Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category

Progress for same-sex rights in Cuba

Today marked a great victory and the promise for substantial future progress for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters living in Cuba.

http://paulitics.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/cuba-same-sex-marriage.png?w=195&h=188AP reports that:

“Cuba‘s gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

[...]

“Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film “Brokeback Mountain,” which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

“Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the Puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work or even imprisoned.

“Now Cuba’s parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

“Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights, but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.”

The significance of this move from a political perspective should not be overlooked. There is not a single Latin American country that recognizes same-sex marriages due to the high religiosity of the Latin American culture.

Thus, when we look at the recent good moves on this file in Cuba in concert with the multiple attempts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make Venezuela the first country on the face of the planet to explicitly recognize same-sex marriages in the text of the constitution, it is clear that socialism, when done right, is a way forward for everyone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done throughout Latin America for the GLBT community, and we should especially make sure not to let the governments — even allied socialist governments — guide the agenda. But, I think, there is very good reason for optimism given these developments.

Oh shit…

The political situation/catastrophe of contemporary Italian politics is apparently well on its way to becoming an ongoing series of coverage here at Paulitics.

Earlier in the week, I reported that Rome’s new (self-proclaimed) neo-fascist mayor Gianni Alemanno was proudly greeted with straight-arm fascist salutes and cries of “Duce! Duce!” (the Italian equivalent of the German “Führer”).

If that wasn’t enough to make you say “Oh shit…”, how about this one: Rome’s new fascist mayor makes his first policy pledge:

Rome’s new mayor promises purge of migrants:

“Gianni Alemanno, 50, a firebrand neo-fascist and the first Right-wing mayor of the city since the Second World War, vowed to make Rome ‘secure’ as he was sworn into office after his election at the weekend.

[...]

In a sign of things to come, after Mr Alemanno’s election Mr Berlusconi declared: ‘We are the new Falange.’

The original Falange (or Phalanx) was the Spanish fascist party, founded in the 1930s, whose doctrine was adopted by General Franco.

[...]

The new mayor said that his first action would be to begin “immediate expulsions” of the 20,000 immigrants in the city with criminal records.

[...]

Mr Alemanno was the youth leader of the fascist Italian Social Movement and wears a Celtic cross, a symbol of the extreme Right. However, he said he wore the cross only as a religious symbol, and in tribute to Paolo di Nella, a far-Right activist who was stoned to death in a Rome street protest 25 years ago.

Mr Alemanno said he was sick of the ‘continuing search for [my] dark side’, adding: ‘I am bitterly upset from a personal point of view at this demonisation.’

[...]

Graziano Halilovic, a spokesman for one of Rome’s biggest settlements of Roma gipsies, said: ‘We fear there will be night-time raids on the camps. We want a safe city too. Some of our members have heard their parents’ stories of fascism.’

Mr Bossi said on Wednesday that immigrants had to be hunted out, and that if reforms were not forthcoming, his followers would take up arms.

“We have no fear of taking things to the piazzas. We have 300,000 martyrs ready to come down from the mountains. Our rifles are always smoking,” he said.

Mr Alemanno has promised to tear down a £12 million museum around the Ara Pacis, an altar to the Emperor Augustus.”

Two more now confirmed war crimes to add to Bush’s tally

Despite a complete media blackout on the story in Canada, the U.K. and the United States, the dean of the U.S. White House Press Corps, Hellen Thomas, recently received a great deal of online attention for daring to state the obvious.  By most accounts, the attention began on the popular social networking site reddit.com, which managed to raise several thousand dollars to send Ms. Thomas flowers for what was seen as her daring question for White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

The ‘obvious’ thing that Thomas pointed out is, of course, that revelations of evidence (both photographic and otherwise) of the use of WWII-era torture techniques as well as evidence that U.S. President George W. Bush personally signed off on approving torture, necessarily means that President Bush lied when he said the U.S. does not torture.

However, even this somewhat subdued (yet obviously true) fact, has been met with a virtually complete media blackout.  One could even push the envelope even further in this matter though, and if North America had a critical press, Ms. Thomas’s question would not have been seen as either particularly extreme or controversial.  Rather, on the contrary, if Ms. Thomas wanted to be even more accurate, she could have also pointed out — with equal confidence – that these recent revelations on torture means that George W. Bush is, by definition, a war criminal and that this is but merely one of two items which came to light in the past two weeks which constitute war crimes on the part of the U.S. President.

The other revelation, which was covered somewhat in the mainstream press, was the revelation that U.S. President Bush blessed (and assisted through military aid) the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian occupied territory.  Of course, acquiring lands through conquest constitutes not only a war crime but constitutes what Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg Trials, claimed was the “supreme” war crime.  This latter fact, yet again, was not mentioned in the mainstream media in North America or the U.K..

So, if you’re keeping track:  that’s two war crimes revealed in as many weeks.  The press has not only glossed over both revelations, but to the extent that Helen Thomas’s rather subdued and tame question about lying (rather than war crimes) has been addressed online or elsewhere, it has been treated as somehow radical.  Don’t get me wrong: Thomas deserves the utmost credit for posing her question in a forceful manner, but let’s not kid ourselves here — the lying is nowhere near as bad as the war crimes.

UPDATE in University of Florida tasing scandal: THE COP SMILED! [pic]

I will be posting a detailed documentation of how the corporate news media have distorted or attempted to minimize this story in the next day or so. But as I was looking over one of the many videos on Youtube of the incident where police tasered an unarmed, peaceful student for asking a question, I couldn’t believe what I saw for just a fraction of a second.

I have a simple question for all you right-wingers out there who want to belittle, downplay, obfuscate or otherwise mis-characterize this incident:

If the police weren’t acting out of line, then why was this police officer smiling just after he had sent 50,000 volts running through this kid’s body after the kid begged him repeatedly not to?

florida-kerry-taser-incident-cop-smiling.png

“Freedom is the freedom to simply say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows”

-George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

 

Peace is overrated

I just came back from a talk given by a fairly standard, run-of-the-mill civil servant who’s specialization is the new, over-hyped field of ‘conflict management’.  In the two hours I spend there, I think I must have heard the word ‘peace’ used so much that it lost all meaning.  This got me thinking about how obsessed liberals are with ‘peace’ as some sort of idealized pancea that ought to be sought above all else.

Surely, if we think about it critically, we can realize that, while nobody obviously wants conflict, peace, in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing if it serves to merely solidify other exisiting horrific social conditions.

For instance, one could easily take this current liberal obsession with ‘peace’ and do something radical which liberals are not wont to do: place the subject back 150 years, look at it dialectically, and see what we get.

Well, we get this:

white-mans-burden.png

So the problem of the liberal obsession with peace is that, to borrow a quote:

“Peace is over rated. Any slave can have peace. Just pick the cotton.”

So, just as with most liberal thinking, its true absurdity only becomes obvious when you take the time to look at it dialectically and place it within an historical context.

See also:

“Civil Liberty”
The myth of humanity as naturally violent
Propaganda In Action: Canada as a force for peace in the world

Proof of Big Brother tactics at SPP protest (pics + vid)

It was easy to miss, but here are three examples of Big Brother tactics at the SPP protests this week in Quebec.  One of which is your standard George W. Bush doublethink, the second of which gives some interesting circumstantial evidence of government conspiracy to crack down on protesters (and has become an internet sensation), and the third of which proves the culpability of the government and police but which hasn’t been reported anywhere that I am aware of.

#1. As many of you know, the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico (“The Three Amigos”)  met yesterday and the day before to negotiate a backroom, undemocratic deal to harmonize regulations at the behest of North America’s CEOs.

This summit took place, behind closed doors and meetings were carefully arranged to transpire without public scrutinty.  Afterwards, “The Three Amigos” emerged to the only public scrutiny the meetings would receive: namely George W. Bush reassuring the public that nothing offensive to public morals took place while the public was forbidden from listening in.

So, it was a boring, uneventful series of meetings in which nothing which the public would disapprove of took place, but the public was still nevertheless forbidden from seeing these uneventful meetings?

#2. The following video has recently become an internet sensation because of youtube, digg.com and reddit.com.  It shows three very suspicious ‘protestors’ who come to a peaceful protest with stones and rocks in hand seeking to provoke a confrontation.  It shows fairly reasonable circumstantial evidence that they were actually police informants designed to create cause for the police to crack down.  When confronted with the realization that the crowd surrounding them has realized this, they ‘give themselves up’ to the police.

Now, the other part of the story that has been widely reported, is that after these three were handcuffed, a picture was shot which showed that two of the ‘protesters’ had the same boots as a police officer.

spp-protest-boots-1.png

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The Toronto Star linked to the youtube video, but their report still suggested that it could have been a coincidence.  They wrote that:

“Late Tuesday, photographs taken by another protester surfaced, showing the trio lying prone on the ground. The photos show the soles of their boots adorned by yellow triangles. A police officer kneeling beside the men has an identical yellow triangle on the sole of his boot.”

Clearly, it takes no time at all to see that the protestors have the same boots as ONE of the police officers.  That hardly qualifies for investigative journalism.  And in and of itself without further investigation, this can still be dismissed as a coincidence by the government or by skeptics.

#3. But the part of the story that hasn’t been reported is also the part of the story which proves that all this circumstantial evidence above is not merely a series of coincidence.  The picture below shows that it’s not a matter of these protestors coincidentally having the same style of boots as one of the police officers, but rather that they have the exact same boots as all of the police officers.

spp-protest-boots-2.png

 (Original, hi-rez picture source here – look for yourself)

I made this image when I started to notice something as I was looking over the super-hi rez version of the same image.  If it didn’t take me long to figure this out, no journalist worth his or her salt should have missed it.

Take a look at the way the seam of the leather at the back of everyone’s boots falls in a straight line from the ankle towards the heel.  It doesn’t taper outwards away from or in towards the achilles tendon.  Nor does it curve in any way around the heel and converge towards the achilles tendon.  Rather it runs straight and perpendicular to the sole of the boot.  Notice anything similar between everyone’s boots?

If it wasn’t just one of the officers, then all of the evidence above is not merely circumstantial.  If all of the evidence of police interference in this protest is not circumstantial, then from this everything else, including the media’s complicity in this story, follows.

Who’s afraid of human rights? Conservatives apparently

amnesty-international.pngI recently came across Sam Carson’s fantastic posts (available here) on the 2007 Amnesty International Report (available here).  If you haven’t taken a look, it’s well worth the read.

In his post (actually it’s a series of posts) Sam draws attention to the sad criticism of Amnesty International by right-wing figures and organizations such as Alan Dershowitz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the U.S.-based Capital Research Center.

I’ve always found Dershowitz et al‘s claims that Amnesty International is biassed to be disingenuous at best and I think Sam’s done a great job bringing this issue to the fore.

Specifically, the intellectually dishonest position of Dershowitz et al needs to have a better airing amongst true progressives so that the absurdity of the right’s claims that Amnesty International is a “political organization” with a bone to pick against the US and is biassed against them by focussing on their human rights abuses — can be once and for all discredited.

This task of discrediting the right-wing’s claims that Amnesty International focusses unduly on the US should be fairly to demonstrate for anybody who has ever read AI’s reports for three reasons.

First, even if there was more material on human rights abuses in the US and the West, this does not negate the validity of actual findings of their reports.  I don’t think anybody (even Dershowitz) goes so far as to claim that AI just makes this stuff up.  So complaining that AI is a political tool with an axe to grind against the US is a little bit like a child who steals a chocolate bar from the corner store, gets caught and then complains that he got spanked when the boy down the street has done worse.  The fact that the boy down the street has done worse has no impact whatsoever on whether or not the first child deserved what he got.

Second, the way Amnesty International has ALWAYS structured their reports — and, come to think about it, the way virtually all NGO reports are structured – is to lead with and emphasize places with the newest and biggest developments in human rights abuses and then, understandably, merely update information on already well-documented, long-standing human rights abuses like those in China or Columbia for instance. 

So since the US is the one creating most of the new and interesting ways to infringe upon human rights since 2002, what the hell do they expect??

Lastly, as Noam Chomsky is fond of saying, ‘whenever you hear something said with great confidence, it’s always a good idea to check first and see whether it is true’.  So, to recap, the claim by the right is that there is undue focus on the United States by Amnesty International and that the US is used as a ‘political punching bag’ by what constitutes an ultimately partisan organization.

If we take a look at the main body of the report (the country by country report) we see the following breakdown in the pages devoted to some key countries.  Out of 242 total pages, Afghanistan takes up about 2 pages, Algeria approximately 3 pages, Bosnia and Herzegovina about 3 pages, China around 3 pages, and the United States — which supposedly has so much undue focus — is tied with Columbia in taking up approximately 4 pages each.

Wow, I guess Amnesty International must really have an axe to grind against the US, eh?

(Oh, and if you think that maybe America is focussed on unduly in other countries’ reports, you’re wrong again.  The word “US” is mentioned approx. 150 times in the 242 page report – excluding the section devoted to the United States – but the vast majority of these occurances are attributable to either the phrase “US-led invasion of Iraq” or to occurances of figures for currency [GDP, foreign aid etc.] which are always given in US dollars.)

So who’s afraid of human rights?  It appears the answer is the United States, Russia, China, the Congo and the Taliban and conservatives.

Well, I guess they keep good company.

An apology is owed…

This is an absolutely fantastic quote and a great quote for any progressive person who wants to throw something back at liberals when they turn their noses up at us.

“When capital and the ruling classes apologise for: Colonialism, the 14 hour day, class privilege, the 7 day working week, children in coalmines, the opium wars, the massacre of the Paris Commune, slavery, the Spanish-American War, the Boer War, starvation, apartheid, anti-union laws, the First World War, Flanders, trench warfare, mustard gas, aerial bombing, the Soviet Intervention, the Armenian Genocide, chemical weapons, fascism, the Great Depression, hunger marches, Nazism, the Spanish Civil War, militarism, Asbestosis, radiation death, the Massacre of Nanking, the Second World War, Belsen, Dresden, Hiroshima, Racism, The Mafia, nuclear weapons, the Korean War, DDT, McCarthyism, production lines, blacklists, Thalidomide, the rape of the Third World, poverty, the arms race, plastic surgery, the electric chair, environmental degradation, the Vietnam War, the military suppression of Greece, India, Malaya, Indonesia, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Turkey, the Gulf War, trade in human body parts, malnutrition, Exxon Valdez, deforestation, organized crime, the Heroin and Cocain trade, tuberculosis, the destruction of the Ozone Layer, cancer, exploitation of labour and the deaths of 50,000,000 Communists and trade unionists in this century alone, then — and only then — will I consider apologising for the errors of socialism.” (from: the Communist Party of Australia)

There’s a great pic to go with this quote that I’ve just added to the Paulitics Political Images resource (along with a bunch of other additions).

Not in my name!

There are the beginnings of a growing grassroots movement underway in the blogosphere which I felt was necessary to add my voice to.

The nature of the growing controversy stems from a pro-life rally which was held in Ottawa this past week.  It’s not the ideological content of the march which stirred the controversy since it was pretty much what one would expect from this sort of rally:  anti-choice, super-philosophies seeking to authoritaritatively impose their morality on everyone else.

No, what was unexpected about this rally, however, was that the trademarked Government of Canada logo (so-called “wordmark” with the Canadian flag over the final “a” in the word “Canada”) would show up on the pro-life rally’s banners.

Take a look for yourself:

According to the Federal Identity Program (FIP) legal standards, the “Canada” wordmark can only be used by the Government of Canada or by non-governmental partnerships sponsored by the Government of Canada.  So the question is: did the Government of Canada sponsor an anti-abortion rally or did the rally plagerize and illegaly display Government of Canada property?

Here’s where the plot thickens.  I did some hunting around, and I found a Government of Canada website (here) which documents some specifics about how/when the “Canada” workmark ought to be used.  Interestingly, this Government of Canada page links to the specific section of the FIP Manual (Section 1.1) which details the legality of displaying the wordmark, however, when you attempt to click on the hyperlink pointed to by this governmental website, you see that the .pdf file has either been moved or deleted and you get an error message.

It could just be a coincidence, but the Conservatives have deleted websites in the past to avoid embarrassment, so it’s possible that it’s something more as well.

Either way, the grassroots movement is attempting to get the government either to admit that they funded an anti-abortion rally or to get them to state publicly that they did not support this anti-abortion rally.  The highest profile blogger to take up this cause is maverick MP Garth Turner (here), however JimBobby has a really good piece on this (here) as does the Unrepentant Old Hippie (here).

It seems to me more likely that the logo was used without permission.  However, even if it was the group which was at fault for illegally brandishing the legitimizing symbol of the collective,  the government must still be pressed to prosecute these usurpers to the fullest extent of the law.  Irrespective of whether the government funded this or not, the illegal attachment of a government logo – our logo – to this movement cannot be allowed to go unprosecuted.

Not in my name.


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