28 August 2013

50 years later, MLK's dream lives on

50 years ago today, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. He was one of many speakers at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And he is probably the one most remembered.

Last weekend, on Saturday, August 24, a 50th Anniversary March on Washington drew thousands of participants, including leading civil rights activists of today and icons like Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the last living speaker from the 1963 rally.

Saturday's event was impressive. The speakers' words confirmed that we've come a long way in the past 50 years - and that we've still got a long way to go.

The first African-American President currently occupies the White House, and I wish Dr. King could have lived to see it. However, Obama's success has been met by a ridiculous amount of opposition from Tea Party racists and "birthers" and Congressional Republicans alike.

Fortunately, it seems as though our younger generations, for the most part, are much more color-blind that those of the past. And interracial marriages are much more commonly accepted these days in many, if not most, parts of the country.

Our non-white population is slowly but surely edging its way into a demographic majority. While this is surely a contributing factor to the white man's fear, it represents to me a welcome kind of karmic justice.

It is a shame, however, if the war on racism can be won only by outnumbering the racists. And so the dream lives on.

>> Read and hear the "I Have a Dream" speech.

27 August 2013

George Zimmerman wants Florida to pay for his defense costs

George Zimmerman now wants the Florida taxpayers to cover the defense costs he incurred during his trial for the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Since he was acquitted, he believes he should be reimbursed.

Let's see...

Zimmerman disobeyed police orders to stop pursuing Trayvon Martin.

Instead of backing off as ordered, he shot Trayvon to death.

And now he wants the state to cover his legal expenses.


Florida law does allow for that. But, in this case, it feels wrong. It feels ... dirty.

22 August 2013

Amnesty calls on Obama to commute Manning's sentence (and how you can help)

Amnesty International is calling on President Obama to grant Bradley/Chelsea Manning a commutation to time served.

"Instead of fighting tooth and nail to lock him up for decades, the U.S. government should turn its attention to investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of countering terror," said Widney Brown, Amnesty's Senior Director of International Law and Policy.

"Manning had already pleaded guilty to leaking information, so for the U.S. to have continued prosecuting him under the Espionage Act, even charging him with 'aiding the enemy,' can only be seen as a harsh warning to anyone else tempted to expose government wrongdoing," explained Brown. "More than anything else, the case shows the urgent need to reform the U.S.'s antiquated Espionage Act and strengthen protections for those who reveal information that the public has a need and a right to know."

If you agree, please sign Amnesty's petition here.

While the petition is unlikely to change any minds in the White House, it is important that we sign on in a display of solidarity against Manning's excessive sentence.

Sign on now.

21 August 2013

Rights group condemns Bradley Manning sentence

Today, war crimes whistleblower Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks which exposed U.S. war crimes and other government misconduct.

In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued this noteworthy statement condemning the sentence as well as the law it was based on:

"We are outraged that a whistleblower and a patriot has been sentenced on a conviction under the Espionage Act. The government has stretched this archaic and discredited law to send an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information. We can only hope that Manning’s courage will continue to inspire others who witness state crimes to speak up.

"This show trial was a frontal assault on the First Amendment, from the way the prosecution twisted Manning’s actions to blur the distinction between whistleblowing and spying to the government’s tireless efforts to obstruct media coverage of the proceedings. It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes he exposed are not even investigated. Every aspect of this case sets a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions of whistleblowers – who play an essential role in democratic government by telling us the truth about government wrongdoing – and we fear for the future of our country in the wake of this case.

"We must channel our outrage and continue building political pressure for Manning's freedom. President Obama should pardon Bradley Manning, and if he refuses, a presidential pardon must be an election issue in 2016."

Indeed. But I shall not hold my breath.

20 August 2013

I'm not childless - I'm childfree!

I am not a mother. I never really wanted to be a mother. It never fit into my life's plans, nor those of my ex-husband.

I congratulate and applaud all the mothers who are raising children by choice or by circumstance. It's just not for me.

Some people seem surprised, as if all women are supposed to have a natural yearning for motherhood. They seem to think I'm in denial. Usually they feel sorry for me, which is a huge waste of energy.

But the worst of it is when they refer to me as "childless" - a word that suggests that something is missing from my life.

I don't think of myself as "childless". I prefer "childfree".

Take THAT, GOP misogynists!

14 August 2013

Defense Department announces same-sex spouse benefits

Good news: Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, today the U.S. Department of Defense announced plans to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of DoD personnel. This includes spouses of uniformed service members and civilian DoD employees.

Available benefits will include the DoD's health care coverage, housing benefits, and separation allowances, as applicable. The benefits will become available no later than September 3 of this year.

From the DoD's announcement:

"The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs.


"We recognize that same-sex military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry. That is why the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur. This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married.

"For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Department of Defense will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor’s guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses."

Take THAT, John Boehner!

08 August 2013

Two sad atomic anniversaries this week

Tuesday, August 6, marked the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by U.S. forces.

Friday, August 9, will mark the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.

According to the Hiroshima Day Committee, "About 140,000 +/- 10,000 (including 20,000 soldiers) were dead by the end of December 1945; 90% of these are thought to have been killed within 2 weeks after the bombing."

Of those who didn't die, many suffered serious long-term illness.

Most were innocent civilians - men, women, and children.

The Geneva Conventions were adopted in the wake of World War II, establishing humanitarian standards for war, including the protection of civilians.

Still, innocent civilians continue to suffer and die in our wars.

We never seem to learn. And we never seem to care.

03 August 2013

People power - in my dream and in real life

A little while ago, I awoke from a disturbing dream. In it, I was standing near my car at a gas station, and there was a benign-looking man standing next to his car nearby. It was nighttime. A third car drove up, and I had an uncomfortable feeling about it. Then a man got out of it and attacked the first guy. They fought violently, and I felt helpless. All I could do was call 911 and hope that the police got there quickly. Then I sought refuge in the gas station's convenience store, where other people were also concerned about the fight, and had also called the police. At last, I started to feel safe.

I'm thinking that the dream reflects my real-life feelings of helplessness sometimes when I see all the violence and human rights abuses in the world, and the frustration I feel about the fact that I cannot just snap my fingers or put on a red cape and stop it all by myself.

But, in my dream and in reality, feelings of helplessness dissipate when others join in and we work together to solve the world's problems. "People power" is very real, as I've seen in the many success stories shared by Amnesty International and other advocacy groups I've worked with.

Bottom line: Don't feel helpless - get organized!