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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.

Clean Elections Work

Arizona's pioneering system of full public financing of political candidates, called the Clean Elections Act, is under fierce attack by wealthy special interests with deep pockets and national conservative ties that run all the way from Tom DeLay to Bush's fundraising machine. They've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a constitutional referendum on the November ballot that could crush America's best hope for people-powered democracy.

As the lead editorial in the new issue of The Nation argues, progressives now need to rally like-minded citizens to defend Arizona's exemplary model of civic empowerment.

Thousands of small contributions can help beat back this big-donor funded attack on democracy. The Public Campaign Action Fund is asking people to contribute the manageable sum of five dollars (or more) to help keep Arizona "clean" and, if you have the time, to ask your friends to pitch in too.

Why five dollars? Under the Clean Elections Act, five dollars is the most a voter can give a candidate. Small donors mean as much to candidates as big donors because candidates take no big money from special interests whatsoever. Talk about the great equalizer. The bank president can't give more than the teller in his bank. Now you can understand why well-heeled developers, insurance companies, Bush "Pioneers" and corporate lobbyists are so hellbent on overturning the Act.

Please help thwart their efforts to undo a terrific democratic reform in Arizona. And check out The Action Fund's homepage for a range of ways you can help decrease Big Money's choke-hold on politics in the US today.

Gore Blasts Bush on Iraq

Last night, in another of a series of speeches sponsored by MoveOn.org, Al Gore spoke to 900 people at New York University in a talk that was interrupted by applause more than a dozen times. Gore accused President Bush of "utter incompetence" on Iraq, adding that the president had "made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically increased the threat of terrorism against the United States."

As Maureen Dowd noted in her New York Times column today, Gore's remarks represented "one of the most virulent attacks on a sitting president ever made by such a high-ranking former official."

Click here to read and circulate the text of this speech, click here to watch a webcast of the talk and click here for more info on Move.On, which is providing widespread support to the efforts to unseat Bush in November.

Fight for Your Right to Protest

Last week the antiwar coalition United for Peace and Justice's application for a permit to rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park in Manhattan on August 29th was denied. The rally is planned to be a key part of what organizers (and police) expect to be a massive demonstration on the day before the 2004 Republican National Convention begins. UFPJ's attorneys appealed that denial. Earlier this week the appeal was also denied.

Far from a radical cause, the city's refusal to grant the permit has sparked editorial condemnation from three of New York's daily newspapers as well as criticism from municipal labor unions and numerous members of New York's City Council, including Council president Gifford Miller, all of whom are calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reverse the decision and allow the march to lawfully proceed.

As Rupert Murdoch's strongly pro-war New York Post put it: "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 our 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's also useful to let the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, know how you feel. Her office can be reached at 212-360-1305.

And, be sure to check out the UFPJ website for updates on this struggle to secure the right to protest, as well as information about the full range of planned protest, cultural and educational activities while the Republican Party meets in New York City.

Occupation Watch

One of the hallmarks of the Iraqi occupation is the way that new technologies are changing the face of war. The digital cameras that were employed by the Abu Ghraib photographers and the speed with which their photos circulated around the world via the internet were only the latest examples.

An international coalition of peace and justice groups, together with their Iraqi counterparts, have launched a new project, hoping to take advantage of new forms of communication to keep track of what's really going on in Iraq.Founding organizations of the International Occupation Watch Center include Bridges to Baghdad, CodePink, Global Exchange, Focus on the Global South, United for Peace and Justice and ZENKO.

The idea is to create a safe and effective space for "monitoring the economic and reconstruction policies under occupation, including the activities of international corporations, and advocate for the Iraqis' right to control their own resources, especially oil." (Click here for a full mission statement.)

Iraq Occupation Watch offers calls to action, press links, reports from Iraq and info on delegations. Click here to learn more about this important new resource, click here to tell your local media to check the reports out, and click here to contribute to Iraq Occupation Watch.

Patrick Leahy on US Abuses

As Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said in a stirring speech this past Tuesday on the Senate floor:

"The mistreatment of prisoners by the US military in Iraq was not limited to the crimes that have come to light at the Abu Ghraib prison. Rather, there was, in the words of the US Army's own inquiry, a 'systemic and illegal abuse of detainees.' It is revealing, and particularly disturbing, that the US personnel involved conducted themselves so openly, even posing with the victims of their sadistic acts. They obviously felt they had no reason to believe that their superiors would be upset with their conduct. The brazenness of these acts, the reported role of US intelligence officers in encouraging such treatment to 'soften up' detainees for interrogations, combined with earlier reports of similar abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggests a much larger failure."

We couldn't have said it any better ourselves. Hopefully a statement this strong from such a senior member of the Senate will have some reverberations. Click here to read and circulate Leahy's full speech, click here to read follow-up remarks Leahy made on Wednesday, and click here to read Katha Pollitt's new Nation column, Show & Tell at Abu Ghraib.

The World Tribunal on Iraq

On February 15, 2003, one of the greatest mobilizations of popular protest the world has ever seen demonstrated its opposition to the Bush Administration's plans to invade Iraq. More than a year later, much of Iraq lies in ruins, invaded, smashed, and then occupied by a hostile and unwanted invasion force. More than seven hundred US soldiers have been killed along with tens of thousands of Iraqis, some of them, we now know, tortured to death by sadistic soldiers and private contractors.

The political costs are still unseen but will anyone be held accountable for the war crimes committed during the military campaign, or the crimes committed by the occupying forces?

There's no tribunal that will judge the actions of the US and its allies. All official international institutions, including the International Criminal Court, lack jurisdiction and enforcement power. In response, a coalition of civil society groups from around the world, taking their cue from the 1967 Russell Tribunal formed to investigate crimes committed by the US in Vietnam, have organized what they call the World Tribunal on Iraq . The WTI has been endorsed by the Jakarta Peace Consensus and the antiwar assemblies that converged at the recent European Social Forum in Paris and the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India.

Hearings and events have already taken place in London, Monterrey, Brussels, Hiroshima, Paris, Costa Rica, Munich, Mumbai, Barcelona, Istanbul, Copenhagen and Rome. Tomorrow, a panelwill convene in New York City to discuss questions like:

*Could the doctrine of "preventive war" ever be legal under international law?

*Can we record the crimes committed in launching this war of aggression, during the military campaign and ongoing occupation?

*Can an effective grassroots mechanism be established which can initiate the process of providing justice and/or accountability?

New York Session of the World Tribunal on Iraq, Saturday, May 8, 2004, Cooper Union, Great Hall, 7 East 7th Street at 3rd Ave.--Starts at 10:00am.

FREE - donations welcome

The panel will feature Rabab Abdulhadi, Sinan Antoon, Dennis Brutus, Hamid Dabashi, Bhairavi Desai, Eve Ensler, Jenny Green, Lisa Hajjar, Elias Khoury, Robert van Lierop, Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, Kiyoko McCrae and Ibrahim Rames.

The World Tribunal on Iraq is one important effort trying to address the failure of the US to guarantee a minimal standard of human-rights for the inhabitants of the country which we'er currently occupying. Click here for more info on tomorrow's New York Session of the World Tribunal on Iraq and click here to find out how you can assist the Tribunal's efforts no matter where you live.

Stop War Profiteering!

As readers of this space don't need to be told, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company Halliburton has been a prime beneficiary of the invasion of Iraq, raking in some $9 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq's oil industry and service the US troops.

However, since the occupation began, news reports have regularly documented a pattern of fraud, waste, and corruption by Halliburton--from alleged overcharges of $61 million for fuel and $24.7 million for meals to confirmed kickbacks worth $6.3 million. Meanwhile, Halliburton has failed to rebuild key oil infrastructure, has provided shoddy services to US troops, and has taken jobs away from qualified Iraqi businesses and workers. Shockingly though, Halliburton's role has only increased, to the point where, as the AP reported last Tuesday, the company's executives say that Halliburton is receiving about $1 billion a month for Iraq work this year.

Moreover, federal authorities are currently investigating whether Halliburton broke the law by using a subsidiary to do business in Iran, whether the company overcharged for work done for the Pentagon in the Balkans and whether it was involved in an alleged $180 million bribery scheme in Nigeria. (The company admitted in 2003 that it improperly paid $2.4 million to a Nigerian tax official.)

Join the United for Peace and Justice coalition in Houston on May 19 for a lively protest against war profiteering and crony capitalism outside Halliburton's annual shareholder meeting. Halliburton needs to be held accountable, not made more profitable. Click here for a schedule of the day's events, click here for info on housing and transportation, and click here to help circulate word about the protest to activists and the media.

Quid Pro Quack

Every judge knows that you don't vacation with friends and accept their generosity while their case is pending before you. But that's just what Justice Antonin Scalia did with Dick Cheney, whose energy case is being heard by the Supreme Court this week. Though it's unlikely he'll do so, Justice Scalia still has time to do the right thing and recuse himself from this case. (Technically, he can do so up until the Court renders a decision.)

As legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers wrote recently in The Nation, Scalia's determination to stay on the case, "tells thousands of federal and state judges that it can be OK to vacation with friends who have cases before them and to accept the generosity of those friends while their cases are pending. "

The DC-based group Alliance for Justice, a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's and consumer advocacy organizations, has created an online animated movie, Quid Pro Quack, which shows the absurdity of Scalia's refusal to recuse himself. Click here to watch the movie. It's fun and informative. And click here to sign the AFJ's petition to urge Scalia to "Choose to Recuse."

Death Squad Diplomat

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee started hearings today on John Negroponte's appointment to the Baghdad embassy, a post that he would assume on June 30, when sovereignty will supposedly be transferred to Iraqi authorities.

Negroponte's reputation as ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 earned him a reputation for supporting widespread human rights abuses and campaigns of terror. As ambassador he played a key role in coordinating US aid to the Contra death squads in Nicaragua and shoring up CIA-backed death squads in Honduras. (Click here for an audio segment of Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! for more on Negroponte's background.)

As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs noted in a comprehensive release on Negroponte's career, the career diplomat's nomination must be seen as profoundly troubling since the same nagging questions which were present during the summer of 2001, when Negroponte was nominated to be US ambassador to the UN, continue to persist. (Click here to read the full release.)

But though, as David Corn writes in the current issue of The Nation, Negroponte's confirmation hearing will provide senators a chance to probe Bush's plans in Iraq, if Negroponte's record, is not questioned, as seems likely, he will once again be able to escape his haunted past. Don't let your elected reps give Negroponte a free pass. Click here to tell them to vote against Negroponte's appointment. You can also usefully send them the Center for American Progress's ten questions Negroponte should be forced to answer before he's given the job of running Iraq.

DC Rally Draws Historic Crowd

In one of the biggest demonstrations in US history, more than one million protesters crowded the National Mall this afternoon to show support for reproductive rights and opposition to http://www.thenation.com/directory/view.mhtml?t=000706 ">Bush Administration policies on women's health issues (things like making it virtually impossible for women to obtain the morning after pill, also known as emergency contraception, without a prescription).

Some 1,400 US groups endorsed and sent members to the event. And international contingents were strong as women joined the protest from nearly 60 countries, asserting that damage from Bush's policies is spreading far beyond US shores through measures such as the ban on federal money for family-planning groups that promote or perform abortions abroad.

Check out the up-to-the-minute reports below on today's historic show of support for reproductive freedom, click here to sign the Freedom of Choice Act petition, and click here to see how you can lend support to the abortion-rights movement.

Women's Rights Marchers Gather in DC by Elizabeth Wolfe,The Guardian, April 26, 2004

Massive Protest Decries Bush Policies by Deborah Zabarenko,Reuters, April 26, 2004

NPR's Weekend Editionlive from the march. Andrea Seabrook reporting.

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