Archive for category Human Rights
Matt Damon gives Howard Zinn’s take on civil disobedience
Rocky Anderson talks about the Trans Pacific Partnership:
Update: More information:
Apparently, Southern Republicans governors have no shame.
When the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act was struck down on June 26, 2013, the Pentagon ordered same-sex spouses to be treated the same as the spouses of heterosexual US service members. The National Guards in the states mentioned above refused to issue ID cards to the spouses of gay service members, arguing that anti-”gay marriage” laws in the states forbade them from doing so.
These National Guard units are directly defying orders from the Secretary of Defense. But it gets more interesting:
You see, there’s a little known fact that the National Guard, while split in its administration between the states and the federal government, tends to get the lion’s share of its funding from the feds.
Take Mississippi (please). The Mississippi National Guard annual report for fiscal year 2011 shows that the state of Mississippi appropriated almost $7.8 million for the state National Guard. In that same year, the federal government gave the Mississippi National Guard $679 million. In 2012, the figures were similar: $685 million from the feds, $7.2 million from the state of Mississippi.
In other words, Mississippi gets nearly 99% of the budget of its state National Guard from Secretary Hagel, the guy they’re now saying they don’t need.
The folks in South Carolina, who have never been on the right side of any civil issue in American history decided:
. . . by telling the feds, in essence, that if they want blacks swimming in South Carolina pools, South Carolina will simply shut down the pools altogether, so no one can swim in them. South Carolina is now refusing to issue an ID to anyone, requiring all National Guard families, straight and gay, to go to federal facilities, which are not always nearby. No word yet on whether South Carolina is going to balk at providing federal marriage benefits to gay couples.
The governor Oklahoma liked that approach so much, she took it a step further:
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced earlier this month that state-owned National Guard facilities will no longer allow any married couples to apply for spousal benefits, regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act means that servicemembers with same-sex spouses are now eligible for federal benefits. Fallin’s unusual tactic is designed to avoid having to recognize those couples, which she asserts would violate Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman . . .
Oklahoma is not alone in defying Hagel’s orders. The Texas Military Force acknowledged this week that it will not allow same-sex couples to apply for a housing allowance at state-run National Guard facilities, having already turned away at least one couple. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia have also refused to comply, but some states that previously had balked have begun complying, like West Virginia. A total of 29 states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, but most are complying with the federal recognition for purposes of the National Guard.
It’s pretty simple. The Secretary of Defense has authority over the National Guard. The Federal Governments funds the national guard. The actions of these states is nothing more than hostility to gay and lesbian folk.
First from The Commonwealth Fund:
In 2013, more than one-third (37%) of U.S. adults went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when they were sick, or failed to fill prescriptions because of costs, compared with as few as 4 percent to 6 percent in the United Kingdom and Sweden.
And the second from JDI conservative Andrew Sullivan:
When a private sector system means you have ten times as many people failing to get basic treatment as in Britain’s uber-socialized NHS, you realize just how great the market failure is. I’m all for markets, but the facts seem to me to reveal that in healthcare, they are toxic to most people’s actual, you know, health. In what other area does socialism work so much better than capitalism? Isn’t that a first order question conservatives should address?.
The US healthcare system is a grotequely expensive disaster; plagued with inefficiencies, disconnected from the needs and wants of patients, distorted by massively misaligned priorities and goals, it consumes vast amounts of our national wealth without delivering corresponding benefits. More and more, it seems to me that healthcare and defense are exemplars of American dysfunction. Delivering sub-par outcomes in exchange for exorbitant amounts of money, driven by fear and a deep-seated mindset of scarcity, both healthcare and defense are expressions of American’s sense of vulnerability. We overspend on defense to keep us safe against military and other threats and we overspend on healthcare in a frantic desire for wellness. In both cases, our actions undermine our goals.
I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?
–Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of US drone strike victim Mamana Bibi
On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes. Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive any acknowledgment that it was the US that killed her, let alone justice or compensation for her death.
Earlier, on 6 July 2012, 18 male laborers, including at least one boy, were killed in a series of US drone strikes in the remote village of Zowi Sidgi. Missiles first struck a tent in which some men had gathered for an evening meal after a hard day’s work, and then struck those who came to help the injured from the first strike. Witnesses described a macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror, as US drones continued to hover overhead. The use of pilotless aircraft, commonly referred to as drones, for surveillance and so-called targeted killings by the USA has fast become one of the most controversial human rights issues in the world. In no place is this more apparent than in Pakistan.
Amnesty International has documented nine U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan from last year and this year. Their report, available online in PDF format, includes a discussion of so-called “signature strikes,” follow-up missile attacks launched against people rescuing the wounded from a drone strike, and other tactics. Must-read.
According to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns, “When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict.”
I’ve been teaching sexuality education to teens for a decade now. In that time, I’ve seen a huge shift in the way young women respond to the issue of date rape, although almost no change in the way young men respond.
The date rape lesson in Our Whole Lives for high school students takes the form of the story of a date told from the perspective of each person. Participants divide into two groups, each with one version of the story, which they read aloud. The basic facts of the date are the same in each account – they go to dinner, drink a bottle of wine, go back to his room at the frat house, drink some more, play music, dance, get partly undressed, make out. It’s at this point the stories diverge radically – his version ends with them having sex, her version with her being raped. After reading the story, participants answer a series of questions which include “What could he/she have done to change the outcome of the evening?”
“Elysium,” Director Neill Blomkampf’s dystopian vision of a 2154 where the poor (including Matt Damon) are condemned to live on the planet-wide shantytown on the Earth’s surface, while the rich dwell in comfort on an orbiting space station is inspiring a right-wing freakout.
Breitbart News claims the movie is chock full of decidedly 2013-era liberal propaganda on issues including illegal immigration and universal health care.
“Particularly towards the end, the political messages are just so overt, I don’t know how you can watch it without thinking of current events and connecting the dots that the director obviously intended to connect,” says Breitbart’s Christian Toto.
“It’s not just hypocritical to say this movie isn’t political, it’s hilarious,” Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center, told Faux News’ 411. “Filmmakers wear their politics on their sleeves, but it helps their careers to push liberal agendas.”
Roger Schlafly of Eagle Forum argues that both “Elysium” and Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” “seem to be saying that the Earth is being overrun by barbarians, and the only way to preserve a civilized society is to build walls to keep out the intruders, and to kill them when they try to invade.” He claims “Elysium” is “a warning against unrestricted immigration.” He suggests that “World War Z” has a similar message and that its zombie invasion is an allegory for immigration.
Entertainment Weekly opined, “If you are a member of the 1%, ‘Elysium’ is a horror movie. For everyone else, it’s one step shy of a call to arms.”
Sci-fi fans will tell you, good science fiction isn’t really about the future. Like Blomkampf’s first film “District 9,” “Elysium” is a reflection of the present.
UPDATE: Media Matters:
Conservatives aren’t angered by the political subtext they see in Elysium. They’re angry that it’s an accurate portrayal of the world their ideology will ultimately create — and that is a reality they cannot confront.
The news stories coming out of Russia are depressing and heart-breaking.
John Aravosis at Americablog has been all over it. First, Russia adopted a draconian anti-gay law.
It is now literally illegal in Russia to say that you are gay. It is illegal to kiss your partner in public – say, after you win a gold medal. It is illegal for a gay athlete to wear the rainbow flag. Or even to acknowledge during an interview that they are gay – or for the foreign press to acknowledge it – unless they mention that gay sexual orientation in a negative way . . .
Then there’s the seemingly officially-sanctioned violence against gay, bisexual and trans people in Russia. It’s been made clear for years now that Russian government will turn a blind eye towards anti-gay violence, and many have alleged that the Russian government is actually behind such violence. Will gay Olympic athletes and gay Olympic fans be targeted for violence while in Russia? No one knows.
In recent weeks, the situation in Russia has taken a turn for the horrific. Buzzfeed published a series of photos of anti-gay violence in Russia. Then the story broke about Russian neo-nazi skinheads arranging dates with gay teens then beating, abusing, and torturing them.
Oddly enough their idea of fighting pedophiles targets exclusively male teenagers who respond to the same-sex personal ads and show up for a date. Captured victims are bullied and often tortured while being recorded on video. These self-proclaimed “crime fighters” perform their actions under the broad day light, often outside and clearly visible to general public that indifferently passes by or even commend them. Video recordings of bullying and tortures are freely distributed on the Internet in order to out LGBT teens to their respective schools, parents and friends. Many victims were driven to suicides, the rest are deeply traumatized.
In an interview with the NY Times, Harvey Fierstein said:
Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. In May a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning….
The Winter Olympics will be in Russia next year. The IOC’s response has been pathetic. They claim they’ve received assurances that glbt athletes and tourists visiting the games will be safe. I’m sure the skinhead thugs are going to check who’s Russian and who’s not before they fag-bash.
Russia seems to be sliding backwards into the Dark Ages. I don’t think this is going to end well.
Helen Thomas has passed on.
This is a great relief to people in power.
She was purged from the media and the press corpse when she dared to say something against Israel after being a staple of American journalism for decades.
We will miss you.
The picture in this post was made possible because a local activist sent Helen those flowers. Sometimes, I’m proud of Utah!
Watch an unelected president become uncomfortable:
The Religious Right isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Since the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions, right wing commentators have gone in two distinct directions – some commentators have doubled down on their anti-gay rhetoric, while other commentators have plead for “tolerance” for their views about marriage. That second group is essentially asking for detente – “you won so be nice to us.”
Is detente between the gay community and the religious right even possible?