Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Welling up with joy – The Obama Presidency

I am just beginning to let myself feel what it will mean to have Obama as our President.  I am just beginning to allow the feelings of hope, excitement and joy fill me up.  Until today, I’ve been too afraid that somehow, the election would go the other way.   But every pundit and poll shows Obama with more than enough electoral votes to win. So I’m just beginning to let the sunshine in.  It’s like Springtime! It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s like the first warm day of summer after a winter of rain!  It feels as good as spontaneous laughter. It feels as good as seeing all your old friends at a reunion. It feels as joyful as a wedding day.  It feels like being rescued from a desert island.  It feels as thrilling as the scene in LoTR Return of the King when Aragorn takes his place and peace and prosperity return to Middle Earth, with the added benefit that there is no longer any huge darkness to fear.   It feels like Sauron and The Nine have been defeated.

I’m just beginning to imagine what it will be like to live in a country I can once again be proud to be a citizen of.  It feels like I can hang my American flag again and it will mean hope, liberty and freedom.  It feels like the values of Thomas Jefferson will once again guide our actions.

Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people-a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

It feels like we can live in the nation that John F. Kennedy envisioned:

… if by a “Liberal” they mean someone 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, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them. Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies.

In short, it feels really good.  I am so grateful for Obama, and for everyone in this country who is voting for change.  Welcome to the new world.  Welcome Hope.  Welcome Obama!

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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.

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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??

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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.”

 

 

 

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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.

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America: the Beloved Community

Bill Moyers states the true and profound yet again in his speech “A Great But Broken Promise.” One part of his speech was especially affecting:

Reverend Michael Waters got it right a few years ago when he was a student here: “Martin Luther King became the symbol not only of the civil rights movement but of America itself: A symbol of a land of freedom where people of all races, creeds, and nationalities could live together as a Beloved Community.” Not as an empire. Or a superpower. Not a place where the strong take what they can and the weak what they must. But a Beloved Community. It’s the core of civilization, the crux of democracy, and a profound religious truth. But don’t go searching for the Beloved Community on a map. It’s not a place. It exists in the hearts and minds – our hearts and minds – or not at all.

Creating the Beloved Community in America is the right goal, and it’s what I’m for. I already know what I’m against; the current administration, it’s worldview, its lack of humanity and ethics, etc. Amnesty International states, “The U.S. administration remains deaf to the worldwide calls for closing down Guantanamo. It is unrepentant about the global web of abuse it has spun in the name of counter-terrorism. It is oblivious to the distress of thousands of detainees and their families, the damage to the rule of international law and human rights, and the destruction of its own moral authority, which has plummeted to an all-time low around the world while the levels of insecurity remain as high as ever.” I have read about these failures with soul-numbing chagrin, been angry, continued to vote, persistently written to my senators and reps, campaigned, prayed and done volunteer work in an effort to being balance to the force (as it were). I’ve done everything I can think of to counter the negative. And it’s right to not go quietly in the face of injustice – “Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.” ~ The Talmud

When I think of the current war and it’s leader, GW, this Einstein quote comes to mind – “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

But a focus on negativity can lead to hopelessness and cynicism – two qualities I hope never to have. Even under duress, my heart must remain strong and positive. For, as Dorothy Thompson said, “Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.” I still have a dream.

So, part of the fight for good, for democracy, for truth and humanity is to talk about what we stand for, not just about what we are against. RFK may have said it best –

Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. {And elsewhere he said} Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws–but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted–when we tolerate what we know to be wrong–when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened–when we fail to speak up and speak out–we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.

So I’ll continue to speak up as so many others are also doing. I’ll continue to believe. Creating a Beloved Community is an act of love and hope, not of fear and anger. It is a positive response to a negative series of unfortunate events. It’s a glorious affirmition of what is good in the human soul, reawakened with new enthusiasm after seeing the darker side.

“In an age of nothing, at a time when we stand at the brink of our own destruction,
Strengthen your belief in yourself, in the future of humanity, in the things of this world that cannot be easily perceived.
Awaken that which lies dormant now within your soul. Re-ignite the flame of your consciousness, and measure the strength of your conviction.
Reveal the lie.
Renounce your hatred.
Seek, find and embrace the truths you are fortunate enough to discover. Cherish them. Use them to anchor you in the sea of chaos that is the world we live in.
When twilight draws near, when you are pushed to the very limits of your soul, When it seems that all you have left are the dead remnants of the fabric of your life? Believe.”

~ David Draiman

 

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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.

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

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“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”

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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)

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What JFK said about being a liberal, and the US being worthy of our power

…if by a “Liberal” they mean someone 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, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”- 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. For as was written long ago, ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.'”

Read: Let Every Nation Know: John F. Kennedy in His Own Words

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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