28 April, 2010

Haiti Still Needs Help

Aid is still moving slowly through Haiti.  Many have still received no relief.  The rainy season has begun.

Unlike many better known charities, HaitiAction.net works directly with Haitians on the ground.

Please give what you can, when you can.

States' Frights: Oklahoma's Attack on Choice

On Tuesday, Oklahoma state legislators (click here for the official website) overrode Governor Brad Henry's (D) veto of a bill that requires all abortion providers in that state to subject women who seek abortion to an invasive ultrasound procedure.  The monitor must be placed within the patient's sight, and she is also required to listen to a description of the fetus.  Neither the patient nor the physician can refuse the procedure.

A second bill, also passed on Tuesday, forbids women from suing a physician who knows, but fails to inform them of, a birth defect in an unborn child.

No exceptions are allowed for rape or incest under either bill.


The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging the abortion bill via the Oklahoma state court system, stating that the new law is unconstitutional.

27 April, 2010

State's' Frights Update: Arizona Anti-Immigration Law PASSES -- Time for Action!

Yesterday, AZ Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed SB 1070 -- the most extreme anti-immigrant policy in the nation -- into law.

It is now against the law to be in the U.S. illegally while in the state of Arizona.  No other state has criminalized immigrants based on their status; immigration issues are Federal matters.

But under SB 1070, all Arizona law enforcement officials are now required to determine the legal status of anyone they interact with on an official basis -- be they suspect, victim or witness -- on the basis of a "reasonable suspicion" that the person may not have a legal right to be in the U.S.

Gov. Brewer has declared that profiling by color/ethnicity/national origin alone is illegal, but has thus far been unable to name any other criteria for "reasonable suspicion."  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has spoken to Arizona law enforcement officials on the need to enforce the law fairly, and has stated that he believes they will do so.  But McCain has not come up with any legal criteria for "reasonable suspicion," either.

CURRENT ACTIONS
WHAT WE CAN DO  (We are all Arizona!)

Contact Governor Brewer:  Urge the Governor to do the right thing, and use the full power of her position to repeal SB 1070.  (602) 542-4331 or azgov@az.gov.

Contact President Obama:  Urge the President to use his powers to have SB 1070 overturned on the basis of illegality and unconstitutionality.  (202) 456-1111 or send an e-mail via the White House website.

Boycott Arizona Products:  Don't visit Arizona.  Don't buy products made in or shipped from Arizona.  Don't attend sporting events featuring Arizona pro teams (unless you'd like to make your feelings known in a peaceful manner outside the stadium -- here's the Diamondbacks' 2010 schedule).  This illegal law cannot withstand severe economic pressure ... or the serious threat of same.

Join Forces with Organizations Opposed to SB 1070:
CoaliciĆ³n de Derechos Humanos
DREAM Activist:  Undocumented Students Resource & Action Network
National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights  (NNIRR)

15 April, 2010

Defending Net Neutrality II

Just wanted to share this AlterNet.org article, written by Daniela Perdomo.

I know I post on this issue a lot.  And it would be great if the whole issue just floated away.  But communications and access to information are vital for democracy and just plain living.  We the People own the airwaves and the bandwidth -- they're more valuable than gold.  Which is why somebody's always trying to steal them, and we end up having to defend -- or reclaim -- them.

Anyway, Perdomo's excellent article explains why the FCC is still responsible -- and has the ability -- to preserve net neutrality, even in the face of the pro-corporate Supreme Court ruling.

The key is a technicality, the same nitpicky detail upon which the Supreme Court based its ruling. The FCC classifies internet access as an information service, which can be perceived as outside the agency's bailiwick. According to Perdomo's article:
Fortunately, because the ruling was written so narrowly, there is good reason to believe that if the FCC's commissioners were to reclassify internet access services as a telecommmunications network, it would have the power to regulate the web the way it does phone service.
Perdomo also calls on us to take action.

Calls to Action

From AlterNet.org ...

Sign AlterNet's petition pushing the FCC to exercise its power to enforce net neutrality.

And from Free Press, which calls for a legislative remedy ...

Sign Free Press' petition to save the Internet by making net neutrality law.

14 April, 2010

States' Frights: Arizona, Nebraska & Virginia

Our Sponsor would (if he could) tell us all just one thing:  "I told you so."

ARIZONA

Yesterday, the Arizona State Legislature signed the most draconian anti-immigration bill in our nation.  Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) is expected to sign the bill into law.

(Full text of the bill (SB 1070) in .pdf format.)

Under the new law, written by State Sen. Russell Pearce, lack of immigration papers becomes a misdemeanor.  Being, or hiring, a day laborer will also become illegal.

Further, the new law would require all law enforcement officials to ascertain the legal status of every person they interact with in an official capacity, if they have a "reasonable suspicion" about that person's legal status.  This includes crime suspects, witnesses and victims.

Law enforcement officers may make arrests without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a public offense that warrants deportation.

Citizens who believe the law is not being enforced severely enough will be empowered to sue the law enforcement agency or government official(s) involved.

Here's the thing:  while states may provide some level of cooperation, immigration matters (at least, until now) are a federal matter.  Enforcement is a federal concern.

But in Arizona, a succession of ever more severe anti-immigrant measures has sent a clear message to feds and immigrants alike.  As Sen. Pearce put it, "When you make life difficult, most will leave on their own." 

Critics call this bill a form of mandatory racial profiling.  Moreover, at a time when police budgets have been cut and are facing more cuts, this law is seen as a diversion of scarce police resources that could negatively impact public safety.

Organizations working to oppose implementation of SB 1070 include the Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform (AZEIR) and the Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN)

NEBRASKA

This one is personal.  Some history is required.

Last year, late-term abortion provider Dr. George R. Tiller was killed in the lobby of his church in Wichita, Kansas.

Dr. LeRoy H. Carhart, a colleague and associate of Dr. Tiller's, subsequently moved to Bellevue, Nebraska to carry on Tiller's legacy.

Moving to the present ...

The Nebraska State Legislature responded overwhelmingly to Dr. Carhart's arrival.  By 44-5, to be exact.  Yesterday, Gov. Dave Heineman (R-NE) signed into law a bill that bans most abortions after 20 weeks.  Such abortions can be performed only in cases where there is risk of death or serious physical harm to the mother -- there are no exceptions for rape or incest.

The rationale for the bill is that, by 20 weeks of gestation, a fetus can feel pain.  According to the scientific community, however, a fetus does not have enough of a nervous system to feel pain until 24 weeks.

But the real reason behind the law is to prevent Dr. Carhart from establishing a late-term abortion clinic in Nebraska.  Very few doctors perform late-term abortions in the U.S.

Nebraska's new law flies into the face of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, which holds that states cannot restrict access to abortions prior to 24 weeks.  Court battles are anticipated.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have declared April "Abortion Recovery Month" for the second consecutive year.  The Month is dedicated to persuading women not to have abortions, on the grounds that they can never recover from the experience physically, emotionally or spiritually.  This condition is known as "post-abortion syndrome."

Again, the scientific community, perhaps most notably the American Psychological Association, has found no evidence that "post abortion syndrome" exists.

VIRGINIA

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA), of Confederate-History-Month-without-slavery fame, has backed down from a policy that would have required non-violent felons to write an essay before they could regain their right to vote.

In fact, McDonnell now claims the policy never existed in final form in the first place.  But apparently some implementation is happening.  Nonviolent offenders have received letters, like this one, sent in February (.pdf).

Please excuse another bit of history, this time legislative.  Before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, several states required everybody -- well, not necessarily everybody, if you know what I mean -- to take "literacy tests" to prove their eligibility to vote.  These were not simple reading tests -- they were elimination tests, often used in conjunction with various forms of harassment and intimidation to deny non-white voters, usually African-Americans or Hispanics, their right to vote.

Oh, and please note the letter linked above inquires into the prospective voter's church activities.  Ummm ...  separation of church and state, anyone?

The Citizens for Legitimate Government is offering to write essays on behalf of Virginia literacy test victims.  Volunteers wanted!

10 April, 2010

The Lost Miners: Now We Know

The remains of the last four miners lost in the Upper Big Branch mine have been found.  It had been hoped that the miners had reached one of the airtight chambers that had furnished with food and water in case of disaster.  Rescuers had found one of the chambers on Thursday, but it was empty.  Before they could reach the second chamber, the rescuers themselves were forced to evacuate due to high levels of gases and dust.

Upper Big Branch has been cited for some 3,000 violations since 1995 -- 638 of those violations occurred in 2009.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, the mine's owner, Massey Energy Co., is contesting 353 of those citations, and is delinquent on paying fines for 127 citations.

Ironically, on Friday, Massey's stock rose for the second day in a row in response to the firm's stated intent to increase output at other mines to make up for lost production at Upper Big Branch.  The statement was made in a regulatory filing.

Yesterday, President Obama prayed for the victims.  On Thursday, the President demanded an investigation by Federal mine safety officials, with reports due next week.

Corporate closures and criminal proceedings would seem to be in order as well.

My thoughts are with the victims' families, friends and community.

09 April, 2010

George Orwell Blogs!

Yup, he blogs.  And he posts via fountain pen and lined paper.  Makes me feel sorta humble, especially considering my occasional whines about slow connections and Blogger peculiarities.

George's blog, The Orwell Diaries, is sponsored by the Orwell Prize, a prestigious award for political writing in the U.K.

He writes about his garden a lot.

And he does it exceedingly well.



  

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

08 April, 2010

Historic Nuclear Treaty Signed Today

Today in Prague, President Obama and Russia's President Medvedev signed an historic agreement called the "New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)", under which both nations will reduce their nuclear arsenals and refrain from developing new weapons.  While the U.S. and Russia are not the only nuclear-armed nations, between them they own approximately 95% of the world's stockpile.

Over the next 7 years, START will:
  • Cut nuclear arsenals in both nations by 30%.
  • Cut nuclear-bearing vessels, both sea and air, by 50%.
START will not:
  • Eliminate either nation's ability to wipe everything off the map, several times over.
President Obama stated that he is committed to further reductions that lead, ultimately, to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.  While the threat of nuclear annihilation is still with us, today the U.S. and Russia have taken the biggest step away from the precipice in decades.

START is not yet a done deal.  The U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma must ratify the treaty for it to become binding.  Treaty ratifications require 67 Senate votes to pass.

On Monday, President Obama will host the leaders of 46 nations for a two-day nuclear summit Washington, D.C.  China's President Hu Jintao will attend, but it appears that Israel's President Netanyahu will be not be there in person.  Netanyahu is expected to plan to send a minister in his stead.





One More Action to Save Net Neutrality

Oakland-based Media Alliance, an outstanding resource for media training, employment and activism, has launched a campaign to file complaints directly with the FCC.  The form is short and simple.

Click here for the FCC's online form for Proceeding #09-91

Media Alliance's goal is to send 99,000 complaints to the FCC -- ASAP.