Monthly Archives: May 2009

Which Comes First– Justice Or Politics?

In the complex topsy turvy world of Iraq politics, it is sometimes difficult to know who belongs to which side or what the goal of political conflict is all about. Negotiations for the release of five British hostages are stalled over meeting demands of their captors who want several of their own people released in exchange for the five men. Khais al-Ghazali, a former spokesman for the powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is currently being held by Americans for his role in a lethal ambush which resulted in the death of five American soldiers. However, to add confusion to the matter, the Iraqi government wants him released because he is an important figure in securing a coherent political process in the country. Mohammed al-Saadi, of the National Reconciliation Committee, says “e is a very important figure in the political situation. He has a large influence, especially on Shia groups, If he renounces violence and joins us this will be a very big success.”

So, which way do the Americans and British turn? Do they keep a main who helped participate in actions that led to the deaths of five Americans? Do they release the man in order to free five British men and assist in the Iraq peace process? We eventually will find out the final conclusion of this confusing story.

Can Children Be Taught To Hate By Parents?

A Canadian girl is at the center of an important court case because she was raised in a home by white supremacist parents whose beliefs led them to teach their children to hate anyone who was not white. The elementary age child used expressions like “Heil Hitler,” and told social workers that all black people should be killed. The trial is to determine if the province’s child welfare system will get permanent custody of the girl and her young brother. A social worker was called to the school after the girl showed up with white supremacist slogans written on her skin. She told the social worker that “what people don’t understand is that black people should die, that anyone who is not white should die.” Social workers discovered that in her home the children were given access to white supremacist websites.

The parents argue they believe in white supremacy just as some Muslims teach their children that only Muslims are right and it was OK to hate non-Muslims. “You can’t sit there and tell a Muslim family that they cannot teach their children Muslim beliefs or they can’t teach them Islam because there are certain people who take it to an extreme. Just because certain people take white nationalism to extreme doesn’t mean that I am.”

Provincial social workers also believe there is drug use in the house and the parents have given alcohol to baby sitters. The case raises questions as to what parents are or are not allowed to teach children.

What Has Happened To The Soul Of America?

Once upon a time people looked to America as a nation which upheld constitutional principles of due process and respect for individual rights. The Bush fiasco in Iraq has stained the soul of America because of its desire to gain victory at any cost even if it meant losing one’s soul and self respect. Philip Alston, the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings issued a report which accuses the United States of failure to properly investigate or punish crimes against human rights. According to Alston, “there has been chronic and deplorable accountability failures with respect to policies, practices and conduct that resulted in alleged unlawful killings–including possible war crimes– in the United States’ international operations.”

Among the cases cited by Alston was the death of General Abed Mowhoush, an Iraq general who was suffocated to death after his head was covered with a sleeping bag and an electrical cord wrapped around his neck. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer who was responsible for the death was fined and reprimanded but did not serve any jail time.

America must cooperate with UN officials like Alston and get to the heart of what has been going on from the moment George Bush unleashed the dogs of torture and disrespect for law.

Israel Rabbis Urge IDF Soldiers To Disobey Orders

A group of leading rabbis have called upon members of the Israel Defense Force to disobey orders if they are asked to dismantle illegal settlements on the West Bank. “We call on all security personnel to refuse expulsion orders. A soldier or policeman who is asked to take part in an uprooting operation is obligated to refuse this order, which goes against the Torah.” Their statement came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak initiated a plan to dismantle 26 outposts deemed to have been built illegally. During the past decades there has been a sharp rise in the number of religious Israelis who have made serving in the armed forces their career. In so doing, they are altering the historic secular foundation of Israeli armed forces. Rabbi Mordechai Rabinovitch, reflected this change by expressing the view, “I think it is a crying shame that not one single senior officer resigned rather than take part in the expulsion of Jews from Gus Katif.

Israelis have to decide whether they want a nation in which non-elected religious leaders decide policy or whether they wish to continue the democratic heritage of the Jewish people in the Middle East. Allowing a theocracy to control the nation is leading down the road to disaster and transforming Israel into another Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Guantanamo–American’s Shame

I was recently taken to task by a writer who informed me our Founding Fathers would have been proud of the Bush administration policy toward prisoners because they wanted America to be protected against foreign attack. The writer did not cite any specific “Founding Father” nor did he quote directly anything stated by one of those men two hundred years ago that would have led to the conclusion a literal interpretation of the Constitution would conclude use of torture and denial of trial is the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Naturally, I thought it appropriate to read the Constitution in order to determine if that was their original intent.

Amendment 6

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherin the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

Amendment 7
“In suits of common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved; and in fact, trial by jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States than according to the rules of common law.”

Amendment 8

“Excessive bail shall not be required, no excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”

I believe the ORIGINAL INTENT OF THE CONSTITUTION is clear– no torture, the right to a fair trial. Somehow, I do not believe Madison or Hamilton or Franklin would have viewed depriving people of sleep, forcing them to endure cold temperatures or waterboarding as fitting in to their ideas concerning proper treatment of prisoners.

Throughout the Revolutionary War, George Washington insisted on following the rules of war as known in the 18th century. There is no record of torturing captured British soldiers on orders of George Washington. Our Founding Fathers were raised with British concepts regarding the rights of man and torture and denial of a jury trial certainly were not part of their concept of the rights of man.

It is time for President Obama to return to the original intent of the Constitution and allow fair and impartial jury trials for the accused.

HEADLINES FROM THE WORLD PRESS

Each day we offer headlines that appeared in the world press along with our comments.

Singapore, Straits Times: “Religion Still Has Its Place”
I have a hunch God shakes his head in wonderment quite frequently.

Indonesia, Jakarta Post: “Men And Women Think Differently”
My wife and I disagree with this comment.

China, Shanghai Daily: “Yellow Fever Vaccines Will Run Out”
Where to?

Bhutan, Bhutan Observer: “How Gay Is A Gay Bhutanese”
Very gay?

Saudi Arabia, Saudi Gazette: “What To Do With Somali Pirates?”
Heck, if it’s Saudi Arabia, the answer is simple– off with their heads!

Turkey, Hurriyet Daily News: “Corruption Fight Being Slowly Won”
Soon every civil servant will be corrupt.

Kuwait, Kuwait Times: “Smart ID Cards For Citizens”
Dumb ID cards for non-citizens?

Bhutan, Bhutan Times: “Bhutan Ambassador Bids Goodbye To Bangladesh”
Where is it going to?

Pakistan, Daily Times: “Taliban Blows Up Girls’ Schools”
It is a new educational thrust for the Taliban.

Is There A Silver Lining For Silvio?

I have always believed one should accept another person’s right to enjoy a private life away from the scrutiny of the press. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi insists his frequent interactions with a seventeen year old girl and attending her 18th birthday party where he gave her a $10,000 necklace are just the way he enjoys the company of teenagers. Of course, some of us in our seventies get weary listening to the music and voices of teenagers, but Silvio is a man for all seasons and all girls. Silvio told reporters there was no truth to their stories he has a steamy relationship with Noemi Letizia. She is an attractive young woman, and he simply likes to be in the presence of attractive young women. After all, a man worth billions does not consider giving young girls expensive necklaces as anything other than an ordinary man buying a coke for a teenager.

Ordinarily, the Catholic Church in Italy has been a strong supporter of Silvio but now they are making comments about the model he presents to young people. I think Silvio offers a wonderful model to youth. Get a billion, buy your way to power, and you can fool around with teenagers to your heart’s content. What the heck is wrong with that model?

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I don’t know if Silvio has done anything other than give little Noemi anything other than a peck on her cheek. I just think it is wonderful that a man in his seventies has the energy to keep up with the antics of a teenager. God Bless him. I wish I had his energy.

Amnesty International Blasts Denmark Refugee Policies

Amnesty International issued a sharply critical report on alleged poor treatment of asylum seekers in Denmark as well as noting failure on the part of police to respond to complaints of mistreatment by people. The report deplored the decision of Denmark to accept assurances from other nations that asylum seekers on return home will be treated with respect. “The most important thing for the Danish government seems to be closing the country’s borders to refugees, forcing 282 Iraqi asylum seekers home to an unknown future and deporting terror suspects to countries that employ torture and unfair trials.” There are currently about 300 people in Denmark seeking asylum, but it is doubtful if their requests will be accepted.

The nation’s police force also came under criticism, particularly in their failure to respond to allegations of rape. It was noted only about five to eight out of a 1,000 complaints against police are ever upheld.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT,

The best words for me to hear these days are, “my dad lived to be 98 and he has all his faculties.”

Dick Cheney, Vietnam War draft dodger and certified coward, standard bearer of the Republican Party, Colin Powell, Vietnam War hero who served his country for over thirty years, anti-Republican. Is there something wrong with these statements?

I rarely see three people at a table of the same height and weight. What does that tell us about humanity?

I just cannot believe Tom Hanks can keep a straight face in his latest film. He is just smiling on the road to making twenty million.

Babe Ruth built a house for the Yankees. George Steinbrenner built a house for personal greed.

In my youth, boys who dropped out of school often said: “you can’t get something for nothing.” Too bad, they weren’t hired to run banks and stock exchange firms.

One feels a sense of power walking up to a counter and saying, “I want to see the manager.”

Lou Dobbs is to being an independent thinker as Rush Limbaugh is to talking the truth.

I wonder who decides when breakfast ends in the morning at fast food places and what are their criteria for making the decision.

A miracle is when there is a moment of silence at a table containing five teenage girls.

I decided to be a good citizen and halted at all Stop Signs.

I wonder if I can charge things in Heaven or is it a cash only place.

My mind rejects all forms of testing. I believe tests intrude on my personal dignity and my right to think as I wish.

I often get the sense no one knows how to fix the current economic situation and everyone is winging it.

Few understand the future is made by today’s decisions.

I have a hunch George Bush feels he got out just in time. People already are blaming Obama for Bush mistakes.

I saw a man dunking a bagel in his coffee. This violates hundreds of years of bagel eating.

Is Donald Rumsfeld still alive? If he is, does he stand five hours a day?

I doubt if Sarah Palin can utter a sentence without winking.

Being Gay In Indonesia Is Not Always A Happy Time

In a recent workshop held in Jakarta for gays and lesbians, men and women recounted the problems they encountered living in a Muslim society when they informed parents and other family members about their sexual orientation. Valen, a gay man, said: “if I told my mother that I had decided to become a heterosexual, she would certainly throw a party.” He recounted to the audience how his partner had died in his house and he finally had to tell his mother that he was gay. “I got down on my knees and told her. I also said that even though our relationship is not deemed as normal, I treated my partner better than the way my heterosexual sister treated hers.” Eventually, his mother came to accept who he was.

A mother came onto the stage named Pinta and spoke from her heart about her children and their sexual beliefs. “I have promised all of my children that I will accept them and their problems no matter what, as long as they don’t hide anything from me, so I have to accept my son’s sexuality as well.”

Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world and, unlike Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, gays and lesbians can speak in public about their sexual identity without being punished.