Wednesday, December 2, 2009

National Call in Day to Eliminate Cocaine Disparity

From the Sentencing Project:
For the first time, crack cocaine sentencing reform legislation received a favorable vote in Congress when the House Judiciary Committee in July approved the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, H.R. 3245. To move the bill forward we need a vote on the bill by the entire House of Representatives.

Now is the time for advocates to contact their Representative to ask for support and co-sponsorship of H.R. 3245. Call the U.S. Capitol at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative right now.

The prospects for sentencing reform are the best advocates have seen since Congress passed this controversial law 23 years ago. Change cannot happen, however, without your support and continued pressure on members of Congress. Please use these talking points to tell your Representative to take action.

Talking Points:

Please support and co-sponsor H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009. This legislation will:

* Restore federal law enforcement priorities. When Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and 1988, the intended targets of mandatory minimums were "serious" and "major" traffickers. In practice, the law failed to live up to its promise. Mandatory penalties for crack cocaine offenses have been applied most often to individuals who are low-level participants in the drug trade, who comprise more than 60% of federal crack defendants.

* Save federal tax dollars and ease prison overcrowding. The Federal Bureau of Prisons estimates it costs $25,895 a year to house each prisoner. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, eliminating the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine would reduce the prison population by over 13,000 in 10 years.

* Counter the perception of unfairness in the criminal justice system. African Americans account for 81.8% of defendants sentenced to federal prison for crack cocaine offenses. Crack cocaine sentences average 37 months longer than sentences for powder cocaine. This disparity has contributed to a damaging perception of race-based unfairness in our criminal justice system.

* Treat two forms of the same drug the same. Crack cocaine is pharmacologically the same as powder cocaine. Myths about crack cocaine, that have been dispelled since the sentencing law was passed 23 years ago, contributed to these out of proportion penalties.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Support Prisoner Families this Holiday Season!

From Thousand Kites:
Dear Friend,

Join the tenth annual CALLS FROM HOME holiday radio broadcast for
prisoners and their families.

The United States has 2.4 million people behind bars. Thousand Kites
wants you to lend your voice to a powerful grassroots radio broadcast
that reaches into our nation's prison and tells those inside they
are not forgotten.

Learn more at

We are asking you to call our toll-free line 877-518-0606 and speak
directly to those behind bars this holiday season. An answering
machine will record your message. Read a poem, sing a song, or just
speak directly from you heart. Speak to someone you know or to
everyone---make it uplifting.

We are making a special call to poets to support our project this year.
Poets click here.

CALLS FROM HOME will broadcast on over 200 radio stations across the
country and will be available for download on our website December 8th.
Call anytime (now through December 7) at 877-518-0606 and record your message.

Listen to calls here.

Learn how you can help blog, distribute, broadcast, or support this project.

CALLS FROM HOME is a project of Thousand Kites/WMMT-FM/Appalshop Campaign Center
and a national network of grassroots organizations working for criminal justice reform.

So call right now at 877-518-0606.

Thousand Kites Team

Monday, November 23, 2009

Call Pres. Obama: End the War!

Call President Obama, Your Senators, and Member of Congress to Stop the Escalation and End the War in Afghanistan

An ad-hoc coalition of national peace advocacy organizations is calling on people from every corner of the country to inundate the White House on Monday (November 23rd) with phone calls against military escalation in Afghanistan.

The Obama Administration is on the verge of a major strategic decision regarding troop levels and US policy in Afghanistan. Ralph Nader recently lamented how Obama was possibly "insulating himself" - not unlike his predecessor - from expert and cautious advice as he considers this, his most perilous, foreign policy decision.

After eight years of war and occupation in Afghanistan it is now up to those Americans who have long counciled for peace and reconciliation to speak out louder than they ever have before. We take Obama's hesitation to commit more troops as a welcome sign, and see this not as presidential 'dithering', but as an opportunity.

Obama may not ever make the speech that Tom Engelhardt recently fantasized about, nor speak the truth that Howard Zinn so eloquently provides , but the peace movement must find its ground with this new President (and this Congress) to end the assault on the Afghan people, bring our troops home, and help bring peace to a region that has far too long known only war.

On Monday (11/23), take time from your day to call the White House - 202-456-1111 - and give President Obama the advise he so desperately needs. Tell him, We, the people of this nation, will not sit idly by and watch him turn our hope into a quagmire or our dreams of peace into the continued nightmare visited upon the nation of Afghanistan. When you're done, call your Senators and House members and relate to them the same.

If there is to be an escalation, let it be ours.
The groups supporting this Call-In Day include: Just Foreign Policy, United for Peace and Justice, the American Friends Service Committee, Peace Action, CodePink, Voters for Peace, Pax Christi,, Historians Against War, and the Institute for Policy Studies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't Ask Don't Tell on Veteran's Day

Thanks Schuyzoo for sending this my way.

Dan Choi's powerful story as told in a Moth performance can be accessed here.

On this veteran's day I have a lot of questions and a lot of hope that we can do things better NOW. The way we're treating our soldiers and our veterans is unacceptable. Policies that invisibilize and silence, like DADT and the denial of the prevalence of rape in the military (for a great DN! segment on the troubles female servicemembers face click here), perpetuate cycles that MUST be broken. Statistics telling about how we have failed our veterans are overwhelming and prevalent in the news - for example, over 2000 veterans died from a lack of health care last year, and new studies are showing that soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are disproportionately suffering from unemployment. And of course, the violence at Fort Hood recently is disturbing evidence of how broken our military is. I'm not sure what would make it all better, but I know that increased transparency, support and training for soldiers and veterans would be a start. Maybe also downsizing our military? (GASP!) I don't know -- more ideas?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is Blackface Back Again?

Or should I ask, did it ever really leave? Racewire recently published an article on the resurgence of Blackface in the media, including on ANTM (vomit!) but also in W and Vogue magazines.

Obviously Halloween is quite the perfect time for racist costumes and blackface (Racewire also did an article on that) and my sister, who goes to Northwestern University, shared an open letter from one student to the NU community in the DailyNorthwestern. They wrote in response to some students wearing blackface and attempts to give them some historical grounding in her explanation of why blackface is racist and unacceptable. Let me repeat.. THEY HAD TO EXPLAIN THAT BLACKFACE IS RACIST AND UNACCEPTABLE. How folks don't figure things like that out for themselves... Anyway here's an excerpt:

Northwestern community: It is time we realize the significance of our actions. It is time every person becomes conscious of the effects his or her behavior has on an entire community of people. I am writing about the incessant and continuous racialized demonstrations of authority and dominance presented by the entire NU community and our society at large.

The most recent incident, the cause for this letter, was on the night of Oct. 31, Halloween, when certain white members of the NU community dressed up as black people. In an attempt to resemble a black person, someone painted his entire body black.

If you do not know the history of these actions, all you need to know is one word to understand the disgusting behavior this person embodied — that word is blackface. Blackface has, surprisingly enough, been on this campus before. Two years ago, a very similar incident occurred, pointing to the lack of insight of the people in the NU community to make a conscious movement toward combating race problems.

The full article is here. What upset me the most are the comments in response to the piece - but that's becoming a trend with on-line journalism, as well.

This reminds me of this one time when my friend Ruby was invited to a ridiculously racist costume party and the party-thrower just couldn't figure out what he was doing wrong..

Friday, October 30, 2009

Support the Goldstone Report! From Jewish Voices for Peace

to tell the Israeli government, the media, US Congress and Richard Goldstone:

Dear Friend,

Frankly, I've had enough of the lies and distortions surrounding the UN Goldstone Report. I've had enough of the maneuvering by Israel, the US, and other countries in order to dismiss the report and its authors and bury it altogether.

If you are as dismayed as I am, sign at, and we'll let key Israeli officials, members of Congress, and Goldstone himself know how many of you support the report.

What we need, instead of the smear campaigns, is discussion of the report's substance: the use of phosphorus that literally burned people alive (I saw the terrible impact with my own eyes on a recent trip to Gaza); or the use of metal darts called flechettes that twist when they enter the body; or the long term impacts of contaminated land and water.

Early next week the report heads to the floor of the US Congress and the UN General Assembly, and we're expecting continued pressure to have this important document roundly dismissed.

The continued attacks on the Goldstone Report prevent accountability for the civilian victims before, during and after the attack on Gaza -- both Palestinians and Israelis -- and shred the rule of law.

That's why we are asking you to say: I support the Goldstone Report. Once you sign, we'll tell you how to easily and quickly lobby Congress and your UN Ambassador in the next few days.

The truth is that the Goldstone Report is a well-researched, fair-minded report. It accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the attack on Gaza, and it calls on Israel and Hamas to conduct credible, independent investigations or face the International Criminal Court.

I support the Goldstone Report.

Israel decided not to cooperate with the investigation and now claims that the report and its results are biased. Worse yet, Israel claims that the report negates its right to defend its population, when in reality, all the report does is insist that such a defense take place within the bounds of international law.

The United States and other countries are repeating the same lines, and have exerted great diplomatic pressure to kill the report.

The US Congress is getting ready to pass a resolution next week calling on President Obama to do everything he can to bury the Goldstone Report. The UN General Assembly will vote on it. Israel might launch its own investigation, if it is pressured enough to do so. And if it does, our task will be to ensure that the investigation is comprehensive, impartial, and aimed towards addressing, punishing and preventing future human rights abused - and not at changing the laws of war such that another blatant assault on civilian life and property as the Gaza war will ever become acceptable under international law.

Please join us in supporting the Goldstone Report now.


Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

NYC No Longer a Sanctuary City

This week The Huffington Post reported:

Last year about 360,000 people were deported from the United States, nearly 100,000 deportations resulting from past criminal convictions, mostly for low-level non-violent convictions. It's a mockery of justice that someone can be punished twice for the same crime.

New York City, which claims to be a "sanctuary city," is supposed to encourage its residents to report crimes and seek social services without fear of deportation.
As the Huff Post put it,

Allowing ICE into its jails is a violation of this policy. Schiro must urgently implement the demands of Immigration Out of Rikers, a city wide coalition pushing to kick ICE out of the facility. A key first step would be to refuse ICE access to the two-thirds of Rikers detainees who are pre-trial. Letting immigration agents into city jails means that many families end up being needlessly ripped apart.

The inadequacy of our immigration system and the perpetual violence against immigrants in our country feels overwhelming to me. I'm excited to see the emergence of a coalition that seems to be asserting itself effectively! I couldn't find a website for them but I found this awesome article on Make the Road's website.