50 Years Later, We Still Have a Dream

For the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the NYC Light Brigade, Veterans For Peace, Get Equal, and activists from across the country have illuminated the message: “We Have A Dream – Jobs Not War.”

We need a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom every bit as much today as we did fifty years ago.

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If you drop by Starbucks for a latte on August 9, don’t forget to bring your gun

Depending on your stance on guns rights and gun violence, you may make a point to drop by your nearest Starbucks on August 9–or you may run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

Gun rights advocates want to show their appreciation for Starbucks and their friendly attitude toward loaded gun-toting patrons. On August 9, they’ll be holding rallies celebrating Starbucks’ policy of allowing guns in their stores in the 43 states which allow open carry. So far, according to the Facebook event page, 2,500 people have said they’ll go to their local Starbucks and bring their gun along.

The website Guns Saves Lives says,

Starbucks is not “pro gun”, but rather neutral on the subject. This is really all we can ask as gun owners and carriers of any private business. So, in opposition to the boycott and to show support for a company which respects the Constitution and state laws, gun owners are encouraged to spend money with Starbucks on August 9, 2013 to show your support and offset any boycotts.

The boycott it refers to is a campaign by Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense in America. Starbucks, they say, has “banned smoking to protect the health of their customers, even in areas where smoking would be legal, so why won’t they ban guns?”

In an editorial, the organization’s founder Shannon Watts and chapter head Kate Beck write, “When it comes to responsible gun policy, Starbucks has lost its moral compass. As mothers, we wonder why the company is willing to put children and families in so much danger. Nobody needs to be armed to get a cup of coffee.”

Recent gun injuries and near-misses at Starbucks stores so far haven’t motivated the company to change its policy, which hasn’t been updated since March 2010. Incidents include a Florida woman’s gun firing accidentally in her purse when she set it down, wounding her companion in the leg. A similar incident occurred in 2011 in a Wyoming Starbucks when a .38 went off in a girl’s purse. A man was also shot in the leg in Houston just outside a Starbucks.

While Guns Saves Lives describes Starbucks’ policy as neutral, it is far from such. Private property and business owners are not required to allow guns on the premises. Starbucks and other businesses are well within their rights to ask gun-toting patrons to leave or remove their firearms.

For its part, Starbucks is pretending to be above it all: “Advocacy groups from both sides of this issue have chosen to use Starbucks as a way to draw attention to their positions.” In that whiny statement, they’re purposefully overlooking two things: ferocious battles over the 2nd Amendment have been going on for years, and almost 7,000 people have been killed by guns just since the Sandyhook shooting in December.

Not asking customers to check their firearms at the door is a political statement. Starbucks also refuses to acknowledge that it’s placing its customers and employees at risk by allowing guns on the premises. Starbucks can’t hide behind a mealy-mouth corporate policy drafted three years ago.

Activists Identify DC Cop Who Infiltrated Bangladesh Sweatshop Protests

Earth First! Newswire

Left: Still photo from a video of the May 15 protest at Children’s Place. Right: Photo from @snufftastic Twitter account.  by Mike Elk / In These Times

Rumors have flown for many years that DC police routinely infiltrate and spy on the frequent protests in the nation’s Capitol. But until now, activists have never been able to identify a specific undercover cop at a protest. Now, after months of piecing together evidence, attorneys Jeffrey Light and Sean Canavan working with United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) have confirmed that under an assumed name, Metro police officer Nicole Rizzi has participated in USAS protests against companies doing business in Bangladesh who refuse to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh following the death of as many as 1,129 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

USAS and its lawyers have numerous pieces of evidence placing Rizzi at…

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Congress comes up with money to end Defense Department furloughs

DoD_sealSecretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum today effectively ending the furloughs of hundreds of thousands of Department of Defense civilian employees in mid-August. Mandatory one-day-a-week leave of the civilian work force will end five weeks earlier than scheduled–as well as their corresponding twenty percent pay cut.

The furloughs were implemented in June as a Department-wide cost-cutting measure to cover a $11 billion shortfall because of the sequester, sweeping automatic budget cuts resulting from Congressional indecision. Active duty military considered to be part of the “war effort” were exempt from the furloughs, while 800,000 civil servants have been affected.

At first, civilian employees were told to expect 14 days of unpaid leave starting in May. Later the furloughs were downgraded to 11 days from July 8 to mid-September. Hagel’s announcement reduces them further to a total of six days.

According to Secretary Hagel, furloughs were among “limited options” to “close [the] gap” in the budget shortfall. Unsurprisingly, the twenty percent cut in pay resulting from the furloughs and its unequal application has caused dissension among the ranks.

Yet the constraints imposed by the Congressional sequester seem to have had more flexibility than anticipated, and the Department of Defense appears to have come up with some money as well. In the memo, Hagel writes:

Congress has approved most of a large reprogramming request that we submitted in mid-May, giving us flexibility to move funds across accounts. The military services have been aggressive in identifying ways to hold down costs, and we have been successful in shifting savings (including furlough savings) to meet our highest priority needs.

A memorandum Hagel issued earlier this week indicated that furloughs may be proposed again next year, or for as long as five years, in order to bring the bloated Defense budget in line with the President’s plan for reduction.

The odds are high for furloughs continuing under a sequester next year as Congress has yet to pass a balanced budget, opting to allocate funds on the basis of continuing resolutions. The $85 billion sequester reductions are the result of a Congress unable to agree on how much to cut government spending or where the cuts should be made.

Sequester has affected government services in a variety of sectors. In April, air traffic controllers were furloughed for several weeks, resulting in significant delays in air travel. The Friday before Congress was to travel home for spring break, they voted to approve a last minute re-allocation of $253 million from funds the FAA already had in another account.

The sequester also slashed budgets for Federal Parks, Head Start early education, Meals on Wheels, public defenders and many other services in which civil servants have had their hours reduced.

Freedom makes me anxious and the NSA beats Xanax

At Sheremetyevo Airport Edward Snowden reportedly passed the time reading Russian literature, including Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. To my knowledge he hasn’t read Brothers Karamazov, but this quote from a famous section called “The Grand Inquisitor” seems appropriate:

Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.

What else can explain the wholesale embrace of the “keep you safe” NSA surveillance industry among a significant part of the population?

Perhaps party loyalty can as well. New polling numbers from Pew show that major shifts in opinion against NSA surveillance programs and for civil liberties are occurring, except among one group:

The largest changes toward demanding civil liberties protections have occurred among liberal Democrats, Tea Party Republicans, independents and liberal/moderate Republicans. Only self-identified “moderate/conservative Democrats” – the Obama base – remains steadfast and steady in defense of NSA surveillance. The least divided, most-pro-NSA caucus in the House for last week’s vote was the corporatist Blue Dog Democrat caucus, which overwhelmingly voted to protect the NSA’s bulk spying on Americans.

Unwavering devotion to Obama and the Democratic Party leads to a blind, childlike faith capable of rationalizing almost anything.

All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.  -George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Message to DOJ: “Justice for Trayvon” means pursuing civil rights case

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by John Zangas

Activists from the Light Brigade of Maryland, GetEqual, and Code Pink sent the Department of Justice an unmistakable blue light message tonight: “JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON”

The light display was set up just after dusk to tell the county’s leading law officials that George Zimmerman’s acquittal was not acceptable. Petitions have been circulating to demand that the DOJ charge Zimmerman with civil rights violations in the shooting death of the teenager.

Annell Mungo, 25, an activist with GetEqual, said, “The verdict of [the] George Zimmerman murder trial was sickening [and] a clear example of the miles and miles that our country has to go before we live up to our promise of liberty and justice for all.”

She spoke while other activists held the lettered light panels which spelled out their demand for justice for Trayvon Martin. “This week–from Sanford Florida to Austin Texas, and here in Washington, DC–has been a harsh reminder that this country is a dangerous place for people of color, for queer people, for youth and immigrants, for women, and for all those who continue to be devalued and dehumanized.”

“We have much work ahead of us to achieve a fully equal and inclusive America,” Mungo said, “and our commitment to a pathway to social justice for all continues.”

Edward Snowden, Obama’s Great White Waldo–I Mean, Whale

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In the wake of Edward Snowden’s meeting with reps from human rights organizations at Sheremetyevo Airport, the White House and State Department contend that he is not a human rights activist nor a whistle blower. The State Department is reportedly putting the squeeze on Latin America countries which have offered Snowden asylum. Last week the U.S. pressured allies to force the Bolivian president’s plane to land in Austria, a serious breach of international law causing uproar at the U.N. and the removal of South American ambassadors from European embassies. Obama looks increasingly desperate to harpoon the elusive “hacker”.

(h/t @moongoloid)

Fort Meade cops pull over Wikileaks Truck for distributing “Top Secret WikiLeaks Info”

Who knew that the WikiLeaks Truck was chock full of Top Secret Info? Just like it says in bold lettering on the side!

Clark Stoeckley was pulled over this evening while driving the WikiLeaks Truck–no connection to media group WikiLeaks–after a long day at Fort Meade covering whistleblower Bradley Manning’s trial. Stoeckley is a cartoonist who has published a book about Manning’s pre-trial hearings.

His tweets recounting his chat with the Fort Meade officers speak for themselves. It was Stoeckley who got pulled over, but the punchline is how someone pulled one over on these two cops for a laugh.

In striking down DOMA, Supreme Court does the right thing

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by John Zangas

SCOTUS did the right thing today when it struck down DOMA, finding it unconstitutional. The decision gives citizens like plaintiff Edith Windsor equal access under the law. After all, she is a tax-paying American and should have full the privileges and benefits which are bestowed on others.

Other countries such as France and Spain already recognize marriage rights for gays. There are 11 countries that recognize gay marriage. People will look back on it decades from now and wonder what took us so long for us Americans to change the law.

The SCOTUS decision in effect recognizes the LGBT community as a class. It is an evolutionary decision in the history of our country. Still, I find it strange that any Justice would dissent from the overall decision.

SCOTUS also punted on Prop 8–they found that the plaintiffs had “no standing” and declined to rule on the larger issue of gay marriage as a right. That means the right to marry has been restored in California, but other states don’t have to recognize gay marriages.

Every state should follow suit in allowing gay marriage, because it is the inevitable conclusion to a protracted struggle for gay rights. LGBT activists will be unable to retreat from the marriage issue, until this last momentous task is complete.

Fortunately, the mountain to climb to equal rights in marriage may not be as hard to ascend as it used to be. The Department of Defense, one of the most conservative power structures in our society, has already moved in the right direction by removing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) from its regulations, thus allowing gays to come out of hiding. They also recognize gay married couples for benefits, and most recently, endorsed open Pride festivities.

Overall, I see the Supreme Court’s decisions as a huge step forward for the LGBT community. I feel a sense of relief for all of my gay activist friends who fought for years for this decision. Now other branches of the government should finish the work of implementing the rights of everyone.

From Washington to Istanbul with love

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Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Members of GetEQUAL, Code Pink, and the Maryland Bridge Light Brigade sent an illuminated one-word message to the Turkish people: “RESISTANBUL.” They spelled out the catch-phrase for the protests sweeping Turkey in blue lighted panels in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC on June 23.

Organizer Ellen Sturtz said, “GetEQUAL is inspired by the Turkish LGBTQ community and their fight against homophobia and discrimination by Turkish society and its own government.”

Turkish LGBTQ activists support the thousands of protesters in Taksim Square concerned about marginalization of secular cultures in Turkey. The LGBTQ community plans a Pride March in Istanbul on June 30th.

“We are happy to stand and take up our moral obligation to join in the struggle for justice and dignity in their lives,” Sturtz said.