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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.

Mobilize in Sacramento

From June 23th to June 25th, the Bush Administration is hosting hundreds of government ministers and corporate reps in a Sacramento, CA summit designed to pave the way for the US agenda of "free trade", water privatization, genetic engineering and factory farming at the next WTO ministerial in Cancun, Mexico this September.

This Sacramento meeting will promote industrial models of agriculture that enrich transnational agribusiness interests while undermining the food security, food sovereignty and welfare of the impoverished and disenfranchised peoples of the global South.

In turn, California activists, recognizing the excellent educational opportunities presented by the Sacramento Ministerial on Agriculture, Science and Technology, are planning a five-day festival of diverse resistance to the Bush Administration's economic and foreign-policy agenda. Click here to see how you can join the fun, help get the word out, get to Cali cheap, and help support a future of sustainable agriculture, community democracy and ecological sanity.

And read FoodFirst's exhaustive analysis of the issues involved in the Sacramento Ministerial for background on why this fight is so important.

An Anniversary of Occupation

Today, June 5, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Israeli takeover of the West Bank and Gaza, will see peace and justice activists worldwide protesting what even Ariel Sharon has taken to calling an occupation.

Gush Shalom (translated from Hebrew, the name means "The Peace Bloc") will be one of the chief Israeli groups actively mobilizing. Describing itself as the "hard core of the Israeli peace movement," Gush Shalom has consistently advocated ideas--negotiation with the PLO, acceptance of a Palestinian state, acceptance of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, calls for Jerusalem to be established as a joint capital, insistence on dismantling of the settlements--years, sometimes decades, before the established Israeli parties and peace organizations. Check out its website for info on how you can help.

The International Solidarity Movement, a global group which sends volunteers to the occupied territories to assist Palestinains living under siege and to pay witness to the daily Israeli brutality, could also really use your support. Same for Stop US Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now! SUSTAIN is committed to supporting the Palestinian movement for justice, human rights and self-determination by building a grassroots campaign against US military aid to Israel. SUSTAIN is also helping sponsor the current Caterpillar campaign, which seeks to halt the sales of US-built Caterpillar bulldozers to the Israeli armed forces.

Little so vividly captures the brutality of occupation like the bulldozing of homes by the Israel Defense Forces using Caterpillar equipment. And the IDF soldier who killed Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old member of the ISM, while she was trying to prevent an illegal home demolition, used a Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer as his murder weapon. Click here to let Caterpillar know that it should stop profiting from murder and violence in the Occupied Territories.

And watch this space for info on a host of related groups, agencies, campaigns and publications, which we'll survey in the days ahead.

Take Back America!

The Campaign for America's Future, a broad coalition organized to revitalize a progressive agenda for the US, is staging a national conference in Washington, DC this week from June 4-6. The idea is to kick off a nationwide progressive movement, which can effectively take on the reactionary politicians now running Washington and America into the ground.

There'll be workshops, panels, seminars and informal sharing of information and resources vital to jump-starting effective opposition to the out-of-control right-wingers currently dominating all three branches of government.

Most of the Democrats vying for their party's presidential nomination--Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, Carol Mosley Braun and John Edwards--will be on hand to try to convince the assemblage that they deserve progressive support in their quest to unseat George W. Bush in the White House.

These presidential hopefuls will be joined as speakers by some of America's best legislators (Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Raul Grijalva, and Sen. Jon Corzine), as well as many folks familiar to Nation readers, including the magazine's editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, columnist Eric Alterman, Washington Correspondent John Nichols, and frequent contributors Barbara Ehrenreich, Robert Borosage, James Galbraith and Bill Moyers.

Also expected to participate are the Rev. Jesse Jackson, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Alliance for Justice executive director Nan Aron, among many others. Click here for a full list of conference speakers.

And, if you're like me and can't make it to DC mid-week, there's always CSPAN. The network plans to broadcast highlights of the three-day conference. It hasn't announced air days or times yet so check local listings as well as CSPAN's website for details. The CAF also plans to offer free, streamed versions of each and every panel on its site within a few weeks.

Profiting from War

Shortly after the US conquered Baghdad, the US Defense Intelligence Agency distributed a now famous deck of cards bearing the images of "Iraq's Most Wanted." This hit list of top Iraqi officials became a pop-cultural phenomenon, as well as a critical crutch for the US press, which virtually never reports on newly captured Baathists these days without noting their appropriate card rank among the US deck of fifty-five.

Now the Ruckus Society, a nonviolent anarchist group based in Oakland, has matched and raised the Defense Department with its own "War Profiteer" playing cards featuring fifty-three individuals and institutions in the oil, military, government, and media sectors who supported and are now profiting from the US war on Iraq. Players include three of hearts Condoleezza Rice, king of diamonds George P. Schultz, ten of clubs Vince D. Coffman, CEO of Lockheed Martin, and "wildcard" President George W. Bush.

The decks are stylish, funny and replete with good, accurate information on exactly the sort of people who are currently most responsible for the corruption of our country. And, unlike the deck produced by the US military, the Ruckus Society's pack is widely available. So order a set today.

Co-written by Jonah Engle.

Media Merger Mania

On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to relax the rules for owning American news media. Further relaxing of the rules is the absolute last thing we need unless you happen to want more Clear Channel and Fox News. Increased deregulation is sure to make it easier for the Rupert Murdochs of the world to buy up existing cable channels, radio frequencies and print publications, frequently in the same region of the country. The negative effect this sort of thing has on civic democracy is well documented.

There are a number of groups working hard to resist the drive toward further deregulation, including the Media Reform Network and the Center for Digital Democracy. (Click here for a list.) Check them out if you want to get involved in media reform. Also see Jeff Chester and Gary Larson's Twelve Step Plan for Media Democracy, which offers useful talking points and activist opportunities.

You can also contact your elected reps and tell them to preserve current media ownership rules for the sake of competition, market fairness and diversity of ideas. It'll take about ninety seconds using the Nation's new online activism kit. And, as much as they don't seem to listen, it could help make a difference.

Finally, The Nation's own John Nichols has been carefully tracking the politics at the FCC and has written numerous Nation articles on why the stakes are so high in the current battle. See five selected pieces, all by John, for background and further info.

FCC: Public Be Damned (with Robert McChesney), June 2 issue of The Nation.

I Want My BBC, May 8 (The Online Beat).

Musicians Against Media Monopolies, May 4 (The Online Beat).

The Boss Defends Dissenters, April 23 (The Online Beat).

Media Democracy's Moment (with Robert McChesney), February 24 issue of The Nation.

Put Families First All Call Day

Join Operation Strangelove on May 14

Stanley Kubrick's brilliant 1962 black comedy about politics, power and technology is one of the greatest antiwar films ever made. And, now, forty years after it was released, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb seems like a satirical time bomb, more relevant in the age of "preemption" than ever before.

In light of the film's sadly enduring significance, a new group has emerged, Operation Strangelove, which as its first major action is orchestrating nationwide showings of Dr. Strangelove on Wednesday, May 14. Screenings throughout the US--in cinemas, living rooms, schools, offices and community centers--will be followed by panel discussions/benefits, many of which will raise money for activist groups and relief organizations working in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Operation Strangelove grew out of the Lysistrata Project, which inspired more than 1,000 staged readings worldwide of Aristophanes's bawdy antiwar play this past March. The readings also raised more than $100,000 for peace and humanitarian groups like RAWA, Madre and United for Peace and Justice. Organizers are looking to top that figure with the film showings on May 14.

The largest New York City screening will be held at 7:00pm at United Artists Battery Park overlooking Ground Zero. After the movie, author, critic and Nation contributing editor John Leonard will moderate a discussion featuring people from September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, actress Janeane Garofalo, cartoonist Art Spiegelman and many others. Click here for more info.

OS's website also makes it easy for you to arrange your own screening, offering info on how to get the movie in various formats, tips on publicizing the showing, even downloadable posters and flyers.

Part of the genius of Kubrick's film is that it's possible to laugh--and laugh hard--without trivializing the deadly serious message. So, thanks to him, these mass May 14 showings offer an opportunity to have fun and find community while helping build the networks of political (and cultural) dissent crucial to resisting the Bush agenda.

The American Way of Death

The continued use of the death penalty in the United States remains an act of racial injustice as well as an inherently cruel, unusual and degrading punishment.

A report recently issued by Amnesty International confirmed the racial bias in sentencing that has been increasingly evident as capital punishment has been stepped up in a number of states, particularly Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

As AI reported, eighty percent of people executed since judicial killing resumed in 1977 were put to death for murders involving white victims, although blacks and whites are murder victims in almost equal numbers in the US. And, though African-Americans account for only 12 percent of the US population, they represent more than 40 percent of those on death row.

Even more stark: Since 1977, 200 African-Americans have been executed for the death of white victims, which is 15 times as many the number of whites put to death for killing blacks during that period even though African-Americans make up about 50 percent percent of all homicide victims.

When you consider this demonstrable racial bias along with numerous credible studies showing that capital punishment does NOT act as a deterrent to crime, it's clear that Rick Perry and the rest of the nation's governors would do well to heed the brave example of the Dallas Morning News, no liberal paper, which recently editorialized in support of a state moratorium on further executions to provide experts time to examine what the paper deems Texas's "broken system." (This comes after a year, 2002, when Texas was the only jurisdiction in the entire world to execute a juvenile offender, according to Amnesty.)

Robert Sherrill's award-winning Nation essay from 2001 makes it crystal clear why the death penalty is such a bad deal all around. Not only is it ineffective in deterring crime, more expensive than life imprisonment, and very fallible under the best of circumstances, but it's also considered barbaric in most of the rest of the world, not helping the US image abroad, and causing continued strife, even with allies, in various extradition matters.

To highlight and combat the growing use of capital punishment in America, we put together an online calendar compilation each month of prisoners slated for execution nationwide, along with an easy way to email letters requesting stays on behalf of these inmates. Time is running out for David Brewer, who is scheduled for execution in Ohio this Tuesday, unless Republican Governor Bob Taft grants a stay.

We've also compiled a list of the top ten reasons to oppose the death penalty. Write to your local paper using these talking points as ammo. Call your local talk radio show too. National polls show the tide is starting to turn with support for the death penalty dropping, even if slightly, from coast to coast. So now's the time to speak up.

And turn to both the Death Penalty Information Center and The Nation Online Directory death penalty page for a wealth of links to studies, reports, essays, articles and ways you can get involved in the fight to abolish the death penalty in the US.

Bob Scheer vs. Bill O'Reilly

There are many things that one can rightly call Los Angeles Times columnist and Nation contributing editor Robert Scheer. But "anti-American" is just not one of them. A lifelong "moderate radical," Scheer has spent decades arguing sensibly and passionately against extremism on all sides. He's also one of America's most accomplished journalists and interviewers--having interviewed every US president from Nixon to Clinton, and one of the few voices on a major op-ed page that regularly dares to speak truth to power. Animated by moral outrage, Scheer's commentary is also infused with a keen sense of what it means to be a truly patriotic citizen.

So when Bill O'Reilly uses his TV program and website to attack Scheer as a "traitor," and as "blatantly anti-American," he's distorting the truth. The taunts are a cheap way of trying to tarnish Scheer's reputation without having to rebut the merits of his arguments. Unfortunately, with his platform, when O'Reilly encourages his viewers to contact the Los Angeles Times and demand Scheer's dismissal, which he did a few weeks ago, a bunch of people do just that.

Though I'd suspect that many of these folks were misled by O'Reilly's propaganda, it's nonetheless, of course, their right to complain. And it's our obligation to respond in turn. So please be in touch with the LA Times. Click here for contact info. Let them know that you think Scheer is one of the best things about the paper, that you appreciate their balanced op-ed page, and that you think that the Scheer column which set O'Reilly off was an important expression of patriotism.

Even better, contact your local newspaper and ask them to consider carrying Scheer's syndicated weekly column (which appears on The Nation's website). Tell them it's available from Creator's Syndicate at reasonable rates. Expanding the audience of the column would go some way to redressing the awful conservative imbalance in the media today. Click here for contact info on local media nationwide, part of the Nation's activist page.

There are also two good websites striving to document, satirize and thwart O'Reilly's daily disinformation: O'ReillySucks.Com and O'Reilly Exposed. They both sponsor interesting activist campaigns, including a boycott of O'Reilly's regular advertisers.

The Hall of Fame Snubs Peace, Dissent

In a letter written on April 7, Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey announced that he was canceling a Cooperstown celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the movie Bull Durham because of actor Tim Robbins's criticism of the war on Iraq. The missive, sent to Robbins, admonished him for using his celebrity to advance his politics, for putting "our troops in danger," and for criticizing the president at a time of war.

In a sharp response, sprinkled with allusions to his love of the game of baseball, Robbins more than handled Petroskey's faulty grasp of both logic and true American values, and lamented the loss of a "weekend away from politics and war." (The Nation has published Robbins' reply in its entirety along with Petroskey's letter.)

This incident is another small but troubling example of a pattern of increasing political correctness in this country, where people are penalized more regularly and more stringently for expressing dissenting political views. And in this case, Petroskey's role is particularly hypocritical, as the New York Timespointed out, when it reminded the Hall president, a former assistant press secretary in Ronald Reagan's White House, that his own boss was not the least bit shy about using his own prominence as an actor to advance a conservative political agenda.

Major League Baseball officials quickly distanced themselves from Petroskey's decision, saying, rightly, that MLB has nothing to do with Hall of Fame events. (The Hall is a separate, non-profit entity.) Baseball sources, quoted in New York Newsday, suspect that the decision was the result of the tight Republican Party connections of Petroskey and Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark, a wealthy GOP fundraiser.

According to a Hall spokesman, who refused to give a breakdown, five thousand people have already been in touch to express either their disgust or admiration for Petroskey's action. Join the fun and let him know that you object to this crass attempt to politicize baseball, that Bull Durham is a good movie, and that he should rescind his decision to cancel the long-planned celebration of the film.

To express your opposition to Cooperstown's craven move, call 607-547-7200 (use the voicemail menu to reach Petroskey's office), fax to 607-547-2044, email to info@baseballhalloffame.org or go to the Hall of Fame website's contact page.

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