Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Making a Difference ~ A list of helpful organizations and their websites

The nice folks at Credo put together this list of organizations that you may be interested in checking out, participating in or giving time and resources to. Pass this list along! More people, more power, more change.

There are so many ways we can all make a difference!!
Peace & International Freedom

Acción International

Provides microloans, business training and other financial services to poor men and women who start their own businesses.

Americans for Peace Now

Campaigns for a nonviolent political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Amnesty International

Takes action to prevent and end abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.

Center for Victims of Torture

Works to heal the wounds of torture on individuals, their families and their communities and to stop torture around the world.

Doctors Without Borders

Delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics or disasters in over 70 countries.

Global Fund for Children

Advances the dignity of vulnerable children and young people worldwide by supporting and strengthening grassroots groups.

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Gives a voice to the many active-duty service people and veterans who are against the war but under pressure to remain silent.

Oxfam America

Creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice.

Pathfinder International

Provides women and men throughout the developing world with access to family-planning information and services.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

Supports women’s rights activists working to create cultures of justice, equality and peace.

Environment

Alliance for Climate Protection

Works under the leadership of Al Gore to persuade people around the world to immediately address global warming.

American Rivers

Protects rivers and raises awareness that they are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Center for Biological Diversity

Advocates to secure a future for animals and plants on the brink of extinction and for the wilderness they need to survive.

Earthjustice

Serves as the law firm for the nation’s environment, litigating critical cases to block environmental destruction.

Environmental Working Group

Uses investigative skills to demonstrate the health risks of damaging environmental practices to consumers.

ForestEthics

Holds accountable those corporations that distribute and manufacture products that destroy forests.

Greenpeace

Employs nonviolent action to expose global environmental problems and encourage solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

NRDC

With the support of members and online activists, NRDC works to solve the most pressing environmental issues we face today: curbing global warming, getting toxic chemicals out of the environment, moving America beyond oil, reviving our oceans, saving wildlife and wild places, and helping China go green.

Ocean Conservancy

Promotes healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems and opposes practices that threaten ocean life and human life.

Organic Farming Research Foundation

Expands availability of organic food by supporting research on best practices in organic farming.

Sierra Club Foundation

Funds projects that promote a safe and healthy environment, clean air, clean water, open space and a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

Economic & Social Justice

America’s Second Harvest

Provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income hungry people, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.

Campaign for America’s Future

Challenges the conservative agenda through campaigns such as fighting against the privatization of Social Security.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Conducts research and analysis to inform public debates on budget and tax policy and to ensure the needs of low-income people are considered.

Corporate Accountability International

Campaigns challenging corporate control of water, tobacco industry interference in health policy, and watch-dogging corporate abuses.

Media Matters for America

Monitors, analyzes and corrects conservative disinformation in the U.S. media.

Mother Jones Investigative Fund

Produces journalism that informs and inspires a more just and democratic world.

Ms. Foundation for Women

Creates opportunities for women and girls and encourages investment in them to help them develop their voices and skills.

Physicians for a National Health Program

Engages doctors in the effort to create a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program.

Project On Government Oversight

Investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct to achieve a more accountable federal government.

United for a Fair Economy

Raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermines the economy, corrupts democracy and deepens the racial divide.

Civil Rights

Alliance for Justice

Leads efforts to block confirmation of right-wing judges.

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Campaigns to create an America free from gun violence, where all people are safe in their homes, schools, jobs and communities.

Center for Constitutional Rights

Defends the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions.

Center for National Security Studies

Works for control of the FBI and CIA and to prevent claims of national security from eroding civil liberties and constitutional procedures.

Equality Now

Documents violence and discrimination against women around the world and mobilizes action to stop these human rights abuses.

Family Violence Prevention Fund

Takes action to prevent violence in homes and communities and to help those whose lives are devastated by violence.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Promotes accurate media reporting to help eliminate discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

National Center for Lesbian Rights

Advances the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Works to end the death penalty.

Planned Parenthood

Improves women’s health, prevents unintended pregnancies and advances the right of individuals to make choices about reproductive health.

Voting Rights & Civic Participation

AlterNet

Creates original journalism and amplifies the best of independent media sources to inspire citizen action and advocacy.

Center for Independent Media

Creates independent online investigative journalism in key states where the mainstream media is failing to cover political corruption and progressive issues.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Promotes ethics and accountability in government by exposing political malfeasance and cover-ups of official corruption.

Democracia U.S.A.

Increases the participation of Hispanics in the democratic process through large scale voter registration campaigns and leadership training around progressive issues.

League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Strengthens the environmental movement’s ability to mobilize voters and advocates for sound environmental policies.

New Organizing Institute

Trains young, technology-enabled political organizers to work for progressive organizations.

Project Vote

Registers millions of Americans in low-income and minority communities to vote each year.

Rock the Vote

Engages youth in the political process by incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its voter registration and advocacy activities.

USAction Education Fund

Works to take our democracy back from the corporate elite and special interests that dominate the political process today.

Wellstone Action

Honors the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work to educate and mobilize a vast network of progressive people and organizations.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Guess Who’s Coming to the White House

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was on TCM today.  I watched again and remembered that the first time I saw it, sometime in the 80’s, interracial marriage was still shocking; something that made you look twice and perhaps judge negatively.  Watching it again now, 20 years later and 41 years after its release, it seems to me that the shift in our culture toward acceptance of interracial marriage has been phenomenal.  The year 1967, when the movie was released, was the same year the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs. Virginia, in which the court “declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924″, unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.”   It’s amazing that it took so long for those laws to be overturned, but it’s equally amazing how far our culture has progressed since then.

The messages of this film are especially significant now because of the election. Barack Obama is of mixed race, a fact that people who interpret the Old Testament literally have used against him.  Citing prohibitions that God gave the children of Israel against intermarrying, literalists view intermarriage as a sin and the children of those marriages to be “less than.”  These ideas remain with us, a legacy of racism and bigotry.  But a legacy that is dying.

In the film, Spencer Tracy stated that he thought that public opinion against interracial marriage would not change within 50 or even 100 years. Yet only 41 years later, look how far we have come.  In spite of the fact that there are still people out there who object to Obama because he is black or part black, there are many more people for whom race and mixed race is simply irrelevant.

It says a lot about our level of maturity, our ability to accept people of all nationalities, races, creeds and mixtures thereof, that Barack Obama is electable in our nation.  Not a month ago, when I told a colleague that I thought he would win, she responded “Oh no, not in this country.  We’re not ready.  There are still too many bigots.”  But today the polls say something else, projecting Barack Obama to win 351 electoral votes to John McCain’s 187.  Last week, Obama gave a speech attended by thousands in front of the St. Louis State and Federal Courthouse – a building on whose steps slaves were sold and where Dred and Harriet Scott in 1850 had their petition for freedom overturned because they were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The 158 years since that decision have brought massive changes in our human and civil rights.  It has been a long struggle, and it isn’t over yet, but is encouraging to note that in my lifetime (I’m 40) interracial marriage in this country has gone from being illegal and “wrong” to being legal and no big deal for most people.

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Our movement toward tolerance can also be viewed in our acceptance of same-sex-marriage. It’s easy to imagine the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with two fiances of the same sex instead of two fiances of different races. The same objections are raised – the problems the couple is likely to face in society, the judgment and condemnation they may receive regarding children, the objection that they have no right to marry at all.  But Spencer says it very well in the film – what matters is love.  “…because in the final analysis it doesn’t matter a damn what we think. The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel, for each other. And if it’s half of what we felt- that’s everything. As for you two and the problems you’re going to have, they seem almost unimaginable, but you’ll have no problem with me, and I think when Christina and I and your mother have some time to work on him you’ll have no problem with your father, John. But you do know, I’m sure you know, what you’re up against. There’ll be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled and the two of you will just have to ride that out, maybe every day for the rest of your lives. You could try to ignore those people, or you could feel sorry for them and for their prejudice and their bigotry and their blind hatred and stupid fears, but where necessary you’ll just have to cling tight to each other and say “screw all those people”! Anybody could make a case, a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you’re two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and happened to have a pigmentation problem, and I think that now, no matter what kind of a case some bastard could make against your getting married, there would be only one thing worse, and that would be if – knowing what you two are and knowing what you two have and knowing what you two feel- you didn’t get married.”

And to circle back to Obama, and America, we have a choice now. We can choose love or we can choose fear. We can focus on our separateness or on our unity.  Obama said, “We can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.”  Obama represents, in so many ways, that what matters is what is in our hearts and minds (not our pigment).  What matters is how we treat each other.  If we choose our better angels and focus on our more noble history, then we can make our way into a better future.

2 Comments »

Wasillans for Obama

A friend of mine said “it pisses me off to hear our hometown mentioned on NPR in relation to the frikkin Republican ticket.”  I couldn’t agree more.  So I thought I’d pitch in my two cents about Sarah Palin, her beliefs, and why she is not a representative of all Wasillans, or Alaskans, or indeed of many women or men that I personally know.

I moved to Wasilla in 1975 and lived there from first grade through high school graduation, in 1986.  We were a one high school town, and as such, everyone knew everyone.  It’s a small town, with the benefits and drawbacks that includes.  If you’d like to see the teeming metropolis (I kid) that Wasilla is today, click here. Of course not everyone in even a small town believes the same things.

From Moveon.org, here’s a list of Sarah Palin’s stand on several issues, with my comments on the other way of looking at things.

  • Palin recently said that the war in Iraq is “God’s task.” She’s even admitted she hasn’t thought about the war much-just last year she was quoted saying, “I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.” 1, 2
  • Many Wasillans, and former Wasillans, believe that “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” Many of us, even though we are very busy, are paying attention to the war in Iraq and are actively involved in promoting Peace.  We know that this has been a war that has failed.  Many of us believe in an end to all political violence, and seek actively to create a world of understanding and one in which “God” and “War” are finally and forever dissociated from each other in the lexicon of humanity.   We read extensively about current events.  Oh and we watch The Daily Show too.
  • Palin has actively sought the support of the fringe Alaska Independence Party. Six months ago, Palin told members of the group-who advocate for a vote on secession from the union-to “keep up the good work” and “wished the party luck on what she called its ‘inspiring convention.'” 3
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans feel it is ironic that someone who is married to a person in favor of Alaskan secession from the USA is hoping to become the Vice President of the USA.
  • Palin wants to teach creationism in public schools. She hasn’t made clear whether she thinks evolution is a fact.4
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans have degrees from accredited Universities, and know that evolution is a factDouglas Futuyma writes in his Evolutionary Biology book “The statement that organisms have descended with modifications from common ancestors–the historical reality of evolution–is not a theory. It is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth’s revolution about the sun.In fact, they even taught us this at Wasilla High.
  • Palin doesn’t believe that humans contribute to global warming. Speaking about climate change, she said, “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being manmade.” 5
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans have seen the film An Inconvenient Truth, and are using canvas bags and driving a Prius.  Additionally, we know from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that “this era of global warming is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin and the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence of the global climate.”  Many of us know the consequences of, and are actively trying to reduce the effects of Global Warming.
  • Palin has close ties to Big Oil. (And supports oil drilling in the ANWR and OCS) Her inauguration was even sponsored by BP. 6
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans know that human beings have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet – after all, its the only one we’ve got.  While oil is currently a needed commodity, we know that the future of energy lies in renewable resources and not in more drilling of oil, and especially not in the fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Defenders of Wildlife says, “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest wildlife refuge in the United States, encompasses 19 million acres and provides habitat to a diverse array of wildlife including millions of migratory birds, caribou, three species of bears (polar, grizzly and black bears), wolves, Dall sheep, muskoxen, arctic and red foxes, wolverines, plus many more. The nearby continental shelf provides the coastal waters with a rich nutrient base, which in turn supports a variety of marine mammals including the endangered bowhead whale.”  Sarah supports the aerial shooting of wolves and opposes placing polar bears and beluga whales on the list of endangered species, despite “overwhelming scientific evidence that such listings are warranted.”  Learn more about why it’s so important to protect Alaska’s environment.
  • Palin opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools. She’s said she will only support abstinence-only approaches. 8
  • Many Wasillans, and former Wasillans, are the beneficiaries of sex education and remained thankfully un-pregnant, even after all those Saturday nights learning about love in the back seat.  Many of us believe that sex is a normal, healthy activity, and want the children and teenagers of our society to learn about it in an age-appropriate way, enabling them to make healthy choices.  Many of us know that sex-education in schools is a good thing.
  • As mayor, Palin tried to ban books from the library. Palin asked the library how she might go about banning books because some had inappropriate language in them-shocking the librarian, Mary Ellen Baker. According to Time, “news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor.” 9
  • Book banning, Really??!?  As a former English Teacher, I can’t possibly imagine what Sarah could be thinking.  Maybe she needs to get out more.  Maybe she should read some of these books. I know I don’t want to live in a government that believes in banning books.  If a book is being challenged or banned in your community, the ALA can help you do something about it.

So, I’d like the world to know that while Sarah is from our hometown, and she is from a very nice family, she doesn’t speak for all of us.  Many Wasillans, and former Wasillans, will be voting for Obama, a man with a dream for America.  You can read his stance on the issues here.

I’d like to add that with the current media fixation on Sarah and the Republican party, (a party that induces nasty hangovers) it is easy to become fearful that they might actually win.  Do not be discouraged… focus on the good.  Hold a space in your heart and mind for Obama.  Contribute to the rise in consciousness that is happening on the planet.  Think positive!  And, read and share this article by Eve Ensler on her Palin nightmares.

8 Comments »

I Am a Constitution Voter

I Am a Constitution Voter

  • I believe that no one — including the President — is above the law.
  • I oppose all forms of torture, and I support both closing the Guantánamo Bay prison and ending indefinite detention.
  • I oppose warrantless spying.
  • I believe that government officials, no matter how high-ranking, should be held accountable for breaking the law and violating the Constitution.
  • I believe that the Constitution protects every person’s rights equally — no matter what they believe, how they live, where or if they worship, and whom they love.
  • I reject the notion that we have to tolerate violations of our most fundamental rights in the name of fighting terrorism.
  • I am deeply committed to the Constitution and expect our country’s leaders to share and act on that commitment — every day, without fail.

If you agree, click here.

Take a refreshing look at the Constitution here.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, and limits the powers of the federal government of the United States, protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors on United States territory:

  • Second Amendment: defines the right of States in keeping and maintaining militias and the right of individuals to possess firearms.
  • Third Amendment: prohibits the government from using private homes as quarters for soldiers during peacetime without the consent of the owners. The only existing case law regarding this amendment is a lower court decision in the case of Engblom v. Carey.[15]
  • Sixth Amendment: guarantees a speedy public trial for criminal offenses. It requires trial by a jury, guarantees the right to legal counsel for the accused, and guarantees that the accused may require witnesses to attend the trial and testify in the presence of the accused. It also guarantees the accused a right to know the charges against him. The Sixth Amendment has several court cases associated with it, including Powell v. Alabama, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Crawford v. Washington. In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled that the fifth amendment prohibition on forced self-incrimination and the sixth amendment clause on right to counsel were to be made known to all persons placed under arrest, and these clauses have become known as the Miranda rights.
  • Seventh Amendment: assures trial by jury in civil cases.
  • Eighth Amendment: forbids excessive bail or fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Ninth Amendment: declares that the listing of individual rights in the Constitution and Bill of Rights is not meant to be comprehensive; and that the other rights not specifically mentioned are retained elsewhere by the people.
  • Tenth Amendment: provides that powers that the Constitution does not delegate to the United States and does not prohibit the States from exercising, are “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  ~ From Wikipedia

Know your rights. Protect them by voting accordingly.

Got Hope??

1 Comment »

Thoughts on the 4th of July

I’m thankful that “The United States of America is not the same thing as the administration of George W. Bush. The good news for the forces of good is that only 24 percent of the people approve of the job he’s doing….. George Bush has to leave in January 2009 no matter what,” as John Carroll writes. Yes, I’m thankful for the fact that America is not synonymous with GWB, but I’m also deeply troubled by the damage he has done to America.

I haven’t flown my American flag since sometime in October, 2001. This is not because I don’t love America – I do. It’s not because I’m not patriotic – I am. But the flag quickly began to represent nationalism at its worst and a way of thinking that I don’t subscribe to, and I’ll be thrilled when once again, I can hang my flag and have it mean to me, to others, and to the world, what I think it should mean.

What does the flag represent? I’ve been thinking about my poor neglected flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, and why I feel reluctant about them, and here are my thoughts:

I personally pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the people who defend it

(not to its flag, which has been appropriated by Hawks)

And to the republic for which it stands.

(Republics are governed by the rule of law, something this administration has no respect for)

One nation, under God

(God, here meaning Name your Own, or Buddha, Yahweh, Shiva, Allah, Jehovah, The Force, the infinite ineffable One, or no God at all)

Indivisible

(or, divisible into Red & Blue, Have & Have-nots, Rich & Poor, Educated & Non-Educated, those with health care and those without, the franchised and disenfranchised, the individual and The Corporation, etc.)

With liberty and justice for all,

(not just those who are rich and/or well connected and/or are white males)

The flag is supposed to represent the Republic of the United States of America. It stands for our values, which are (or have been) Freedom, Liberty, Justice, Equality, Diversity, Rule of Law, Democratic processes, Fairness and Humanity. Lately, this is not how we have been viewed in the world. Europeans see us as the number one threat to peace, and that is tragic. America no longer means the same thing to the world that we did after WWII. We are have strayed dangerously far from being the America that is represented by the Constitution when we override something as fundamental to our government as the writ of habeas corpus. We have sacrificed our most treasured values to fear. Bill Maher said, “So when it comes to sacrifice, don’t kid yourself-you *have* given up a lot! You’ve given up faith in your government’s honesty, the good will of people overseas, and six tenths of the Bill of Rights. Here’s what you’ve sacrificed: search and seizure, warrants, self incrimination, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment. Here’s what you have left: handguns, religion, and they can’t make you quarter a British soldier.”

Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural Address outlined the values that America should live by…. the ones we should uphold.

Harmony and affection in social discourse. ~ Well, readers of news and blogs – is there much harmony and affection in our social discourse? Yeah, I know.

A wise and frugal Government. ~ There hasn’t been much evidence of *that* in the last 6 years. Priorities and the cost of the war… hmmmm. According to the National Priorities Project, the money spent on the war so far could have provided America: 1.8 million new teachers. Over 20 million college scholarships. Health insurance for over 60 million children. Or nearly 4 million new housing units.

Equal justice for all. ~ Ok. Where are we on that?

A jealous care of the right of election by the people. ~ the current DOJ, and the many other cases of election fraud show this right is less jealousy guarded than it should be.

Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none. ~ What a lovely foreign policy idea! Too bad we have this….

Freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus. ~ Oops. What was habeas corpus again? And what about that pesky freedom of the press idea?

Absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority. ~ Well, the President doesn’t seem to be listening to the majority….

And listen to his humility: “I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional.” ~ Not saying “I’m the Decider” now is he?

We need a leader “who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties – someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad.” – John F. Kennedy, September 14, 1960

On November 22, 1963, the day he was assassinated in Dallas, John F. Kennedy was scheduled to give a speech in which he would have said:

“We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength.”

When America is once again worthy of our power, when we act as watchmen to freedom, when we are viewed by the world as being wise, peaceful and fair, when habeas corpus is restored and civil liberties defended, when integrity and not hypocrisy can be seen in our leader, I will gladly fly my flag. I will once again celebrate the 4th of July. And I will once again be proud to say, “I’m an American.”

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Despotism & Democracy

This 1946 film, informed by the perspective of the recent outcome of WWII, is a profound civics lesson. George Santayana said “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Let’s hope we don’t go too far down toward the despotism spectrum before we remember our hard-won lessons and return to a nation of freedom, truth, wisdom and democracy.

Leave a comment »

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt began drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You can read and listen to her address to the UN here.

About Eleanor: “As chair of the subcommittee that drafted the UDHR she played a critical role in the creation of the declaration skillfully creating an atmosphere that permitted blending the ideas and norms of different cultures together in a document nations around the globe could assent to while marshaling U.S. support for swift passage of the declaration by separating it from a legally binding (and more problematic) covenant . Later as chairman of the Human Rights Commission, she presented the document to the General Assembly and was instrumental in its passage. Today, more than 50 years after its passage, the UDHR remains the touchstone of the global Human Rights movement and a key component of an international system that provides for international scrutiny of the way in which a nation treats its citizens.” (http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/abouteleanor/erbiography.html#yr1945)

The United Nations passed the declaration in 1948. As we approach the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration, it is clear that the America run by the G.W. Bush administration is not currently operating under these principles. However, Mr. Bush’s current approval rating is hovering around 30% , indicating that perhaps about 70% of us would prefer different Executive representation. There is hope that we can rebuild our nation into one that is ethical and humanitarian, lawful and tolerant, fair and honorable, free and just.

Gladstone Murray said: “The central fact is that man is fundamentally a moral being, that the light we have is imperfect does not matter so long as we are always trying to improve it … we are equal in sharing the moral freedom that distinguishes us as men. Man’s status makes each individual an end in himself. No man is by nature simply the servant of the state or of another man … the ideal and fact of freedom — and not technology — are the true distinguishing marks of our civilization.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedoms,

Whereas member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now therefore,

The General Assembly

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2

1. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

2. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11

1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14

1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15

1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16

1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with free and full consent of the intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.

3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27

1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29

1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

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

If you’d like to be more involved in making a difference in Human Rights, visit Amnesty International.

Leave a comment »

“Peace is the paramount interest of everybody.”

Written in 1967, these comments by Bertrand Russell ring true today:

“The powers must learn that peace is the paramount interest of everybody. To cause this to be realized by governments should be the supreme aim.”

“What can private persons do meanwhile? They can agitate, by pointing out the effects of modern war and the danger of the extinction of Man. They can teach men not to hate peoples other than their own, or to cause themselves to be hated. They can value, and cause others to value, what Man has achieved in art and science. They can emphasize the superiority of co-operation to competition.”

“Consider for a moment what our planet is and what it might be. At present, for most, there is toil and hunger, constant danger, more hatred than love. There could be a happy world, where co-operation was more in evidence than competition, and monotonous work is done by machines, where what is lovely in nature is not destroyed to make room for hideous machines whose sole business is to kill, and where to promote joy is more respected than to produce mountains of corpses. Do not say this is impossible: it is not. It waits only for men to desire it more than the infliction of torture.”

“There is an artist imprisoned in each one of us. Let him loose to spread joy everywhere.”

From Bertrand Russell’s last essay “1967”

Leave a comment »

Your Civil Rights – what you should know

Watch this video:

The beginning of the end of America

Mark Morford writes: Keith Olbermann is getting so good, it’s frightening.

On the death of habeas corpus, the appalling destruction of vital American rights, and how we have become, in our attempts to defeat a terrorist enemy we can’t really even define or locate, just a little bit more like them.

Articulate, intelligent commentary simply does not get any better. Or, I suppose, worse. Please watch it.

A return to the Dark Ages? The Writ of Habeas Corpus is a legal proceeding in which an individual held in custody can challenge the propriety of that custody under the law and has been in usage since at least 1305 A.D. The right of habeas corpus—or rather, the right to petition for the writ—has long been celebrated as the most efficient safeguard of the liberty of the subject. Dicey wrote that the Habeas Corpus Acts “declare no principle and define no rights, but they are for practical purposes worth a hundred constitutional articles guaranteeing individual liberty”. For any government to take away the right to habeas corpus means that PEOPLE CAN BE HELD IN JAIL WITHOUT THE RIGHT TO QUSTION THEIR JAILERS effectively returning our civilization to a legal Dark Ages. According to the ACLU, this bill “removes important checks on the president by: failing to protect due process, eliminating habeas corpus for many detainees, undermining enforcement of the Geneva Conventions, and giving a “get out of jail free card” to senior officials who authorized or ordered illegal torture and abuse.” According to Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, “nothing could be less American than a government that can indefinitely hold people in secret torture cells, take away their protections against horrific and cruel abuse, put them on trial based on evidence that they cannot see, sentence them to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and then slam shut the courthouse door for any habeas petition, but that’s exactly what Congress just approved.” (from Wikipedia)

Leave a comment »

Habeas Corpus “The Lynchpin of Freedom”, and how it just got compromised….

Today, Bush signed the Terror Interrogation Law

See comments from MSNBC here and here. My comments: please do whatever you can to educatate, campaign, vote, demonstrate, etc. to help America retain its most fundamental set of principles and rights.

John Kerry writes: No less a conservative than Ken Starr got it right: “Congress should act cautiously to strike a balance between the need to detain enemy combatants during the present conflict and the need to honor the historic privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.” Ken Starr says “Congress should act cautiously.” How cautiously are we acting when we eliminate any right to challenge an enemy combatant’s indefinite detention? When we eliminate habeas corpus rights for aliens detained inside or outside the United States so long as the government believes they are enemy combatants? When we not only do this for future cases but apply it to hundreds of cases currently making their way through our court system?

The Constitution is very specific when it comes to Habeas Corpus. It says “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” We are not in a case of rebellion. Nor are we being invaded. Thus, we really don’t have the constitutional power to suspend the Great Writ. And, even if we did, the Constitution allows only for the writ to be suspended. It does not allow the Writ to be permanently taken away. Yet, this is exactly what the bill does. It takes the writ away—forever—from anyone the Administration determines is an “enemy combatant.” Even if they are lawfully on US soil and otherwise entitled to full Constitutional protections and even if they have absolutely no other recourse.

Think of what this means. This bill is giving the administration the power to pick up any non-U.S. citizen inside or outside of the United States , determine in their sole and unreviewable discretion that he is an unlawful combatant, and hold him in jail—be it Guantanamo Bay or a secret CIA prison—indefinitely. Once the Combatant Status Review Tribunal determines that person is an enemy combatant, that is the end of the story—even if the determination is based on evidence that even a military commission would not be allowed to consider because it is so unreliable. That person would never get the chance to challenge his detention; to prove that he is not, in fact, an enemy combatant.

We are not talking about whether detainees can file a habeas suit because they don’t have access to the internet or cable television. We’re talking about something much more fundamental: whether people can be locked up forever without even getting the chance to prove that the government was wrong in detaining them. Allow this to become the policy of the United States and just imagine the difficulty our law enforcement and our government will have arranging the release of an American citizen the next time our citizens are detained in other countries.

Jacob Hornberger writes: In the recently enacted Military Commissions Act, Congress acceded to President Bush’s request to remove the power of federal courts to consider petitions for writ of habeas by foreign citizens held by U.S. officials on suspicion of having committed acts of terrorism. While it might be tempting to conclude that the writ of habeas corpus is some minor legal procedural device that the president and the Congress have now canceled, nothing could be further from the truth. The writ of habeas corpus is actually the lynchpin of a free society. Take away this great writ and all other rights – such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, gun ownership, due process, trial by jury, and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures and cruel and unusual punishments – become meaningless.

The Framers considered the writ of habeas corpus so important that they specifically provided for its protection in the Constitution: “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” As Alexander Hamilton put it, the writ of habeas corpus, along with the prohibition against ex post facto laws, “are perhaps greater securities to liberty” than any others in the Constitution.

In the absence of the power of federal courts to issue writs of habeas corpus, all the other rights and guarantees in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights become dead letters. If there is no way to enforce the First Amendment, for example, through a writ of habeas corpus seeking the release from custody of a government critic, critical speech is inexorably suppressed. After all, how many newspaper editors, Internet critics, and war protesters would continue their criticism knowing that other critics were languishing in some dark, perhaps even secret, detention camp without hope of challenging their detention in court through a writ of habeas corpus?

Americans might feel comforted by the fact that the president and the Congress limited the removal of habeas corpus to foreign citizens and did not apply it to Americans. If so, they know little about the history of government oppression. Once people accede to the cancellation of judicial protections for “other people” – a grave wrong in and of itself – it is just a matter of time before the cancellation is extended to include them. After all, American officials would argue at the height of a new crisis, what is the difference between a foreign terrorist and an American terrorist? Shouldn’t they be treated the same? Aren’t they equally dangerous? Of course the suspension of habeas corpus should be extended to American terrorists, the argument would go. After all, aren’t American terrorists also traitors?

Consumed by fear that “the terrorists” are coming to get them, conquer the United States , and take over the federal government, Americans continue to blithely permit their government officials to erode their rights. Their indifference to the cancellation of the Great Writ – the writ of habeas corpus, the lynchpin of a free society – is an affront those who struggled for centuries to ensure its enshrinement and protection. It also constitutes one of the gravest and most ominous threats to freedom of the American people in the history of our nation.

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

Got Downtime? Visit:

www.one.org

www.nrdc.org

www.heifer.org

www.livestrong.org

1 Comment »

What you can do for your country…Inaugural Address by John F. Kennedy – January 20th 1961

Take a moment to read this in its entirety – I think you’ll find it inspirational!  (links to video are also included below).

“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.”

kennedy.jpg

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge – and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do – for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom – and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required – not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge – to convert our good words into good deeds – in a new alliance for progress – to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbours know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support – to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective – to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak – and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course – both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.

So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms – and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah – to “undo the heavy burdens -. and to let the oppressed go free.”

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation” – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

1 Comment »