Your Guide to Meaningful Action
When people across the country visit many of their favorite sites today, they will be greeted by the “spinning wheel of death” that every frustrated Internet user knows as the sign of a slow connection. It isn’t because their computers are broken; it’s because a coalition of organizations including Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, Free Press Action Fund, Reddit, Netflix and The Nation have banded together for today’s “Internet Slowdown.” All over the web, sites are giving readers a taste of what it could feel like if big cable companies have their way and net neutrality is undermined.
If that happens, it could suddenly become much more difficult to visit under-funded start-ups, nonprofits or independent media outlets like The Nation—basically any site that doesn’t have the extra funds to pay for “fast-lane” service. Instead of the freewheeling, dynamic place we know it to be, the Internet would become more like cable television, with giant corporations essentially choosing what you can and can’t see.
The Federal Communications Commission will be accepting public comments on net neutrality until September 15. Use our advocacy tool to demand that the FCC stand up for real net neutrality. The FCC is particularly interested in personal messages, so be sure to add your thoughts on what net neutrality means to you as a business owner, student, activist or any other Internet user.
In the fight for net neutrality, we’re up against some powerful players. Earlier in August, Lee Fang reported on the censorship of his reporting by a telecom-industry related lobbying group.
When John Oliver pointed out the absurdity of net neutrality opponents earlier this year, thousands submitted comments on the FCC’s website, temporarily causing it to crash.
Earlier this year, The Nation joined a campaign with Green America and China Labor Watch to call on Apple to protect workers in its supplier factories from dangerous chemicals. Just five months after we launched, we had good news to report, when the technology giant announced that it would ban the use of benzene and n-hexane in its final assembly factories.
While a step in the right direction, Apple’s announcement failed to address all of our concerns. Since final assembly factories only represent a fraction of Apple suppliers, the change left many workers vulnerable. Furthermore, according to a recently released report from our friends at Green America and China Labor Watch, when it comes to safety and labor rights, Apple may have a long way to go.
In their investigation of an Apple supplier factory owned by Catcher Technology in Suqian, China, Green American and China Labor Watch found mandatory yet unpaid overtime, the presence of flammable aluminum-magnesium alloy dust, a lack of proper ventilation and locked fire exits and windows that could trap workers in the event of a fire or other emergency. The report also charges that workers were made to sign a statement confirming they participated in safety training—despite the fact that they never actually did.
For its part, Apple claimed that its own inspection had found the factory in need of changes and said that a team would be dispatched to investigate. China Labor Watch had already shared the results from a similar investigation privately with Apple in 2013. According to the advocacy organization, little has changed in the past year and conditions in the factory may actually be getting worse.
Head to Green America’s website to check out Green America and China Labor Watch’s full twenty-five-page report.
Released shortly before our campaign, Heather White’s film Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics, tells the stories of workers in China who struggle for recognition and compensation after discovering that they have been poisoned by toxic chemicals at their jobs.
Late this summer, the world’s eyes were on Ferguson, Missouri, as the killing of Michael Brown and the occupation of his community by a militarized police force shed light on our country’s long history of police brutality against people of color. For many, the events in Ferguson were eye-opening. But as Mychal Denzel Smith illustrates in our recent issue on racial justice, young people of color across the country had already been fighting policy brutality, racial profiling and a host of other issues that have a disproportionate effect on people of color. We reached out to some of these groups to find the best ways readers can help. From making a donation to watching a video to sharing your own story, here are six ways you can support young people at the forefront of the fight for racial justice.
1) Formed in 2012 in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the Dream Defenders aim to “develop the next generation of radical leaders to realize and exercise our independent collective power” and have been active in advocating for an end to police brutality and the criminalization of communities of color, among other issues. Watch and share their latest video, which outlines their demands on our national government for their #HandsUp Don’t Shoot campaign.
2) One of the ways the Dream Defenders are aiming to effect change is by developing power at the ballot box. Donate to help fund organizing to support their “Bloc Is Ours” voter engagement program.
3) The Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) is a national organization of 10-to-35-year-old black activists dedicated to “creating freedom and justice for our people using a Black queer feminist lens.” Donate to support their membership base building and to help them train, mobilize and organize young black activists across the nation.
4) Every day, countless black youth across the country experience racial profiling by the police. Few of those stories make the national news. Share and, if you are a young black person between the ages of thirteen and thirty-five, add your own video to BYP100’s #CriminalizedLives campaign to “amplify the stories of youth who have been racially profiled and abused by law enforcement.” On top of collecting and sharing the stories, BYP100 uses the submissions to inform their campaign work on the ground.
5) With their 50,000 plus members, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justiceworks to empower young people of color and fights to protect them from racial profiling and senseless gun violence. In 2012, the organization mobilized to help with the collection of 2 million signatures for a petition created by Howard University students demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman. Since then, it has organized rallies, built new platforms and tools, and educated the public about violence against people of color. Going forward, the group plans on deepening its membership in local communities and developing campaigns to “raise the profiles of victims of gun violence and racial profiling.” Donate to help them make that happen.
6)The Million Hoodies Movement for Justice launched the community platform The Frequency to give its members a place to exchange ideas, artwork, photos, videos and writing. Spread the word about this innovative community platform (or add your own work!) and keep up with the Million Hoodies Movement on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
When residents of Ferguson, Missouri, took to the streets to protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, they were met with assault weapons, armored vehicles, tear gas and police decked out in full riot-gear. A community already suffering the loss of one of its own found their town occupied by what appeared to be a paramilitary force.
If the police looked ready to fight a war, it’s because that’s what their equipment was designed for. Much of it came courtesy of the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which sends “surplus military equipment” to police departments. Since 1033 was introduced in the late 1990s, the federal government has sent $4.3 billion worth of military hardware to local and state police forces. The program has a particularly brutal effect on communities of color, as it is used primarily to execute the disastrous and racist “war on drugs.” While the images in Ferguson have just recently become familiar to many, police have long used SWAT teams outfitted in military gear to serve warrants for arrests for minor drug crimes, terrorizing whole communities and sometimes injuring or even killing people in the process.
This fall when Congress is back in session, Representative Hank Johnson will introduce the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which would end the federal government’s policy of sending military equipment to local communities. Write to your representatives and demand that they fight to end the militarization of the police. Then, to help people in Ferguson right now, donate to one of a number of worthy causes: you can help the Brown family collect the funds needed to pursue justice for their son, contribute to the bail or legal fees of protesters who have been arrested or pay for food for children of Ferguson who may go hungry while school remains canceled. There’s also a campaign to fund independent journalistic coverage of what is happening on the ground in Ferguson and CREDO is raising funds to keep up the progressive livestream it has launched with WeActRadio. You can also call the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office and demand that he take action against Officer Darren Wilson. (The good folks at Bolder Giving compiled much of this information on an excellent resource page.)
At The Nation, Alex S. Vitale argues that at the root of militarized policing is “a cynical politics of race that has perverted criminal justice policies” that focuses on “the management of poor and non-white populations through ever-more-punitive practices.”
While it is crucial that we demilitarize the police, law enforcement doesn’t need tanks and body armor to terrorize communities of color. On her show on MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry reminds us how familiar Michael Brown’s story is, as she gives voice to nine black men recently gunned down by police officers and points out that between 2006 and 2013, white police officers killed a black person at least two times a week.
We all pay our taxes. Why shouldn’t multibillion-dollar corporations? Thanks to corporate inversions, many highly profitable companies are stiffing the United States government of billions of dollars that could be used to fund vital social programs. By buying a foreign company and reincorporating overseas, these corporations are able to avoid US taxes even while they enjoy the benefits of keeping much of their operations located here. The practice is getting more popular; currently, more than a dozen countries are plotting to change their address.
Because politicians depend on these same tax dodgers for their campaign funds, Congress isn’t going to do anything about this problem. But President Obama has promised to do so. We need to demand that he take the strongest action possible to stop these corporate deserters. Tell the president to sign an executive order that prevents corporations from deserting America by pretending to be located offshore.
In her column for The Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel explains the politics surrounding corporate inversions and argues that we must address the “underlying disease” that ultimately allows so many powerful corporations to avoid paying their fair share.
On The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert lays out the absurdity of corporate inversions: “It’s like me adopting an African child, then claiming myself as his dependent.”
Earlier this month, The Nation partnered with Know Your IX, a national survivor-run campaign to fight campus sexual violence. Together we called on Congress to give the Department of Education the tools to hold colleges accountable for their treatment of sexual assault. This morning, a group of senators introduced a bill that would do just that.
Title IX is famous for its impact on women’s sports, but the law also requires schools to protect students from gender-based violence. Our campaign asked Congress to give the DOE the authority to impose fines on schools that violate students’ Title IX rights by not protecting them from sexual violence. The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights has never once sanctioned a school for sexual assault-related violations. Part of the reason is that the current option at their disposal, the full removal of federal funds, is too onerous. Senator McCaskill called it an “idle threat” that is “like having no penalty.”
Between the petition hosted at The Nation and another at Change.org, we collected over 11,000 names in favor of the change. Along with lending their support to the campaign, many shared their stories with us, and the reasons they were demanding reform. A number of supporters said they lacked faith in institutions’ treatment of victims; one woman wrote, “My daughter was raped going down to the ladies room at night while studying in the campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She never even told me until years later. She thought no one would do anything about it.” Another commented, “I graduated college in 1983. This was an issue then. Why has nothing been done in thirty-one years?”
Called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill and Republicans Marco Rubio and Dean Heller. Wagatwe Wanjuki, a member of Know Your IX, spoke at the press conference, as did other survivors and advocates. In addition to fines, the bill would require schools to make public the results of annual anonymous surveys on sexual assault on their campuses, ensure minimum training standards for staff handling sexual assault complaints and require colleges to implement uniform procedures for handling complaints, forbidding them from allowing subgroups, such as athletic departments, to handle accusations for their group alone.
Members of Know Your IX see the legislation as an important step forward in holding colleges accountable for their treatment of sexual assault. “We’re glad to see this bipartisan effort, rooted in students’ experiences on the ground and their recommendations, moving forward,” they said. “It’s a promising step toward building campuses that are safe for students of all genders.”
It’s been nearly two months since the Federal Communications Commission announced new rules that could destroy net neutrality, and the fight to preserve the open Internet is heating up. Earlier this month, Color of Change (COC), an organization devoted to strengthening the political voice of black Americans, took aim at ten members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for being on the wrong side of the fight. The representatives—who COC points out have taken large amounts of money from the telecom industry—signed a letter attacking one of the key steps needed to protect net neutrality: reclassifying Internet service as a public utility. In a petition directed at the ten representatives, Color of Change stressed the high stakes of the campaign:
By signing a letter attacking the FCC’s proposal to protect net neutrality by reclassifying Internet service as a public utility, you are assisting big phone and cable companies in threatening the Internet as we know it. You have taken thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the telecom industry, and now you are putting the telecom lobby’s agenda above the interests of your constituents and of Black America. Your actions threaten both the Black voice in national and international discourse, and the moral authority of the Congressional Black Caucus as an advocate for Black America.
Sign Color of Change’s petition to members of the Congressional Black Caucus calling on them to fight to protect the open Internet.
The need to reclassify Internet service as a public utility became all the more apparent after an appeals court ruled early this year that, under the current classification, the FCC could not enforce its Open Internet Order to preserve net neutrality. At The Root, Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson broke down the implications of that decision for communities of color.
In a bit that famously sent so many viewers to the FCC’s website that it crashed, John Oliver hilariously explains the debate over net neutrality.
Editor’s Note: We’re excited to be partnering with Know Your IX to demand appropriate consequences for colleges that fail to address sexual assault and rape on their campuses. We’re publishing this piece by Alexandra Brodsky and Dana Bolger of Know Your IX to give our readers a chance to find out more about this vital campaign.
Last July, members of Know Your IX were busy preparing for our national protest to pressure the Department of Education to hold colleges accountable for how they handle campus sexual assault. As we put the finishing touches on posters and chant sheets, two organizers got to chatting about school administrators. Wagatwe Wanjuki and John Kelly realized that they had both been raped at Tufts University, six years apart. Both had turned to the school for help; in both cases, the school failed to support and protect them. And both, they discovered, had felt the brunt of this institutional betrayal from the very same dean. He had been at the center of Wanjuki’s complaint half a decade before and still, as Kelly experienced firsthand in 2013, he continued to deny students not only basic respect and empathy but also their civil rights.
You’d think the university would have gotten it right by now.
Know Your IX is a national survivor-run campaign to end campus sexual violence by educating students about their Title IX rights and empowering them to hold their universities accountable for violations of the civil rights law. Many people think Title IX is just about women’s sports, but in fact it prohibits all forms of gender discrimination in education, including sexual violence and harassment. As part of their Title IX responsibilities, schools that receive any federal funding must actively combat gender-based violence and respond when students of any gender are harmed. When they don’t, they deny survivors access to the full range of educational opportunities available to their peers: as many survivors can attest, it’s impossible to pursue a full range of educational opportunities when you’re studying, eating and sleeping on the same campus as your rapist.
Yet despite the promise of Title IX, student survivors’ experiences—and federal complaints—indicate that few schools respect students’ rights.
Sexual assault on college campuses has dominated the news as of late, as outlets from The Nation to The New York Times examine the crisis and United States senators hold roundtables and hearings to discuss it. The current national outcry over campus sexual violence may be new, but the violence itself isn’t—and the Department of Education knows that. This isn’t the first time that many of the schools currently under investigation for Title IX violations by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights are facing scrutiny. The OCR has investigated several universities, including Tufts, multiple times in the last decade alone.
Fortunately, the federal government is beginning to recognize what students have known for too long: investigations alone won’t spur schools to make real changes. We’re heartened by the department’s new efforts to give Title IX teeth. For example, in response to student demonstrations like our protest last year, this spring the OCR published a list of the dozens of colleges and universities currently under investigation for Title IX violations—an unprecedented move on the agency’s part and an important first step to hit universities where it hurts: their reputations.
But we can’t stop there. A major reason Title IX hasn’t been effective in ending campus sexual violence is that school administrators know the Department of Education doesn’t hold schools accountable for violating the law: in its entire history, the OCR has never sanctioned a school for sexual assault-related violations. Instead, even when the government exposes terrible abuses, it gives schools second (and third, and fourth) chances to improve—with devastating consequences for students like John, who suffer assaults at schools where students have been complaining about policies and administrators for years. Just as campus rapists have perpetrated violence while confident their schools will never hold them accountable, so too do universities flout their legal responsibilities without fear of repercussions.
This needs to change. Unfortunately, the OCR has only one tool expressly at its disposal to sanction schools: the complete removal of federal funds. This measure is far too blunt an instrument, and would hurt the very students it means to help by drying up financial aid and educational opportunities—perhaps why, in part, the department has been reluctant to issue formal findings of noncompliance in the first place.
That’s why Know Your IX and our partners ask that Congress provide the OCR with the explicit authority to levy fines against schools in violation of Title IX. These sanctions would send a clear message to schools (and the country) that their institutional violence and civil rights violations won’t be tolerated. While the fines alone might not convince a school to change—and while they should not be so onerous that they harm current students—the resulting headlines, read by prospective students and alumni donors across the country, will be unambiguous; in the prestige game of American academia, a rape fine would deal a deep blow.
We wish we lived in a country where we could appeal to schools’ moral compasses—but US colleges and universities have proven time and again that they won’t take sexual violence, and equal access to education for all students, seriously, until they have more at stake. We need to speak to them in the twin languages they understand: money and reputation. Armed with the power to levy fines, the OCR could ensure that it is more expensive for schools to violate survivors’ rights than to respect them.
Now is our opportunity. Senators Claire McCaskill, Kirsten Gillibrand and Richard Blumenthal are looking to introduce legislation this fall to combat campus sexual violence. They know, as we do, that the OCR needs more tools at its disposal. And they’ve already held a series of roundtables to discuss, among other reforms, the possibility of issuing legislation granting the OCR fining authority. Join Know Your IX and The Nation in calling on Congress to fight to make Title IX’s forty-two-year-old promise a reality.
In the early 1940s, faced with the destruction wrought by the Great Depression and a brewing world war, the United States government established the Victory Bonds program. Through the creation of affordable government-backed bonds, the program gave Americans of modest means the chance to invest in their country during crises that called for immediate action.
Today, the fight against climate change demands that same urgency. That’s why The Nation is joining Green America in calling on Congress to pass a bill creating Clean Energy Victory Bonds (CEVB).
Backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, CEVBs will allow any American to invest as little as $25. Advocates for the bill expect the sale of the bonds to raise up to $50 billion, which will then leverage an additional $100 billion from private and public investors. The money raised would fund essential tax credits to renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as companies specializing in energy-efficiency. These investments have the potential to lessen the demand for fossil fuels, reduce the amount of CO2 poured into the atmosphere, and create one million good US jobs.
Truly addressing climate change cannot happen just through investments in clean energy; as Chris Hayes pointed out in an essay for The Nation this spring, we can only avert planetary disaster if we leave destructive sources of energy in the ground—and if we force fossil fuel companies to forgo trillions of dollars in profits.
Earlier this spring, members of the Yes Men joined with indigenous activists to demonstrate what a truly bold energy policy would look like. Posing as US government officials, they spoke at the Homeland Security Congress, announcing a plan to convert the United States to one-hundred percent renewable energy by 2030. The activists then went on Democracy Now! to discuss their prank.
As Iraq suffers again from bloody sectarian conflict and potential civil war, many of the same pundits and politicians who supported the US invasion in 2003 are now advocating for military intervention once again. This is the wrong response. As Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote in her column for The Washington Post, “We learned in 2003 that when we move in with guns blazing, we tend to spark a lot more fires than we extinguish. In 2014, we cannot afford to learn this same lesson.”
There have been numerous reports that President Obama is considering military involvement in Iraq. Even if limited to airstrikes, military action would inflame sectarian divisions in the country and that would almost certainly kill civilians.
Join The Nation, RootsAction and Iraq Veterans Against the War in calling on President Obama to refrain from using militarily force in Iraq.
The Editors at The Nation make the case against military intervention.
At Democracy Now!, Iraqi-American blogger Raed Jarrar discussed the history of US intervention in the region and explained how military force would only make the deteriorating situation worse.