Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.
Trayvon Martin was senselessly murdered this year, a victim of gun violence and the widely criticized “Stand Your Ground” legislation that likely emboldened the teenager’s killer. In the wake of the tragedy, the tide is turning. Elected officials across the country are increasingly speaking out against Florida-style “Shoot First” laws, and many original supporters of the legislation are recanting their previous support.
Thirty years ago today, more than 1 million people, including your seventh-grade blogger, rallied in New York City’s Central Park against nuclear arms and for an end to the arms race of the cold war. It was not only the largest antinuclear demonstration but the largest political demonstration of any kind in American history. This short video documents the march and the movement that inspired it.
The next round of global talks aimed at curbing climate change, the RIO+20 conference, commences in Brazil on June 20. Drawing world leaders and thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and civil society, the conference aims to chart a path to reducing global poverty, advancing social equity and protecting the environment.
The United Nation Development Program (UNDP) has produced this short video explaining what’s going on at Rio+20, what sustainable development is all about, why it's critical to devise better measurements of the economy than GDP, why we desperately need to move away from fossil fuels if we’re going to have a chance of continuing civilization significantly into the future and how individual citizens can get involved.
Watch and share it widely!
California’s approximately 200,000 domestic workers do the jobs that make other work possible. They perform the fundamental duties of the home, including childcare, house cleaning and cooking, as well as caring for people with disabilities, the sick and the elderly. The vast majority of California’s domestic workers are women, minorities, and immigrants who are poorly paid and receive no health benefits or paid time off to care for their own families.
From coast to coast, the domestic worker industry is riddled with abuse. The largely immigrant domestic workforce is particularly vulnerable given the isolated nature of the industry, where women labor behind closed doors, out of the public eye and, frequently, off the books. Making matters worse, domestic workers are excluded from most federal labor and employment laws.
Last month in Sacramento, the California Domestic Workers Coalition, representing thousands of childcare providers, caregivers and housekeepers from around the state, along with labor and community supporters, gathered to advocate for the passage of AB 889, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would effect a significant measure of redress in the Sunshine State by eliminating discriminatory provisions in the state labor code and granting domestic workers basic rights that other California workers gain through collective bargaining. AB 889 cleared the Assembly last year and has been stalled in the Senate since late last summer. It is opposed by the AARP, nanny agencies, the California Chamber of Commerce and Disability Rights California, among other groups.
The bill’s passage would be a huge gain for California workers and a terrific example for the rest of the country. Give the campaign a boost today by adding your name to the petition. After you’ve weighed in, share this info with friends, family and your Facebook and Twitter followings!
Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, originated in the North after the Civil War to commemorate fallen Union soldiers. By the twentieth century the holiday had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.
I’ve always thought that the best way to honor the fallen is to make every effort to prevent needless deaths in the future.. That means avoiding unnecessary wars and engaging in combat only as a true last resort.
In this vein, here are my Top Ten Memorial Day Songs. The list is highly debatable; songs about war and attendant suffering cut across all musical genres. Though I proudly claim some hippie roots I’ve omitted classics like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,“ “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Imagine” and “Give Peace A Chance.” I’ve also given short shrift to an important sub-genre of heavy metal antiwar anthems like Metallica’s 1989 classic, “One,” and ignored the rich history of punk rock odes to war.
Please use the comments field below to tell me what I’ve missed.
1. Loretta Lynn, Dear Uncle Sam
2. Bill Withers, I Can’t Write Left-Handed
3. Bob Dylan, Masters of War
4. Curtis Mayfield, We Gotta Have Peace
5. Elvis Costello, What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding
6. The Jam, Little Boy Soldiers
7. Freda Payne, Bring the Boys Home
8. Bob Marley, War/No More Trouble
9. Eric Bogle, The Green Fields of France
10. Paper Lace, Billy Don’t Be a Hero
Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison launched a new piece of legislation that would repeal $113 billion of tax-breaks, handouts and subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the next ten years.
Currently, the fossil fuel industry is generously subsidized despite the fact that it’s already the most profitable business on earth! (During the first quarter of 2012, the Big Five oil companies earned a combined $33.5 billion, or $368 million per day.) It’s as if the industry is being awarded a bonus for wrecking the environment. Fossil fuels are subsidized at nearly six times the rate of renewable energy. From 2002 to 2008, the US government gave the mature fossil fuel industry over $72 billion in subsidies, while investments in the emerging renewable industry totaled $12.2 billion.
We’ll never get to renewable energy if we keep offering gobs of cash to oil, coal and gas companies to continue business as usual. The End Polluter Welfare Act would strip away these obscene subsidies.
While there have been previous legislative attempts to remove some fossil-fuel subsidies, this bill is the most comprehensive and would end all tax breaks, loopholes and federal research support for fossil fuels.
As you can imagine, the fossil fuel industry is fighting back hard, so please join Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense and 350.org, which has launched a signature drive to pressure congressional representatives, in offering public support for the End Polluter Welfare Act.
It was only a matter of time: Occupy This Album, a new collection featuring ninety-nine tracks of class-conscious music from ninety-nine artists, underscores the important role that music has played in the Occupy movement since the first days of the drum circle in Zuccotti Park.
Released this week for $9.99 by Music for Occupy, a nonprofit production company working in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, to which it is funneling all profits from the project, the album contains plenty of familiar names, like Yoko Ono, Third Eye Blind, Debbie Harry, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Yo La Tengo, Ani DiFranco, Willie Nelson, David Crosby & Graham Nash, Thievery Corporation, Immortal Technique, and, of course, Tom Morello, the musical patron saint of Occupy. All of these artists donated the tracks free of charge.
There are also numerous more obscure musicians featured, which, as Music for Occupy explains is part of the point of the album: “We look to give voices and opportunities to artists who support our vision; specifically artists who most have never been heard before, and have many troubles making it in today’s industry because their message is just not “Pop” enough. We look to team up socially conscious known and accomplished artists, with other artists that could use a light shined on them by those same artists.”
I like this tune from Matt Pless called ‘Something’s Got to Give.”
This report from RT Television details the making of the album in an interview with the project’s executive producer, Jason Samel.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement under secret negotiation between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Branded as a “trade deal” by its corporate proponents, the TPP would actually establish new corporate rights to undermine environmental and health laws, offshore millions of American jobs, flood the US with untested food products, and extend the duration of medical patents. Its expansive non-trade provisions would impose constraints on government regulation of financial firms and food safety. As the Huffington Post’s Zach Carter reported, the TPP would even ban the widely popular “Buy America” procurement policy.
Taking place this week in Dallas, Texas, TPP negotiators are talking behind closed doors with hundreds of corporate “advisors” while the public and consumer advocates are locked out. (Despite tight security, protesters affiliated with Occupy Dallas succeeded in pranking the confab with a series of stunts including replacing hundreds of rolls of toilet paper throughout the conference venue with more informative versions.)
Our friends at the venerable advocacy group Public Citizen have been working overtime to expose the talks and educate the public on how the TPP will affect each of us. With apologies to the Jackson Five, this new music video makes clear why the stakes are so high and what we can do about it.
Watch and share the video, then sign Public Citizen’s petition imploring US Trade Rep Ron Kirk to stop the secrecy and publicly release all TPP proposals. Tell him it’s a simple request and that transparency matters.
Trayvon Martin was senselessly murdered this year, a victim of gun violence and the widely criticized “Stand Your Ground” laws that likely emboldened the teenager’s killer. In the wake of her tragedy, Martin’s mother is standing up in hopes of preventing what happened to her child from ever happening again. Watch the video, heed her call, sign her card, and then add your name to this national petition demanding that all Stand Your Ground laws be repealed. (Thanks to Ilyse Hogue for alerting me to the powerful video.)
Maurice Sendak’s cultural influence was enormous. Generally considered the leading children’s book writer of the past century, his books were touchstones of youth for the generation born after 1960. His Nutshell Library was a staple of my childhood and is now savored by my children. Born in Brooklyn in 1928, the son of Polish Jewish immigrant parents, Sendak was most famous for a dozen picture books he both wrote and illustrated, most notably 1963’s Where the Wild Things Are and 1970’s In The Night Kitchen.
His books were frequently controversial, with critics complaining about the horrifying monsters in Wild Things and the nudity of the young hero of Night Kitchen, which was subjected to repeated efforts at censorship. But Sendak was undeterred, arguing that life is full of horrors and that children are not immune to the realities of loneliness and confusion.
Sendak's appearance on The Colbert Report last year shows what a treasure he was. On topics from sex to censorship to celebrity to Newt Gingrich, his cutting, common-sense sensibility makes clear why his work was so wildly popular and enduring. RIP.