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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.

Life After Capitalism

As virtually all Nation readers know, there are literally hundreds of events being planned to greet the Republican delegates when the GOP arrives in New York City to convene at the end of August. Kicking off the anticipated protests, panels, presentations and parties is this Friday's Beyond Bush: A Night of Visionary Resistance, taking place at Hunter College in Manhattan.

The keynote event of the Life After Capitalism Festival, this evening features talks by some of the most inspiring dissident voices of the time, including Nation columnist and award-winning author Naomi Klein, Robin Kelley, Vijay Prashad and Michael Albert. The session will also include a special extended preview of the acclaimed documentary, The Fourth World War.

This all takes place at Hunter College's Assembly Hall this Friday, August 20, at 7:00pm. Click here or call 212-817-8215 for tickets, which are being sold on a sliding scale, and click here for directions to Hunter.

Taking place this coming weekend, the LAC Festival aims to provide space for activists to gather and reflect on the importance of long-term vision and strategy through a series of workshops, breakout sessions and informal networking. Panel discussions over the course of the weekend featureAdolph Reed, Michael Hardt, Lisa Fithian, Jason West, Lynne Stewart and Starhawk, among many others. Click here for more info.

The first-ever Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues and Ideas is another of the many creative responses to the RNC convention and the threat posed by a Bush victory in November. A gala of more than 125 events mixing artistic and educational activities through a series of concerts, performances, screenings, forums, town meetings and performance art, the Imagine Festival takes place all over New York City from August 28 to September 2. Click here for more details, event listings and ticket info.

And check out the CounterConvention website for information about the full range of planned protest, cultural and educational activities while the Republican Party meets in New York City. You can also find useful resources at RNCNotWelcome.Org, including info on housing and transportation, downloadable flyers and graphics to help get out the word, and a list of suggested ways you can help the anti-RNC efforts.

We'll continue to highlight various events, protests and campaigns as the RNC draws nearer, so watch this space for details and let us know about any activities you think we should be featuring by clicking here.

Fight for the Right to Rally

Nation readers are likely familiar with the way that New York City has been stonewalling the antiwar coalition United for Peace & Justice's efforts to obtain a legal permit for what will be the biggest rally of the Republican convention week on August 29.

UFP applied for a permit for a rally in Central Park last April. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused, citing concerns for the grass and offered an arid, treeless stretch of the West Side Highway, far from Madison Square Garden, as the only possible alternative. Yesterday, with the convention only three weeks away, United for Peace and Justice insisted it be allowed to protest in Central Park and said it will sue the city for the right to rally there, if necessary.

This insistence has received widespread support from local elected and civic officials, especially since the same space has held events--like an Elton John concert--with far more people than the rally will draw. And it's not unusual for things of this sort to be held in grassy areas. As New York Newsday columnist Ellis Henican asked today in his column: "What do the gardeners in Washington know that the gardeners in Central Park never learned?"

Mayor Bloomberg is willing to spend millions to subsidize the RNC, but isn't willing to consider any expense related to a protest. In any event UFPJ has even offered to put up a bond for restoration of the grass, if necessary, but the city won't discuss it.

A Quinnipiac University poll found that 75 percent of New Yorkers back the park protest. Even Rupert Murdoch's strongly pro-war New York Post has joined the chorus along with all of New York City's other dailies, in calling on Bloomberg to reverse his decision: "A gaggle of lefty agitators wants to convene in Central Park this summer to give President Bush a little grief. But the Parks Department says no, because they might bend the grass. Well, too bad. 'Keep Off The Grass' appears nowhere in the First Amendment."

UFPJ is asking people to call Bloomberg to politely protest the city's denial of the right to rally in Central Park on August 29. You can email the Mayor by clicking here or call his office at 212-788-3000. It may also help to let the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, know how you feel. His office can be reached at 212-360-1305 or by clicking here.

You can also click here to go to the UFPJ website for updates on this struggle to secure the right to protest, and click here for information about the full range of planned protest, cultural and educational activities while the Republican Party meets in New York City.

Labor Rights and the Olympics

Despite scant notice from the media, a potentially historic bill was recently introduced in Congress by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and George Miller (D-CA). The "Play Fair at the Olympics Act" requires companies under contract with the US Olympic Committee to observe international labor rights standards, including freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively as well as the elimination of child labor and discrimination in the workplace.

This bill could be a major step forward for the Play Fair at the Olympics Campaign and in the global struggle against sweatshop labor. Ensuring that a world-wide event such as the Olympics promote internationally-recognized workplace standards strengthens the struggle to expand and enforce those rights around the globe. As Rep. Miller stated, "Our bill says that no matter where products with the US Olympic logo are made, the fundamental human rights of the workers making those products must be respected. Just as we expect fair play from our Olympic athletes, the Olympic gear our athletes use should be made under fair conditions."

To promote support for the bill (H.R. 4988), organizers from the AFL-CIO and Oxfam America are trying to get the US Olympic Committee on board. Its endorsement could really help push Congress to do the right thing for workers' rights.

Please click here to join Oxfam America's petition to the US Olympic Committee, asking for support for the bill, click here for contact info for your elected rep to write them yourself and click here to read and circulate more info on the International Play Fair at the Olympics Campaign.

Help Defend the 'Roadless Rule'

In his last year in office, President Bill Clinton passed the so-called Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a conservation initiative that protected 58.5 million acres of wild national forest land from commercial logging and road-building. The rule was enacted with widespread public support, generating 1.5 million positive comments from US citizens who praised the effort to protect the last remaining wild forest lands.

On July 12, the Bush Administration reversed its pledge not to dismantle these environmental protections, announcing a wholesale weakening of the rule that puts the fate of our national forests in the hands of state governments. 

Since it took office, the Bush White House has been quietly undermining the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. But now the President's proposal will openly allow timber, oil, and mining interests to build roads in these last protected areas in order to facilitate logging.

As the Center for American Progress showed recently on its website, this Administration decision has sparked editorial outrage nationwide, suggesting widespread public opposition to this latest assault on the environment. The lead from the Kansas City Star's editorial of July 15 is a representative example: "In another payoff to campaign contributors, the Bush Administration has swept aside federal protections for the nation's forests. The result will be chopped-up forests in many parts of the country, particularly in the West where most untouched forests remain."

Or this from the Louisville Courier-Journal of the same day: "From the people who produced Iraq World--a $100 billion mess that has claimed thousands of lives in a war based on false premises and shoddy planning--now comes Timber World."

The Nation shares this outrage and has joined a coalition of groups--including the Sierra Club and 20/20 Vision--sponsoring a national letter-writing campaign to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Write Bosworth today to make it clear to the Bush Administration that Americans oppose the wholesale destruction of America's last wild forests.

Click here to send Bosworth a note and click here to let more people know about this latest outrage. The Administration is counting on getting this done under-the-radar. Don't let them.

Counter-Convention 2004

With Boston in the books, progressives can now get ready for some serious protesting when the GOP hits the unlikely shores of New York City for its convention, beginning on August 30. There are scores of demonstrations, marches, protests, vigils, concerts, panels, presentations and parties planned in opposition to George Bush's visit and his Administration's reactionary extremism. (Probably the largest single march will take place on August 29.)

Watch this space in the coming days for info on what's planned and click here to check out CounterConvention.Org, a new website designed to facilitate and highlight organizing against this year's Republican National Convention.

Protest Pit is a Dark, Shadowy Place

Many Americans oppose the war in Iraq, and they want to vote for a party that will bring the troops home. The Democratic Party has not promised to do that, which is why antiwar protesters have gathered in Boston.

They had hoped to stage a series of peaceful protests, to show the Democrats, who are holding their convention in Boston this week, how strongly they feel. The problem is that organizers of the convention have said protesters can gather only in a large wire cage that has been built under Boston's elevated train tracks. It has one entrance and one exit, and is topped by razor wire. As AP reporter Mark Jewell wrote, "The maze of overhead netting, chain link fencing and razor wire couldn't be further in comfort from the high-tech confines of the arena stage where John Kerry is to accept the Democratic nomination for president."

Click here to read a report on the DNC Protest Pit by Caroline Overington from the Sydney Morning Herald and click here to listen to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!, which is broadcasting live reports on what's happening on the streets of Boston.

DNC Activism

Though they won't come close to matching the intensity or volume of expected protests at the Republican National Convention in New York City at the end of August, there are numerous progressive demonstrations taking place all over Boston this week as the Democrats convene.

The Boston Social Forum is winding down today after a standing-room-only weekend of alternative networking, performances, discussions and debates. On Monday, the Black Tea Society will sponsor a rally against police brutality, prison abuse and the Patriot Act from 10 am to 12 noon on the Boston Common, followed by a march to the Fleet Center; Dennis Kucinich and his supporters will hold a public forum on Civil Liberties at 12 noon at St. Paul's Church on Tremont Street and the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union will host an Alternative Freedom Trail Tour through Boston from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.

On Tuesday, the American Friends Service Committee will sponsor the Eyes Wide Open Exhibit opposing US war in Iraq from 9:00am to 9:00pm in Copley Square with speakers and music starting at 7:30pm. And on Wednesday, the Campaign for America's Future and The Nation team up to present a forum on Iraq, the US and the Democrats featuring Katrina vanden Heuvel, Joe Wilson, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Gail Smith and Tom Andrews. Watch this space and click here for more info on planned events in Boston.

Bonus Media Link: Click here to read Anne-Marie O'Connor's July 24th Los Angeles Times op-ed surveying the activist community for its views on protesting at this year's DNC.

The Boston Social Forum

As the media world prepares to head to Boston for the Democratic National Convention next week, one of the most interesting related events is likely to receive little coverage outside of the invaluable IndyMedia sites and alternative radio and TV outfits like Democracy Now! and Free Speech TV.

Planned for this coming weekend, July 23rd to 25th, the Boston Social Forum will feature workshops, break-out sessions, presentations, panels and parties, all designed to hash out a helpful vision of how progressives can better work together to promote our common goals and interests. (Click here to register and for more info and click here if you're interesting in volunteering.)

Taking place on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Boston, the BSF has hundreds of events and exhibits planned for the three-day confab. Confirmed speakers include Jim Hightower, Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez, Manning Marable, Maude Barlow, Walden Bello, Harry Belafonte, Frances Moore Lappe, Michael Lerner and many others. Other special BSF events include a Saturday afternoon screening of John Sayle's new film, followed by a discussion with the director; an Alternative Media Summit being organized by Take Back the Media and a benefit concert on Saturday night in Cambridge featuring Billy Bragg, the Reagan Babies, the Foundation and Juliana Hatfield.

The BSF--co-sponsored by The Nation along with scores of other good outfits, organizations and publications--promises a good start to what will hopefully a fruitful period of collaboration between progressive groups. So check it out if you'll be in Beantown this weekend.

Genocide in Darfur

The Sudanese government is directly responsible for crimes against humanity in its strife-torn western region of Darfur, including the widespread rape of women, Amnesty International charged yesterday in a stinging report.

Refugees from Darfur described a pattern of "systematic and unlawful attacks" against civilians by both a government-sponsored Arab militia and the Sudanese military forces, the international London-based human-rights group said.

Ten years ago, the international community stood by as the Rwandan genocide claimed 800,000 lives. Today, as world leaders remember that human catastrophe with empty expressions of "Never Again," the people of Sudan face a similar fate. In concert with groups like Africa Action as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, The Nation is sponsoring a petition drive calling on Colin Powell as secretary of state to immediately recognize the genocide occurring in Darfur and organize internationally to bring it to an end. Click here to add your name.

Amnesty is calling for an end to the conflict, better protection of civilians, disarmament of the paramilitaries, trials for those carrying out the attacks, and the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to examine war crimes in Darfur. Click here to find out more about AI's work on this issue, click here to read Salih Booker and Ann Louise Colgan's recent Nation editorial for background on Darfur and click here to read Sudan expert Eric Reeves' Nation magazine article, Rapacious Instincts in Sudan, from the magazine's June 4, 2001 issue, for a broader look at the country's political troubles.

An Animated Ashcroft

Seeking to bolster support for his USA Patriot Act against Congressional attempts to weaken it, Attorney General John Ashcroft recently called the Act "al-Qaeda's worst nightmare." and delivered a 29-page report to Congress citing ways in which the Act has, according to Ashcroft, been instrumental in helping to combat terrorism.

The Patriot Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress in the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, gave the government significant new powers to conduct searches and surveillance in terrorism investigations and allowed more information sharing among law enforcement agencies.

The release of Ashcroft's report is part of an effort by the Bush Administration to shore up support for the law in the wake of numerous reports and critics's suggestions that many of the Act's provisions are both ineffective and unconstitutional.

One of the most effective (and creative) critiques of the abuses of the Ashcroft Justice Department was recently released by the DC-based group Alliance for Justice, a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's and consumer advocacy organizations. AFJ has created an online animated movie, Spy-der-man, which uses humor to convey the grave danger of Ashcroft's intrusions on free speech, privacy, due process and religious pluralism.

Click here to watch the movie. It's fun and informative. And click here to sign the AFJ's petition urging Ashcroft to resign.

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