Peter Rothberg | The Nation

Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

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

Pressuring Publix

Two weeks ago, as families across the US gathered for Thanksgiving, the Campaign for Fair Food released a powerful video highlighting the unconscionable poverty of our nation's farmworkers and calling on Publix to join the Fair Food Program—a growing partnership between farmworkers, growers, consumers, and retail food corporations. (Details here.)

The video reflected on a food system that marginalizes the very people who labor to produce our nation’s bounty, and on a supermarket industry that is turning its back on the first real solution in decades to the longterm crisis of farmworker poverty before concluding on an optimistic note, underscoring the common humanity uniting farmworkers and consumers in the campaign for fair food. “A Tale of Two Holidays” generated such strong interest and positive feedback that the savvy strategists at the CFF have re-cut it for a second run for a new holiday.

Watch and share the video, then add your name to this open letter to Publix imploring the supermarket giant to join eleven major food retailers including McDonald’s, Whole Foods and Chipotle in the Fair Food Program. It would require only a small increase in the price it pays for tomatoes, compliance with a new Code of Conduct and the implementation of a system of Health and Safety volunteers on every farm to give workers a structured voice in the their work environment. Even if you throw out morality, the PR benefit could be invaluable.

The Fair Food Program is viable, it’s working and, with our help, it could eventually fulfill its enormous promise as an unprecedented collaborative model for farm-labor justice.


I’m slowly starting to realize that the election results were likely the best (i.e., most progressive) I've seen in my lifetime, certainly the best in my voting life. Now, of course, the real work starts. Without a strong left grassroots, we know there's no chance the president and his party will enact a progressive agenda on their own. But today is a time to celebrate the repudiation of a party of hysterical, deeply misinformed, mendacious white men.

Five Songs for Election Day

It’s going to be a long day. Here are some songs to help you through it. Please use the comments field below to let me know what I've missed.

1. Be Careful How You Vote, Sunnyland Slim

2. Christ for President, Billy Bragg & Wilco

3. I Swung the Election, Jack Teagarden

4. Electioneering, Radiohead

5. Presidential Election Blues, Mick Jagger & Jeff Beck

Bonus 2012 Track: Mutt Romney Blues, Ry Cooder

Don't Forget Haiti

On Tuesday, I posted some suggestions for how people could help the victims of Hurricane Sandy here in the United States. I neglected to mention the horrific suffering in impoverished Haiti, which was pummeled by Sandy’s devastating trajectory before she hit US shores.

Three days of fierce rain and wind flooded about 100 camps where some 325,000 people, still homeless from the 2010 earthquake, continue to live. Tents and other makeshift shelters were inundated by water, poorly maintained latrines overflowed, stored food was ruined and garbage and waste were strewn everywhere.

The storm also ravaged the Haitian countryside, massively destroying crops, which will likely send food prices skyrocketing, making it even more difficult for Haitians who are already struggling to feed their families. Jean Debalio Jean-Jacques, Head of the Department of Agriculture, estimates that Sandy destroyed 70 percent of crops in southern Haiti and caused significant livestock losses. Johan Peleman, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ in Haiti, said that “there are approximately 1.2 million people who are facing food insecurity in the country.”

As the massive relief and recovery effort forges ahead in the US, the stalwart NGO the International Rescue Committee is acting fast in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people still living in tent camps are in desperate need of help.

The IRC has been on the ground doing critical work in Haiti since the devastating January, 2010 earthquake destroyed huge swathes of the country. In the last few days, with limited resources, the organization has provided emergency kits with shelter materials and hygiene items to 4,200 victims of the storm and distributions continue apace.

Donate now to support relief efforts in Haiti focused on the most vulnerable populations and check out and share this list of non-financial ways you can support the IRC’s work.

How to Help the Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast late Monday and the record storm surge flooded towns up and down the coast; millions are without power and at least twenty-nine people in fifteen US states have been killed.

If you’d like to help, what’s needed most is money, blood and volunteer labor. It’s best not to donate things—after disasters nonprofits are typically bogged down with more stuff than they can process. Contribute money to a large organization that can handle the funds, like the Red Cross (which operates emergency shelters) or the Humane Society (which cares for stranded pets) and let them know it’s specifically for Sandy relief.

In New York City, recovery efforts are being coordinated by Occupy NYC and community organizations on the ground. You can volunteer time and money as well as ask for help.

In Brooklyn, volunteers are needed at several evacuation shelters near Park Slope.

New York Cares is signing up volunteers interested in being part of the relief response. They’ll have more details about specific relief efforts soon.

Nationally, Feeding America is taking donations for food, water, and other supplies for people throughout the affected area.

FEMA has a list of charitable organizations accepting donations in all the states hit hard.

Watch this space for updates and please use the comments field to recommend other relief efforts, especally in non-US countries, worth supporting.

And, after you make a donation to disaster relief, join 350.org in connecting the dots and calling on Big Oil to do the same by signing an open letter asking energy corporations to take the millions of dollars they’re spending to buy climate silence this election and donate it to climate relief instead.

Paul Wellstone's Legacy

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the terribly tragic and untimely death of Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, and their daughter, Marcia. Wellstone was a relentless champion of social justice and while his death, as Katrina vanden Heuvel’s tribute makes clear, was an enormous loss, his rich legacy remains vibrant and vital.

Wellstone’s political career began by organizing college students and low-income women to fight for anti-poverty measures, and mobilizing farmers to resist the efforts of utility companies to install power lines on their land. In his first campaign, he challenged a sitting Republican senator, Rudy Boschwitz, who outspent him seven to one. Nonetheless, Wellstone stormed across the state in a green bus, engaging young people and showing that, sometimes, people power and true organizing really can trump money.

So, it’s entirely fitting that the organization that bears his name and most forthrightly carries forward his legacy, Wellstone Action, isn’t a think tank, a PAC or an academic program but rather an activist training ground, a place not just to articulate progressive values but to do the hard organizing work that really makes a difference.

The best way to honor Wellstone’s legacy is to support Wellstone Action. Find out about its programs today.

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. 

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