Archive for November, 2007

Scientists Plead – “No More Ab-Only Funding!”

November 29, 2007

Abstain_2 President Bush has proposed increasing funding for abstinence-only education to $204 million in 2008, despite the fact that the programs promote marriage as the only acceptable family structure, stigmatize and encourage silence in sexually abused youth, deny information to sexually active youth, and ostracize and condemns LGBT youth based on views that are entirely religious in origin. (This is not to mention all the studies, surveys, and reports that follow, which demonstrate the danger and sheer ineffectiveness of the AOE programs…)

In fact, abstinence-only programs have such freedom with the federal dollar that they recently broadened their target base to include all unmarried adults under the age of thirty! The escalating nature of this climate prompted a group of scientists to rally against Bush’s proposal with a hard-hitting, fact-filled response backed with plenty of scientific documentation.

(more…)

What’s Uncle Sam Doing in My Marriage?

November 26, 2007

Art from NYTimes

Great op-ed in the Times this week examining “WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry?” Columnist Stephanie Coontz notes:

For 16 centuries, Christianity…defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows…the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

Fast-forward to the early part of the 20th century and the US state legislature begins making it illegal for whites to marry blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos.

Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.

In the mid-20th century, governments began to get out of the business of deciding which couples were “fit” to marry. Courts invalidated laws against interracial marriage, struck down other barriers and even extended marriage rights to prisoners.

She points out that being unmarried does little to absolve one from responsibility toward a partner or your children, but it does deny one the rights granted only by a government-sanctioned union.

Remind me again, whose rights are defended in the Defense of Marriage Act, and why is the government involved at all?

The American Anthropological Association release this statement on marriage in 2004 in response to Bush’s introduction of the D of M Act:

Statement on Marriage and the Family from the American Anthropological Association

Arlington, Virginia; The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association, the world’s largest organization of anthropologists, the people who study culture, releases the following statement in response to President Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as a threat to civilization.

“The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that other civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

The Executive Board of the American anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.”

Media may contact either of the names below: To discuss the AAA Statement please contact: Elizabeth M. Brumfiel, AAA President (847) 491-4564, office. To discuss anthropological research on marriage and family please contact: Roger Lancaster, Anthropologist, author, The Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture , 2003 (202) 285-4241 cellular. [Emphasis original, links mine]

060607_bi_gaypanicex_2 Also check out Jacob Weisburg on SLATE in 2006, writing about the GOP’s “Gay Panic Button“. And the history of marriage on wiki.

Ruling for Transgender Rights in MD – Christian Conservatives Seriously Freaking Out

November 17, 2007

TgLegislation passed in Montgomery County Maryland this week that protected transgender rights “when it comes to housing, employment, accommodation, and taxi service”. As you might guess, an uproar quickly ensued. Much indignation seemed to be about (well, on top of the fact that transgender individuals deserve rights in the first place) the issue that transgenders have legal access to the restroom of their choice. From here, it was a short step to “Co-Ed Locker Rooms in Our Schools!” Co-ed? They’re um, missing the point…

Given that transgenders got shafted in last week’s proposal of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, this is somewhat heartening.

And even better, watching conservative groups go apeshit. Ooh, the outrage!

Colorado Ballot Initiative Seeks to Define “Personhood” At Conception

November 17, 2007

Egg1
The Colorado supreme court gave the go-ahead to a ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to assert that “personhood” begins at conception. Denver post writes

The amendment, if approved by voters, would extend constitutional protections from the moment of conception, guaranteeing every fertilized egg the right to life, liberty, equality of justice and due process of law.

How would this work, exactly? Do they get a social security number? Can you declare them as a dependent? What about the 20-50% of fertilized eggs that never implant to the uterine wall and are flushed from the body? Funerals? Do you need to file a “fertilization certificate” with the state as soon as you’re sure? Could miscarriages be manslaughter? No more in-vitro. No more research using stem cells

The typical craziness ensues in the comment board. Some make great points, but much of it is just frightening.

Anyway, you gotta love the guy in the article that equates abortion with the Columbine shootings…

US Immigration Appeals Equates Forced Marriage and Perpetuated Female Genital Mutilation with “Family Tradition” – (ICE Pt. 4)

November 15, 2007

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The US Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently ruled against a young woman’s request for asylum from Mali, where she had been genitally mutilated. A return to Mali would mean a forced marriage to her cousin and the likely mutilation of her daughters. The NY Times reports

“While we do not discount the respondent’s concerns,” Mr. Filppu continued, “we do not see how the reluctant acceptance of family tradition over personal preference can form the basis” for allowing Ms. Traore to stay in the United States.

Family tradition over personal preference? They presume her suffering is over because the act of mutilation has already occurred. It is clear they do not, nor have they truly attempted to, understand this matter, despite reasoning laid out by a Circuit Court in 2005.

In 2005 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted asylum to Somali-born Khadija Mohamed under the finding that female genital mutilation constitutes ongoing persecution . ICE and the BIA had both previously ruled against asylum for Mohammed. In it’s considerations regarding her claim the court found the following:

The court first considered whether female genital mutilation constitutes “persecution.” The court rejected the government’s contention that the practice cannot be a basis for a claim of past persecution because it is “widely accepted and widely-practiced.” Rather, the court concluded that “the extremely painful, physically invasive, psychologically damaging and permanently disfiguring process of genital mutilation undoubtedly rises to the level of persecution” under U.S. asylum law.

(In a footnote, the court noted the practice of many courts and the BIA of referring to female genital mutilation by the initials “FGM.” The court declined to adopt this practice and used the complete expression throughout its opinion, noting that use of the initials “serves only to dull the senses and minimize the barbaric nature of the practice.”)

BIA documentation also consistently misspelled Muhammed’s name.

The court determined that Muhammed suffered from inadequate legal counsel during her petitions and found her original case ruling “nonsensical”, although it stopped short of reprimanding BIA.

BIA’s stringency on this matter is perplexing considering that it recognizes the ongoing persecution of those living with forced sterilization. In fact, in forced-sterilization cases the BIA grants asylum to both sterilized parties and their spouses. (If it’s an unmarried couple or same sex relationship of course, rules don’t apply.) Yet, it continues to deny that the aftermath of female genital mutilation constitutes persecution. The Traore ruling likens the suffering of genital mutilation to that of losing a limb, and finds the assured mutilation of Traore’s future daughters to be of no consequence to the ruling.

Taore has since filed a motion to reconsider, although it sounds like her only chance is follow Muhammed’s lead to hire a private attorney and appeal in court.

There is a disconnect here, where people don’t truly understand what happens to these girls, in Mali as young as five. They mistakenly, or conveniently think this is an issue similar to circumcision. It’s not. If a small bit of skin
on the labia were removed and healed with few repercussions, that would be similar.

First of all, the procedure is done with a serrated knife (or sharpened rock), no sterilization, and no anesthesia. Her clitoris is sawed off, her vulva and sometimes her entire labia is cut off. Sometimes her openings are sewn painfully shut making normal urination and menstruation agonizing. Many girls die from hemorrhaging and life-long infections are routine.

Often, a husband must first cut open his bride where she has healed shut so that he may penetrate her for the first time. This is done quickly, with a small knife, in the marriage bed.

The discrepancy in the BIA’s rulings on sterilization verses female genital mutilation illustrates the view that the ability to procreate is a woman’s highest value. Still.

If it were a man’s penis being removed, or sawed off to a stub so he could still procreate but sex was agonizing and everyday bodily activities invitations to pain, infection, illness, and death, I can guarantee there would be no
dispute on this issue.

***

The World Health Organization on Female Genital Mutilation

Gdc

ICE Forcibly Drugs Deportees – (ICE PART THREE)

November 15, 2007

In October 2007, charges were brought against the US agency of Immigration and Customs EnSyringe_2forcement
(ICE) for forcibly injecting deportees with psychotropic medications. According to a recent CNN article immigrants Raymond Soeoth of Indonesia and Amadou Diouf of Senegal were injected with the drugs against their will, and are now a part of class-action lawsuit seeking to stop the practice.

The men’s attorney, Ahilan Arulanantham stated

It would be torture to give a powerful anti-psychotic drug to somebody who isn’t even mentally ill. … But here, it’s happening on U.S. soil to an immigrant the government is trying to deport.”

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry, law and ethics at Columbia University, reviewed the case and said

That is the sort of thing that would be subject to a malpractice claim in the civilian world.”

ICE head Julie Myers admits the practice, known as a “medical escort” was used in 1,073 deportations since 2003. From October 2006 to April 2007 56 deportees received psychotropic medications. The agency has denied Arulanantham’s requests to release the identities of injected individuals.

Myers says that 33 of the admitted 56 drugged deportees received medication “because of combative behavior with the imminent risk of danger to others and/or self.” She does not specify why the 23 non-combative individuals were injected. If they had psychiatric need for the medication they would have been on a schedule of oral administration, although given ICE’s failure to provide even life-saving drugs to detainees, it’s
difficult to understand how this would have come about.

(more…)

Immigrant Detainees Denied Adequate, Life-Saving Medical Care – (ICE PART TWO)

November 14, 2007

Prison
At least 200,000 men, women, and children are currently being detained in the US, and not a single one of them has been convicted of a crime. In fact, many have sought refuge in the US from torture, the ravages of war, or religious persecution. Many await hearings to determine if asylum will be granted. having nowhere else to turn, and heartened by our founding principals of individual liberty and justice, they have put their trust in the United States of America. Unfortunately, for too many, detainment in the US provides a new environment of helplessness and suffering.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is under recent scrutiny following a spate of horrific reports that detainees have been denied adequate medical care. Charges include denying detainees medication for the treatment of long-standing conditions such as cancer, high-blood pressure, and AIDS, as well the refusal to acknowledge and/or treat infections and other ailments incurred or discovered while in detention. 62 people have died while being detained in the US since 2004, many as a result of ICE’s gross medical negligence. These deaths had remained concealed from the public until the ACLU petitioned ICE to release
the information in June 2007.

The DHS inspector general conducted a review of five immigrant detainee centers and, as reported in the
Washington Post,

Auditors found rodent and bug infestations, out-of-date law libraries, limited access to legal aid services, irregular medical care, undercooked chicken and filthy food trays.Medicalsymbolthumb49550

In July the ACLU briefed Congress on the conditions faced by detainees and called for improved and standardized medical practices in the detainment and deportment of immigrants.

They addressed the problem of the system itself:

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US Immigration & Customs: Racism, Sexism, Medical Neglect, and Gross Abuse of Power – (ICE PART ONE)

November 14, 2007

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency effects all Americans as they work to sIcelogoecure our boarders and keep the country safe. It also effects the lives of millions of immigrants who come to the US to flee torture and persecution or in search of an environment where they can work hard and build a peaceful life. For years it has been acknowledged that the agency needed some policy changes, but since 2003 disturbing and ongoing issues of human injustice have come to light.

This is the first of a five-part look at areas of growing concern regarding Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in the US.

Let’s start at the top.

New ICE Director Lacks Immigration or Customs Experience

A recent concern about the agency was the appointment of it’s new director in 2005.

“That organization . . . is on some days almost dysfunctional.” In 2005 Jim Pasco used these words to describe the Agency of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,”the longest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security“. At the time Pasco was the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, an organization representing several thousand ICE employees. He was expressing hope that the newly appointed ICE head, Julie Myers, would bring about long-needed changes to the department.

Others were less optimistic. Bush appointed her during a recess in Congress so that he would not need approval for his choice. An immediate clamor arose over Myer’s blatant lack of qualifications, specifically a dearth of immigration or customs experience. She did, however, come with profuse personal connections.

Maureen Dowd does a scathing commentary in the Times highlighting Myer’s familial connections and voicing the rampant observation of this appointment’s potential to echo the recent “Heckuva job, Brownie,” debacle.

Dowd writes

Ms. Myers’s main credentials seem to be that she worked briefly for the semidisgraced homeland security director, Michael Chertoff, when he was at the Justice Department. She just married Mr. Chertoff’s chief of staff, John Wood, and she’s the niece of Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In the two years since her appointment, to call the agency “dysfunctional” would seem to be a kindness. Recent headlines reveal a rash of discretions from racist to sexist to the catch-all of just plain wrong.

For now, let’s talk about racism in an agency that is charged with dealing sensitively and responsibly with with non-American citizens. (more…)

Words Feed the Hungry – Freerice.com

November 14, 2007

FreericelThis addicting vocabulary game donates rice for each correct answer through the UN‘s World Food Program. The game recently crossed the billionth grain of rice (yes, it counts in grains.) Go play.

What? You haven’t gone yet? Check out what it means to be hungry, how many people are hungry right now, and then take five minutes out of your day and go!

Stem Cell Legislation – New Hope in a Time of Election Politics

November 13, 2007

Votes are in place to pass legislation that would allow funding
for research on embryonic stem cells regardless of the date of their creation, as long as the cells have been donated to in-vitro clinics with informed consent. Currently funding is limited to stem cells donated before August 2001.

Although Bush has vowed yet another veto on the legislation, supporters of the bill express hope that, given strong public support of the measure, election politics may intervene and prompt him to allow the bill through. Even if vetoed, Congress is within a few votes of being able to override the decision. The house votes this afternoon and the veto, if it comes, is expected by the end of the week.

“Let Me Live Free While You Live Like I Tell You” – The Misplaced Morals of the Christian “Libertarian”

November 9, 2007

Statue_of_liberty_800_2Thanks to Suricou Raven at Moronality, I came across Vox Day’s blog, Vox Popoli, by way of his pro-Coulter post “Ann Is Crystal Clear”, which contends that

 

…women’s suffrage is completely incompatible with human liberty…

Vox backs this with the vague reasoning that “emotion” always leads to fear, which always leads to heightened preoccupation with homeland security. At least I think that’s what he means from the single sentence he devotes to the point:

“One cannot defend freedom on the basis of emotion, as fear always runs to promises of security, however nebulous.”

He slams-home his point of women-wreck-democracy-with-their-emotional-voting with the astute realization that

“…no bald politician has been elected in either the United States or the UK with the exception of Eisenhower and Churchill.”

I guess he means elected since women’s suffrage. I’m also guessing that baldness is preferable because less hair means more brains (which would actually give most women an advantage) – or it could be because the youngish Vox is, in fact, ah-hem...balding? – (and oh the irony that Vox’s email is “Vday“)
But this is so ridiculous, it hardly merits mention. What I want to speak about is this emerging trend, apparently known as Christian Libertarianism. Vox’s site has the brash sub-head of “Live Free or Die!” Denying half the population the right to vote is certainly on the right track.

True Libertarianism holds the noble principals of individual freedom and self responsibility. It advocates individuals making and accepting responsibility for their own social and economic decisions.In other words, you’re free to life your life the way you want as long as doing so doesn’t impinge on the rights of others to do the same…even when they do things you personally find depraved, dishonorable, or just plain dumb. And here’s the problem. I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian and a Libertarian, of course you can. But the moment you attempt to force others to live by the principals outlined by your religion, you are a Libertarian no longer.

In Steven Yate’s lengthy essay “How I Became A Christian Libertarian” he chronicles his intellectual journey and attempts to rationally synthesize the two disciplines.

Although Yate’s admits that “Libertarianism is rooted in a philosophy of natural rights that inhere in individuals, not groups,” and goes on to say the tenets of Christianity are not the opinions of a group but rather… well, simple truth. So it’s okay.

As far as I can tell, most Christian Libertarians explain their stance by first quoting scripture illustrating that god approves of a hands-off government and then point to a handful of bible stories that may be viewed as representing individual freedom and culpability. Right about now doubts will be cast as to whether non-Christian individuals can possibly handle this type of freedom without an overriding moral compass to keep our “appetites” in check. Instead of the government, which in the least usually forms laws based on consensus and is morphable over time, we instead have the vastly superior authority of Christ dictating allowable and prohibited behaviors. Great.

So while Christian Libertarians believe in liberty and that we all should be free to make our own choices, women should be denied reproductive rights, sex education is for the (preferably married) 21+ crowd only, and the deviancy of homosexuality should not be recognized, condoned or rewarded by the state. The fact that homeowners and straight married couples are rewarded by the government, while not exactly libertarian, is not so much of an issue.

To be fair, I did find one somewhat moderate stance. Michael Bindner, author of the site “The Christian Libertarian Party Manifesto” makes the astonishing realization that

“As Libertarians, criminalizing abortion is forever off the table.”Weigheddown

Hey, does this guy actually understand and embrace the principals of liberty? Well, no but he at least sees the hypocrisy so many others of his kind piously discount. Bindner basically says that abortion is morally wrong and we must work to stop it, but instead of outlawing the practice he wants to incentivize child-bearing and give special sliding-scale tax breaks based on the number of children in one’s family. Unfortunately, this too goes against the foundation of Libertarianism by putting the government in the role of encouraging a large-family lifestyle and once again we have the government enacting procedures that effect all of its citizens based on the views of a particular group.

He also has the idea that businesses should be forced to advance and reward women who take a year off to have a baby in the same way they would for someone who worked that year. How this could ever be measured or implemented is unclear, and if it’s good or not is not the point. This move makes him more Democrat or Socialist than anything else. The point is – it’s not Libertarian!

Like I said, this is the”moderate” CL view on non-Christian-friendly social issues.

The more common stance? Vox himself wrote an article for the Christian Conservative World Daily News in 2003, in which he explains

“The basic principle of Libertarianism is not anarchic. There are real limits. My free will ends where yours begins. Neither the community nor I have any claim whatsoever on your property or your life, and a libertarian legal system would be structured around that principle.”

So far so good. And then…

“Do not be misled by the false “pro-choice” rhetoric of the infanticidal abortionettes; when one individual decides the fate of another, it is nothing more than the ancient law of tooth and claw. Still, their very terminology is the homage vice pays to virtue.”

All the more disturbing because I basically agree with the first two-thirds of his article, which talks accurately about Libertarianism. And then he wallops you with this craziness at the end.

For some real self-contradiction and clumsy scramble of logic, check out Bindner’s section on gay rights, where he tries to find cohesion with “everyone should have personal liberty” and “but gays are abhorrent and really shouldn’t do those things.”

Why did they even come into the Libertarian camp at all?

This is my point. “Yes, freedom. Freedom, except…” We all have our personal exceptions, and they are all different. If you allow any one person’s, or group of people’s exception to form a law restricting others, you are not for true freedom and liberty.

Okay, assault, theft, murder, fraud, personal violation, all these are punishable because they intrude upon the liberty of another. However, whether I wear a seatbelt in my car, or someone says fuck on the radio, or two women marry and raise children, or whether my doctor and I (or my clergy and I, or my boyfriend and I, or just me alone) decide that I don’t want to continue my pregnancy… The Libertarian stance firmly holds that none of it should be in the hands of a government that can take your money and/or lock you up not living the way it decrees.

Allowing Jesus to dictate the “exceptions” to liberty does not make the exceptions inherently okay. Your god is not my god so keep him out of my life!

So, Christian Libertarians, find a new term, you’re corrupting what was once a perfectly legitimate political stance and sullying it with god. Damn it.

One more guy – I can’t resist…

Okay, this guy is a nut-job, although reasonable enough to admit he doesn’t speak for every Christian or every Christian Libertarian.

The self-delusion goes so far that The Fountain of Truth founder Doug Newman will talk all about liberty and individual freedom, and then detail all the ways that Bush has been too lenient on abortion and homosexuals. In fact, he seems to think Libertarianism means not wanting to pay your taxes and the “the government screws everything up.” Inexplicably, though wanting to outlaw abortion and gay marriage, he seems to think the Branch Davidians should have been left alone

In the midst of a nauseating number of pages of essays, quotes, and personal rants, I found this lovely poem called “The Old Paths” (anon), with stanzas such as:

I liked the old paths, when
Moms were at home.
Dads were at work.

Brothers went into the army.
And sisters got married BEFORE having
children!

Moms could cook;
Dads would work;
Children
would behave..

Women wore the jewelry;
and Men
wore the pants.

Women looked like ladies;
Men looked like gentlemen;

and children looked decent.

Cursing was wicked;
Drinking was evil;
and
divorce was unthinkable

The flag was honored;
America was
beautiful;
and God was welcome!

We read the Bible in public;

Prayed in school;
And preached from house to house
To be
called an American was worth dying for;
To be called a Christian was worth
living for;
To be called a traitor was a shame!

Sex was a
personal word.
Homosexual was an unheard of word,
and abortion was
an illegal word.

Laws were based on the Bible;
Homes read the
Bible;
and churches taught the Bible.

If you believe no one should tell you how to live but others should be made to live the way you do – you’re NOT Libertarian! YOU’RE A CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST WHO DOESN’T WANT TO PAY TAXES!

Stop using liberty as your premise, and make up a new damn term for your political leanings.

“Pro-Life begins at conception and ends at birth.”

November 8, 2007

I don’t believe that all pro-lifers are like this, but way too many of them are, as evidenced by this shocking piece by pro-life blogger Jill Stanek. In a review of the new Costner film Mr. Brooks, Stanek concludes that aGf2i serial killer who targets women is slightly “redeemed” because he doesn’t believe in abortion. And in a similar post, a real man who discovers wife/girlfriend has had an abortion will slap the shit out of her (as opposed to the “wimps” of today who say “I’ll support you in whatever you decide.”) -Yay Michael Corleone!

You can’t make this stuff up. Read about it in the very clear and succinct post by Jill on feminste.

By the way, the Godfather II scene is tremendously powerful. And when he slaps her after she admits she aborted his child, it is the exact right action for that character. Michael Corleone, boss of a mob empire, kills when he needs to, maims, roughs-up as called for, spends his life in an effort to maintain utter control of the world around him. Old-school Italian man with a sense of ownership of wife and children – they’re yours to provide for and yours to control. The mafia world is one of male supremacy where the notion of “respect” reigns above all else.

It is a tremendous scene in a tremendous film. It is NOT an across-the-board blueprint for how to behave today.

It is this extreme elasticity of reason that is such a frightening quality in many pro-lifers who, as Stanek so generously illustrates, will go to any lengths to pull together a case for their cause, even when the case they make advocates and/or excuses violence against and killing of women.

The value of life begins at conception and ends at birth. Horrifying.