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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.

One Year Later

On the heels of yesterday's car-bomb attack against a central Baghdad hotel, Iraqi insurgents launched more deadly attacks today in advance of the first anniversary of the US invasion of the country, leaving at least eight Iraqi civilians dead in several incidents and eight US soldiers wounded in a mortar attack in the restive city of Fallujah.

Meanwhile, around the world in Washington, DC, a group of antiwar activists, veterans and military family members leaned into two microphones this morning on a stage in the park across from the White House and called out the names of American soldiers who have been killed in Iraq.

This reading, part of a demonstration that was more memorial service than street protest, was one of hundreds of antiwar events scheduled across the globe leading up to Saturday's one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.In the United States, the antiwar coalition United for Peace is calling for a massive march in New York City along with dozens of local and regional demonstrations nationwide, including a major protest in Fayetteville, NC, the home of Fort Bragg.

In Manhattan, the permitted march and rally will assemble at noon on Madison Avenue stretching north from 23rd Street. Click here for downloadable posters, leaflets and flyers, here for transportation info and here to donate to United for Peace.

San Francisco is also expecting a sizable contingent of marchers to gather near the 18th and Church St. corner of Dolores Park at 11:00am under the banner of immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, repeal of the Patriot Act and a repudiation of the preemptive doctrine of foreign policy. Click here for info on what's planned in SF.

Or check out UFP's regularly-updated calendar for info on the dozens of other rallies scheduled in places like Anchorage, Alaska; Jacksonville, Florida; Little Rock, Arkansas; Phoenix, Arizona; Honolulu, Hawaii; New Haven, Connecticut and Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.

A coalition of groups, including UFP, is also sponsoring "National Iraq Call-in Day" next Wednesday, March 24. Encourage people to call their elected reps in Washington and politely ask them to make every effort to ensure that the June 30 transfer of power be transparent and inclusive and to make sure that any un-elected government not be allowed to make laws that will bind future representative bodies. Click here for contact info for your elected reps (if you're in the US.)

Time to Turn the Paige

At a meeting with the nation's governors last month, George W. Bush's Education Secretary, Rodney Paige, called the National Education Association (NEA) a "terrorist organization" because teachers have been decrying Bush's broken promises on his education reforms. And, as Robert Borosage and Earl Hadley explain in a new Nation Online article, after waves of criticism of Paige's comment forced the Secretary to "apologize," he then attacked teachers for using "obstructionist scare tactics."

In response, the Campaign for America's Future and MoveOn.org have joined together to launch a petition calling on the President to fire Paige. Click here to sign the petition, here to circulate the letter to friends, and here for background material explaining why Rod Paige is so poorly-qualified to run the nation's public school system.

Paige has said his comments derive from his concern about minority children being left behind. Were that the case though, he'd be picking his fight with the Bush Administration, which has called for cuts in education funding across the board for the next five years. But Paige isn't protecting children, he's protecting the President. Let's call him out.

Bush's Backfiring Ad Campaign

Most political observers expected the Bush/Cheney re-election ads to begin by branding Bush as the 9/11 candidate. The only surprise, as John Nichols points out in his latest weblog posting, is that the Bush political team would, after more than two years of preparation, perform the task so gracelessly.

The gauzy, upbeat spots, which began airing last Thursday on national cable networks and in 17 states considered electoral battlegrounds, have immediately sparked outrage. While a few voices of support for the President have been noted, the story in recent days has been the mounting criticism the ad campaign has generated, especially in the fire fighting community and among victims of 9/11.

Here are a few of the many critical comments:

Harold Schaitberger,President, International Association of Fire Fighters

"The uses of 9/11 images are hypocrisy at its worst. Since the attacks, Bush has been using images of himself putting his arm around a retired FDNY fire fighter on the pile of rubble at Ground Zero. But for two and a half years he has basically shortchanged fire fighters and the safety of our homeland. The fact is, Bush's actions have resulted in fire stations closing in communities around the country. Two-thirds of America's fire departments remain under-staffed because Bush is failing to enforce a new law that was passed with bipartisan support...to put more fire fighters in our communities."

Tommy Fee,New York City firefighter

"It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place. The image of firefighters at Ground Zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics."

Tom Ryan, New York City firefighter

"As a firefighter who spent months at Ground Zero, it's deeply offensive to see the Bush campaign use these images to capitalize on the greatest American tragedy of our time."

Monica Gabrielle, 9/11 Widow

"It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," Gabrielle said of the use of images of the removal of the 9/11 dead for political purposes. "It's unconscionable."

Bob McIlvaine, 9/11 Parent

"My son was murdered on September 11th. To argue that using footage of the wreckage of the towers to further someone's political career is 'tasteful' really needs to be rejected outright, and I condemn it."

Tom Roger,9/11 Parent

"I would be less offended if he [Bush] showed a picture of himself in front of the Statue of Liberty. But to show the horror of 9/11 in the background, that's just some advertising agency's attempt to grab people by the throat."

Abe Zelmanowitz,9/11 Family member

"It's so hard for us to believe that it's not obvious to everyone that ground zero shouldn't be used as a backdrop for a political campaign. We are incensed and hurt by what he is doing."

This can't be good for Bush and to make the most of this tactical blunder, Democrats.com, an online community of progressive Democrats, has created a powerful poster, which lets the GOP know that exploiting 9/11 will only backfire. Click here to purchase one and here to sign a petition asking George Bush to turn all relevant material over to the 9/11 commission.

Wellstone Action!

The loss of Senator Paul Wellstone still really hurts. Fortunately, the Wellstone Action Network is working in his name, bringing together thousands of people from across the United States in focused advocacy campaigns on progressive issues. Using the Wellstone Action website, email action alerts, grassroots organizing and partnerships with like-minded organizations, the advocacy network puts its weight and energy behind a series of issues based on need and opportunity.

The Network also operates Camp Wellstone, a two-an-a-half day program that trains participants in strategy and tactics useful for winning grassroots political and electoral campaigns. This national program teaches a distinctive approach that integrates electoral politics, issues advocacy community organizing and leadership development.

Click here for more info on how to join the Wellstone Action Network.

Trying to Change the Channel

Congress is starting high-profile hearings today to debate the crisis in American media. The topic: Media concentration? No. Rather, indecency.

Spurred on by Janet and Justin's Super Bowl antics, Congress has decided to try to address the issue of television's "race to the bottom." Their answer? Increasing token fines on broadcasters that push the envelope with explicit content.

The problem with this approach, as Katrina vanden Heuvel argues in her new weblog, is that "for most conglomerates, even major fines won't dent their massive lobbying budgets. Besides, given the multi, mega-billion giveaway that Congress and the last several Administrations gave the broadcasters (free broadcast spectrum in 1996 worth $300 billion plus; cable channel space in 1992, worth tens of billions more), what Congress is doing must be seen by TV industry lobbyists as a minor nuisance at most. "

Fortunately, there are numerous citizen groups calling on Congress to focus on what's truly obscene: Big Media getting bigger. The Media Reform Network, co-founded by The Nation's John Nichols along with Robert McChesney and others, is at the forefront of the struggle.

Currently, the MRN is calling on people to urge their elected reps to co-sponsor House Joint Resolution 72, the resolution of disapproval that would roll back the new FCC rules. Click here to send a letter, and here to sign on to the MRN's free newsletter, a great place to keep up with new developments in the movement.

The Super Bowl half-time show is just the latest example of the corporate synergy that the Bush Administration and FCC Commissioner Michael Powell have done their best to accelerate. And Powell's "shock" at the spectacle is just a tactic to deflect attention from how his polices have contributed mightily to lewd and crude media. Members of Congress are focused on the media today. It's a good time to try to tell them what people really care about.

Bush's Bogus Guestworker Program

President Bush recently invited Latino immigration activists and the press to the White House to hear him unveil an important policy initiative. The President said that US immigration policy "is not working" and proposed an ambitious new approach he said would better "reflect the American Dream."

But, following the President's speech, John Alger, an agricultural employer in Homestead, Florida, told USA Today that he welcomed the initiative, saying, "To have a sustainable, low-cost labor force is crucial to us."

So, what's this new proposal about? Shoring up the American Dream? Or ensuring a low-wage labor pool for commercial interests?

For a terrific explanation, check out a recent statement issued by the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW), which calls the guestworker proposal "damaging to the very people it purports to help," and argues that the initiative is designed to "give US industry legal, taxpayer-assisted access to millions of desperately poor workers outside US borders." Click here to read and circulate this valuable report.

The CIW is a community-based worker organization composed largely of Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants laboring in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Established in 1977 to advocate for tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida's largest farming community, the CIW's main activity currently is coordinating activities to improve working conditions and to raise these workers' pay.

But, despite signature drives, work stoppages, a 230-mile march across South Florida, and a 30-day hunger strike by six coalition members, the growers still refuse to meet with worker representatives. (Why should they when they've been able to keep wages stagnant since the 1970s?)

In late 2001, the CIW launched a national boycott against Taco Bell, one of the largest buyers of tomatoes in the region and, together with Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's, and A&W Restaurants, part of a corporate group forming the "world's largest restaurant system."

Farm-workers who pick for Florida growers like Six L's Packing Company, Taco Bell's chief supplier, earn roughly forty cents for every thirty-two pound bucket of tomatoes--the same piece rate paid in 1978. At this rate, workers must pick and haul two TONS of tomatoes, a tough task, to make fifty dollars a day.

Workers are denied the right to organize and the right to overtime pay. They receive no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid holidays, no vacation, and no pension. Given the sheer volume of Immokalee tomatoes it buys, not to mention its size and economic strength, Taco Bell has the power to help bring about more modern, more equitable labor relations in Immokalee's tomato fields.

To date, the company has refused to take any responsibility whatsoever for the sweatshop conditions in the fields where its tomatoes are picked. Taco Bell executives have even refused to speak to delegations of workers who have requested meetings.

But, according to critics, Taco Bell could nearly double the picking piece rate paid to farm-workers by agreeing to pay just one penny more per pound for the tomatoes it buys from Florida growers. As CIW says: "We believe that Taco Bell, as part of the 'world's largest restaurant system' can easily afford to pay one penny more. But even if they passed the cost on to YOU, the consumer, it would still be less than 1/4 of 1 cent more for your chalupa." Not a bad deal.

Until Taco Bell and its local growers are forced to concede, the CIW's excellent website makes it easy for you to help. First, get informed. CIW offers a concise explanation of the boycott, and the CIW Listserve keeps you in touch with the campaign as it evolves.

Then, if you're interested in bringing the Taco Bell boycott to your community, contact the Student/Farm-Worker Alliance or the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for more information and materials that you can use for organizing in your area, including media packets, postcards, flyers, bumper-stickers and other resources.

You can also sign a petition, send an email to Emil Brolick, Taco Bell's CEO, download a poster or contribute money to help CIW expand its efforts.

Thirty-One Years of Freedom

On the 31th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the number of US abortion providers has fallen to its lowest level in three decades, a trend many physicians ascribe to a hostile political climate, the surge of hospital mergers and a lack of enthusiasm for teaching the procedure at most medical schools. And things will likely get worse with most centers of political power in the US currently occupied by anti-choice hardliners.

Fortunately, there are numerous organizations taking effective action to help preserve and expand women's right to reproductive choice. Joining one of them today would be a good way to mark the anniversary's importance. Click here for a listing of links to groups as well as relevant Nation articles, essays and columns, including Jennifer Baumgardner's recent editorial, "We're Not Sorry, Charlie." Laura Flanders's Your Call radio program will also feature a Roe anniversary show today. Click here to listen online.

The Dream and Beyond

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously came out against the Vietnam War before he was assassinated in April 1968. And, http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0120-03.htm "> according to David Garrow, King's Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, if King were alive today at age 75, he'd be spending almost every waking hour organizing mass demonstrations against the US occupation of Iraq.

From 1961 to 1966, King somehow found the time to write an annual essay for The Nation on the state of civil rights and race relations in America. Click here to read "Let Justice Roll Down," from the March 15, 1965 issue of the magazine.

Also read King's inspiring Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam, delivered at Manhattan's Riverside Church in April of 1967. It's unfortunately still very timely.

New Year's Resources

Though the world of activism never sleeps with literally scores of brave grassroots organizing being done 24/7 across America today ActNow will be off until January 12. Please take the time to read the archives. Many of the campaigns I've written about, especially the National Conference on Organized Resistance, the fight to save reproductive rights and the Restore FOIA efforts, are still very much in progress and can use all the help they can get.

There are also a number of websites I'd recommend to keep in touch with various activist currents and issue-oriented campaigns. An incomplete, unrepresentative list would include:

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch tries to inject democratic interests into the debate on globalization by arguing that the current corporate-led globalization model is neither a random inevitability nor is it "free trade." The site offers a host of matchlessly researched material written in unusually readable language, so there's no need to feel intimidated. There are also a host of ways for you to get involved at whatever level.

Nation columnist Naomi Klein's website, NoLogo.Org, also features updated writings, by Naomi and others, on both new models of globalization and popular struggles against the manifestations of these new forms.

Nation contributing editor Doug Henwood's Left Business Observer is another unique and invaluable website, offering informed economic and political reporting that's difficult, if not impossible, to find elsewhere. (Doug also has a new book, After the Economy.)

CommonDreams has carved out a niche for itself and looks like it's here to stay as a useful filter for the mainstream and alternative press. A daily updated collection of links to articles of progressive interest with a thrice-daily updated news-wire, it offers smartly chosen pieces and a well-organized format.

Happy New Year!

For the Political Gift-Giver

Thirteen beautiful women versus one hideous president.

Babes Against Bush is taking protest politics in an unlikely direction. A new group from southeastern Michigan, B.A.B. is looking to attract attention to a cause--unseating George W. Bush in 2004--and hoping to spur more people to take notice of some basic facts about the Bush Administration by using the venerable, politically incorrect vehicle of the "pinup girl" as the medium for its message.

Why? "Because hot chicks hate him too."

"What could be more un-American than that election-hijacking, economy-wrecking, war-mongering chimp George W. Bush?" the group asks on its website. "What could be more All-American than thirteen beautiful young women, exercising their first amendment right to thumb their nose at our bozo president?"

The result is the Official Babes Against Bush Regime Change Calendar, which counts off the number of days remaining until "the moving vans pull up to the White House." Lavishly produced in glossy color, each of the thirteen months' pages feature one anti-Bush babe as well as well-informed facts and figures detailing the failures and lies of the Bush Administration.

It's only $11.00! Click here to buy a copy.

There are also numerous good Bush books out there currently, even beyond the deservedly best-selling troika of Michael Moore, Molly Ivins and Al Franken.

Nation Books' new release The Bush Hater's Handbook: A Guide to the Most Appalling Presidency of the Past 100 Years is a great gift for anyone looking to arm themselves with useful talking points on the Bush Administration as we head into the presidential season. It's also a concise, entertaining read arranged alphabetically by topic.

Nation Washington editor David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception, recently released by Crown Publishers, offers a full account of the falsehoods, fibs and fabrications of the Bush presidency to date. This fact-driven journalistic account is a scorching indictment of a man who claimed he would "restore" honesty to the Oval Office.

The Bush Administration did more than lie in the rush to war with Iraq: the pattern of obfuscation, misstatement and half-retraction amounted to a calculated entrapment of the American people.

A new book co-written by Nation contributing editor Robert Scheer, his son and Alternet editor Christopher Scheer, and Alternet senior editor Lakshmi Chaudhry offers the first analysis of this pattern of deception, underscoring that the move to war was a highly managed marketing campaign conducted by a small group of influential extremists inside the Bush Administration.

The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq is an insightful primer exposing the mendacious misinformation campaign George Bush's White House used to secure the support of Congress, the media and a majority of Americans for a preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq.

A new documentary film offers far more proof, if any were still necessary, that the Bush Administration's extremism is severely compromising America's national security interests. Featuringnever-before-seen interviews with more than twenty national security experts--including former Ambassador Joe Wilson; ex-CIA chief Stansfield Turner; weapons inspector David Albright; CIA operative Robert Baer and The Nation's own David Corn--Uncovered is a compelling call to action.

Click here to purchase a DVD. It's only $14.95, including shipping and handling. Putting this film on America's radar is a strong step toward fostering regime change in the United States in 2004.

Finally, make sure to check out The Nation's New Online Shop. Given the rush on our antiwar buttons and anti-Bush apparel this past year, we've developed a full catalogue of new Nation merchandise. All clothing is union-made, ideal for gifts, and can be purchased online in just a few minutes.

The Highlights:

Block Bush Shirts and Posters.

Alfred W. Bush Shirts and Posters.

Antiwar/Anti-Bush Buttons and Bumper Stickers.

(We've also found twenty-five different sites selling anti-Bush bumper stickers and fifty-three hawking t-shirts.)

Happy Holidays!

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