Darfur and the Candidates

The invisible genocide hasn’t made inroads into the 2008 election for most “major” candidates.  For those who have, you have the sane few who have stated policy on Darfur like Bill Richardson and John Edwards.  Then you have those on the insane side who think we can safely ignore the Darfur conflict because its just another civil war, like Ron Paul.

DarfurScores.org offers another window into those running in 2008 who are currently in Congress:

Barack Obama:  A

Hillary Clinton: A+

Dennis Kucinich: A

John McCain: C

Ron Paul: F

The conservatives seem to be stuck on one of two notes:  war or isolationism.  We either impose ourselves on the world or ignore the world and keep to ourselves.  These “solutions” do not work in the face of active genocide.  What we need are efforts to confront and engage all of the stakeholders in a conflict.  We need leadership.  John Edwards’ words on Darfur strike a chord:

“There comes a time when we must say, ‘Never again.'” — John Edwards

That is a clear reference to the Holocaust.  The scream of spiritual death that the Holocaust tortured out of humanity has been heard again and again throughout history.  Our response to that suffering must be an outpouring of compassion and the courage to take up responsibility and act.  A President must understand the urgency of genocide and be able to articulate it as an international issue the global community must address as one.


Keep Your Eye on Darfur

Sudan is bringing an obviously frivolous case against a school teacher for naming a Teddy Bear Muhammad.  As local activists would say, keep your eyes on the real issue:  Darfur:

Some analysts saw ulterior motives. There are tensions between Britain and Sudan over the conflict in Darfur. In a Guardian interview this month, President Omar al-Bashir expressed anger at the threat of UK sanctions against Sudan if peace talks failed.

Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a prominent peace activist in Khartoum, said: “This was an opportunity for the government to distract people from the main issues in Sudan: the problems between the authorities in the north and south of the country, the conflict in Darfur and the question of letting in United Nations peacekeepers.”

When the smoke clears, Darfur will still be an issue.  The UK and the world are not likely to lose sight of that over a teddy bear.

Tucker Carlson and Awkward Sentences

Sentence structure is important people.  I was reading this odd piece about one of Paul’s stranger supporters and came across this awesome paragraph (Anjeanette Damon, RGJ via Huffington):

Paul’s campaign was surprised to see Hof, flanked by two prostitutes, emerge from a limousine outside of Lawlor Events Center this morning. They arrived with MSNBC journalist Tucker Carlson, who has been traveling with Paul for a piece he’s writing for the New Republic.

Once again, this time as parsed by me:

 surprised to see Hof, flanked by two prostitutes, emerge from a limousine outside of Lawlor Events Center this morning. They arrived with MSNBC journalist Tucker Carlson

Even in context that still reads a little ambiguously.  By holy crap, I jumped out of my skin a little bit at the thought of Tucker Carlson spontaneously arriving at a Ron Paul event with a Pimp and two Prostitutes.

“Dennis Hof is a good friend of mine, so when we got to Nevada I decided to call him up and see if he wanted to come check this guy out,” Carlson said.

Well, that certainly cleared that up.

Giuliani and Romney: Trust Deficit

Scot Lehigh has some remarkable fun with the three front runners in this rather well written op ed piece:

On the stump, the Mittster shines like a diamond . . . ah, make that a cubic zirconia. Why, if one hadn’t seen him run for the US Senate and Bay State governor as a Bill Weld Republican, he might seem both convincing and sincere in his recently adopted role as Reagan conservative.

He literally changed his political colors as soon as he announced.  Its like he never ran for office in Massachusetts (emphasis mine).

What’s more, voters I talked to didn’t particularly care that Romney has done some serious flip-flopping.

“Don’t they all?” said Loraine Battey of Hudson, who is undecided. “They say what people want to hear.”

“They all lie,” added Fred Taylor, a Hudson resident and Romney backer.

That last sentence is gold.  If I was working on a competing GOP campaign, that quote would be everywhere Romney was.  Perhaps under a heading like “Trust”.

Certainly Giuliani’s success in deworming the Big Apple compares favorably with what Romney accomplished in his single term as Massachusetts CEO.

In other words, something, anything, is better than a closed mouthed nothing.  Romney was the lame duck CEO governor.  He was all about secrecy.

“Even people who like the president are tired of his style,” says one senior Romney adviser.

The dig was aimed at Rudy, but it does more than graze Mr Romney, the great corporate communicator.  Silent Bob would reveal more at a press conference.  At least he has facial expressions other than “invest” and “chin jut”.

For its part, the Romney campaign doubts that, after a president as polarizing as George W. Bush, Republicans will want a nominee as combative as Giuliani.

“Even people who like the president are tired of his style,” says one senior Romney adviser. “They are looking for somebody who is going to be more of a consensus builder and less abrasive.”

The thing is Bush ran as a consensus builder in 2000.  Look how long that lasted.  Does anyone trust any Republican to act in a genuinely bipartisan manner after Bush?

Further, the Romney camp thinks the indictment of close Giuliani associate Bernard Kerik will prove a heavy burden for a candidate who has made electability his campaign calling card.

This makes a great deal of sense.  Its hard to run as tough on crime when you are that close to it.  Who would trust that?

Both Giuliani and Romney have a huge trust problem.  For their die hard supporters, this isn’t an issue.  For the rest of the voting public it may well prove insurmountable.

Menstruation Ban and Anti Choice Logic

Amanda(Pandagon) wonders about a new law defining fertilized eggs as persons:

I wrote an article for RH Reality Check about how anti-choicers could try to ban menstruation without missing a beat. It was supposed to be satire.

But unfortunately, it was close to the truth
. Anti-choicers are pushing a Colorado ballot initiative to define a fertilized egg as a person.

I’ve seen numbers from 40-80% of eggs that get fertilized won’t implant in the uterus, meaning that any random menstruation could have an egg in it that was technically fertilized, making your average tampon a potential scene of negligent homicide under this law. That aside, when you define a fertilized egg, much less and embryo or a fetus as a full person with rights, how on earth do you handle miscarriages?

Thanks to an active comment thread here, I can safely say how they intend to hand menstruation and miscarriages.  By ignoring them.  In the pro-life world view, the name of the game is “letting nature take its course”.  In other words, if we interfere and kill a fetus, then we have sinned.  If we leave the fetus alone and it dies, we are guiltless.  (For fun, try quizzing a pro-lifer on their stance on medically necessary abortions with this in mind.)

So you are not going to see a criminal prosecution for miscarriage.  That would be actively inviting a judge to strike the law down.  (Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a civil lawsuit over a miscarriage).  Although saying that logic is at play might be stretching it a little (Echidne):

“It doesn’t outlaw abortion, it doesn’t regulate birth control,” said Kristi Burton, 20, of Colorado for Equal Rights. “It’s just a constitutional principle. We’re laying a foundation that every life deserves protection.

So if a fertilized egg is a person and deserves rights, but abortion remains legal,  what does that say about our own legal rights?  Ms. Burton is clearly saying “It doesn’t outlaw abortion… yet.  We’re just laying the legal foundation to do so”.  In the meantime, would abortions be subject to due process and a court trial?

This law may have some further impact beyond its overt intention however.  There’s the pill for example.  This drastically changes the impact of taking a pill to reduce the frequency of menstruation.  And then there’s the issue of anything that increases the frequency of menstruation.  Like aromatherapy.

From the AP article:

Anti-abortion activists said similar voter-led initiatives or legislative efforts are under way in five other states, including Montana, Georgia, Oregon, Michigan and South Carolina.

Just Great.

Oppression is a Business Cost for Yahoo


Yahoo has settled with the families of the Chinese dissidents they helped the Communist government arrest. Via Wired:

Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed. But a source at Yahoo said the company has been “working with the families, and we’re working with them to provide them with financial, humanitarian and legal assistance.”

Yahoo has also agreed to establish a global human rights fund to provide “humanitarian relief” to support dissidents and their families. The source said that details still have to be worked out.

Despite the new human rights friendly rhetoric:

“After meeting with the families, it was clear to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo! and for the future,” said Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang in a statement. “Yahoo! was founded on the idea that the free exchange of information can fundamentally change how people lead their lives, conduct their business and interact with their governments.”

“We are committed to making sure our actions match our values around the world. That’s why we are also working to establish a Human Rights Fund to provide humanitarian and legal aid to dissidents who have been imprisoned for expressing their views online,” he said.

This is unlikely to bring about meaningful change in how the company operates in China:

Yahoo said nothing, however, about the future provision of e-mail services to users in China. Its competitor Google has decided not to host e-mail or blogging services for users within the jurisdiction of mainland Chinese authorities.

In fact even the help they are offering comes in response to increasing public pressure:

The settlement comes after lawmakers blasted Yang and Yahoo’s top lawyer Michael Callahan last week in a congressional hearing over how Yahoo has handled the entire chain of events surrounding the arrests.

“It took a tongue-lashing from Congress before these high-tech titans did the right thing and coughed up some concrete assistance for the family of a journalist whom Yahoo had helped to send to jail,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos in a statement issued Tuesday. “In my view, today’s settlement is long overdue.”

The “after meeting with the families” line is about as transparent as bullshit gets.

So what does this new position of Yahoo’s really say about the state of human rights in China, and the corporation’s role?

A commentator at slashdot summed it up quite nicely (emphasis mine):

MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 13, @05:08PM (#21342423)
(Last Journal: Tuesday March 13 2007, @02:39PM)


I doubt it. I’m sure, if you’re a Chinese journalist or dissident using Yahoo China for communications and the authorities figure you’re saying critical things about them or reporting the truth of their regime, Yahoo will happily sell you out, but now with the added dimension that they’ll buy off your relatives.


Human Rights violations have become another line item in the budget. To be fair, its probably a few line items. PR firm, legal defense fund, lawsuit settlement. There. All done, nice and tidy. Now Yahoo can continue business as usual.

(Out of curiosity, I wonder if Yahoo for Good is banned in China, or if it comes with a disclaimer for Chinese citizens: “Warning, this may get you arrested and possibly tortured”?)

Back to the Wired Article:

In a statement issued Tuesday, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey said that the settlement doesn’t obviate the need for his proposed bill, which would among other things make it illegal for US tech companies to divulge identifying user information to repressive regimes, and allow affected parties to bring civil suits against such companies in the United States.

“As a nation, we have a responsibility to continue to push for the release of these human rights leaders and pass the Global Online Freedom Act to prevent this egregious human rights abuse from happening to others,” said Smith in a statement. “Much like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, my legislation will make certain that US companies are not compelled to comply with local Secret Police or any other unlawful policies when operating in foreign markets.”

Call in to your Representative and Senator. Ask them to support Smith’s bill, and to oppose Yahoo’s crass lobbying:

Yahoo is working “pro-actively” with lawmakers on the bill, said the Yahoo source. They added that Yahoo supports the “overall objectives” of the bill, but that there are still provisions in it that would effectively ban the company from doing business in China.


The bill would send a clear message to internet companies: You can’t get away with this. Right now, Yahoo thinks they can.

We can prove them wrong.

The MySpace Suicide and Hysteria

This is gut wrenching.  A girl with a history of depression committed suicide, apparently provoked by the comments of a neighboring family posing as a boy who had become her “online boyfriend”.

It looks like it was the whole family plus a family friend (St Charles Journal):

According to a police report filed by the woman down the block, she created the account to check to see what Megan was saying, if anything, about her daughter. According to the police report, the woman, her daughter and an 18-year-old part-time employee monitored the Josh Evans account.

Part of this doesn’t add up.  If the purpose of the account was discovery, why go to the trouble of insulting the victim?   That question worries me.  Also the family’s reaction was vile:

Outrage that the only action taken has been a complaint filed by the parents who concocted this cruel hoax against the parents of the girl who committed suicide. They filed a complaint with local police against Megan’s parents.

The reason?

After finding out who was responsible for the creation of the fictitious MySpace account that led to their daughters suicide, Megan’s parents destroyed a foosball table they had been storing for the heartless adults.

This is a dangerous news story for a few reasons.  It involves a media flash point: a child being hurt after using MySpace.  It also involves an adult bullying a child, and unsympathetic aggressors who have attacked a truly vulnerable child.  This is a situation where the parents apparently took all the appropriate steps one should take allowing a child to use the internet.  If anything, they seemed almost overly protective.

There is the existing depression part of this.  The victim could just as well have reacted to cruel comments at school as online.  But because this happened online there is a flood of anger and fear pouring out.   There are calls for a law:

“Because there is not a law that it can fit into people are saying, ‘Sorry, go change the law yourself.  Put it in Megan’s name, then maybe it won’t happen to another family.’  So I guess if that’s what we have to do that’s what we’re gonna have to do.  I will take every last breath I have to fight for Megan’s name,” Tina says.  “The law needs to be changed so it never happens to a family again.”

What new law could fix this?  Barring children from using the internet?  Barring adults from ever conversing with children online?  The mother, daughter and employee did two things wrong.  They misrepresented themselves to the victim to gain her trust, and then they used that trust to hurt her psychologically.  I wonder whether a new law, which will almost certainly target social networking sites, would do anyone any good.  Rather than feed the hysteria around the use of the internet by minors, we need to address the larger issue of bullying and mental health.  If this does go to court, outside of the obvious civil case, perhaps Katherine Norris is right, and those responsible should be hit hard with stalking charges.

What do you think?