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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.

Margaret Thatcher vs. British Musicians

Among many other accomplishments, Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain's first and still only female Prime Minister who died today at age 87, inspired a generation of songwriters to devote their talents to assailing her reign. Here are a few of my favorites.

Top Ten Songs About Margaret Thatcher

1. The English Beat, Stand Down Margaret

2. Morrissey, Margaret on the Guillotine

3. Elvis Costello, Tramp the Dirt Down

4. The Specials, Maggie's Farm

5. Matt Johnson, The-The Heartland

6. Sinéad O'Connor, Black Boys On Mopeds

7. Billy Bragg, Between the Wars

8. Billy Bragg, Thatcherites

9. The Specials, Ghost Town

10. Pete Wylie, The Day that Margaret Thatcher Dies

One Million Comments Against Keystone XL

If you know someone who doesn't know about the Tar Sands, this is a good video to send their way.

The Tar Sands, also known as the oil sands, are one of the largest remaining deposits of oil in the world, and efforts to extract the resource from a mix of clay and other materials underneath Canada’s Boreal forest have created the biggest, and by the accounts of numerous scientists and environmental groups, the most environmentally devastating, energy project on earth. For details and background, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has compiled an extensive document that challenges many of the claims made by TransCanada and the US State Department about tough regulatory oversight of the project.

Moreover, as my colleague George Zornick makes clear, there are still too many known unknowns about diluted bitumen, the type of oil that would be carried by the Keystone XL pipeline. As he explains, "we don't know exactly what's in it, and the government hasn't fully studied how safe it is to transport."

The State Department's official public comment period on Keystone XL Pipeline is now open -- and it's a crucial opportunity to inundate officials there with eloquent letter of opposition. The eco-advocacy group 350.org is collecting comments and will deliver them directly to the State Department.

The Keystone tar sands pipeline will create just a handful of jobs, won’t improve US energy security, and just isn’t worth the potential cost to our health and our climate. Make your voice heard today.

'Don't Frack My Mother'

One of the hippest and most amusing videos you’ll watch this year might also be the most important.

In a new star-studded anti-fracking spot released today, Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono, the forces behind Artists Against Fracking, hooked up with über-talented filmmaker/producer/musician/progressive impresario Sarah Sophie Flicker and convened some of their fabulous friends to put pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York state.

Directed by Sophie Flicker, Maximilla Lukacs, and Tennessee Thomas, “Don’t Frack My Mother” features Liv Tyler, Alexa Chung, Fred Armisen, Adrian Grenier, Penn Badgley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Susan Sarandon, Molly Crabapple, Natasha Lyonne and many other celebs who all urge lawmakers to “Keep fracking out of New York.”

As readers of this blog are likely well aware, the science shows—from industry’s own documents—that fracking poses a potential threat to our drinking water, our air and our land. It has not yet been proven safe, despite the industry’s making every effort to do so, and the practice has, in fact, caused many health risks in states like Pennsylvania where it has been going on for years.

By design, hydrofracking causes miniature underground explosions—fracturing rocks and consequently releasing gas, along with radioactive and other carcinogenic and highly toxic substances from deep within the earth. These carcinogens, along with radioactive materials and the toxic sludge known as frack fluid, can contaminate aquifers and spoil water supplies.

What to do? After watching, share this video, sign this petition and call, tweet and otherwise politely pester Governor Cuomo to outlaw fracking in his state. After that, implore your national reps to support the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act. The legislation aims to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act and would require the energy industry to disclose the chemicals it pumps underground in the hydraulic fracturing process, information that has been heretofore protected as trade secrets.

David Riker's 'The Girl'

More than ten years ago, David Riker’s acclaimed debut film, La Ciudad (The City)—about the lives of Latin American immigrants in New York City—anticipated many of today’s most contentious debates about undocumented immigrants and their possible pathways to citizenship. For his long-awaited follow-up, The Girl, Riker traveled to the border to tell an unconventional tale about migration.

Australian actress Abbie Cornish stars as a 20-something working-class South Texan who seeks to escape her minimum-wage existence by smuggling immigrants across the border. Emotionally distraught after losing custody of her son, single mother Ashley becomes desperate when she loses her job at a local Austin megastore. So when the risky opportunity to become a coyote arrives, she takes it. When the attempted crossing ends in tragedy, she finds herself stranded with a young girl who lost her mother during the journey. Harrowing, grim, but ultimately hopeful, The Girl turns the central myth of the border—that hope flows north—upside down.

The film opens tomorrow, March 8, in two New York City theaters and is currently scheduled to run in theaters in Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio over the course of March. Click here for a full theatrical schedule and contact your local cinema and implore them to run the film too.

In NYC, there are also three special film events this weekend at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Monroe Film: On Friday, March 8, Riker, Cornish and filmmaker Paul Mezey will discuss the movie after the 7:30 showing; on Saturday, March 9th, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman will talk about the film with Riker after the 7:30 showing, and on Sunday, March 10, Nation reporter Jeremy Scahill and Riker will talk about the issues raised in the film after the 5:15 screening.

Watch and share the trailer below:

A Fierce Green Planet

The argument that we’re living in a new golden age of documentaries will be significantly furthered tomorrow with the release of A Fierce Green Fire, the first major cinematic exploration of the modern environmental movement.

Directed and written by Mark Kitchell, the Academy Award–nominated director of Berkeley in the Sixties, and co-narrated by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep, the film premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival to great acclaim and begins theatrical release on March 1, as well as educational distribution and activist outreach.

Inspired by the book of the same name by Philip Shabecoff, the film aims to elucidate the major elements of the environmental movement and connect them to the fights for our future that are taking place today. Featuring commentary from Bill McKibben, Carl Pope, Bob Bullard and Lois Gibbs, among many other other outraged activist voices, and including archival footage of eco-heros like Chico Mendes, Wangari Matthai and David Brower, the film focuses on grassroots resistance: people fighting to save their homes, their lives and the future.

In this audio clip from WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, the film’s executive producer Mark Weiss and Lois Gibbs, who led the protests at Love Canal, started the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, and is featured in the doc, talk about the stakes of environmental degradation.

Watch and share this trailer, check out the national screening schedule, petition your local theaters to show the film and join the global movement to solve the climate crisis.

Fighting for the Future: Forward on Climate Rally

Thank you to the nearly 50,000 concerned citizens who took to the streets in frigid weather on Presidents Day weekend at the Washington Monument, the thousands of others at more than twenty solidarity rallies across the country, and the more than one million online activists who spoke out to tell President Obama that it's past time to sincerely address the climate change crisis. As the brilliant writer/activist Bill McKibben put it at the rally: "The most fateful battle in human history is finally joined and we will fight it together."

Students Convene for Fossil Fuel Divestment Conference

Students demonstrate for fossil fuel divestment

This weekend, from February 22 to 24, nearly 200 students from dozens of colleges across the country will come together at Swarthmore College for Power Up! Divest Fossil Fuels, a student-organized convergence of youth activists working to divest their colleges’ endowments from fossil fuel companies.

With some notable exceptions, college administrations have largely been hostile towards divestment but student campaigns have been gaining attention and support  nationwide with petitions, referendums, public art displays and rallies, and students are ready to escalate their campaigns by putting more pressure on administrations through direct action. There are now more than 256 organized campaigns at schools coast to coast, and the number is growing daily. Three colleges, Unity, Hampshire, and Sterling, have committed to portfolios free of fossil fuel stock. Cities, pension funds, churches, and individuals have joined the movement to divest as well.

This weekend’s convergence will be an opportunity for students from across the country to meet, share skills and develop strategy to grow a powerful national movement. Activists and organizers resisting hydrofracking, mountaintop removal, the Keystone XL Pipeline and tar sands mining will trade notes and listen to interactive keynotes by Crystal Lameman of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Ellen Dorsey of Wallace Global Fund, Washington, DC, and The Nation’s own Aura Bogado.

"The Power Up! Student Convergence has the potential to springboard the growing fossil fuel divestment fight into a broad social movement for climate justice," said Zein Nakhoda, one of many student organizers of the convergence. "Students will work to build synergy between those taking direct action on the frontlines, those working to transform their local institutions, and those campaigning for bold climate legislation."

Watch this blog for reporting from the conference about next steps being plotted by the movement against climate change.

Greek Factory Under Workers Control

The workers of Vio.Me., a building materials factory in Thessaloniki, Greece, which was abandoned by its bankrupt owners, have been unpaid since May of 2011. This week, after a series of general assemblies the workers convened, they’ve started occupying the factory and operating it under direct democratic workers’ control. The culmination of a year-long struggle that has attracted attention and solidarity in Greece and worldwide, the occupiers are trying to kick-start production and prove themselves a viable new model.

As part of a letter being circulated by the Thessaloniki Solidarity Initiative explains:

This experience of worker’s occupation to workers recovery and control is not new—either historically or currently. Since 2001 there are close to 300 workplaces that are run democratically by workers in Argentina, ranging from health clinics and newspapers and schools, to metal factories, print shops and a hotel. The experience there has shown that workers together cannot only run their own workplace, but can do it better. The example of Argentina has spread throughout the Americas, and now to Europe and the United States. In Chicago, workers of New World Windows have begun production under workers control after years of struggles with former owners and bosses. And now in Greece, workers are again showing that the way forward—out of unemployment—refusing the crisis—is workers control and directly democratic self-management.

This is a dangerous time for Greece. Worn down by years of austerity, the right, led by the neo-fascist Golden Dawn is making gains. But the left is also on the rise. Bold experimentation is called for and has, perhaps, a better chance of a fair test than at previous, more stable points in Greek economic history. The Thessaloniki workers have reached out for solidarity throughout Greece and received critical support. But, more help is needed.

Here’s what you can do:

- Spread the word. Share this information with friends, family and your Facebook and Twitter communities.

- Contribute money. Forging new anti-capitalist economic models is expensive. The costs of production are high and the first few months are critical. Whatever you can afford here will be devoted to a genuine effort to create a new way of doing things. Think of it as an investment in the future.

- Send solidarity statements to Thessaloniki’s Open Solidarity Initiative at protbiometal@gmail.com. The workers are encouraged by the warmth of solidarity coming from abroad.

Paying Tribute to Black History Month

Despite an African-American president and the demographic reality that we’ll soon be in the days of “minority majorities,” a significant measure of racist discrimination remains persistent. To mark this year’s Black History Month, I’ve assembled a list of organizations working to confront this pernicious stain on the American Experiment. A great way to celebrate the month would be to support their work.

The NAACP
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. From the ballot box to the classroom, the thousands of dedicated workers, organizers, leaders and members who make up the NAACP continue to fight for social justice on issues like environmental racism, media diversity, economic opportunity and climate justice under the leadership of the venerable groups’ youngest executive director ever, Ben Jealous.

The Hip Hop Caucus
Established in 2004, the primary focus of the Hip Hop Caucus, a civil and human rights organization for the twenty-first century, is to engage young people and people of color in the civic and policy making process.       

Rainbow/PUSH
Established in 1971 by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, People United to Save Humanity (later changed from “Save” to “Serve”)—PUSH, is an organization dedicated to improving the economic conditions of black communities across the United States. PUSH employs direct action campaigns, a weekly radio broadcast and awards that honored prominent blacks to push its program out. Through Operation PUSH, Jackson established a platform from which to protect black homeowners, workers and businesses and keep inner-city youth in school while assisting them with job placement.

National Action Center
Founded in 1991 by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the National Action Network works in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda that includes one standard of justice and decency for all people regardless of race, religion, national origin and gender. Sharpton is still justifiably controversial, but his group’s initiatives include campaigns in defense of critical entitlement programs, in support of sentencing reform and on behalf of death row inmates with questionable convictions.

ColorOfChange.org
Sometimes called the “Black MoveOn,” CoC’s mission is to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone. Current CoC campaigns call for the NRA to stop attacks on the First Family and for retail giant Walmart to put an end to unfair labor practices.
 
The American Association for Affirmative Action
This is the association of professionals managing affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity programs, i.e., the people who actually implement the policies.  Founded in 1974, the AAAA promotes understanding and advocacy of affirmative action to enhance access and equality in employment, economic and educational opportunities.

Equal Justice Society
A national strategy group, the Equal Justice Society is heightening consciousness on race in the law and popular discourse. As heirs of the innovative legal and political strategists of Brown v. Board of Education, the organization employs a three-prong strategy of law and public policy advocacy, cross-disciplinary convenings and strategic public communications, in an effort to restore race equity issues to the national consciousness, build effective progressive alliances, and advance the conversation on the positive role of government.

Anti-Racist Action
A broad-based anti-racism group, ARA has been on the front lines of the struggle against fascism and oppression for more than twenty years. ARA got its start in Minneapolis in 1988; since then, chapters have been established in dozens of communities in five countries and three continents.

Please use the comments field to let me know which groups I neglected.

Defending 'Roe' at 40

Tuesday, January 22, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. The decision has withstood many tests and challenges, both legal and political, but while Roe established abortion as a legal right for women, restrictive laws in many states mean women still have to cross state lines or face other restrictions to secure their legal reproductive rights.

As Nation editors wrote this week in looking at the landscape of reproductive rights in the days leading up to next week’s anniversary, a decades-long anti-choice campaign has resulted in a patchwork system where the legal right to abortion applies, in practice, only to those women lucky enough to live in certain states or to be sufficiently affluent to be able to travel for the procedure. State legislatures have passed dozens of anti-choice laws compromising many women’s abilities to exercise their rights. This invaluable map by NARAL Pro-Choice America offers a state-by-state summary.

In the face of a continuing right-wing assault in both legislatures and clinic corridors, the only thing to do is fight back. In honor of Tuesday’s anniversary, here’s a list of groups doing just that, all of which require continued support of all types.

NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood are the two largest organizations working to defend and expand women’s reproductive freedoms and they can’t do it without the support of all of us. Same for the venerable National Organization of Women which is leading a candlelight vigil on Tuesday in front of the US Supreme Court to commemorate Roe’s anniversary. (NOW also has a good list of local events taking places in all fifty states.)

There are also numerous, less well-known groups in the trenches working furiously on behalf of women coast to coast.

The largest obstacle to low-income women receiving abortions is the Hyde Amendment banning Medicaid funding of abortion. The National Network of Abortion Funds provide grants to low-income women who have trouble paying for abortions and works to close the gap between the legal right to abortion and safe access to abortion. It’s unlikely to happen in this Congress but repealing the Hyde Amendment should remain a critical progressive goal. Add your name to NNAF’s call and support the group with your time and money in its efforts to ensure the Constitutional right of reproductive freedom for all women, regardless of income.

For more than twenty years, the Center for Reproductive Rights has used the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.  The world’s only global legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing women’s reproductive health, the Center has strengthened reproductive health laws and policies in more than fifty countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the United States.

The National Advocates for Pregnant Women works to protect women’s human rights while pregnant, including the right to abortion but also to safe and healthy pregnancy.

The Young Women’s Empowerment Project organizes young women, especially young women of color, around choice and sexuality education.

Trust Women PAC is a national political organization founded to carry on the vision that Dr. George Tiller had for women of the world. The organization was formed largely to protect physicians who work in states particularly hostile to reproductive freedoms.

A women of color reproductive justice organization, SisterSong was formed in 1997 to educate women of color and policy makers on reproductive and sexual health and rights, and to work towards fuller access of health services, information and resources.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health mobilizes Latinas around reproductive health with an emphasis on the unique needs of immigrant, frequently non-English speaking, women.

Please use the comments field below to let us know what groups we missed.

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