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In America, you can say n*gger all you want, and it’s considered protected speech under the Constitution. Even though free speech is not absolute, it does still protect people from being prosecuted over insults, even if those insults are racially motivated. In the United Kingdom, however, you can be prosecuted for hate speech. One man [...]
Propofol, a strong anesthetic used in the United States for lethal injections, has been banned for export by the United Kingdom. Following a May announcement by the Missouri Department of Corrections that it intends to use the drug, which is blamed for the death of pop artist Michael Jackson, as a “single-drug solution” for executions [...]
By now the five remaining people on the planet who didn’t know that Rush Limbaugh embodies the very worst in politics, pop culture and possibly all mammals ever, have joined the rest of us in this knowledge. But for those of you that have been under a rock in recent days, allow me to fill you in on this latest dispatch from Rush Limbaugh’s race to the bottom. Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke , a woman he doesn’t know, has never met and knows next to nothing about, a slut. I take that back. He knows something about her now, namely that she’s smarter and more courageous than he is. Fluke provoked Limbaugh’s ire when the Georgetown University law student dared to testify in support of contraception coverage before a Democratic hearing after previously being denied the right to testify in a male (and conservative) dominated congressional hearing on the matter. Fluke’s testimony highlighting the fact that many women rely on contraception to address medical issues unrelated to preventing pregnancy, apparently struck Limbaugh as humorous. (Hey — who doesn’t find ovarian cysts hysterical?) He then continued to riff on Fluke, speculating on her sexual habits in a manner I will allow you to read about for yourself because just thinking about the comments and frankly, their source, gives me the creeps. On Saturday Limbaugh “sincerely apologized” to Fluke clearly seeing the error of his ways due to some serious self-reflection on his part. At least we’re supposed to pretend it’s due to his self-reflection, and not due to the fact that his advertisers are ditching him faster than he ditches wives. (At last count he’s on number four and considering she’s not much older than Ms. Fluke, part of me wonders if perhaps this was all some grotesque attempt at flirting on his part that simply went awry. After all, who wouldn’t want to be the fifth Mrs. Limbaugh? Raise your hands high, ladies!) As un-amusing as this whole situation has been, I can’t help being amused by the timing of it all. March happens to be Women’s History Month. Talk about starting it off with a bang. While we all know that for at least the next month we can look forward to hearing occasional references to our country’s greatest women sprinkled in speeches, news items and, of course, school reports, what you may not know is that despite years of trying we still don’t have a national museum to honor the contributions of women. Before any eye rolling or shouts of “pay down the deficit!” begin, did I mention that the planned National Women’s History Museum won’t cost taxpayers a single dollar? It will, however, require congressional approval for the land on which it will eventually be constructed; approval that despite years of negotiations (and efforts of the saner members of Congress on both sides of the aisle) has remained elusive. If you need further proof of just how gridlocked and embarrassing Congress has become in recent years, consider this. We have a National Postal Museum, which was opened in the nineties, but recent efforts at making a National Women’s History Museum a reality have repeatedly stalled. That means that the postal service, which may be the only body in America with a lower approval rating than Congress, was deemed worthy of its own museum honoring its contributions to this country, but after years of near-groveling women still haven’t been deemed worthy of one. Did I already mention the part about how the museum won’t cost taxpayers a dime? So what’s the hold up? In a nutshell, for the museum to be constructed on land in close proximity to the National Mall, congressional approval is required. As National Spokesperson Meryl Streep (who could also be called the museum’s most devoted evangelist) recently explained in an interview with the Los Angeles Times , “It’s a political football… It’s a thing that everybody in Congress agrees with but then they attach it to something that no one agrees with.” To her point, on more than one occasion the necessary bill has made it out of the House only to miss garnering a vote in the Senate before the end of the legislative session. But in at least one instance it was intentionally stalled. The reason: political posturing over the politics of women’s health. Sound familiar? In 2010, Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Demint, among the chamber’s most conservative members, placed a “hold” on the bill. Initially the two senators expressed budgetary concerns. You know, despite the fact that the museum will not use taxpayer dollars. Perhaps someone pointed that out to them because they later argued the museum would unnecessarily duplicate others. But according to USA Today , the real reason allegedly behind their concern? An organization that opposes abortion wrote a letter to both men expressing concern that the museum would not sufficiently honor women who have opposed abortion rights. (Apparently every single political issue on the planet somehow comes back to we ladies and our reproductive organs.) For the record, the museum is a nonpartisan effort with supporters representing both major political parties. The National Women’s History Museum Act of 2011 was introduced last fall where it was approved in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee but months later we’re still waiting. Waiting for our male-dominated Congress to get its act together enough to agree that honoring the contributions of women — especially when it won’t cost taxpayers a cent — is one issue that should transcend partisanship. Meryl Streep, who recently clinched her third Academy Award for playing a history-making woman, Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, believes so strongly in the museum that she donated a million dollars to help make it become a reality. You may not have a million dollars to spare (few of us do) but you can help too. Here’s how: 1) Write to your member of Congress and tell him or her that you support the National Women’s History Museum, specifically you support the federal government approving the land necessary to make it become a reality. (Click here to see how to contact your elected officials and to see a sample letter.) 2) Support the National Women’s History Museum online. The only way the museum can succeed without federal support is through private contributions. Click here for more details about how to get involved. In fact, why not make a donation in Rush Limbaugh’s name? It seems only fitting that he help build the museum where thanks to him, Sandra Fluke’s portrait is likely to hang someday. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor of Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
America and the world owe a great debt to Occupy Wall Street for making the problem of economic inequality impossible to ignore. The tiny spark that began in Zuccotti Park just six weeks ago has triggered a major shift in the national dialogue on inequality, our economy and our democracy. Now it’s time to begin a conversation about solutions — solutions big enough to fit the scale of the problems that Occupy Wall Street has highlighted. Fortunately, the American Dream Movement spent this last summer taking on this very challenge. We are a vast, growing network of progressive organizations and individuals. We are fighting to renew the American Dream and return our country to the principle of liberty and justice, for ALL (not for some). We launched in June 2011, with the support of more than 70 national organizations, including MoveOn.org , Planned Parenthood, Center for Community Change, Campaign for America’s Future, SEIU and AFL-CIO. Since then, more than half a million people have joined our ranks and become members on www.RebuildtheDream.com . We now have membership in every congressional district of the country. In July, the American Dream Movement created an inclusive process to forge a jobs agenda that would put the country back to work without hurting essential programs like Medicare and Medicaid. More than 131,000 people got involved, both online and in person (NOTE: That is nearly three times the number of people who helped craft the Tea Party’s famous”Contract from America.”) Participants generated more than 20,000 ideas, then rated and ranked them to identify the best ones. The outcome was our 10-point program: the Contract for the American Dream . The common sense remedies in the Contract are based on the fundamental idea that a functioning U.S. economy requires opportunity for all and responsibility from all. Here are the ten items: I. Invest in America’s Infrastructure – Rebuild our crumbling bridges, dams, levees, ports, water and sewer lines, railways, roads, and public transit. Invest in high-speed Internet and a modern, energy-saving electric grid. These investments will create good jobs and rebuild America. II. Create 21st Century Energy Jobs – Invest in American businesses that can power our country with innovative technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal systems, hybrid and electric cars, and next-generation batteries. And put Americans to work making our homes and buildings energy efficient. We can create good, green jobs in America, address the climate crisis, and build the clean energy economy. III. Invest in Public Education – Provide universal access to early childhood education, make school funding equitable, invest in high-quality teachers, and build safe, well-equipped school buildings for our students. This is critical for our future and can create badly needed jobs now. IV. Offer Medicare for All – Expand Medicare so it’s available to all Americans, and reform it to provide even more cost-effective, quality care. The Affordable Care Act is a start, but it’s not enough. We can save trillions of dollars by joining every other industrialized country — paying much less for health care while getting the same or better results. V. Make Work Pay – Grant all Americans the right to fair minimum and living wages, to organize and collectively bargain, to enjoy equal opportunity, and to earn equal pay for equal work. Corporate assaults on these rights must be outlawed. VI. Secure Social Security – Keep Social Security sound, and strengthen the retirement, disability, and survivors’ protections Americans earn through their hard work. Pay for it by removing the cap on the Social Security tax, so that upper-income people pay into Social Security on all they make, just like the rest of us. VII. Return to Fairer Tax Rates – End, once and for all, the Bush-era tax giveaways for the rich, which the rest of us — or our kids — must pay eventually. Outlaw corporate tax havens and tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. And with millionaires and billionaires taking a growing share of our country’s wealth, let’s add new tax brackets for those making more than $1 million annually. VIII. End the Wars and Invest at Home – Bring home our troops. They’ve done everything asked of them, and it’s time to bring them home to good jobs. We’re sending $3 billion each week overseas that we should be investing to rebuild America. IX. Tax Wall Street Speculation – Make Wall Street pay. A tiny fee of a twentieth of 1% on each Wall Street trade could raise tens of billions of dollars annually with little impact on actual investment. This would reduce speculation, “flash trading,” and outrageous bankers’ bonuses. X. Strengthen Democracy – Hold clean, fair elections — where no one’s right to vote can be taken away, and where money doesn’t buy you your own member of Congress. We must ban anonymous political influence, slam shut the lobbyists’ revolving door in D.C., and publicly finance elections. Immigrants who want to join in our democracy deserve a clear path to citizenship. We must stop giving corporations the rights of people when it comes to our elections. And we must ensure our judiciary’s respect for the Constitution. Many elements of the Contract are already under consideration in various forms in Congress, even as we speak. The idea of taxing Wall Street speculation at this moment in history should be a no-brainer. Let’s bring all ten points through the political system. There’s always a danger that even mass protest will not result in concrete policy change or real-life improvements for ordinary Americans. The challenge we face is critical: It is time to turn this unleashed energy into power. We must go beyond changing the conversation on inequality to also changing the conditions under which millions of Americans are suffering economically. Let’s use this pivotal moment in history to make America work for the 99%
“If #occupyoakland was in Damascus, U.S. State department would be telling Wolf Blitzer how unacceptable it was to teargas peaceful marchers.” @techsoc As two activists who have called Oakland home, we are appalled at the events of our city in the last 36 hours. Last night the country joined us to watch in anguish as the Oakland Police Department, with back up from a dozen law enforcement agencies from around the region, used excessive levels of force against hundreds of mostly peaceful Occupy Oakland protesters. In a city with a long and painful record of police violence, it is especially disturbing to witness scenes of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled under assault by rubber bullets and tear gas. This kind of crackdown is bad for our democracy, and it’s bad for public safety. Mayors and police chiefs at Occupy sites across the country should take note: this is the wrong way to respond to the Occupy movement. Oakland, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, is a true reflection of the 99%. For this reason, the Occupy movement stands directly for the people of Oakland — so many of whom have lost their homes, lost their jobs, and lost the services they rely on. Our city’s unemployment rate is over 10%. People are angry. Let us not forget that this frustration and anger is real and justified. Oakland also has a rich history of protest and political action. Occupy Oakland builds upon this legacy. Sitting at lunch counters and burning bras were symbolic political acts of previous generations, acts which we now celebrate as part of American history. The Occupy protests should be allowed to continue, as should all political expressions protected under our Constitution’s First Amendment. Therefore it is even more embarrassing and unfathomable that the City would so badly miss the mark in its treatment of Occupy Oakland. Let us be clear: there is no justification for the use of violence against a non-violent protest. The vast majority of people were peacefully marching and demonstrating. The police department and the mayor should apologize for an inexcusable use of excessive force . And they should publicly commit to ending these tactics immediately Finally, let us remember what the Occupy movement is actually about. Regrettably, the City of Oakland’s mis-step last night shifted the focus to a “police vs people” narrative, distracting from the real problem: the big banks and corporations responsible for causing our economic crisis. The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. These excessive responses from law enforcement, from Atlanta to Oakland, not only violate the law, but take our collective eye away from the economic violence occurring daily in this country. Today, the mayor and police department should apologize. And they should apologize loudly and sincerely. And then tomorrow, they should join us all in fighting for the 99%. P.S. Our hearts and prayers go to Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen who was injured after being hit in the head with a police projectile at the Occupy Oakland rally 10/25/11. Olsen is a member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW). We encourage people to send donations to IVAW who are currently accepting donations for Olsen and his family.
People around the world breathed a sigh of relief today as President Obama announced that he would keep his campaign commitment to wind down the war in Iraq. And families across our country are overjoyed that they will have their loved ones home for the holidays. Unfortunately for many of our brave veterans, they won’t be getting the sort of homecoming they’ve earned. More than 11% of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are unemployed. That number is tragic and shameful for us as a nation. And I’m afraid that number will only grow, with tens of thousands returning home to a terrible economy. That is, unless we do something about it. We should employ 100% of our veterans — let me repeat that, 100% of our veterans. Every single person who has served overseas in the last decade deserves a chance at meaningful employment for the next decade. What better homecoming for our brave men and women than to make sure each and every one of them can provide for their family? This should be a moment for all government, business, and labor leaders to stand shoulder to shoulder and make this commitment to our veterans. There are provisions in the stalled American Jobs Act that would directly add jobs for veterans and should be passed immediately — by acclamation. President Obama has just announced a public/private Joining Forces partnership with Dr. Jill Biden and Gen. Stan McChrystal that would give 25,000 veterans jobs. Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO, has taken great initiative for increasing employment and could be a great leader in the business community for veterans. And the Clinton Global Initiative has done some amazing work on improving jobs prospects for returning veterans. I know our labor unions and social justice organizations are ready to step up to the plate and do their part, too. All of these avenues should be pursued and more, until every last vet has a stable, good paying job. With this war winding down, we have a chance as a nation to banish the word “homeless veteran” from our vocabulary. I have a three-year-old and a seven-year-old. They’ve never known an America without troops fighting in Iraq. My hope is that they’ll soon know a country that no longer has soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. And I’m going to advocate for an America where we don’t have to explain to our children why a veteran is begging for change at an intersection.
Whenever people champion change or challenge the status quo, distractors will undoubtedly come. They will call you anarchists, extremists, troublemakers and try to paint you as the problem. They will dismiss your grievances and cast doubt on your purpose, but remember that they did the same to some of our greatest leaders that pushed for change. Today, I joined with the demonstrators of Occupy Wall Street as I broadcast my radio show live on location; Saturday I will lead National Action Network’s (NAN) rally for jobs and justice in Washington, DC. As we address issues like corporate greed, an increasing wealth gap, lack of employment and unequal access in society, we will march on for our collective future. Don’t let the train of progress roll right past you. For weeks, the disenfranchised have been gathering in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan to voice their discontent with banks, other financial institutions and corporations that led to our economic downfall while amassing their own wealth. At a time when millions of Americans are without work, and economic disparity is at astronomical levels, we need immediate financial reform, job growth and a level playing field. Earlier, I broadcast my radio show, Keepin’ it Real live from the park in the heart of the Occupy demonstration from 1-4 PM ET because I heard the frustration and anguish in the protesters voices and I am not oblivious to their suffering. In five days, I will be heading to the nation’s capital to lead our annual march for jobs and justice. We at NAN have been advocating for a redistribution of wealth for years that allows the historically marginalized to share in the benefits of society. Today, as more and more Americans find themselves outside of the small percentage that controls the bulk of our capital, we urge everyone to join us on October 15th as we raise similar concerns and seek solutions to these most egregious injustices of our times. The day following our rally and march in Washington, the official Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument unveiling ceremony will take place. There was a time when this most noble civil rights leader in our nation was castigated and dismissed as an anarchist. There was a time when people said he was simply a troublemaker out to create havoc and instability. And there was a time when they did anything and everything to disparage his character and halt his mission. But Dr. King pressed on, just as we must press on today. If you are unable to join an Occupy rally in your city, or you cannot make it to our demonstration in Washington, be sure to actively create change in your immediate surroundings. Support the President’s jobs bill, hold Congress accountable and call out all those that are willing to keep our country hostage for their own political gain. We — the people — cannot be duped, nor can we be bought. Whether it’s Occupy Wall St. or the annual rally for Jobs & Justice, we will continue on until justice prevails. Dr. King didn’t allow the naysayers to deter him; nor should we.
In life, there are some people that simply speak of progress, and then there are the select few that not only practice what they preach, but truly sacrifice personal gain and dedicate their entire being to the cause of justice. The late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was one of those rare remarkable beings who not only suffered physical and emotional attacks by those who stood opposed to equality, but he was a man who greatly inspired an entire movement for change. And now, the next generation of thinkers, activists, artists, attorneys, educators, advocates and all those pushing for advancement can once again look to the life of Rev. Shuttlesworth as they continue the good fight. This week, members of Congress took the floor and delivered speeches upon speeches as they commemorated the life and legacy of Rev. Shuttlesworth. Upon news of his passing, President Obama stated in part: “He (Shuttlesworth) was a testament to the strength of the human spirit. And today we stand on his shoulders, and the shoulders of all those who marched and sat and lifted their voices to help perfect our union… America owes Rev. Shuttlesworth a debt of gratitude.” It was during the 1950s in segregated Alabama that Rev. Shuttlesworth began his push for integration on all levels of society. Performing acts of civil disobedience wherever necessary — like purposefully sitting in all-white sections of parks, train stations and more — he faced every form of police intimidation, arrests, beatings and death threats. His home and church were bombed, he was struck with brass knuckles and he routinely faced Klansmen ready to silence him. Rev. Shuttlesworth formed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and also established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It was Rev. Shuttlesworth who took his battle for equality to the highest levels by seeking federal protection for freedom riders and urged Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to bring the civil rights movement to Birmingham. Several years later, Rev. Shuttlesworth took his fight to Cincinnati as well. His selfless life proved that a single person could in fact help spark a national movement that would galvanize our greatest leaders and our greatest advancement for social change. As the Black community and other historically disenfranchised groups continue to benefit from the sacrifice and actions of Rev. Shuttlesworth, we understand that much work remains. As the next generation picks up the mantel to highlight today’s inequities and injustices, and peacefully advocates for fair housing, employment, education and more, let us look to the will and dedication of Rev. Shuttlesworth. He inspired many decades ago; let his life’s work continue to motivate us to the next level.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since the world first mourned the loss of the King of Pop. While some of his fans expressed remorse on June 25, 2009, many knew that the cost of Michael Jackson’s death went far beyond his impeccable music. Although entertainment remains severely devoid of Michael’s unmatched talent, perhaps even more profoundly, many charities and innocents around the planet no longer have the ability to benefit from his overwhelming generosity. And for his children and family, Michael’s departure was and is felt on the deepest level as the daily battle to carry on without him continues. This week, as the involuntary manslaughter trial for Dr. Conrad Murray (his doctor at the time) gets underway, it’s important to keep in mind precisely who the accused criminal is — and who the victim was. During my teenage years, I had the pleasure of first being introduced to Michael. Both blessed to have received mentorship and guidance from the late great Godfather of soul, James Brown, we quickly formed a kinship and bond that was virtually like family. Even though I focused on advocacy/activism and he on creating incredible music, we were on the same social and political page and worked through our respective fields to bring light to inequality wherever and whenever we viewed it. Our friendship lasted through the decades, through all of the ridiculous false accusations and through a media frenzy that tried its hardest to paint him as somehow odd or peculiar when he was only highlighting our own abnormality as a society. In 1984, during Michael’s Victory Tour, I took on the role of his community relations director. Working in such a capacity, I again witnessed the unprecedented reaction people from all walks of life had towards this man, his music and impact in the world. And whether it was openly reminding all of us to ‘heal the world’ or quietly giving away hundreds of millions of his own wealth to the impoverished, Michael’s imprint everywhere was remarkable. And yet, many still attempted to portray him as somehow peculiar. Dr. Conrad Murray is on trial this week. Accused of violating standards of medical care by leaving Michael unattended and failing to call 911, his defense will do whatever they can to keep him from serving jail time. They’ll argue his innocence, his years of service and most importantly, they will attempt to put Michael on trial yet again. Already this week, we heard the defense argue that Michael died from a combination of tranquilizers and a surgical anesthetic he took without Murray’s knowledge. Defense attorney Ed Chernoff even stated that Michael took enough prescription drugs to ‘put six of you to sleep’ and then somehow he self-administered Propofol (anesthetic usually used in hospitals). It is an outrageous statement compounded by the fact that it is Dr. Murray himself that stands accused of administering Propofol in excessive quantities and then leaving Michael unattended. Great talent comes with great consequences. As an artist, when you are so intricately in touch with emotions, and think and feel on a deeper level than most, you are often viewed as an outsider when you don’t conform to conventional norms. That is the double-edged sword Michael dealt with throughout his lifetime. I had the unique pleasure of getting to know him for years and working with him on a host of issues. In 2002, Michael came to our National Action Network headquarters in Harlem as we marched together to Sony Music along with hundreds of supporters to demand his right to ownership of the very masterpieces he created. And I watched as many often tried — and of course failed — to vilify him over and over again. As I told Michael’s children during his funeral in ’09, there was nothing strange about your daddy, it was strange what your daddy had to deal with. As the strangeness unfortunately plays out yet again in another court drama over two years after Michael’s passing, let’s be sure to remember precisely who is on trial here.