All You Need is Love. . . and Legal Status



From Town Clerks to Ex-Presidents: Montana Diary.5

If you’ve missed previous Montana posts, click to see: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.

Today was a long day, but a good one. I spent the morning finishing up the policy statements submitted by some of the lesser known, in many cases one might say fringe, candidates (see Day 2 for more about that). And though I may not agree with a thing any of them say, some are quite well-read. If extreme. What’s important is that they’re running for office, and voters need to know who they are and what they stand for. There’s so much information on the Vote Smart website; in fact, if you go here, you can find out who’s running for office, and compare candidates, issue by issue.

You can also turn to the Project Vote Smart website to find out where to register to vote or get an absentee ballot. I spent the rest of the day updating part of the data base of information on local election offices. So if you live in a Texas county, or a Massachusetts town from Cambridge to Natick (alphabetically, that is), I made sure that the contact information for your election office (or town clerk) is up to date. You can check out my handiwork here.

This evening, the member volunteers were invited to have dinner at the home of Richard and Adelaide Kimball; Richard is the founder and president of PVS. That’s him in the black shirt on the far right; the others are member volunteers, like me, and I’ll tell you: these are smart, interesting, informed people who’ve done (and continue to do) some pretty impressive things with their lives. I’m learning a lot.

Later, some of us joined the young staffers and interns, who were watching the Democratic convention. It was very interesting to hear their takes on Bill Clinton’s speech (which they all thought was way too long). I have such a vivid memory of the night Clinton won the Presidential election the first time — and to think that these young people were only two or three years old! But they’re intelligent, they’re well-informed, they’re involved, and they make me think there’s reason to be hopeful. Oh, and that’s Abigail (for Adams) and Potus, enjoying an evening’s romp. They skipped the speeches, though Cleo the Cat stopped by for a bit.

Click to continue to part 6 ➪

Some Day Is Now: Montana Diary

I’ve been a very bad blogger, but I’ve just started on an adventure that gives me an excellent reason to get back on track. I left New York early this morning and am now at the Great Divide Ranch outside of Philipsburg, Montana, where I’ll be till next Saturday.

No, I’m not at a dude ranch or in rehab. I’m volunteering at Project Vote Smart, a non profit organization I’ve written about before. Is it unseemly to quote oneself? It may be, but here’s what I posted last year: PVS “is a completely non-partisan organization dedicated to the idea that a knowledgable citizenry is an empowered citizenry. With the click of some keys you can find out everything you need to know about candidates and elected officials: biographies, voting records, issue positions, public statements, campaign finances, and more.” You can find out where they stand on issues that matter to you.

For years I’ve been sending donations, and for years I’ve been saying some day I’m going to come here to volunteer. This year I decided there is no “some day.” There’s only now. And here I am. I arrived at Missoula airport this afternoon, along with a couple other volunteers. We were picked up by a group of young staff members and interns, and after a bit of shopping and dinner, drove the two approximately hours from Missoula to the ranch. A lot of the staff and longer term interns are recent college grads, many of whom majored in political science, communications, journalism, international relations. The ones I’ve talked to so far, on the ride to the ranch – Colleen, who arrived today and will be here for ten weeks, and staffers Rachel and Masha – are pretty impressive. Member volunteers, like me, normally come for two weeks, which I’d originally planned to do. But exigencies of life made two weeks problematic, and the folks here were kind enough to let me come for just a week. I hope I’ll be able to contribute something of value while I’m here. It may be as simple as envelope stuffing or data entry, and that will be fine.

Before I close this post, I want to say something about why I’m here, how I feel about participatory democracy, and why I think it’s so important to vote, even if we don’t like any of the parties or candidates. Since I wrote about that once before, I’ll do the unseemly again and link back to my October 2010 post (geez—have I had the blog that long??). And of course I encourage you to visit Project Vote Smart.

Click to continue to part 2 ☛

‘Tis the Season

Who’s the most difficult person to buy a gift for on your list? You know what I mean: the uncle who has more stuff than he needs or desires, the friend who likes to travel light, and neighbor whose is taste so specifically her own it’s almost impossible to choose something she’ll really like. The perfect gift for those people could be a donation made in their honor. A cause matched with the person’s interests takes things to the next level, but if even if you’re a lefty with a Tea Bagger cousin or a fur lover with a vegan best friend, there’s a cause out there that’ll leave you basking in the mutual glow of holiday generosity. Here are some of my own favorite organizations; in this era of tightened belts, remember that any amount will do. And even if you’re through with this year’s spending, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about these organizations.

BEADS For Education There are many ways to contribute to BEADS. You can shop for gifts made by members of women’s beading collectives; proceeds are used to fund the women’s groups and BEADS programs. Gifts start at $15 and most are no more than $30. If your budget is larger, you can sponsor a Kenyan girl’s education, which might be the most rewarding gift you can give yourself. You can also simply donate.

Airline Ambassadors Years ago, on a flight from JFK to SFO, I chatted with flight attendant Nancy Rivard, and she mentioned me a little non-profit she’d started. Since then, Airline Ambassadors has grown into an organization that does big things, like delivering humanitarian aid to children around the world, escorting children to hospitals, rebuilding or delivering supplies to areas hit by disaster or poverty. You can make a donation and even join a mission.

Polaris Project’s vision is simple: “a world without slavery.” It’s one of the largest organizations of its kind, with numerous programs for combatting human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Schoolbags For Kids So much beauty in a simple idea: you buy a very cool schoolbag for someone you know, and another schoolbag filled with supplies is donated to a child who needs one in India, Thailand, or Belize. (May I brag a little? One of the founders is a fan who has become a friend. Bravo, Kalon!)

Project VoteSmart is a completely non-partisan organization dedicated to the idea that a knowledgable citizenry is an empowered citizenry. With the click of some keys you can find out everything you need to know about candidates and elected officials: biographies, voting records, issue positions, public statements, campaign finances, and more. This is seriously valuable information; there’s no cost to use the site, so donations keep it going.

The Jazz Foundation Jazz musicians play well into old age. One of the things that’s always nagged at me is a concern for some of the elders who are still with us; after all, a lot of gigs pay no more than they did three or four or five decades ago (and I’m talking actual dollars, not inflation-adjusted ones). How are these folks in their seventies, eighties, nineties getting by? In many cases, not very well. This is where the Jazz foundations steps in, with programs to provide emergency housing and assistance, pro bono medical care for uninsured musicians, performance opportunities for elder masters, and more. Read about some of the people the JFA has helped.

Society of Singers Similarly, SOS provides support to singers in need. Programs include financial aid, case management and referrals, scholarships, and more.

Potters For Peace is a network of potters, educators, technicians, supporters, and volunteers that works with clay artisans on ceramic water purification projects. Want to see the beauty of a low tech miracle? Potters for Peace travels the world teaching potters (often rural women) how to make low-cost ceramic water filters that can bring clean, potable water to those who need it most.

When I heard about Planting Peace’s deworming project I was struck by several things: the widespread the problem of intestinal parasites is, the devastating effects, and the relatively simple and inexpensive solutions. A one dollar donation pays for deworming sixty seven children; when’s the last time you spent a dollar that made such a huge difference? Of course you can multiply that dollar by any amount and help even more people. And if you’ve got $20 a month to spend, you can sponsor an orphan’s housing, education, medical care, and more.

For the activist on your list, an Occupy Wall Street calendar, with profits donated to the movement. Swiss photographer Juan Carlos Hernandez came to New York to photograph jazz events, and ended up also spending a lot of time at Zuccotti Square. A track from my CD accompanies the promo video for the calendar, or go straight to the store and get a 50% discount with the code HOLIDAYSUPERSAVINGS34 if you buy before December 31.

Happy shopping, happy giving.

Happy International Human Rights Day

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948:


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Articles (full text) / History

“And You Want To Be My Latex Salesman!”

This is kind of how I imagine a Rick Perry presidency might go down:
“The three branches of government are judicial, executive, Donner, and Blitzen. Oops!”
“My home state of Texas executed the wrong guy. Oops!”
“We’re at war with China. Oops!”