Your Guide to Meaningful Action
While President Obama used his State of the Union address this year to champion progressive policies like free community college, raising taxes on the rich and expanding access to childcare, one of his proposals threatens to seriously harm American workers
The president asked for “fast track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a secretive trade deal that advocates have called “NAFTA on steroids.” After twenty years of NAFTA, it’s clear what these trade agreements do: they push jobs overseas, weaken food- and consumer-safety standards, circumvent environmental laws, restrict Internet freedom and roll back financial protections. The TPP would even empower corporations to sue governments over alleged loss of profits.
Fast- track authority would allow the president to sign the TPP before Congress has voted to approve it, and then railroad the deal through Congress in only ninety days with limited debate and no amendments allowed.
This is a fight we can win. As George Zornick points out, only a handful of Democrats reacted positively to President Obama’s push for the TPP, and a number of members are speaking out against it.
From increasing drug costs to harming the environment to undermining labor protections, this video breaks down the danger of passing “the dirtiest deal you’ve never heard of.”
The US, our allies, and Iran are once again at the negotiating table working out a comprehensive agreement that could prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and help avert a disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. But while they work, hawks in the Senate are threatening to introduce new sanctions that could sabotage these crucial negotiations.
Around this time last year, after thousands of people contacted Congress, Senator Harry Reid decided not to bring a similar bill up for a vote. But with the Republicans in power and with the possibility that enough Democrats could join them to form a veto-proof majority, it is even more crucial that we speak up now.
Sign and send the petition from The Nation and a broad coalition telling your senators: No new sanctions on Iran. Let diplomacy work.
In an investigation published by The Nation this summer, Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib look into the big money behind the hawks pushing confrontation with Iran.
In late October, Democracy Now! spoke to Robert Kelly, who was part of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s team in Iraq in the nineties and early two-thousands, about his fear that the United States could once again use bad intelligence to start a war in the Middle East: “I learned firsthand how withholding facts can lead to bloodshed.”
Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling will soon go on trial for providing classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a CIA operation that provided flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000.
The charges in the case are unproven. But no one disputes that Sterling told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers about the plan, dubbed Operation Merlin. According to Risen’s book, the operation was ill conceived and dangerous; rather than slow down nuclear proliferation, the CIA risked making it worse.
Furthermore, the legal pursuit of Sterling smacks of selective prosecution. When it suits their purposes, top officials often leak information that is “classified.” As The New York Times wrote: “The government hates leaks of classified information. Except when it doesn’t.”
As Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler argued in a piece for The Nation, the prosecution of Sterling is emblematic of the Obama administration’s approach to national security leaks in general. The Obama justice department has charged more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined—moving the US government toward what Solomon and Wheeler call the “uninformed consent of the governed.”
In late December, Democracy Now!’s Juan González spoke with Marcy Wheeler about the trial and its significance for press freedom in the United States.
Carrying a heavy white box with the signatures of more than 165,000 Americans, Carissa Miller led a handful of fellow transparency and civil-liberties advocates into Democratic Senator Mark Udall’s office in Washington on December 4 to urge him to disclose the full extent of what the Senate has learned about torture by the Central Intelligence Agency during the Bush administration.
“We came here to show our support for Senator Udall releasing the entire CIA torture report,” said Miller, a campaigns assistant for the political website Daily Kos. “We want him to know we appreciate that and look forward to him taking that step.”
The petition—which was sponsored by thirteen organizations, including NationAction (the activism arm of The Nation), Daily Kos and Demand Progress—comes amid rising criticism of how little the government appears ready to disclose about Bush-era torture.
Despite disputes between senators and the intelligence agency, a redacted version of the torture report, which the Senate Intelligence Committee began preparing in 2009, is expected to come out early next week, as reported by Reuters. But activists question whether the document will actually see the light of day and consider the redacted version insufficient.
“We have heard that before,” said Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, one of the organizations pushing for disclosure. “The report, at this point, remains secret.”
Udall is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee but lost his seat in the November elections. Udall has told the media he’s considering making the information public under the "Speech or Debate Clause” of the US Constitution. The privilege allows lawmakers to read classified documents into the congressional record and was used in the 1970s by Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska to release the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War.
“As the only member of the intelligence committee with a modicum of independence and nothing to fear from the agencies he’s overseeing,” Buttar said, “he is in a unique position to…disclose to the public the most sensitive intelligence document in his generation.”
Upon entering office, President Barack Obama signed an executive action banning torture as an interrogation method. But the notion of torture as a legitimate information-gathering means to address national-security threads must be eradicated, activists say.
“There will be other Administrations, and there will be other emergencies,” said Greg Thielmann, a former senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee who visited Udall’s office to support the petition. “And it’s very important to help people learn the right lessons from the torture that occurred during the decade that followed 9/11 in order to prevent recurrence.”
For her part, Miller, the Daily Kos campaigns assistant, says the full original torture report needs to come out to hold people accountable. “Names,” she said. “The reason that’s important that the entire 6,000-page report comes out is names.”
Back in April, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted overwhelmingly to release its report detailing widespread torture of prisoners—and possible CIA lying to Congress—during the Bush administration. Seven months later, the public has yet to see it. While the White House continues to stonewall Congress and insist on redactions, time is running out before Republicans, who are far less likely to insist on transparency, take power.
But there’s another way—and before the end of the year, we have a rare chance to make it happen.
Transparency and civil liberties advocates are calling on outgoing Senator Mark Udall to use his powers under the Constitution’s “Speech and Debate Clause” to read the entire report into the public record. Under the clause, which Senator Mike Gravel used to release the Pentagon Papers in 1971, members of Congress have an absolute right to free speech and can enter classified reports into the public record without fear of prosecution.
When Senator Udall leaves office this January, we will lose an important advocate for privacy and accountability from our increasingly secretive government. But, as The Nation’s John Nichols points out, by releasing the torture report into the public record, the outgoing Senator has a chance to “shake up the whole debate about how US intelligence agencies operate—and about the secrecy surrounding those operations.”
Join The Nation, Win Without War, Daily Kos and a host of other organizations in calling on outgoing Senator Mark Udall to read the “torture report” into the Congressional Record.
Thanks in large part to the leaks provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we now know more about the disturbing expansion of government powers under the guise of national security, and better understand the critical need for more transparency and accountability. Earlier this month, The Nation’s editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen sat down with Snowden for a wide-ranging interview that covered, among other topics, the surveillance state, the American political system and the price he has paid for his understanding of patriotism.
When the Senate Intelligence Committee voted back in April to release their report, Stephen Colbert summed up the attitude of much of the political establishment toward this shameful chapter in our history: “Some people thought it was right, some people thought it was wrong. Let’s meet in the middle and never discuss it again.”
As the country recovers from the midterm elections, the FCC is nearing a decision that could dramatically transform the Internet. The good news is that the 4 million comments submitted to the FCC on net neutrality, a record number, have made an impact: the FCC has abandoned the undemocratic, corporate-championed proposal on net neutrality the agency announced in May.
The bad news is that the FCC is reportedly considering a “hybrid” plan that could still leave us with exactly what we don’t want: fast lanes for the 1 percent and slow lanes for everybody else.
Advocates for net neutrality agree: the only way to truly protect Internet freedom is by reclassifying broadband under the Communications Act. Only then will the FCC have the tools to prevent giant cable companies from running roughshod over the freewheeling, dynamic Internet we’ve come to rely on.
Write to the FCC and demand that the agency protect real net neutrality. To amplify your call, use Fight for the Future’s tool to call the FCC directly.
In an article at TechDirt.com, Mike Masnick breaks down the “hybrid” plan as reported by The Wall Street Journal and explains why just about everyone hates it.
As the FCC nears its decision, it’s worth revisting one of the biggest moments in this year’s fight for net neutrality. Back in June, when John Oliver pointed out the absurd arguments made by net neutrality opponents, he prompted thousands to submit comments on the FCC’s website, temporarily causing it to crash.
Nearly 90 percent of Americans think that there is too much corporate money in politics. With numbers like that, you would think it would be easy to pass legislation to roll back Citizens United and end the flood of out-of-control corporate spending that has poisoned our elections. That has been far from the case. Just this fall, Senate Republicans blocked an attempt to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens decision.
In the face of this federal inaction, Maryland could pass an exemplary bill next year that would make a real difference. This January, State Senator Jamie Raskin will introduce the Shareholders United Act, legislation that would require corporations to post all political contributions on their websites within forty-eight hours and would forbid corporations from spending on political campaigns and candidates unless they are able to prove that the contribution reflects the “majority will” of their shareholders. Crucially, if the majority of the corporation’s shares are held by institutional investors that cannot take political positions—this includes pension and retirement funds, insurance companies, universities and non-profits—that corporation would be forbidden from donating to political campaigns. Because the majority of shares of Fortune 500 companies are owned by institutional investors, this provision would seriously hamper the ability of corporations to disproportionately influence popular elections.
Join our campaign with RootsAction and Free Speech for People and call on your state lawmakers to pass their own Shareholders United Act.
In The Washington Post, Raskin breaks down his reasoning for introducing the Shareholders United Act and explains his plans for the bill in Maryland.
Early this year, Move to Amend, an organization that fights for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, released their mini-documentary, Legalize Democracy, about the history of the movement and its importance. Watch the trailer and then find the full movie on YouTube.
This fall, we’ve partnered with the ACLU and Brave New Films to launch OverCriminalized, a video series highlighting the many social problems that we surprisingly expect the criminal justice system to solve. Focusing on mental illness, housing and drug dependency, the series sheds light on the damage done when we criminalize social problems and profiles innovative solutions that have proven to be far more effective than throwing people in jail.
In our video on mental illness, we look at Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), a program that teaches police officers to safely and effectively interact with someone struggling with a mental-health crisis. Growing in popularity, CITs have proven effective in cutting down on police violence and arrests of mentally ill people, while making it easier for people undergoing a mental-health crisis to get medical help.
While we fight to reform policing practices in our cities through programs like CITs, we can also make change on the national level. A new bill being considered by Congress, the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act, puts the focus of mental health reform where it belongs: on the gaps in community-based services that cause many thousands of people with serious mental illnesses to experience crises, become homeless or endure needless institutionalization or incarceration. It would also increase funding to train police officers in how best to respond to mental health crises and includes provisions that recognize the importance of protecting the civil rights of those struggling with mental illness.
Sign our petition to Congress calling for passage of the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act. And if you’d like to begin a campaign to fight mass criminalization in your city, check out our action guide for hosting your own screening of OverCriminalized.
In an article to accompany OverCriminalized, Agnes Radomski looks into the fight for Crisis Intervention Teams in New York City. And in his piece introducing the project, Mychal Denzel Smith writes that the series “focuses on the people who find themselves being trafficked through this nation’s criminal justice system with little regard for their humanity and zero prospects for actual justice. They are the victims of an unwillingness to invest in solving major social problems, and the consequent handing off of that responsibility to the police, the courts and the prisons. They are the mentally ill, the homeless and the drug addicted. Sometimes they are all three.”
Our video on the criminalization of mental illness looks at San Antonio’s CIT program and the difference it has made in the lives of the mentally ill of that city.
We must not forget the murder of Michael Brown and the violent police crackdown on the community of Ferguson, Missouri. While the story was unique in the attention it received, it shed light on a national problem: our police are systematically targeting people of color, are alarmingly quick to use lethal force and are alienating communities by using equipment more appropriate to a war zone.
The history of racist and abusive policing in the United States is long and the numbers are stark. According to the latest study compiled by the FBI, in the seven years leading up to 2012, one black person was killed by a police officer at least twice each week.
Thanks in large part to tireless organizing—including on the part of young people of color and their allies—more people are now paying attention. It is long past time for our federal government to act. Although the Obama administration cannot singlehandedly end our country’s long history of abusive policing, the executive branch can make concrete changes and it can do so without needing the support of our recalcitrant Congress. Through executive actions and the work of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense, the administration can move us closer to ending discriminatory police tactics, holding departments accountable for systematic abuse and getting tanks, riot gear and other military equipment off our streets.
Sign our petition with ColorofChange.org, Daily Kos, the Advancement Project, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, RH Reality Check and a host of other organizations calling on the Obama administration to take definitive steps to end abusive, militarized, and biased policing targeting black and brown communities. Then, head to FergusonOctober.org to find out how you can support local activists in the upcoming “Weekend of Resistance” planned for October 10th through the 13th.
In our special issue on racial justice published earlier this year, Mychal Denzel Smith profiled young people of color organizing to fight for racial justice and to end the criminalization of black youth.
In a powerful segment filmed shortly after the death of Michael Brown, Melissa Harris-Perry named nine unarmed black men killed by police and connected their deaths to our nation’s long history of denying the humanity and civil rights of black men and women.
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.