September 2006

Courtesy of Dr. Doom, here is a lovely graphic in honor of Congressman Foley. Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner provide further proof that Republican party loyalty is more important than the safety of US citizens, and especially more important than the safety of children. The Republican House booed mothers and grandmothers as Pelosi asked for an investigation.

Enjoy a laugh, though some are more true than funny.

The following gives a statistical overview of women’s rights, and how women are doing around the world. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Here are some current laws and statistics suggesting that there has been progress, but that there remains significant room for improvement.

Since the 1995 Beijing Conference, 58 countries have adopted national legislation or policies to address women’s rights.
The United States is among those countries that do not constitutionally guarantee equal rights for women.

Since 1995, 26 countries have passed laws to curb domestic violence.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of death for women ages 14-44 around the world.

Women’s economic activity has increased worldwide, with their labor force participation rate increasing from 35.6% in 1970 to 39.5% in 1990.
Today, women’s earnings equal only 75% of men’s earnings for equal work. More than 70% of the 1.3 billion people in the world that live in poverty are women.

Global rates for female literacy have increased by more than two thirds in the past two decades. In developing countries, the gaps between women and men in adult literacy and school enrollment were halved between 1970 and 1990.
More than two-thirds of the world’s 960 million illiterate adults are women. Nearly 40% of the female population in developing countries is still illiterate. While 96% of boys receive at least some level of primary schooling, only 76% of girls do.

Only 9 out of 173 parliaments worldwide do not have women members.
The percentage of women in parliament around the globe has declined from almost 15% in 1988 to less than 12% in 1997.

There has been a sharp reduction in global fertility rates over the past two decades.
More than half a million women die each year for want of adequate reproductive health care.

SOURCES: United Nations Human Development Report (1995 and 1998); The State of World Population 1998 (UNFPA); Survey by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (Geneva), 1997; International Labor Organization Press Release, 1995.

Literally, George Allen spits chewing tobacco at women’s feet. There are already four documented cases of him spitting tobacco at the feet of women, and in one case a young girl, with the obvious intention to insult and demean.

Torture, and suspension of habeas corpus were approved by the Congress today. It seems there are no true conservatives left, certainly not in the Republican party. ALL of Congress has the duty and responsibility to uphold the Constitution. I have found myself unable to say much about it, I have no words that are adequate. I am deeply shocked and ashamed of this. I have been reading what others have written. Christy Hardin Smith may give us some perspective, writing at Firedoglake:

Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution states as follows:

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

It expressly forbids suspension of the writ of habeas corpus except under very specific and highly limited circumstances – and as we are neither dealing with a case of rebellion or invasion at the time of this attempted enactment of this torture law in Congress, I am really wondering on what leg they propose to stand when arguing constitutionality at the first legal challenge to this law.

But the analysis by Steve Gilliard struck me as particularly appropriate:

Led by cowards

Bush is, was and will remain a coward as long as he lives.

The torture bill is a cruel joke, so riddle with flaws, so uncostitutional, it won’t survive the District Court. Which is the calculation Dems in tight races made.

They once read people the first Amendment and most of them thought it should be outlawed. Given a choice between politics and right, politicians choose politics. So they duck their heads and pray. Don’t be shocked. We elect politicians to do our bidding and can be fired. And some will certainly be.

Debating torture is pointless. Because Bush cares only about power, not the law. so if he has to strap the electrodes to gonads in Poland or Uzbekistan, well, that’s that. You cannot debate torture with Bush. You can only expose it and shame him. Because as bad as this is, and it’s akin to the Japanese internment or the forced removal of the Indians by Andrew Jackson, it is nothing compared to what is happening in Iraq.

If people knew the stakes of the war in Iraq, they would be outraged at the squandering of the Army, the way Bush is wrecking it by sending it to fight a war where 70 percent of the people want us to go and 60 percent support the resistance. What Bush has done is not only ruin the reputation in the United States, but endanger our allies like Egypt.

Not only are the Taliban learning to fight the US from Iraq, they’re training there and probably coming home with the RDX we didn’t secure in 2003.

Things could not have gone more wrong. No call for sacrifice, no sense of national duty.

But I save my true ire, not for the Dems, backed into the nastiest of corners, but who don’t have the power to stop such madness, will is another topic for another day.

Congress is supposed to check the President, not ride his coattails. I’m going to read a lot of angry posts about how the Dems didn’t do this or that. What about the GOP? Defense of the constitution doesn’t just belong to select individuals. It is Congress’s job to protect the Consitution, not just run for office.

We cannot give them a pass. We cannot just say that’s the GOP. Because if some Democrats played politics, it is the Republicans who betrayed the constitution. It is far too easy to write off their duty to the nation based on politics. Oh, well, they’re wingnuts. No, they are elected to defend the constitution, not the Republican party. And in that, they have betrayed this country and it’s ideals,

We have a bunch of small business radical conservatives, people who worry more about taxes than the consequences of their actions for oh, American soldiers overseas. The Congress only cares about their narrow issues, and not the good of the county. And that should enrage all of us.

We have the worst Congress possible. One beholden to the White House and refusing to do their job for the sake of party loyalty. They don’t believe in America, they believe in the GOP. They are cowards of the worst sort, the kind that knows the consquences of failure and still refuse to act.

This bill does violence to the Constitution!

The reasons Bush and ALL the Republicans want it so badly is to protect themselves and their colleagues from being tried as war criminals.

Digby is one of the most profound thinkers, and best writers among the progressive bloggers. On the torture bill making its way through Congress:

But the really breathtaking subsection is subsection (ii), which would provide that UEC is defined to include any person “who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.”

Read literally, this means that if the Pentagon says you’re an unlawful enemy combatant — using whatever criteria they wish — then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to “hostilities” at all.
. . .
In light of the possibilities outlined above for using this legislation to “disappear” anyone from terrorists to leftists to those who are deemed to be anti-American, this may be a day to remember the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

The House passed a bill today designed to force teenagers to have babies. It prevents teens from crossing state lines to get an abortion without parental consent, if their state requires parental consent.

Teens who don’t seek help from their parents when they are pregnant, are generally living in justified fear for their safety and their lives, or are not able to contact a missing parent. This bill is most likely to penalize caring female relatives, grandmothers and aunts.

If it passes the Senate, this would be the first US law since the fugitive slave laws to enforce the laws of one state across the border in another state.

Habeas corpus has protected us for eight centuries against unjust detention, without charges or trial. There are currently about 14,000 people, including women and children, held in detention by the CIA around the globe. If they are our enemies, we should be able to demonstrate this in a court of law. If we are not able to demonstrate their crimes and hostile actions, we should not be detaining them. We should most certainly not be detaining children without charges and evidence. Every prisoner should be entitled to humane treatment, and to hear the charges and the the evidence against them in a court of law.

Michael Ratner, with Sara Miles, write in Salon:

Considered the hallmark of Western liberty, habeas corpus has its origins in the Magna Carta of 1215. The “Great Writ” ended kings’ power to kidnap people at will, lock them in dungeons and never bring them to court. Habeas corpus forever marked the line between authority under law and authority that thinks it is the law.

. . . two questions remain at the center of legislation about the rights of prisoners in Guantánamo.

The first, about torture and the Geneva Conventions, is straightforward: Are we human beings?

The second, about habeas corpus, is, do we believe in the rule of law?

Our present administration has repeatedly demonstrated they do not believe in the rule of law.

In Namibia, in the port city of Walvis Bay, five people were arrested for selling internet phone calls from two storefront shops. Just making a phone call can be a serious challenge in small developing countries. Actual concern for business and consumers would encourage local initiative and expanded services. But entrenched Telecoms, even when they provide little or no service, can be extremely harsh to competition. As Skype Journal says:

. . . small countries protect their tiny telco monopolies at the expense of economic prosperity. It must be hard to trade proven cash flow for theoretical growth.

Habeas corpus means that any person that has been arrested or detained MUST be brought before a court of law to see if the detention is just and lawful. In our legal tradition it stems from the Magna Carta. There is a discussion of the history of habeas corpus from the BBC here.

“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”
Churchill – November 21, 1943

Habeas Corpus, “you should have the body,” guarantees that a person can only be arrested pursuant to the law, and not simply at the will of some despotic governing authority. It is a legal procedure in the form of a writ that demands that a person be brought before a magistrate and charged under due process, or else that he be immediately released. It protects the people by preventing government from making arbitrary arrests.

Habeas corpus was critical to the founders of our nation. They put it in the Constitution, and it enforces the founding principle that this is a government of laws and not of men. Thomas Jefferson was particularly eloquent on the subject:

“The Habeas Corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen, against everything which is not law, whatever shape it may assume.” –Thomas Jefferson to A. H. Rowan, 1798.

“Freedom of the person under the protection of the habeas corpus I deem [one of the] essential principles of our government.” –Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801.

“[The] bill of rights [should provide] clearly and without the aid of sophisms for… the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

This is what George Bush wants to destroy. And this is what the 3 Senators, McCain, Graham, and Warner, are willing to give away.

For values voters, or anyone who thinks they are a values voter, it is THE question. As David Niewert points out: torture is not “toughness.” It is in fact a sign of weakness — particularly the moral kind.

The baseline problem with torture, after all, is that it is prima facie immoral, a violation not just of the Golden Rule and basic Christian precepts, but of nearly any system of ethics. Even the most hard-nosed rationalist will come to this conclusion (see, e.g., Kant’s Categorical Imperative). It’s an obvious one if you’re a Christian.

All you have to present to any Christian, when it comes to torture, is their own favorite moral-guidepost aphorism: What Would Jesus Do?
. . .
The torturer is the enemy of mankind.

Does America want to become known around the world as the nation that tortures? Does America, which likes to think of itself as the “beacon of democracy” around the world, want to instead become known as “the enemy of mankind”?

This is a question that can be put to any American, regardless of their faith.

But for the Christians out there — including those who insist we are a “Christian nation” — the question can be put in much simpler terms: Given the chance, would Jesus attach the electrodes and pull the switch? Would he waterboard? Would he dangle them in chains and beat their feet? Would he stand by and watch while others do it in his name?

And a thank you to GOTV for spotting this article.

Billy Pustule, a 19 year old Diebold technician the surprise winner of the 2008 presidential election! The fact that the (vote) totals exceed 100% has been attributed by a Diebold spokesman to “a special kind of rounding”.

I am a great fan of the music of Trinidad and Tobago. It is easy to find reggae to listen to, but harder to find calypso, soca, pan, etc. Rukshun radio, out of DC, features Caribbean music and plays far more of the music of Trinidad and Tobago, than can be found elsewhere. You can listen online.

The United States has now become a nation that sanctions the use of torture. This is a violation of every founding and continuing legal principle and precedent of this country, up until now. The United States has been a shining light among nations because of our public stands against torture, and for human rights. Despite the shadow boxing in the Senate, the President still gets to decide who gets tortured, how and when. And torturers are exempt from legal responsibilty for their crimes. Further, people who call themselves Christians, have been leading the pro torture lobby.

If these (Christian) groups took an agressive moral stance against torture, the Bush Administration might be given pause. The Traditional Values Coalition has chosen to do the opposite, throwing its weight behind torture, urging Christians to pressure their legislators to support torture.

In fact,

the Traditional Values Coalition is pushing the not-so-veiled argument that torture is the Christian way, euphemistically explaining that our rules for interrogation must “catch-up” with the new forms of war (that “the lines must be redrawn”), and encouraging “all of our supporters and affiliated churches to contact their elected representatives and let them know we support President Bush’s efforts to update our methods of interrogating terrorist detainees.”

Torture IS a traditional value. But it is NOT a traditional value in the United States. Torture is a tool of tyrants that was opposed in the founding principles of this country. Torture is certainly NOT a traditional value among those who actually try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Following the teachings of Christ is not easy to do, but if one calls oneself a Christian, one has a moral obligation to try. And ANY reading of the teachings of Christ makes it clear that torture is morally unacceptable.

There was no compromise in the Senate. McCain, Graham, and Warner cut and run. The majority of Americans do not support the use of torture, even of suspected terrorists, according to a New York Times/CBS poll (PDF). The three Senators surrendered.

The Republican “rebels” have surrendered. What’s being described as a “compromise” on Bush’s junta-like proposal to try terrorism suspects is nothing but face-saving on the part of John McCain and the two other Republicans who, briefly, looked as if they might keep the administration and Congress from enacting a measure legalizing torture, gulags and kangaroo trials where basic rules of evidence don’t apply. Thursday evening every major paper carried the story under banner headlines of a deal being struck. But the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all stuttered and fawned through their first six, seven, eight paragraphs, giving no analytical substance to the report but taking dictation from McCain and Stephen Hadley, the administration’s national security adviser: there is a deal; it just isn’t clear what the deal entails. Not only are terrorism suspects being denied the evidence against them. But now Americans are being denied the information that makes up their laws.

This is one reason I read blogs. It is impossible to get real news and accurate information from the traditional media. All the traditional news media have fallen into line, calling the Senate result a compromise. They also steadfastly avoid the word torture in describing what the President asked for, and the result of the compromise. The media continue to use euphemisms in the manner of the White House Talking Points, echoed by other right wing lobbies such as the Traditional Values Coalition, with their talk of efforts to update our methods of interrogating terrorist detainees. The Senate agreement, and the media’s language, allow the White House and the rubber stamp Republican Congress to pretend this agreement is something other than what it is. This agreement is a disgrace to our country. It is permission for the President to torture people, imprison people without charge in prison camps, and to convene kangaroo courts. We have stepped down from the moral high ground of support for human rights, and joined the thugs and despots.

Americans know better and can do better. All who call ourselves patriots must fight for our true traditional values, our founding principles. We, all peoples, are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. If you want ideas for what you can do, go to Act Blue.

Check out Bob Geiger’s Saturday Cartoons.

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