Archive for the 'global/international' Category Page 2 of 2

2005: a very bad year for human rights…

And not surprisingly, we have the United States and the War on brown people, I mean Muslims, I mean Terror, to thank for it. As described in this press release, the Human Rights Watch has released its World Report 2006. It’s rather grim.

New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights…

U.S. partners such as Britain and Canada compounded the lack of human rights leadership by trying to undermine critical international protections. Britain sought to send suspects to governments likely to torture them based on meaningless assurances of good treatment. Canada sought to dilute a new treaty outlawing enforced disappearances. The European Union continued to subordinate human rights in its relationships with others deemed useful in fighting terrorism, such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

Many countries – Uzbekistan, Russia and China among them – used the “war on terrorism” to attack their political opponents, branding them as “Islamic terrorists.”

Not that I ever thought that any good has come from the “War on Terror,” but it’s striking and sickening to read about just how much damage it’s done to human rights, both in the US and globally.

Pot, kettle, anyone? (the US government on Venezuela)

From the New York Times: the US government has barred Spain from selling military planes built with American technology to Venezuela, citing the “antidemocratic” nature of President Hugo Chávez’s goverment and saying that the sale would “destabilize the region.” What utter bullshit. Apparently, Spain’s government disagrees with the US and regrets their decision, but will try to push forward with the deal (which will generate a whole helluva lot of money for Spain) with non-American technology.

From the statement of rejection from the US government:

Despite being democratically elected, the government of President Hugo Chávez has systematically undermined democratic institutions, pressured and harassed independent media and the political opposition, and grown progressively more autocratic and antidemocratic.

Hmm… does anyone else think that statement would make a whole lot more sense if we replaced “Hugo Chávez” with “George W. Bush?” Oh, except we’d have to also replace “democratically elected” with “undemocratically selected, both times.” I mean, come on – does the government really not recognize the incredible hypocrisy of a statement like that?

This on the tails of another breaking story about Venezuela and the US: Rhode Island will join four other states in receiving discounted heating oil for low-income families in a deal financed by Venezuela’s Citgo Petroleum Corp. It’s interesting how the US goverment won’t bar Venezuela’s “antidemocratic” government from trying to take care of the poor US citizens who continue to be systemically neglected by their very own government at home.

The NY dailies: never flagging in their ability to annoy

During my morning commute, I regularly get assaulted by images and headlines from NY’s astoundingly obnoxious dailies, the Post and the Daily News. I generally do my best to avoid those papers, but with so many people holding them up in front of my face on the F train on my way into work, I just can’t help but see what garbage they’re spewing this time.

This morning was no exception.

First off – the cover of yesterday’s Post. I saw this yesterday and was troubled by it, but, luckily for me, some readers were a little behind, so I got to see it again this morning.

cover of the NY post

(click for a larger version)

The article itself begins:

The female half of a husband-and-wife suicide team yesterday calmly detailed her chilling role in the al Qaeda bombing at a Jordanian hotel wedding reception — even posing in her explosives vest on TV like a fashion model.

Note that the picture the Post selected for the cover was not a photo of the woman “posing in her explosives vest.” Rather, it’s a photograph of the woman in a headscarf. Maybe the Post didn’t intend to equate being “dressed to kill” with “wearing traditional Muslim garb,” but the connection is there on the cover, and a (possible) lack of intent doesn’t do away with that connection, especially when it’s an equation that’s so prevelant in our society.

Case in point: on yesterday’s edition of Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviewed Aman Mehrzai, a journalism student who witnessed last week’s protests and subsequent arrests outside of Colin Powell’s speech at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. In the preface to the interview, Goodman states that “confrontations occurred with the police and arrests were made. While the majority of those who engaged in confrontation were white, most of the people arrested were people of color.” Speaking about what he witnessed, Mehrzai says:

But there were many Middle Eastern people amongst the protesters, and they were dressed in Middle Eastern garb, and a lot of observers noticed that the confrontation between the Middle Easterners and the police were mainly verbal, and apparently what they are claiming – the police are claiming – that there were spotters who saw the Middle Easterners throwing things. But most of what everybody that I know saw, the actual confrontation was verbal, and out of all of the people who were apparently spotted, seven out of the — six out of the seven who were arrested on the outside were Muslim. And many of them were part of the MSA, and many of them were dressed in their Middle Eastern garb.

Again, traditional Muslim clothing is deemed a sign of propensity to violence, whether those wearing the clothing are actually violent or not.

Now, back to the Post.

This morningI also caught a glance of this headline:


I couldn’t see the rest, but what little I could see made me say uh-oh right away. When I got to work I looked up the article (for which the NY Post website required me to register, grrr), and, surprise surprise, it was yet another article about “reverse discrimination.”

Three white female detectives were subjected to discrimination by a black commanding officer who stripped them of plum assignments and overtime pay in favor of their minority counterparts, a lawyer for the women told jurors yesterday.

“The evidence will show that the three women were discriminated against because of their race,” attorney Louis LaPietra said in opening statements as a trial began in Manhattan federal court.

Now, I don’t condone unfair treatment. If these women were truly treated unfairly, then there’s a problem there. And that’s a big if – because frankly, I wonder if these women were used to being on the “right” end of racial discrimination, and when suddenly things got a little more balanced out, they cried foul. Just sayin’.

But, regardless of whether or not these women were treated unfairly, I am immensely tired of hearing about “racial discrimination” against white folks. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s another story about white folks being treated oh-so-badly because they’re white.

People of color are treated badly because they’re not white a gazillion times a day. Why aren’t there a gazillion articles a day documenting every instance of true racism? Where’s the “NYPD Bias Squad” report about the people of color who are most certainly discriminated against both by and within the NYPD on the daily? Oh, that’s right, that’s just business as usual, no big deal, no surprise. But when the tables are turned and the white folks don’t get all of the perks and privileges they’re used to getting – well, that’s headline news.

Avian flu: who’s really at fault

This morning, I stumbled across this article on avian flu and the US poultry industry’s response to it:

Asian governments must provide financial incentives and shut down as many backyard poultry farms as possible to halt the spread of bird flu, a leading U.S. poultry industry official said.

“We cannot control migratory birds but we can surely work hard to close down as many backyard farms as possible,” [Margaret Say, Southeast Asian director for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council] told Reuters. “And we can do that only if backyard farmers are given an alternative source of living — some incentive to close down.”

Very convenient, I think, for the US poultry industry — which, as we all know, has been a paragon of healthy practices and good treatment of workers and animals alike — to be advocating for the elimination of an important part of the economy and way of life in Asia. Pinning it on the small guys is always easier than fessing up to the wreck that’s been created by the big guys. Additionally, these backyard farmers that the industrial poultry industry would like to shut down just happens to be their competition. But that’s just a coincidence, of course.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Democracy Now, on which Amy Goodman was interviewing Mike Davis, author of a new book on avian flu entitled The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. He had this to say about the poultry industry, backyard farmers, and culpability in the resurgance of avian flu:

…the ecology of influenza, like other diseases, has changed dramatically in the last 10 or 15 years because of economic globalization, because of the breakdown of biological barriers between animal and human populations, because of air travel, because of urbanization, but in this case, above all, because of something called the “livestock revolution.” And that’s been the generalization around the world of the American model of poultry production, the Tyson model. Tyson is the giant poultry producer, one of the most exploitative corporations in the United States with just an appalling record of working conditions. Tyson kills several billion chickens a year. It’s created huge conurbations of chickens, unprecedented concentrations of chickens …

The corporate poultry industries have undertaken an international offensive, claiming that the fault resides entirely with the backyard producers, the tens of millions of small farmers across the world who have free-range chickens in constant contact with ducks and wild birds and children playing amongst them. And although this is part of the ecology of avian flu, the thing that has changed the way that flu emerges, that has amplified, I think, the danger and the speed with which it evolves, are these huge industrialized concentrations.

An almost perversely lighthearted PS given the subject matter above: I love Democracy Now. Though I heard about it constantly, I’d never listened to the show until a few weeks ago, and now it’s on my iPod almost every day on my way home from work. Not only is the news delivered by Goodman and Juan Gonzalez incredibly on-point and insightful, but, I must admit, I think Amy Goodman’s voice and delivery are totally hot. Yes, I’m a huge weirdo.

More Lies from BushCo

From Reuters AlertNet:

A captured al Qaeda operative who told U.S. authorities that Iraq had trained al Qaeda members to use unconventional weapons was identified as a probable liar months before the Bush administration began using his claims to make its case for war …

“Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control,” the excerpts [of a Defense Intelligence Agency document dated February 2002] said.

Add another one to the pack of lies that the Bush Administration used to send this country to war (not that many of us ever believed any of it.) That last bit is especially telling, given that Iraq and al Qaeda have so often been depicted by our government and the mainstream media as being oh-so-similar, obvious allies in a radical Islamist plot against the West. No, not quite. For all of the many problems with Hussein’s regime, Iraq was a secular state prior to the US invasion – not a fact reflected in the rhetoric of the Bush regime, other pundits, and some of the mainstream media, all of whom continuously lump Iraq, Iran, al Qaeda, the rioting youth of France, and other groups together into one great big Muslim bogey-man, by virtue of their shared religion alone.

Legislating love

From my friend Dex: He looks too ‘aloof’ in photographs, so Immigration rejected his wife. This is a Canadian incident, but similarly racist, xenophobic, and just plain heartbreaking applications of immigration laws occur in the US every day. As Dex put it, “this is what happens when the government tries to legislate love.”

Speaking of legislating love, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Latino/a Coalition for Justice recently released this report about queer Latina couples, based on the 2000 census (thanks to Julie for the link). Some of the findings: Latina queer couples earn less and are less likely to own a house than white queer couples, which is not very surprising – racism and classism affects queer Latinas just as it affects all Latinas.

What was particularly interesting to me were findings that about two-thirds of Latina queer couples are raising kids, and nearly half of Latina queer couples include someone who is not a US citizen, both statistics indicating that gay marriage could have very important affects on Latina queer folks – and that a lack of gay marriage can have very negative affects, when it comes to raising children and immigration struggles.

I often hear (and often agree with) arguments that the mainstream gay movement leaves many people out by focusing so singularly on gay marriage, that gay marriage is not priority number one for many low-income queers and queers of color, and that gay marriage is all about legitimizing certain kinds of queer relationships (monogamous between two people) and delegitimizing others. But it’s important to remember that gay marriage really could have an important and beneficial impact on many queer immigrants and queer people of color.

The Bush Administration speaks from both sides of its mouth on torture

From Reuters AlertNet: Bush vows “we do not torture” terror suspects:

“We do not torture and therefore we’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it more possible to do our job,” Bush said.

And by working with Congress, they Bush Administration apparently means sending in Cheney to fight efforts by Congress to outlaw federal agencies from using torture. Because yeah, whatever, they don’t torture. But they just want to be able to. You know. Just in case.

At least Condoleezza Rice is making a whit of sense, for once.

In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department’s rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England. On a trip to Canada last month, Rice interrupted a packed itinerary to hold a secure video-teleconference with Cheney on detainee policy to make sure no decisions were made without her input.

… Rice has emerged as an advocate for changing the rules to “get out of the detainee mess,” said one senior U.S. official familiar with discussions. Her top advisers, along with their Pentagon counterparts, are working on a package of proposals designed to address all controversial detainee issues at once, instead of dealing with them on a piecemeal basis.

One might wish that Rice wanted to change the rules in order to uphold human rights and some notion of true justice, rather than to “get out of the detainee mess.” But we’ll take what little we can get, I suppose.

The riots of Paris: a much abused community fights back

The riots in Paris, sparked by the deaths of two African teens and fueled by longstanding racism, xenophobia, and tensions, rage on. It is frightening to watch it happen through the lens of the media, and angering to know that little is likely to be done to address the real oppression, the real discrimination, the real problems at the root of the conflicts. Instead, I worry, the French government and people may respond with further xenophobia, racism, and police crackdowns on African youth and immigrant communities in general.

Black Looks, the blog of an African fem living in Spain, gives us rare, thorough, and nuanced account of the riots. She points out the problems of the portrayals in the blogosphere and the mainstream media of the riots and the communities involved. I highly recommend reading what she’s written, because it’s definitely given me a better understanding of what’s been going on, one that certainly cannot be found in the US mainstream media – when it decides to cover this at all. Two friends heard about the rioting only yesterday, and these are not people who try to avoid news coverage of this sort of thing.

Owukori of Black Looks also describes how the riots are being portrayed as being driven by Islamic fundamentalists, as is further discussed in this Reuters article. Because, obviously, every time a community that includes Muslims lashes out against injustice, it’s not because of the long oppression that they’ve endured, it’s because they’re crazy radical Islamists! Ugh. Is it so far fetched that a community so maligned might be driven to the edge, especially its youths? And even if some “Islamic fundamentalists” are involved, is it possible for people to reflect that Muslims might have very good reason to react with anger towards the French government and other Western governments? Instead, we’re left with governments, media and societies that immediately lump all Muslims together as “radicals” and “terrorists” driven by religious rage, not by rage against a system that works hard to marginalize, stigmatize, and discriminate against them.

Almost as an aside, I found this bit from the Reuters article to be striking:

Ahmed Hamidi, a white-bearded Moroccan electrician long resident in France, had no patience with politicians in Paris, which lies hardly an hour away but seems like another planet.

“All the politicians care about are laws for homosexuals and all those immoral things,” he fumed. “They are against headscarves, against beards and against the mosques.

First thought/gut reaction: ugh. Second thought: I can’t imagine that attitudes towards queer folks in certain communities are made any better when governments do right by them, but then don’t do right by those communities. Until all are free…