Quantcast

Peter Rothberg | The Nation

  •  
Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

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.

Beyond War

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously came out against the Vietnam War shortly before he was assassinated thirty-five years ago today. His words, eloquent then, are just as relevant today:

"We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight."

Substitute "Iraq" for "Vietnam," and he could be talking about 2003. Read King's call for peace, " Beyond Vietnam ," in its entirety at MLK Online .

And read a fitting tribute from the Los Angeles Times, by David Garrow, King's Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, who insists that if King were still alive today at age 75, he'd be busy organizing mass demonstrations against war with Iraq.

The Iraq Body Count

A new website keeping a running tally of civilian deaths in the US war against Iraq is attracting a lot of traffic and attention, and, in the process, is emerging as an authoritative source of information beyond the spin of either the Bush Administration or Saddam Hussein's propaganda ministers.

The Iraq Body Count site is attracting 100,000 visitors a day, many of them journalists, who are increasingly citing the site's reporting in their own accounts. The material is critical given that no goverment, NGO or other organization is currently chronicling this information. As US General Tommy Franks has said: "We don't do body counts."

Launched this past January, IBC is run by 16 researchers, based in the United States and the United Kingdom, who closely analyze reports from a range of both corporate and independent media, including, among many others, the New York Times, Fox News, the BBC, Middle East Online and the Jordan Times.

If a death is cross-referenced in two different sources, independent of each other, they count it. And because of the inevitable discrepancies, they always calculate both minimum and maximum estimated tallies. All results are also independently reviewed and fact-checked by at least two members of the Iraq Body Count project team before publication.Click here for a thorough explanation of IBC's methodology .

The project was founded on the example of Marc Herold, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, who devised the counting methodology in October 2001, in order to monitor civilian deaths resulting from the US invasion of Afghanistan. Herold is serving as a consultant to the Iraq Body Count project.

The site's producers have also developed a JavaScript web counter that can be added to any site to show the latest fatality estimates [See an example at left]. The counter, available in varied sizes, has been adopted by about 200 other websites to date. It provides an invaluable, if grim, way to keep mindful of the human consequences of our government's war. So if you're involved in a site or have one of your own, consider adding this tool. And don't hesitate to make a donation to this non-profit effort.

Direct Action for Peace

The Cities for Peace campaign and numerous other antiwar groups are calling on US citizens to urgently picket, protest, lobby and employ nonviolent civil disobedience at federal buildings, military installations, media headquarters and city halls nationwide to petition the government to bring the war to as timely an end as possible.

The Pledge of Resistance staged a related Die-In at Rockefeller Center this morning with hundreds of chanting antiwar demonstrators lining Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and dozens more laying down in the street in a planned act of mass civil disobedience. 215 people were arrested.

Similar mass actions have been taking place across America. Eighteen people were arrested yesterday for blockading a local air force base in Madison, Wisconsin, while an action at the White House, organized by religious and peace organizations, generated over 60 arrests, two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates--Jody Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire--among them.

A few days earlier, fifty-five peace activists were arrested at the gates of the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and more than 2,150 have been arrested to date in a series of direct-action protests in SanFrancisco,which has been at the forefront of US antiwar activism.

The Pledge of Resistance is organizing similar actions coast to coast in the next week. Click here for info on how you can help.

Fighting for Peace--UPDATED

****HELP GREET BUSH IN FLORIDA****

George W. Bush is going to Florida tomorrow. Help the local progresive community give him a proper greeting. He'll be at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to rally the troops and meet with leaders of the military's Central Command. In response, there will be a Peace Rally at 10:00 am at Bayshore Blvd. and Bay-to-Bay in Tampa, Florida. For more information, please contact Penny at Reparations@aol.com or call 727-894-6997.

************************************

As the United States unleashes a brutal fusillade of bombs on Baghdad and other Iraqi cities for the third straight day, hundreds of thousands of people around the world continue to demonstrate against the US/British attack.

Yesterday, an estimated 150,000 people came out in New York City; 200,000 in London; 75,000 in San Francisco --which has been at the forefront of US antiwar activism since Thursday with 2,150 arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience; 50,000 in Lahore, Pakistan; 30,000 in Sydney; 15,000 in Calcutta; 10,000 in the Italian city of Naples, in a protest that ended at a NATO base; 2,000 in the South Korean capital, Seoul, where Buddhist monks struck giant drums at a rally; even 1,000 in Metalam, Afghanistan, the capital of Lagman province in the south.

In Spain, police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in Madrid, for the second day running. In Barcelona, police said 150,000 protested, while town hall officials, along with organizers, put the crowd at 500,000. Tens of thousands of people also hit the streets in cities in France, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Portugal, among many other European countries.

Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, a general strike closed down most businesses and mosques; in Japan, protesters rallied near a US naval base as well as outside a US air base on the southern island of Okinawa, and in the southern, mainly Muslim provinces of Thailand, there were numerous mass prayers for peace.

In the Middle East itself, the protests have been predictably far more angry and militant. Cairo, Sanaa in Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott have all seen violent, in some cases deadly, clashes between riot police and citizens enraged by what the US is doing in Iraq.

In the US, United for Peace and Justice is doing all it can to keep up the antiwar pressure. Check out the site, make a donation, and help volunteer in a UFPJ office. And, if you're in the New York area, join a UFPJ peace rally in Brooklyn this Thursday, March 27, at the residence of New York Senator Chuck Schumer to protest his pro-war stance.

The Pledge of Resistance is urgently organizing the sort of militant nonviolent direct action that has been so successful in underlining antiwar sentiment in San Francisco in recent days. Click here for info on civil disobedience and how you can participate.

Student walkouts have been frequent since the war was launched, and students around the world are at the forefront of antiwar activism. In the US, the Campus Antiwar Network is sponsoring national emergency student mobilizations on April 5, while The National Youth and Student Coalition is promoting an Emergency Campaign of Lobbying and Nonviolent Direct Action to Stop the War and Fund the Schools.

As Desmond Tutu argued in the Christian Science Monitor on Friday, it's critical to recognize and continue the historic gains of the global antiwar movement, despite the despair fostered by the reality of the conflict:

"Never in history has there been such an outpouring of resistance from average people all around the world before a war had even begun. Millions took a stand. This doctrine of moral and popular preemption must be sustained."

Urgent Antiwar Activism--UPDATED

George W. Bush has launched war with Iraq, a war that is unnecessary, unwise and illegal. In response, a wave of angry antiwar protests began to roll across Europe and the Middle East this morning. And in the US, the antiwar movement is calling for emergency actions nationwide.

United for Peace and Justice is planning vigils, rallies, walkouts and civil disobedience.

The Pledge of Resistance is staging nonviolent direct action to stop the flow of business as usual as long as the bombs continue falling.

The National Youth and Student Coalition is sponsoring a series of campus protest events beginning the morning of March 20.

The Campus Antiwar Network is asking all students to participate in an immediate student strike to protest the war, and to spend the time working on public education, lobbying and direct action activism.

International ANSWER and Not In Our Name are organizing emergency protests and calling on everyone who can to take off work in order to spend the next few days trying to convince others that stopping the war is our most urgent priority, both as US citizens and as human beings.

Then, on Saturday, March 22, United for Peace and Justice is staging a national march in New York City, starting at 42nd Street and Broadway and moving downtown through Union Square to Washington Square Park. Download and distribute flyers in English and Spanish, make a donation, and help volunteer in a United for Peace office.

Also on Saturday, the Veterans Against the Iraq War are sponsoring a teach-in and speakout at American University in Washington DC, to be quickly followed by the urgent lobbying of Congressional members on Monday. VAIW is asking all military veterans, active-duty GI's, reservists, and family members who oppose the war to attend on either Saturday or Monday, if possible both. Veterans are asked to wear their medals, ribbons, parts of their uniforms, and to bring American flags, banners, and protest signs.

Walking into War

President Bush ended an hour-long summit in the Azores today by giving the UN a deadline of 24 hours to act on a resolution authorizing war with Iraq, marking an abrupt end to six months of feverish but failing diplomacy in which world opinion grew steadily against a US invasion.

With little hope of passing a resolution, Bush signaled his intention to flout the Security Council and quickly unleash the more than 250,000 US troops currently massed near the Iraqi border.

Yesterday's global antiwar protests, which again saw millions of people worldwide come out to express outrage at Bush's plans for war, could be just a hint of opposition to come if and when war begins. Tonight, evening peace vigils are taking place around the world, starting in New Zealand and following sequentially in time zones in more than 2,800 cities in 104 countries.

Starting tomorrow, March 17, a nationwide campaign of sustained nonviolent direct action will commence in Washington, DC, along with last-ditch lobbying efforts by a host of citizen groups, organizations and individuals. And if you can't make it to DC, it can't hurt to email, fax and phone (again!) your elected reps imploring them to oppose an unnecessary war.

Then next Saturday, March 22, United for Peace and Justice is staging a national march in New York City. The city has been much more cooperative this time around, allowing a permitted march, as the organizers requested, starting at 42nd Street and Broadway and moving downtown through Union Square to Washington Square Park.

We may be at war by then, in which case it's anybody's guess how the rally will shape up. But, if US bombs are raining down, it's all the more imperative to get as many people out on the streets as possible. Download and distribute flyers in English and Spanish, make a donation, help volunteer in a United for Peace office, and watch this space for emergency antiwar actions if and when a US invasion is launched.

Resisting US Pressure for War—UPDATED

The Observer newspaper (London) reported recently that the United States is conducting a secret surveillance campaign against UN Security Council delegations as part of its battle to win votes in favor of war against Iraq. Details of the operation, which involves the interception of the telephone calls and emails of UN delegates, were revealed in a National Security Agency memo leaked to the newspaper.

Now, more than ever, it's critical to show support for those countries trying to resist US bullying, bribing and now, wiretapping. There are a number of concrete gestures you can take that may really help these nations stiffen their opposition to the proposed US/UK/Spanish UN war resolution.

If you're part of a civic, business, non-profit or community group, try to set up meetings this week with the UN missions, embassies and consulates of these non-permanent members of the UN Security Council: Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, Guinea, Cameroon and Angola. Let them know that you think that both the US's and their own country's interests will be much better served by peace than war. Remind them that the world is on their side as are many Americans as well. Check out our list of consultate offices coast to coast. There may be one much closer than you'd think.

If you can't get a quick meeting scheduled, send flowers, cards, emails and other tokens of appreciation to these nation's reps imploring them to hold firm and continue resisting the US's coercive tactics.

Click here for full contact info for consulates and missions as well as email addresses for each member of the UN Security Council. And see Coalition of the Coerced, a new report issued by the Institute for Policy Studies, for advice on drafting the most effective letters possible.

Time appears short, but after a weekend of setbacks, the US seems increasingly isolated in its efforts to rally international diplomatic and military support for war in Iraq. Bush and Co. seem poised to thwart world opinion and go at it alone, but the more we do to oppose unilateral war, the harder it'll be for them to proceed.

*****

Upcoming Antiwar Events:

On International Women's Day, March 8, Code Pink will convene thousands of people in Washington, DC for a women-led rally and march to encircle the White House.

On March 15 , a number of groups, led by International Answer , are organizing an emergency convergence at the White House

On March 22, United for Peace and Justice is planning another march in New York City, this time, hopefully, with a city permit.

Stay tuned.

Syndicate content