, the new executive director of
, brought a message from his 5 million members when he met with President
at a small White House gathering for allies on February 18. “This is a moment to go big,” he said, citing daily conversations with MoveOn activists. “We understand that’s not going to be easy, but people are mobilized and willing to fight to make it happen. That’s really what I carried with me into that room,” he told The Nation, in his first interview since taking the helm of one of the country’s largest progressive organizations.
Ruben, who has organized for labor, trade and environmental groups, must take a network that has long battled bad ideas–impeaching
, invading Iraq, gutting Social Security–and adapt it to supporting and broadening the administration’s agenda. “We’re in this amazing position now where we get to fight for stuff,” he says. MoveOn’s four “core” policy areas, decided by members during December house meetings, are economic recovery, universal healthcare, climate change and ending the Iraq War. Ruben does not expect ending the war in Afghanistan, where Obama is deploying additional troops, to make the list. The “overwhelming priority” is still Iraq, he says; while his members are concerned about Afghanistan, they tend to “differ on what ought to be done about it.” ARI MELBER
BUSH ON TRIAL?
The question of how to hold
George W. Bush
and his associates accountable remains open. Proposals range from the establishment of a South African-style “truth commission” to Congressional inquiries to full-blown prosecutions. The call for prosecutions got a boost February 24 when many of the nation’s leading peace and social justice groups urged Attorney General
to “appoint a non-partisan independent Special Counsel to immediately commence a prosecutorial investigation into the most serious alleged crimes of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President
Richard B. Cheney
, the attorneys formerly employed by the Department of Justice whose memos sought to justify torture, and other former top officials of the Bush Administration.”
Signing on to the request were the
Center for Constitutional Rights
National Lawyers Guild
American Freedom Campaign
, as well as
United for Peace and Justice
Veterans for Peace
Iraq Veterans Against the War
and more than two dozen other national and regional groups. Their argument? “Our laws…require the prosecution of crimes that strong evidence suggests these individuals have committed. Both the former president and the former vice president have confessed to authorizing a torture procedure that is illegal under our law and treaty obligations. The former president has confessed to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.” Arguing that the most effective investigation can be conducted by a prosecutor, the groups make a convincing case that “an investigation should begin immediately.” JOHN NICHOLS
The Nigerian Assembly is poised to pass the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, which would make privately performed same-sex marriages punishable by up to three years in prison. It would also grant the government broad power to investigate and prosecute personal associations, targeting anyone who “witnesses, abet[s] and aids the solemnization of a same gender marriage” with up to five years in prison. Citing a link between sodomy and HIV infection, proponents of the marriage act frame it as an HIV prevention measure.
The bill “threatens basic freedoms by punishing human rights defenders who speak out for unpopular causes,” said
, Africa director of
Human Rights Watch
. HRW helped coordinate a statement against the bill signed by twenty-five civil liberties, gay rights and religious groups, including
Changing Attitude Nigeria
Legal Defense and Assistance Project
on gay rights has called for a suspension of foreign aid to the country.
While sixty-six UN members have supported the decriminalization of homosexuality, Nigeria–home to antigay Episcopalian Archbishop
— has trended the other way. Despite well-documented abuses against gays and lesbians,
, Nigeria’s minister for foreign affairs, recently denied the existence of organized gay Nigerians in testimony before a UN human rights committee: “We have no record of any group of Nigerians who have come together under the umbrella of ‘Lesbian, Gay and Transgender’ group.”
If Nigeria’s antigay campaigners get their way, Madueke’s fanciful statement may become truth. Facing violence, death threats and imprisonment in their home country, Nigerian gay rights activists have been fleeing to Britain–like
, who were granted asylum in 2008. The Rev.
, a gay pastor who organized a gay rights conference attended by more than a hundred Nigerians, also fled to Britain last year after being threatened with arrest. GABRIEL G. ARANA
THIS SEAT TAKEN?
‘s desperate attempt to cling to the seat that the official recount says he lost in November keeps getting dealt legal setbacks. The three-judge panel of Minnesota jurists reviewing Coleman’s demand that the courts overturn
‘s 225-vote win has repeatedly rejected Coleman’s request to include ballots that were rejected as illegitimate or uncountable by local election officials. So why would top Republican senators chip in $10,000 apiece to maintain Coleman’s recount fight? And why would the
Republican National Committee
transfer $250,000 to the Minnesota GOP for the same purpose?
Ideally, Senate Republicans would like to reseat Coleman. But even if their money goes to perpetuate endless legal wrangling,
and his partisan colleagues still come out ahead. As long as the seat remains vacant, the GOP is better positioned to filibuster in the Senate, where Democrats hold fifty-eight of the sixty seats needed to force a vote. Seating Franken would make it easier for the White House and Congressional Democrats to pressure individual Republican senators to cooperate, especially on critical economic issues. So, despite the fact that Minnesota is underrepresented, don’t look for Senate Republicans or the RNC to abandon Coleman’s no-hope quest anytime soon. JOHN NICHOLS