Peter Rothberg | The Nation

Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

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

Food MythBusters

Did you know that today is National Food Day? Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the goal is to strengthen the anti-corporate food movement, to bolster the cause of sustainability, and to expose and indict the American food system’s daily diet of salty, processed packaged foods, high-calorie sugary drinks, and fatty grain-fed factory-farmed meat.

A great way to start treating food with the respect it deserves is to check out Food Mythbusters, the brainchild of author, activist and sometime Nation writer Anna Lappé. Offering a wealth of online resources, the project seeks to expose the real stories behind the foods we eat and urge action on key food battles. It’s essentially a one-stop shop where your questions about food are answered through short films, Q&As with experts and links to essential research.

To wit:

The most urgent upcoming battle will take place in California on November 6 when the state votes on Proposition 37, which would ban the marketing of GE-tainted foods as “natural” and require Genetically Engineered foods to be labeled as such. Recent polls show a majority siding with the proposition but Monsanto, Big Ag, and the rest of the pesticide and junk-food manufacturers began flooding the California airwaves on October 1 with one million dollars a day in deceptive TV and radio ads, relentless messaging that will continue through the election.

Here’s how you can help: If you live in California, join massive leafleting campaigns at grocery stores over the next three weeks aimed at countering the corporate PR blitz. Sign up here. If you live outside California, volunteer for a national phone bank to call millions of California voters.

Meanwhile, everyone should share info about this new initiative, sign up for Food Mythbusters’s new email alerts and check back regularly at foodmyths.org.

Lip-Syncing Ladies Against Romney

In the 2008 election, 60 percent of voters were women. Despite this, female legislators comprise only 16 percent of Congress while women in all fields earn only seventy cents to each dollar men make. This year, pollsters are estimating that 10 million more women than men will vote in the upcoming election.

Given the respective domestic agendas of the two candidates, the gender demographics of this election should make it an easy race for the incumbent. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are hostile to reproductive rights. Romney did not support equal pay for women (the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act). Romney has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood. Romney has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Romney doesn't want healthcare to cover birth control.

To make this gender gap even clearer, the über-talented filmmaker/producer/musician Sarah Sophie Flicker asked some of her fabulous female friends, including Alexa Chung, Lena Dunham, Carrie Brownstein, Tavi Gevinson, Zoe Kravitz and Natasha Lyonne, to do an impassioned lip-sync to Lesley Gore's proto-feminist anthem, “You Don't Own Me,” creating what has to be the hippest election PSA ever.

At the end of the video, Gore, the former 1960s teen idol, now 66, says, “It’s hard for me to believe but we’re still fighting for the same things we were then. Yes, ladies, we’ve got to come together and get out there and vote and protect our bodies. They’re ours. Please vote.”


One Billion Rising

Recent horrifying statistics show that one in three women globally will be raped, beaten or severely violated in their lifetime. That's 1 billion women.

This short film by playwright and activist Eve Ensler and South African filmmaker Tony Stroebel was shot in nine countries and gives a glimpse into what organizers of the One Billion Rising campaign hope will happen on February 14, 2013, a global day of action to demand an end to violence against women.

There are already thousands of events scheduled in more than 160 countries. Sign up today, find a gathering near you, invite your friends to join the campaign and check out OneBillionRising.org for videos, news updates, information on joining and supporting the campaign, and much more.

Last Day to Register

Today is the last day to register to vote in November’s elections in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and the District of Columbia as well as key swing states Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A new website, gottaregister.com, offers an way to register from any state and update your registration if you've moved or aren’t sure of your status. Share this info on Facebook and Twitter and with anyone you know who may not be registered. It’ll take about two minutes and it’ll allow them to weigh in on a huge range of races this year from the presidential to the very local. 

Spain on the Brink

This short film chronicles recent protests against austerity budgets in Madrid, Spain, where tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of the government and an end to police brutality. Many of the protests ended in clashes with the police. Since the first major march on September 25, the images of police brutality have traveled the world over, shocking and inspiring people across Europe and leading to an international day of action on September 29. This film tells the story of why so many people took to the streets and follows these events as they unfolded.

Go to globaluprisings.org to check out other mini-documentaries chronicling reactions to the economic crisis worldwide.


Five Things You Should Know About Voter ID Laws

My friend and colleague Ari Berman along with Voting Rights Watch, The Nation’s collaborative project with Colorlines, have been offering Nation.com readers regular and extensive coverage of voter suppression efforts nationwide.

This list distills some essential points that their in-depth coverage has documented. Please share it with your friends, family and your Facebook and Twitter communities.

1. These are not bipartisan efforts. They are initiated by Republicans, passed by Republicans, and signed into law by Republicans.
2. The voters most likely to be burdened by these new voting restrictions lean heavily Democratic.
3. Restrictions on voting, like poll taxes and “literacy” tests, have a long history. They are used by one party to prevent supporters of another party from voting.
4. If someone were trying to steal an election, in-person voter fraud, where a voter pretends to be someone they are not, is highly inefficient. Absentee ballot stuffing is much easier. But the rolls show that more Republicans vote by absentee ballot, so no new restrictions on absentee voting have been proposed.
5. The Brennan Center has estimated that as many as 3.2 million citizens could find it harder to vote because of new voter ID laws.

Check out this website to see the state-by-state impact of any possible new voting laws where you live and find out exactly what you need to know in order to exercise your franchise this November.

Sarah Silverman: Let My People Vote

A new wave of GOP-inspired voter ID laws purport to aim to prevent in-person voter fraud. But in-person voter fraud basically never happens. So why are so many states passing these laws? In this amusing—and occasionally obscene—video Sarah Silverman breaks down the absurdity of the new wave of laws, makes clear their true intent and suggests resources to counter this blatant Republican effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans.

The states of Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin have all enacted photo voter ID laws. Check out this website to see the state-by-state impact of any possible new voting laws where you live and find out exactly what you need to know in order to exercise your franchise this November

Troy Davis Lives Forever

Today is the first anniversary of the killing of Troy Davis, who was executed by the state of Georgia for a crime many believe he did not commit despite a massive international campaign for clemency.

Before Davis was killed at age 42, he told his sister Kimberly and other family members “that he wanted us to continue the fight to clear his name and end the death penalty.” Kimberly Davis is heeding her brother’s call. Next month she will be in California campaigning on behalf of the SAFE California Act that would commute the death sentences of all 725 current death row inmates in the state to life without parole. The proposal will be decided by California voters on November 6 as one of the state’s many referendums.

The video below was created by Rebel Diaz as a tribute to Davis. Sampling Billie Holiday’s classic ‘Strange Fruit’, the song highlights the parallels between old-fashioned, traditional racism and the modern systemic repression in which black people can be legally lynched on the orders of appointed officials.

Brooklyn Book Festival, 2012

As a charter member of the Brooklyn Literary Council, the volunteer group that organizes the Brooklyn Book Festival, I couldn’t be more biased in my view that the annual BBF has become an almost singularly important event with legitimate cultural and political clout. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that even if I weren’t associated with the festival, I’d still be a major fan of one of the country’s most celebrated celebrations of books, reading and independent publishing, in all its many guises.

Taking place on Sunday, September 23, in and around downtown Brooklyn, the BBF features a full and free day of more than 150 panels, readings, signings, exhibition booths and interactive events for readers of all ages and inclinations.

In its early years, the festival was largely a homegrown affair, with Brooklyn-based writers taking up the vast majority of speaking slots. But as the BBF has grown hotter (in keeping with the borough’s supposed ascendance) the festival has started to attract high-wattage literary stars like Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie and Mary Higgins Clark, earning comparisons with more established book fairs in places like Los Angeles and Miami. Happily, there’s still a continuing effort to put independent publishing front and center with indie bookstores, publishers and authors given prime real estate in both the exhibiting quad and on the panel discussions. 

The Nation has been a sponsor and programming partner since the Festival’s inception in 2005. This year Nation speakers include Katrina vanden Heuvel and Eric Alterman talking about election 2012 with Tom Frank and Touré; Victor Navasky discussing the art of magazine making; Chris Hayes taking questions about Twilight of the Elites from Michelle Goldberg, Richard Kim and a live audience; Laura Flanders moderating a panel on the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street with Marina Sitrin, Tariq Ali and Todd Gitlin; and Eyal Press leading a conversation about conscience with Louisa Thomas and E.O. Wilson.

More highlights: Walter Mosley, Edwidge Danticat and Dennis Lehane discussing their unforgettable characters; Bernice L. McFadden, Joyce Carol Oates and Colson Whitehead taking questions on fiction; Adam Shatz leading a conversation about literature and the urban imagination with Mexican author Alvaro Enrigue, Christine Smallwood and Pankaj Mishra; an unabashedly lefty panel of activist artists, including Mr. Fish and Peter Kuper, discussing the relevance of political cartoons; Kate Bolick, Dan Savage and Kristin Davis in conversation about marriage and monogamy, and, in Brooklyn’s best kitschy fashion, Brooklyn’s own Tony Danza in conversation with Borough President Marty Markowitz!

The festival is also committed to programming that reflects Brooklyn’s great diversity. Many events have an international flavor. This year, one session focuses on African novels with child narrators and another features leading Indian writers. Two events honor the 50th anniversary of independence in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Another seminar looks at poetry and narratives in light of the Arab Spring, while Isabel Wilkerson talks with Amy Goodman about the 20th century northward migration of African-Americans in the US.

Check out the full schedule. Hope to see you there!

(Apologies to all of you far from the New York City area for this regionally-specific post; you can check the BBF site for streaming and video information.)

Top Ten Songs About Economic Injustice

The condition of being dead broke is a perennially popular theme in music, so, regardless of your taste in genre, there’s a song for you. In tribute to Occupy Wall Street’s first anniversary, I’ve foolishly taken a stab at naming ten of the best songs ever written about class and economic injustice. I couldn’t use even a fraction of the great songs suggested to me on Twitter and Facebook so please use the comments field to let me know what I’ve missed, and check out my colleague Allison Kilkenny’s rundown on OWS’s anniversary plans.

1. Bob Marley, Them Belly Full

2. Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors

3. Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter

4. Gil Scott-Heron, Whitey on the Moon

5. Billy Bragg, Between the Wars

6. Johnny Cash, Sixteen Tons

7. Judy Collins, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

8. Bruce Springsteen & Tom Morello, The Ghost of Tom Joad

9. Odetta, Pastures of Plenty

10. American Ruling Class, Nickel and Dimed

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