Your Guide to Meaningful Action
A member of the audience uses their cell phone to take a picture of President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Obama claims that he welcomes debate on the balance between privacy and security. But his administration is keeping the veil over the legal reasoning it used to justify its broad surveillance of phone calls and Internet communication. The absence of this information leaves Americans ill-equipped to even begin to determine whether or not they believe such a sweeping invasion of privacy is justified.
On Tuesday, June 11, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would require the attorney general to disclose significant opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The senators argue that the disclosure would provide Americans the information needed to understand what legal authority the government is claiming to spy on them under the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
With civil liberties hanging in the balance, this debate is critical. Contact your senators and implore them to end the “secret law” behind government surveillance.
In this recent post, John Nichols details the efforts of a bipartisan group of eight senators to require the attorney general to declassify significant FISC opinions.
National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose revelations sparked the new “secret law” bill, remains in Hong Kong after publicly admitting to leaking information on massive US government surveillance. Snowden said he intends to stay until asked to leave, and vowed to fight any extradition attempt by the US government. Snowden said: “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.”
While Walmart rakes in annual profits of more than one billion dollars, the average hourly wage of a Walmart sales associate, according to a report by IBISWorld, is just $8.81. That translates to an annual salary of $15,575, far below the federal poverty level for a family of four. On top of being unjust, Walmart’s low wages come at a high price for American taxpayers: a recent report revealed that, because the retail giant’s employees are forced to utilize government benefits to supplement their meager income, a single Walmart Supercenter could cost taxpayers from $900,000 to $1.7 million per year.
As the largest private employer in the nation, Walmart must be held accountable. Sign The Nation’s open letter to company CEO Mike Duke and the Walmart Board of Directors and demand that Walmart give its workers a raise.
In the most recent of his posts tracking Walmart, Josh Eidelson profiles the CEOs, investors and consultants converging on Bentonville, Arkansas this week where the Walmart Board of Directors will discuss the future of the retail giant.
After arriving in caravans from around the country, Walmart strikers held an action in Bentonville, on June 3 outside the Walmart headquarters.
Supporters and fast participants rally against deportations in Freehold, NJ. (Casa Freehold)
Over the last several months, The Nation has launched numerous political campaigns in support of issues central to our reporting. Starting this week, to keep up the momentum and to give our readers more opportunities to make a difference, we’ll post weekly updates covering on-the-ground activism, important developments and meaningful victories.
Led by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), day laborers, members of the immigrant community and immigrants’ rights supporters are participating in a rolling fast to “bring a moral voice to shift the immigration debate” and to pressure President Obama to suspend current deportations of undocumented immigrants while immigration reform is being debated. The fast began on May Day in Mountain View, California, and has since spread to Homestead, Florida; Freehold, New Jersey; and Portland, Oregon. Make your voice heard!
On May 23, in a now famous act of civil disobedience, antiwar activist Medea Benjamin interrupted President Obama’s speech on national defense and took him to task on his policy on drones and the prison at Guantánamo Bay. While the President surprised the nation by actually engaging with Benjamin, activists stress that his words are not enough and that they need to see more concrete action from the White House. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been at the forefront of efforts to close the prison, welcomed the president’s re-engagement with the issue, but expressed reservations over his comment that cleared men will be released “to the greatest extent possible.” The civil rights organization has instead called for the president to act immediately and to release all of the men he does not intend on granting a fair trial, including the eighty-six who have already been cleared. Join the call!
Stand Up for Domestic Workers
California is now one step closer to becoming the third state to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would grant nannies, caretakers, housecleaners and other domestic workers labor protections that many take for granted. The bill, which is similar to one vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown this past fall, was approved by the California State Assembly on May 29 and will now head to the State Senate before making it back to Governor Brown’s desk. Determined to win this time around, activists have intensified their efforts across the state, gathering support and launching creative protests. At one demonstration, domestic workers tore off marks to symbolize the invisible nature of much of their work and their intention to finally bring it out of the shadows. Add your voice to the cause!
If our elected officials are searching for a real scandal, writes Katrina vanden Heuvel this week in The Washington Post online, maybe they should start with the officer leading the Air Force’s anti–sexual assault initiative who was charged with sexual battery this month. Or the sergeant in Texas who allegedly forced a subordinate into prostitution. Or the 26,000 sexual assaults that happened in our military in the past year alone.
In the weeks since the Pentagon announced that an estimated 26,000 people were sexually assaulted in the military last year—an increase of 36 percent from 2011—three high-ranking officers charged with their branch’s sexual assault prevention program have themselves been charged with assault or harassment. The charges reflect what the numbers have already made clear: the military has been grossly negligent in creating a culture where victims of sexual assault can seek justice.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has introduced a bill that would remove responsibility for prosecuting sex crimes out of the military’s chain of command. As Senator Gillibrand said, “When any single victim of sexual assault is forced to salute her attacker, clearly our system is broken.” Implore your representatives to support the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013.
A recent Nation interview with the director and producer of The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigative documentary about the epidemic of rape within our US military, makes clear how taking the handling of sexual assault out of the chain of command would drastically improve matters.
Invisible War focuses on the powerfully emotional stories of several young women, the film reveals the systemic cover up of the crimes against them and follows their struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice
Recent reports that the Obama Justice Department obtained two months’ worth of phone records of Associated Press reporters reveal a distressing pattern of executive overreach. Even more disturbing was the disclosure that the department investigated the reporting activities of Fox News chief Washington correspondent as a potential crime—solicitation of leaks.
A bipartisan group of House members have proposed a Telephone Records Protection Act, which would require the government to obtain court approval before requesting telephone records from service providers. As The Nation’s editors wrote, this act would create a “baseline standard for protecting the privacy of every American, including the reporters, imperfect as they may be, who arm the citizenry with the power which knowledge gives.” Write your representatives now and implore them to take this vital step toward protecting Americans’ privacy and democracy.
As The Nation editorialized this week, “Prosecution of whistleblowers, dragnet seizure of phone records, the threatened criminalization of basic news-gathering—it’s dangerous for the media, and dangerous for democracy.”
After the announcement that the government had taken phone records from the Associated Press, it seemed to light a fire under normally docile White House reporters. This episode of The Young Turks breaks it down.
While companies such as Facebook and Google rely on users for content and profits, as Ari Melber explains at thenation.com, they use one-sided “Terms of Service” contracts to exclude these same content providers from negotiating control of their pictures, text and personal data.
In this Nation essay, Ari Melber, Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger team up to call on social media companies to recognize user rights: “Social media companies say consumer privacy is just the cost of doing business. But what would happen if they actually had to bargain with users on equal footing?”
This video conversation explores a recent unilateral move made by Facebook that could, according to Baker Hostetler attorney Gerald Ferguson, allow the socila media company the unfettered right to sell user data to any advertising agency Facebook has a stake in.
Activists are charging the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority with violating the civil rights of a half-million bus riders, 75 percent of them black or Latino, by cutting 1 million hours of bus service and raising monthly bus passes to $72 while giving away public funds to rail developers and contractors. Consequently, community groups are calling on President Obama to employ Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gives the executive branch of the US government the power to cut off federal funds from any agency that employs federal funding in a racist or discriminatory manner.
Join The Nation in partnership with the Labor/Community Strategy Center’s Fight for the Soul of the Cities campaign and urge the Obama administration and Congress to enforce the Civil Rights Act.
In his recent Nation essay, Eric Mann details how progressive activists can learn important lessons from a successful grassroots campaign against transit racism.
The Bus Riders Union and its allies gathered at LA City Hall on July 25, 2012 to launch their national campaign asking President Obama to restore, enforce and expand their civil rights.
In a 2012 survey by the Center for Urban Economic Development, 23 percent of domestic workers and 67 percent of live-in domestic workers interviewed earned less than minimum wage. On top of the paltry pay, though the workers reported regular abuse and violations, a full 91 percent admitted that they didn’t complain about poor working conditions for fear of losing their job. In recognition of this grim state of affairs for many low-wage workers, Hawaii recently followed New York’s lead and became the second state to pass a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, a historic law guaranteeing core rights previously denied to workers in some of the fastest growing, and most poorly-paid, occupations in the country.
Both the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Domestic Workers United are campaigning for legislation protecting domestic workers in each state nationwide. Implore your state representatives to fight for a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in your state. (If you live in New York City or Hawaii, tell your reps that you appreciate living in a state that takes care of its own.)
The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work, the first national survey of domestic workers in the US, breaks ground by providing an empirically based and representative picture of domestic employment in 21st century America.
This video, featuring domestic workers discussing their work and lives, makes clear why the human stakes are so high in this fight.
Every day in the United States, young people under the age of eighteen are held in solitary confinement, a form of punishment in which inmates are placed alone in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day with little or no human contact. The practice of solitary confinement is associated with high rates of severe mental illness and suicide and the effects are compounded in young people, who are still developing emotionally, physically and psychologically. While the growing use of the practice in our prisons is cruel and unjust for all inmates, the need to end its use among youth is particularly urgent.
Add your name to The Nation's open letter in support of a call by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the ACLU imploring Attorney General Eric Holder to ban the practice of holding young people in federal custody in solitary confinement.
This ACLU report is based on interviews and correspondence with more than 125 young people in 19 states who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18 as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states.
Young people are held in solitary confinement in jails and prisons across the US, often for weeks or months at a time. The isolation of solitary confinement causes anguish, provokes serious mental and physical health problems, and works against rehabilitation for teenagers.
On May 1, the Obama administration’s Justice Department appealed a court ruling directing the Food and Drug Administration to listen to the recommendations of its own scientists and make emergency contraception—otherwise known as Plan B or the morning after pill—available over-the-counter for all women and girls with no age restrictions. The science on emergency contraception is clear. It is safer than many painkillers and cough medicine already sold over the counter and there is ample evidence that young women are capable of taking it safely. While President Obama has spoken eloquently about the right to reproductive healthcare, his administration refuses to lift this clearly political impediment on the health and bodily autonomy of women and girls.
Sign our open letter to President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius imploring them to abide by the federal court ruling and to make emergency contraception available over the counter to women and girls of all ages with no restrictions.
In this post, Jessica Valenti cautions against letting our discomfort with teen sex trump young people’s right to reproductive health.
The politics of expanding access to ec are complicated by the many misconceptions people have about the drug. This video breaks it down.