Thursday, December 31, 2009

Is your phone progressive?

As we struggle to realize the progressive policies we hoped would finally come to be with the elections of President Obama, we are quickly finding that change doesn't come easy. There are entrenched interests everywhere that will stand in the way. And that begs the question: how did these interests get so strong, and how do that stay so strong? An oversimplified, but very important answer is: we made them, and we keep them strong.

By consuming products and services without paying much attention to the politics of the companies we are giving our money to, we have created this monster. For example, if you care about taking on global warming, you may want to avoid any company that is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If you care about a woman's right to chose, you should probably encourage any like-minded friends to part ways with the fitness chain Curves.

It gets to be a real pain trying to avoid companies with bad politics. Fortunately, I stumbled on one that is good. I don't just mean that they don't do anything bad, I mean that they've generated 60 million dollars for progressive causes like civil rights, environment, peace & international freedom, economic & social justice, and voting rights & civic participation.

Sound good? It is. Meet CREDO Mobile.

[A phone] service where 1% of your charges goes to progressive nonprofits you vote on, your bill serves as a progressive newsletter and your phone company as a progressive lobby.

Lets face it, 'corporate social responsibility' sells, and I am always on the lookout for companies that buy a lot of ads saying how much they care about climate change, and then spend like crazy to defeat a climate change bill in Congress *cough-Shell-cough*

I looked into CREDO Mobile a bit more - but they check out. Right down to their own enviro practices. Check out how they bill:

We're the only one that prints our bills with soy-based ink on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. We're the only one that plants 100 trees for every ton of paper we use (enough to make another ton of paper). And we're the only one recognized for our commitment to a greener world by the prominent environmental nonprofit Planning and Conservation League, which named us its Environmental Business of the Year in 2009.

They've got a nifty little slide show with more on their green practices here.

I had heard of CREDO Mobile before, but I just switched over last week. I got a new Blackberry for $20, they bought out my contract with Verizon, I'm paying less for service than I was before, and now instead of avoiding spending money that supports bad stuff, I'm contributing to progressive causes I support every time I pick up my phone.

If you like what you're reading, maybe you should make the switch.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


The first thing you should know about Stevey is that his accent is unique. I don't mean that he speaks in a way that few other people do,  he speaks in a way that no one else does. His thick scottish brogue is almost unintelligible. He made me promise to support Scottish independence if I ever become President. He threatened to throw me over the cliffs near his house if I didn't.

I met Stevey in a pub called Sweeney's in Dunloe after breaking a ladder near his house.
"So this is the fat-ass yankee bastard who owes me a new ladder."
I told him that his ladder was waiting to break and that I'd probably saved his ass if not his life.  He smiled and I bought him a pint and we were instant friends.

I learned that his thatch-roofed house didn't have plumbing or electricity.  He had developed and ingenious 12-rock system for solid human waste.  He would would instruct his guests toward the appropriate rock and gruffly steer them away from the others.  By the time a year had passed, nature would run its course and the rock would again be ready for use.

Stevey bought the house and the extensive land around it from a 'witchy' old woman who had lived in it all her life.  She know he wouldn't develop it of sell it.  He got it for something like 8,000.  It is worth at least 500,000 today if not much more.  

Apart from purporting to hate yankee bastards, he is a very kind man. He is not afraid to sound off about anything. A few years ago, his opinions caused the IRA to threaten to throw him over the cliffs.  Undaunted, Stevey assured them that if they tried, he'd take at least one of them with him.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lend Your Voice For Human Rights

The veneer of civilization is paper-thin, we are its guardians and we can never rest.
 - Tom Lantos

The only holocaust survivor to be elected to the U.S. Congress, the late Tom Lantos was a reliable champion for Human Rights.  In addition to his tireless work in the U.S. House, each year, on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights (UDHR), Congressman Lantos would speak at the UN.  The quote above is from the prepared remarks he would have delivered the year he died.

Today is International Human Rights Day.  Observing this day requires a hard look at the state of human rights in the world.  It is not hard to see many places where the 'veneer of civilization' has been torn apart by brutal crimes.  The suffering in Darfur has not been addressed.  The people of Afghanistan still live in squalor under the constant threat of violence.  More than half of the world's population is too poor to attain the "standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family" as declared a basic human right in Article 25 of the UDHR.

Here in the United States, glaring violations of UDHR Articles 6 - 11 exist in the prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Force Base.  To wit:

Article 6.

  •  Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

  •  All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

  •  Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

  •  No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

  •  Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

  •  (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

  •  (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

    International Human Rights Day is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to Human Rights around the world and in our own country. Today - there are two things we all can do to be faithful guardians of Human Rights.  

    1. Sign the Human Rights First petition to Close GITMO, and thereby stay in the loop an consistently speak out in defense of human rights.

    2. Share this effort on your social networks.  These links will make it easy: Facebook - Twitter.

    61 years ago today, the United States, led by Eleanore Roosevelt, played a central role in achieving the greatest declaration of hope the Human Race has ever achieved.  The UDHR sets a bold course to a world as it should be.  To the extent that we can put human rights first in our politics, our economy, and our pursuit of global and national security, we shall contribute to the advancement of humanity in the world.