George R. R. Martin cares about what I do!

August 13, 2012 ACLU, Politics / Religion, Writing Comments (0) 468

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I hardly need validation from celebrities to make me feel good about my job. Still, it was a nice start to the week to read George R. R. Martin’s screed against nationwide voter suppression efforts. A sampling:

The people behind these efforts at disenfranchising large groups of voters (the young, the old, the black, the brown) are not Republicans, since clearly they have scant regard for our republic or its values. They are oligarchs and racists clad in the skins of dead elephants.

As a fan of GRRM’s books, I’m also a regular reader of his blog. Naturally I posted a comment thanking him on behalf of his fans at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, where we just wrapped up a two-week-long lawsuit against the state’s voter suppression law. We’re expecting a decision this week, so we’re all on pins and needles right now. It’s nice to see that an author I respect and admire is willing to speak out against such injustice.

Now… how do I parlay this into a blurb from GRRM?

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Sometimes I get to feel like I work with super heroes.

March 2, 2012 ACLU, Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Personal, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 418

So a high school principal in Tennessee, Dorothy Bond, was using the PA system to preach about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. She was holding assemblies to tell her students that gay people “weren’t on God’s path” and were “going to hell.” She promised 60-day suspensions for any students guilty of same-sex PDAs. She also told female students that if they got preganant their lives would be over, and that they would end up “jobless, homeless, and living off the government.”

So then the ACLU found out, and we sent the school district a letter. Three hours later, Dorothy Bond was unemployed.

Dan Savage says: “The ACLU means business, and they will fuck you up.”

What a way to end the week. I’ll be walking on air all the way home.

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Thank you for your support

December 30, 2010 ACLU, Animals, Personal Comments (1) 484

As we approach the end of the tax year, I thought I’d share a brief list of the charitable organizations I personally support.  Some of you can probably afford to make much larger gifts than I can, and I’d encourage you to give generously to support these causes.

1. Humane Farm Animal Care

While I am a meat eater, I don’t see why eating an animal after it’s dead requires that it be tortured while alive. Food labels like Certified Organic, Pasture-Fed, and Free Range are essentially meaningless these days, but one label can be trusted to say that the animal you’re eating was not made to suffer throughout its life: Certified Humane.  These labels come only from the folks at HFAC, and they are rigorous in enforcing strict criteria before they’ll give out the label.

I will admit that I don’t always buy Certified Humane, but that’s because it’s still difficult to find.  Supporting this organization will help raise awareness, and that will make Certified Humane products much easier to find.  You can learn more and donate through HFAC’s web site.

2. Cell Motion Biobus


Founded by an old friend of mine (now apparently known as “Doctor Ben”), the Cell Motion Biobus is a mobile science classroom that travels New York City, bringing sound science education, taught by PhD scientists, to students whose districts can’t afford expenses like microscopes and computers.

You may have seen the Biobus on the Colbert Report in March, when they stole Stephen’s blood.  The organization reaches about 20,000 people a year, and they operate on a shoestring.  You can learn more, volunteer, and make a much-needed donation at their web site.

3. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Pennsylvania

As if I would forget my employer.  As I’ve been known to say, I work for the ACLU because I support the cause, and not vice-versa.  The ACLU was the first charity I ever donated to, back when I was about 17 years old.  It is no exaggeration to say that the ACLU has not only defended, but in fact shaped the U.S. Constitution.  Did you know that no court ever upheld a free speech claim until the ACLU started arguing cases?

I view the ACLU as the world’s most important non-profit organization, and every American, whether they support the ACLU or oppose it, benefits from the ACLU’s 90 years of work.  Your gift to the ACLU is shared equally between the National organization and your state affiliate, no matter where you send it.

Incidentally, if you are one of those people who hates the ACLU, I’d invite you to learn more – particularly the articles on Snopes, and a list of the ACLU’s real work defending Christianity.  Most people who hate the ACLU have entirely the wrong idea about what we do, because unfortunately there are a lot of people out there telling outright lies about the organization.

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Merry Christmas, you atheist bastards!

December 28, 2010 ACLU, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 296

This was a banner year for Christmas cards at the ACLU of Pennsylvania.  We didn’t keep an exact count, but the total was somewhere over 500 cards.  Of those 500, perhaps twenty were kind thoughts from people who like us.  The other 480 or so were angry, angry, angry.

In case you’ve missed it, there is an annual campaign to bury the ACLU under Christmas cards.  A chain email that’s been circulating for a decade or more insists that if we get enough Christmas cards, we’ll have to spend all of our time and resources opening them (just in case they contain money!) and won’t be able to do anything else with our time.  Shades of “Miracle on 34th Street,” I suppose.

This is all under the mistaken impression that the ACLU is fighting a War on Christmas, that we’ve told Macy’s and other department stores that we’ll sue if they wish shoppers a Merry Christmas, and that we’re somehow campaigning to have the Christmas Tree re-branded the “Holiday Tree.”  It’s all a bunch of nonsense, of course.  None of those claims are true, and we think people should be free to celebrate whatever holiday celebration appeals to them – just that the government shouldn’t be in the business of dictating what holiday that is.

So I present for you a gallery of a few favorite Christmas cards we received this year.  As a nerd who has recently been studying a lot of ancient and Classical societies, I have to say that I especially enjoy the frequent theme that “it’s ALWAYS been a CHRISTMAS tree.”  Perhaps a brief course in Western Civilization would be beneficial… Continue Reading

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Sexting, and what it means to be a girl

February 1, 2010 ACLU, In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 320

This post originally appeared on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights and the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s blog, Speaking Freely, on January 20.

On January 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit heard arguments in Miller, et al. v. Skumanick, a child pornography case that, oddly, involves no child pornography. The case goes back to 2006, when two girls aged 12 were photographed by another friend on her digital camera. The two girls were depicted from the waist up, wearing bras. In a separate situation, our third client was photographed as she emerged from the shower, with a towel wrapped around her waist and the upper body exposed. Neither of the photos depicted genitalia or any sexual activity or context. In 2008 the girls’ school district learned that these and other photos were circulating, confiscated several students’ cell phones, and turned the photos in question over to the Wyoming County district attorney, George Skumanick, Jr.

Skumanick sent a letter to the girls and their parents, offering an ultimatum. They could attend a five-week re-education program of his own design, which included topics like “what it means to be a girl in today’s society” and “non-traditional societal and job roles.” They would also be placed on probation, subjected to random drug testing, and required to write essays explaining how their actions were wrong. If the girls refused the program, the letter explained, the girls would be charged with felony child pornography, a charge that carries a possible 10-year prison sentence.

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