First things first. Antonio Bascaro, now 80, has served a whopping 34 years in prison for a non-violent marijuana-importation offense -- while the ringleader of that operation has been free since 1994. Of course, we can guess why that is -- the ringleader probably had more info on other drug kingpins than any of his underlings did -- but that doesn't make it right. Mr. Bascaro has been, by all accounts, a model prisoner, a mere 20 credits away from a B.A. attempted entirely while incarcerated, and even more to the point, he meets recently-issued Justice Department guidelines for clemency, including a clean record before imprisonment and a sentence that's much longer than a similar sentence would be today. Hence a change.org petition helps you ask our government for clemency for Mr. Bascaro. If you're puzzled that I demand that we get tougher on criminal banksters and show more mercy toward non-violent drug offenders, consider that high among a civilization's virtues is knowing when to be merciful, and when not.
Meanwhile, another change.org petition helps you tell the federal Department of Health and Human Services to end discrimination against special needs kids when considering organ transplants. You might be tempted to say, well, we have a finite number of organs to transplant, so we always have to decide who to give them to, but we still have to decide correctly, and too often we deny special-needs children on the basis of incomplete or inaccurate medical records or, well, the simple belief that some kids aren't as much worth saving as others, that belief more often than not supported by some rather mistaken presumptions about particular patients' "ability" to take care of themselves after the transplant. Surely we've come some way in embracing the diversity apparent in the autistic community, for one example, or the Down's Syndrome community, for another. But, really, every life is precious, and we should save every life we can, regardless of who's a budding concert pianist and who isn't.