global press freedom index to number forty-seven worldwide in the wake of repeated crackdowns on journalists covering Occupy movements.

Over the next year there will be political conventions in North Carolina and Florida, global economic summits in Chicago and many more Occupy events coast to coast. Given the possibility of abuse of press rights at any of these events, it's important for all those concerned with a free and fair media's ability to function to take a stand now.

The good news is that journalists are starting to push back. A coalition of New York media groups has issued two letters calling on the NYPD to do more to protect the First Amendment. In Oakland, journalism organizations sent a letter condemning recent arrests and are calling for a meeting with city officials.

Our friends at Free Press, the tireless media reform outfit, have started a campaign to show support for press freedoms and help reporters assert their right to access. Sign on to support journalists who are fighting back for the First Amendment.

Poorest Countries Hit Hardest by Climate Change

One of the many terrible ironies of the climate change crisis is that the nations that have contributed the least to the problem are the ones who are now on the frontlines working hardest to prevent consequent disasters.

In this short video, Rushanara Ali, the British Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for International Development, returns to Bangladesh, where she was born, to witness innovative local adaptation strategies to cope with climate change supported by CARE Bangladesh.

 

New Film Takes on Komen Foundation and 'Breast Cancer Industry'

With the most fortunate timing a political doc can ever hope for, Pink Ribbons Inc. opens in Canada today and will soon be slated for US dates.

A feature documentary based on Dr. Samantha King’s book Pink Ribbons Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, the film takes the Susan G. Komen Foundation to task for its fiscal management and marketing alliances with multinational corporations and argues that the devastating reality of breast cancer, which marketing experts have labeled a “dream cause,” has been hijacked by a shiny, pink story of success.

As the doc recounts, breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns. Countless women and men walk, bike, climb and shop for the cure. These days you can row and jump for the cause. You can be a warrior in pink by driving a Ford you’ve pumped with pink gasoline, tote a pink hand gun, bake a pink cake in your pink stand mixer and, later, wipe yourself clean with pink premium toilet tissue.

Each year, these efforts raise millions of dollars in the name of breast cancer, but where does this money go and what does it actually achieve? The film takes on these questions and argues that it’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses and repoliticize the discussion.

Challenging Arizona's Ban on Ethnic Studies

In January 2011, Arizona state Attorney General Tom Horne declared the Tucson Unified School District MAS (Mexican American Studies) program illegal. This despite the curriculum’s astonishing success in graduating 100 percent of its students from high school and obtaining college placement for 82 percent of its alumni.

 

Over the past year, teachers, students and administrators have come together to challenge Horne’s ruling, but on this past January 10, the TUSD school board voted four to one to immediately cease all MAS classes.

Horne’s decision entailed the widespread removal of select books that were used in the curriculum. The list of banned books is extensive, includes important Latino authors and activists’ books that were banished from the school system and has provoked particular outrage in Arizona and beyond.

Adding insult to injury, officials recently went into schools during the school day in front of students and “confiscated” seven books from the classrooms deemed to promote “ethnic resentment.” Among them were several best-selling classics including Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire, and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow.

My colleague Habiba Alcindor penned a good post detailing the furious and forthright responses of numerous activist groups to Arizona’s efforts to censor ethnic studies.

The Education for Liberation Network and its affiliated Teacher Activist Groups (TAG) have been particularly active. Starting today, February 1, the first day on which the TUSD must comply with this law, TAG is coordinating a month of nationwide teaching workshops about the banned MAS program.

TAG has pulled together a wealth of resources on its website, including sample lesson plans from the MAS curriculum as well as creative ideas for exploring this issue with students of all ages. Pledge your support, tell your own story and download and share the curriculum. Whatever happens in Arizona, we can keep the ideas and values of MAS alive by teaching them in our own classrooms, community centers, houses of worship and homes.

At the same time, politely implore Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Horne to rescind HB 2281 banning the indisputably successful MAS program.

Help Peaceful Uprising Rebuild

Peaceful Uprising is the group founded by Tim DeChristopher, who was hauled off to prison for speaking out against the corrupt relationship between our government and the fossil fuel industry. The group was absolutely critical to the success of the anti-Keystone pipeline protests this past summer. In fact, because foundations demand a credible “fiscal sponsor” when a group is small and with none of the larger environmental groups wanting to be seen as officially endorsing civil disobedience, all the funding behind the Keystone protests went through PeaceUp, because it was willing to take the risk.

Its reward? Peaceful Uprising recently discovered that it was one of 200 nonprofit projects, under the fiscal sponsorship of something called the International Humanities Center, that have been financially wiped out in an astonishing act of apparent fraud. (This post has the details.) In short: International Humanities Center, (a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in California) spent the money donated to Peaceful Uprising on its own, highly suspicious operating costs.

For the last few weeks, Peaceful Uprising has been reaching out to as many other IHC projects as possible (some of which are working to bring basic needs to people in war-torn countries in the global South) in order to lead a unified response. A coalition has now submitted a request for an investigation to be conducted by California public officials.

With little hope of recovering the stolen money, the group has moved under a trusted local nonprofit umbrella, Living Rivers, and is in the process of researching what it takes to become its own autonomous non-profit structure.

With our support, Peaceful Uprising will rebuild and continue to push harder in the fight against climate change. An extremely transparent organization, here’s what the group plans to do with whatever funds it can raise in 2012:

1. Continue work with the Occupy movement.
2. Continue working with organizers of upcoming escalations of the movement, bringing a voice to PeaceUp’s Core Principles.
3. Keep pushing the fight against the tar sands on the ground in Utah.
4. Continue to educate our community in Utah on the tyranny of Rio Tinto’s Kennecott through our Rio Tinto Truth campaign.
5. Continue to bring song and street theatre as tools for creating social change and building communities of resilience and solidarity.

DONATE here!

More ways to help right now:

Spread this post via Facebook & Twitter and blast it out to your networks via email.

Implore friends, family and colleagues to donate… any amount is helpful.

Brainstorm and email any creative ideas to grow the movement.

Join the group’s mailing list.

Finally, watch this video with DeChristopher, filmed in 2011 by my former colleague Kevin Gosztola, in which Peaceful Uprising’s founder explains how environmental activists are using civil disobedience techniques learned from earlier American social movements to take bold action to resist the anti-environment status quo.

 

Occupy Congress on #J17

In its first direct engagement with the federal government, the Occupy movement will take its collective national might to Washington, DC, on Tuesday, January 17. People are planning to mass at West Front Lawn at Capitol Hill at 9:00am, followed by a rally, teach-in, vigil, protest action and, of course, an evening Occu-Party. There are also concurrent meetings with individual members of Congress throughout the day. Organizers are encouraging people to contact their own legislators directly.

“If you would like to meet with your member(s) of Congress it is best if you request to schedule the meeting. Folks who are doing logistics for Occupy Congress are available to help, but the most powerful tool to help get a meeting is the fact that you are the constituent and the member of Congress theoretically represents you. It is best to schedule Congressional meetings sometime between 9:00AM and noon on January 17th since that is the time period specifically set aside in the Occupy Congress schedule for direct Congressional meetings.” (This nifty guide details exactly how to go about arranging appointments.)

Check out this page for details on ride-shares, charter buses, lodging and other necessary logistics as well as ways to make your voice heard whether you can get to DC or not.

Occupy Our Food

On this past December 4, food activists from across the country joined the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March for "a celebration of community power to regain control over the most basic element to human well-being: food."

The rally began at La Plaza Cultural Community Gardens where urban and rural farmers talked about the growing problems with the industrial food system and the solutions based in organic, sustainable and community based agricultural production. This was followed by a three-mile march from the East Village of Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

This video by Anthony Lappe offers an inspiring glimpse into this new movement. Check it out and then go to Food Democracy Now, a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system, to find out how you can help.

Top Ten Christmas Songs

Many thanks to everyone who read this blog in 2011. I greatly appreciate your support, insightful comments and commitment to bettering our world. I’ll get back to music about making change in 2012, but for now I hope you enjoy this alternative Christmas playlist, presented in random order. Happy holidays!

 

The Ramones, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Merry Christmas Baby  

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, All I Want for Christmas

Amy Winehouse, I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus

Belle & Sebastian, Little Town of Bethlehem

Weezer, The Christmas Song

Bob Dylan, Little Drummer Boy

Bob Marley and the Wailers, White Christmas

Blink 182, I Won't Be Home for Christmas

Smashing Pumpkins, Christmastime 

Remembering Vaclav Havel

“There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.”   —Vaclav Havel, Summer Meditations, 1993

Vaclav Havel rose from a persecuted life as a dissident playwright hounded by secret police to a symbol of freedom as the leader of Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution and then the Czech Republic’s first President. He died Sunday, after a long illness, at the age of 75.

During the Prague Spring reform movement, which ended with the 1968 Soviet invasion, Havel became chairman of the free-speech Circle of Independent Writers. The next year, his writing was banned and he moved from Prague to a rural town, where he got a job in a brewery but continued writing. His plays became famous in the West and, later, behind the Iron Curtain, and he became a symbol of the world’s political conscience as the co-founder and spokesman of the human rights movement Charter 77.

In this short clip, Lou Reed and Havel talk about music’s relationship to the politics of social change and the very prominent role artists played in Czechoslovakia’s own Velvet Revolution, including the inspiration provided by Reed’s Velvet Underground.

This 2008 interview with Sir David Frost, Havel’s last extended conversation with a Western journalist, offers insight into what he considers the enduring issues of his life.

Syndicate content