Creative Destruction

December 30, 2007

Yeah, Right, Whatever ….

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights,Politics — Brutus @ 4:34 pm

I learned a few days ago that a group of Lakota Indians residing in South Dakota have seceded from the United States and disavowed all past treaties. They are apparently demanding recognition as a sovereign country and have cited, among other things, the UN Resolution on Indigenous Peoples, which I blogged about earlier this fall.

This is pretty astounding. Secession! But not surprisingly, the news of it has hardly been noticed. A quick Google search reveals that none of the usual mainstream media have created articles about it. Further, the U.S. State Department was notified and their nonresponse thus far amounts to a big, fat “yeah, right, whatever ….”

If there is any true revolutionary spirit still alive within the U.S., I’d have to say that Native Americans (to use the politically correct term) have a far more compelling claim to moral authority than any other group of which I can think. Only a few days ago, the group’s website was called Lakota Freedom. I see that it now redirects to Republic of Lakota.

I for one will be interested to see if this movement gains any traction. There are rumors that Russia will recognize the Republic of Lakota, though one has to wonder whether that’s just a means of jabbing a figurative elbow in the ribs of the U.S. State Department. (Considering how many think of international politics as mere gamesmanship, I wouldn’t be surprised to see others enjoying the opportunity to poke at the U.S.) It would also be curious to see how land claims dating back to the middle of the 19th century are sorted out, as the Lakota intend to reclaim their ancestral lands and revert to open plains populated by bison. I can’t imagine for a moment anything really coming out of Lakota secession, but I’m oddly sympathetic to the notion of letting them go and seeing what happens.

October 24, 2007

Presented Without Comment

Filed under: Human Rights,LGBT Issues — Robert @ 11:11 am

Foster parents to 28 forced to resign.

They are Christian and do not want to tell their foster charges that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, which is apparently required by new UK government parenting guidelines for foster families. (Edited to add: the family is not fostering 28 children at the same time. They have, in the past, fostered 27 kids and are currently fostering one, an 11-year old boy who has been with them for the past two years. That boy will be removed from their care this coming Friday, and will go to a “council hostel”, which I assume is the rough equivalent of an orphanage for kids of his age.)

October 5, 2007

Free Burma

Free Burma!

More about the campaign here; via Amp, who continues to set new and interesting parameters for “not blogging”.

September 18, 2007

Indigenous Peoples Resolution

I recently learned about a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13. From the news report at the above link:

Despite strong objections from the United States and some of its allies, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution Thursday calling for the recognition of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and control over their lands and resources … An overwhelming majority of UN member countries endorsed the Declaration, with 143 voting in favor, 4 against, and 11 abstaining … The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand stood alone in voting against the resolution. The nations that neither supported nor objected were Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Samoa, and Ukraine.

The UN has a permanent forum on this issue, and numerous organizations exist for the primary purpose of promoting noninterference with indigenous peoples. (Manifest destiny has been invalidated, much like colonialism and empire building, but the same essential practices continue under the banners of “globalization” and “economic development.” Both terms read to the critical eye as euphemisms for theft and exploitation that has continued unabated for centuries, if not millennia.)

The first thing that stands out about the resolution is the small group of dissenting countries. What possible moral high ground can be claimed by the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — each with its own unique indigenous culture (largely destroyed by now) — by insisting (by inference) that they should be able to remove “indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and control over their lands and resources”? It’s like children saying “We want what we want, and those people are in the way, so they have no rights.”

The other strange thing is that my Google search revealed no report, now four days later, on any of the major media outlets (MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, WSJ, NYT, Fox News, etc.). The reports that do show up are all foreign news, small news aggregators, and a handful of blogs. It’s impossible to believe that these reporting omissions have no motivation.

May 21, 2007

No Facts Which Offend Me May Exist

Filed under: Debate,Human Rights — Robert @ 12:44 pm

A somewhat frustrating conversation with Mandolin over at Alas is shut down. Apparently, the existence of facts (laws forbidding classes of discrimination have costs) causes too much emotional distress to be borne.

The irritating part is that if the situation were reversed – if leftists were obliged to compromise their values in order to comply with the law – they’d be (justifiably) screaming bloody murder about the oppression. I guess harms to people’s freedom of conscience only count if the conscience tends liberal.

April 16, 2007

Thank God For The Virginia Tech Gun Ban…

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights — Robert @ 4:14 pm

Without brilliant regulations like this at the university, there might have been some kind of a massacre.

I’m just sick at what’s happened at Virginia Tech.  My wife posits a breakdown in values at the family level as the causal factor, and I’m inclined to agree, at least in terms of the creation of people like the psycho who did this. However, I also think there’s a cultural value in play, a sick and degraded cultural value that denigrates self-defense and urges that all martial power and valor be confined to a particular class. Don’t carry a gun; the cops will do that for you. Don’t fight back when the bank robber pulls a piece; cooperate and hope that you aren’t hurt. Don’t stand up; lie down, and put your faith in the rational behavior and good intentions of the most deranged and dangerous members of society.

Well, bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. The cops can’t protect everybody. Killers and thugs aren’t interested in the value of human life. If we want a civil society where people are safe and don’t have to worry about lunatics slaughtering dozens of innocents, then we have to recognize that it is a dangerous world. There are people who don’t care what the gun rules are. We’re fond in our society of saying we have to fight for this, fight for that – but we have forgotten, in this overly-metaphored world of symbolic manipulation, that fighting sometimes means fighting.

Screw pacifism. Screw professional peacekeepers. Screw the whole bloody-handed ideology of non-violence and peace through superior capitulation. It is time for this society to re-arm itself, to stand in defense of the things and the people that we hold dear. It is time for us to start answering these thugs and lunatics in the language they wish to claim for themselves. It is time for the nutjobs and bullies who threaten us, threaten our lives, threaten our families, to be answered in a hail of lead.

No more Columbines. No more Virginia Techs. No more 9/11s. We are not a herd, and we will not be rendered helpless sheep by the gun-banners and the counseling class and the oh-so-reasonable regulators. Arm yourselves, my fellow citizens. Arm yourselves, learn to use what you carry, and when the community is thrown into fear by these criminals, kill them.

February 17, 2007

The Essential Conservatism of Feminist Discourse: The Whitewashing of Male Victimisation

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Iraq,War — Daran @ 3:57 am

Over on Alas, Kate L. makes an Odious Comparison . (My italics):

I don’t really know about other feminists, but I for one will be the first one to tell you that sexism – both personal and institutional – hurts men as well as women. Now, that being said, I’m afraid that I do agree with amp that the degree of harm is different and that in general most women are probably harmed more than most men, but there is substantial harms to both due to rigid gender role expectations.

How can you draw any conclusion about who is harmed more if you don’t fairly evaluate the harms to both?

The extended discussion between me and Amp, which lead to his revised definition of feminism, began with this post, and this comment by him to Robert’s reply. Amp describes in considerable detail the cataract of disaster that has poured onto the heads of Iraqi women since the invasion. I queried Amp’s statement from his comment that “there’s strong evidence that for girls and women in particular (but not exclusively), things have gotten much worse since we invaded”, (my italics), asking him: “please provide some evidence that it’s not overwhelmingly men in particular who are being targetted for violence?”

Amp’s reply was quite intemperate. He later retracted some of the snarkiness, but stood by his his main point, which was that it wasn’t his burden to prove his claims, but mine to disprove them:

Daran, provide me with some evidence that non-combatant men have been killed more than non-combatant women…

In any case, I don’t doubt for a second that men’s lives in most of Iraq have been made much worse by the US invasion, and that there is an endless supply of violence – perhaps even a majority of violence, by some measures – directed at men, especially if one doesn’t see any moral distinction between shooting an armed combatant to death and shooting an unarmed civilian to death.

In any case, it wouldn’t alter my basic opinion at all. Even if men were the majority of victims in Iraq, I’d still think that there are clearly some forms of violence, abuse and loss of liberty that have been directed more at women then at men, and I’d still be writing about those problems.

Well I took on that burden. It took me several months to find some actual figures, but here they are: 5.4% of civilian fatalities of the on-going violence are women. I estimate about 2% are children, almost certainly mostly teenage boys. The figures for the wounded are similar: 6.4% are women and 2.3% are children.

I don’t think Amp would stand now by what he said then, except for the last quoted paragraph. The question is, how did he ever come to believe that women in Iraq suffered more violent victimisation than men? The answer, of course, is the complete whitewashing of the extent of male victimisation in both mainstream and feminist media, coupled with the feminist gender-norm – the Odious Comparison – that makes such declarations de rigueur in feminist circles without any analysis of the harms suffered by men. Before I found those UN reports containing actual figures, I had to ferret around in reports and news articles for any clues that might have survived the whitewashing. This story for example, discusses these killings at length without any direct reference to the sex of the victims. It’s like reading a description of the Nazi Holocaust which avoids mentioning the word ‘Jew’. But it does contain a clue about two thirds of the way through:

Even the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) humanitarian news agency reported on April 26 that “More than 90 women become widows each day due to continuing violence countrywide, according to government officials and non-governmental organizations devoted to women’s issues.”

Another extremely telling point in the IRIN report is that “Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs says that there are at least 300,000 in Baghdad alone, with another eight million throughout the country.” The report said that at least 15 police officers’ wives are widowed every day, and that local NGOs in Iraq said the situation had become much worse since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which has brought horrific violence on a level not seen before

Woah there! Eight million widows!? (The figure would include widows from the Hussein era, and so is not necessarily inconsistent with extimates of post invasion deaths in the tens or hundreds of thousands. I am nevertheless sceptical about this figure.) 90 widows per day? Notice that these indirect victims of the violence are gendered. It is only through the centring of the female victims, that the sex of the direct victims becomes visible, and then only by inference. When male victims are discussed directly, they’re desexed, and thus rendered invisible as men. See this post for another example of the desexing of male victims.

Compare with this femininst treatment: “Iraqi Women’s Bodies Are Battlefields for War Vendettas” it says in the headline. Contrast the emotive description of the woman’s murder with the perfuctory language of her brother’s. “They pierced her body with bullets.” vs. “He was also shot and killed.” In case you’d forgotten the headline, the same formulation is used about midway though the article: “women’s bodies [are] the battlefields on which vendettas and threats are played out.”

This is a conservative treatment. It adheres to the mainstream gender-norms exemplfied in the first article, in that the overwhelming levels of male victimisation are rendered invisible, in effect, denied. It is only through being subordinated to a woman’s death, that a male victim is visible at all. A progressive treatment would challenge these gender-norms.

Media whitewashing of harms to men isn’t restricted to Iraq, and it isn’t restricted to war. It applies across the board of feminist discourse which “looks at female oppression through a microscope, and male oppression through a telescope. Backwards. Pointing at the ground. With the lens covers still on. And both eyes closed.

So again, how can you tell who’s harmed the most, if all your sources of information whitewash the harms to men?

(Crossposted with Feminist Critics.)

February 11, 2007

Rape During the Balkan Conflict


…I didn’t blame the people who made up all that crap about rape rooms in the Kosovo war. They were playing to their audience. The west doesn’t care about men dying so let’s give them women raped. Much more effective.

(I do blame the muslims (KLF) for starting that whole war of course and it’s possible the rape room propaganda idea was actually hatched in an American focus group)

The victim populations unquestionably played the “women and children” card, but the underlying allegation about mass rape wasn’t made up. The most authoritative source on the subject of rape in the Balkan wars, and quite possibly in any conflict, is Annex IX (Summary) of the Bassiouni Report, which documents these crimes meticulously. Claims by the victim populations (and by feminists) about the severity of the atrocities perpetrated against women are not exaggerated – indeed it would be hard to exaggerate them. For example:

There are reports of one more camp in the primary school in Kalinovik. *252 On 2 July 1992, drunk Serb militiamen reportedly broke into the school. One witness reports that they said, «Look at how many children you can have. Now you are going to have our children. You are going to have our little Cetniks.» They reportedly selected 12 women, took them to the Hotel Kalinovik, forced them to clean the hotel, and then raped them. The women were then returned to the school. Reportedly, 95 women were raped in the next 26 days. Pregnant women were spared, and women who became pregnant were reportedly thereafter spared. One witness stated that the first night, the militiamen randomly selected teenagers and raped them in bathrooms next to the gymnasium. After that, they selected women by name. On 29 August, the detainees were exchanged, and at least 15 women terminated their pregnancies in Mostar and Jablanica. *253

That example wasn’t deliberately chosen. All I did was move the scroll bar to a random place within the report and cut&paste the first paragraph I came to. It’s a typical, not an extreme example.

However the simple picture of men raping women isn’t the whole story. There were a small number of female perpetrators, and not just in minor or incidental roles:

The victim selection was reportedly well organized at Luka camp. Several reports suggest that young Serbian woman was responsible for its administration. *115 Reportedly, she brought a nurse to Luka to «prepare the girls and make them calm». According to the nurse’s report, she watched as the Serbian administratrix stabbed a girl in the breast and vagina with a broken bottle for resisting instructions. The girl subsequently bled to death….

The report also includes many, many cases of men being sexually abused and tortured by male and, in a small number of cases, by female perpetrators (italics are my comment.):

…The most graphic of the reported castrations [at the Strolit Camp in Odzak] involved a named Croatian woman. She is reported to have ordered a Great Dane to attack naked detainees and bite off their genitals.


Several reports describe a camp in a shoe factory in Karakaj. There a female guard, a member of Arkan’s troops, ordered men to have sexual intercourse with her. (Good thing she didn’t try to rape them). When they refused, she shot them. *628 One report called the factory the «Glinica» factory, and stated that 48 girls and women were raped there. *629

Another camp was at a theatre in Celopek, where 163 men were housed. One day, three «Cetniks» came to the camp. One called out the names of seven pairs of men. The men were mostly fathers and sons or close relatives. The guard forced seven of the men to kneel down and bite off the penises of the other seven. Three of the men died. *630 The other prisoners were forced to watch. A week or 10 days later, another of the guards cut off a man’s penis with a knife. *631 According to another source, the guard made this man eat his severed penis. *632 The same source reported that this guard beat a prisoner with a wooden stick and shoved the stick into the man’s anus, causing the victim to bleed profusely. He stated that the guard, who was often drunk, forced prisoners to perform sex acts with each other. The prisoners were taken to Batkovic in late June and finally released in February 1993. *633

Finally the report also notes that sometimes men acted to protect women:

There also are many cases where female victims are protected by someone from the same ethnic group as their attackers. Men take women out of the camps to protect them from rape and sexual assault, tell other guards or soldiers that the women are «taken», or help them escape. Women hide other women or bring them contraceptives. There is insufficient information on the sexual assault of men to determine a similar pattern.

My emphasis. These details disappear when you look at mainstream and feminist derivative sources which whitewash anything which doesn’t fit into the ‘men are perps, women are victims’ mould. But for this whitewashing, we would perhaps been less surprised at the pictures of Lynndie England abusing male prisoners in Abu Ghraib, to which some of the above accounts bear a remarkable similarity. On the other hand, had those pictures not emerged, England’s involvement in the abuse would most likely have been similarly whitewashed.

The Kosovo war didn’t break out until after this report had been published, but the patterns of male detention, torture and slaughter were similar, and I’d be surprised if the treatment of women was any different. Antifeminists and Feminist Critics are rightly incensed by typical feminist propaganda, such the claim that “men make war and women are the victims” and “women’s bodies [are] the battlefields on which vendettas and threats are played out.“, which, in the light of the overwhelming burden of torture and murder borne by non-combatant males, is not just victim-blaming, but holocaust-denial.

But that’s no excuse for replying in kind. The best response to falsehood is truth.

(Also posted at Feminist Critics)

February 9, 2007

ICT: IDF not Killing Women and Children. Killing Men and Boys Instead

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Israel,War — Daran @ 7:18 pm

The Institute for Counter-Terrorism Rebuts Palestinian Propaganda that the Israeli Defence Force indiscriminately kills women and children. On the contrary, it’s men and older boys who are being indiscriminately killed. (Bold added for emphasis. Italics are my comment.):

If we look at Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel, we see that the few female fatalities appear to be randomly distributed by age. The male fatalities, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly young (although, as noted above, relatively few are below the age of ten). To be more precise, at least 60 percent of all Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel were boys and men between the ages of 12 and 29.


Population segments like women or older people are not military targets; (meaning young noncombatant men and boys are?) thus their higher prevalence among Israeli fatalities is an indication of the degree to which Palestinian terrorists have killed Israelis simply for the “crime” of being Israeli.

In contrast, Palestinian noncombatant fatalities have been overwhelmingly young (but over the age of 11) and male. This pattern of Palestinian deaths completely contradicts accusations that Israel has “indiscriminately targeted women and children.”

So that’s all right then.

(Crossposted between Feminist Critics and Creative Destruction.)

Civilian Casualties – Media Depiction vs. the Real Numbers

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Iraq,War — Daran @ 6:11 pm

My good friend and co-blogger on Feminist Critics, HughRistik, has made an excellent post which deserves wider readership:

…according to an Op-Ed in the February 4th issue of the New York Times entitled 31 Days in Iraq, by Adriana Lins de Albuquerque with graphic design by Alicia Cheng. This article is mainly a large picture showing the death tolls in various areas of Iraq. The picture contains icons of people who represent American forces, other coalition forces, Iraqi forces, police officers, and civilians. All of the icons are male figures, except for … the civilian icon, [which] is a figure of a woman holding a child. Apparently, men don’t count as civilians.

Indeed a glance at the full graphic gives the impression that innocent women and children are being slaughtered in huge numbers in Iraq, while male casualties are confined to soldiers and a small number of policemen. But is this a fair picture?


The UN produces a bimonthly report on the Human Rights Situation in Iraq. The May/June report last year was expanded, and for the first time gave civilian casualty figures, including figures for women and children. Fatalities reported are the sum of the Ministry of Health figures (which cover deaths in/bodies brought to hospitals around the country, excluding Kurdistan) and bodies brought to the Medico-Legal Institute (MLI) in Baghdad, each of which contributes about half of the total. For reasons that aren’t clear, the figures for women and children killed were omitted from the November/December report, hence I will consider here only the figures for the six months between May and October.

The total civilian casualties for the period are reported as 19,471. (Each report also gives revised figures for the previous two months. I have not taken these revisions, which are in any case small, into account because the figures for women and children were not given a comparable revision.) This figure includes 852 (4.4%) women, and 204 (1.0%) children. However, The MLI did not report separate figures for women in May or June, and does not appear to have reported separate figures for children at all. If the MLI’s figures for May and June are excluded, the total falls to 16501, and the proportion of women increases to 5.2%. Unfortunately the MLI’s figures are not reported separately in all four reports, so it is impossible to repeat this adjustment for children. Suffice it to say that if we could, the corrected proportion would probably be roughly double, or about 2%.

A child is anyone under the age of 18. Although I have not found specific information on this subject, I would conjecture that the majority of children killed are not babes in arms, as depicted in the graphic, but teenage boys.

Police and Combatants

Police are legally non-combatants, even though the media sometimes refers to them as “troops”, and lumps them in with army casualties. In December, the Ministry of the Interior reported that 12,000 of them had been killed since 2003.

I have no information on the numbers, but Google searches on the phrases “female Iraqi soldier”, “female Iraqi terrorist”, and “female Iraqi police”, indicates that they do exist. According to this report (PDF) one in seven suicide bombers worldwide is female. In some places, Turkey and Chechnya, 40% or more are female. This tells us little about Iraq; I cite it solely for the proposition that there could be more female combatants than people might expect.


Just as the Haditha atrocity, and the attack on the Education Ministry the mainstream media whitewashes the overwhelming burden of violent victimisation of men in Iraq. A wholly false picture of ‘innocent’ female victimisation is presented. Men, if they are visible at all as men, are depicted in cannon-fodder roles.

(Crossposted between Feminist Critics and Creative Destruction.)

December 2, 2006

Abortion is a Human Right – Choice for Men isn’t

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Reproductive Rights — Daran @ 5:30 pm

I’ve been a member of the UK branch of Amnesty International for a while. Although I have issues with its gynocentrism, I generally agree with its aims and methods. The latest edition of its magazine invites members “to take part in the consultation” on ““sexual and reproductive rights“. The motion carried at this year’s AGM (PDF link, see motion A3) made broad reference to reproductive rights for both men and women, including access to contraception. The consultation is narrower, focussing solely on the right of women to abortion. Neither discusses any proposed right which could fall under the rubric of “Choice for Men”. (Edit: It goes without saying that I answered all three of the consultation questions in the affirmative.)

Although I am a long term supporter of both abortion rights for women, and Choice for Men, I think Amnesty has called this one right. Access to birth control including abortion should be regarded as a universal human right. That the right to abortion is void for men does not implicate the right’s universality: every person who gets pregnant should have the right to abort.

In contrast, my position on Choice for Men is one of advocacy of a policy. I do not construe it as a human right. In particular, I have always argued that it should be contingent upon the practical availability of post-coital birth-control to women, including safe medical abortion. Where this is not available to women, both legally and practically, they should not be left holding the baby that they had no more practical choice to produce than did the man. This lack of universality to any purported C4M “right” forcloses its construction as such, and puts it beyond Amnesty’s remit.

October 24, 2006

A Proposal to Republicans

Filed under: Human Rights,International Politics,War — Robert @ 2:47 am

Let’s go for a twofer.

The Republican Party ended slavery in this country. (Lots of other people helped, to be sure.)

Let’s end slavery in the world.

You have read the same depressing news stories as I have. Slavery is on the verge of making a transcontinental comeback.

How should we do it? It beats the hell out of me. This is a “man on the moon” type decision.

But we could do it, probably much as the British did it once – with fire and steel. (Although it would be nice if we could do without the fire and steel for once.)

It’s a job worth doing.

August 10, 2006

Gays in Iraq Targeted For Murder By Insurgents And Government

Filed under: Human Rights,Iraq — Ampersand @ 12:33 am

From the UK newspaper The Observer:

June 23, 2006

Brussels Critics The Subject of State Harassment

Filed under: Current Events,Education,Human Rights,International Politics — Robert @ 2:57 am

If this self-report is true, a blogging family (outspoken critics of the EU) in Brussels is being repressed by their local governments.

(Via National Review Online)

June 20, 2006

More Evidence that We, the People, May Be the Enemy

Filed under: Human Rights,Politics — Brutus @ 10:20 pm

Robert Hayes never responded to my comments in the entry on Top 10 Signs of the Impending U.S. Police State. Nevertheless, I want to add a couple links to stories that caught my eye today.

Wired reports that the Sheriff's Dept. in Los Angeles will test using unmanned drones (isn't that redundant? — Wired's term, not mine) to provide surveillance for "scanning rooftops for break-ins and finding lost children or hikers." If tests are successful, the Sheriff's Dept. "could eventually put as many as 20 of the aircraft into service, expanding their use to searching for suspects on the run and monitoring hostage situations, among other things." Naturally, it's the "other things" that concern me. The story is balanced and gives both positive arguments and negative objections to potential for government intrusion into reasonable expectations of privacy.

Perhaps even more alarming is a report in Free Market News that the federal government, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin, is developing spy blimps equipped with high-resolution cameras able to surveil as much as 600 square miles at a time. That brief article notes no controversy.

Yet another story in IT Blogwatch found at Computer World sounds more alarmist, noting that we're trading freedom for security. The vaguely hysterical tone doesn't go over well, but it also doesn't undo the point that we've passed into an era when we are reasonable to expect that our e-mail, telephone calls and records, library borrowing, medical records, movement on public streets, etc. is being continuously monitored through a variety of means, most notably the hidden camera. That the cameras are in orbit (think Google Earth) gave many of us pause, but based on the news reports linked to above, in the near future, cameras will be much closer and better focused, and they'll be cheap enough to be deployed by those below the level of the federal government.

I also found a blog called Privacy and Security Law Blog run by law firm that appears to be a pretty authoritative round-up of, well, privacy and security issues.

June 9, 2006

Trick Question

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Humor — Tuomas @ 11:59 pm

What do you call a man who has sex with a ten-year old girl?


May 14, 2006

Gay Marriage; or We Are all Traditionalists

Filed under: Debate,Ethics,Human Rights,Philosophy,Politics — Adam Gurri @ 1:19 pm

Gay marriage is one of those issues, like abortion, where I generally cannot stand the pat-answers on either side.

I got thinking about this subject again because I saw the discussion on the "slipperly slope" argument that Ampersand linked to, using polygamy as the example here.


May 12, 2006

Good Response To Polygamy Argument

Filed under: Debate,Human Rights — Ampersand @ 3:56 am

I rather like John Corvino’s response to the nonsensical “if you support same-sex marriage, then there’s no longer a reason to oppose polygamy” argument:

The trouble with the slippery-slope argument from gay marriage to polygamy is that it’s a nice sound-bite argument that doesn’t lend itself to a nice sound-bite response. “Show us why polygamy is wrong,” our opponents insist, as if that’s easy to do in 20 words or less. (Try it sometime.)

But here’s a little secret: they can’t do it either, because their favorite arguments against same-sex marriage are useless against polygamy. “It changes the very definition of marriage!” (No: marriage historically has been polygamous more often than monogamous.) “The Bible condemns it!” (Really? Ever heard of King Solomon?) “It’s not open to procreation!” (Watch “Big Love” and get back to me.)

If there’s a good argument against polygamy, it’s likely to be a fairly complex public-policy argument having to do with marriage patterns, sexism, economics, and the like. Such arguments are as available to gay-marriage advocates as to gay-marriage opponents. So when gay-rights opponents ask me to explain why polygamy is wrong, I say to them, “You first.”


April 26, 2006

Stop Genocide

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights,Race and Racism — Robert @ 4:33 am

Ampersand of Alas! and Creative Destruction lists some suggestions for stopping the ongoing atrocities in Darfur. They are all very nice suggestions and no doubt seem very effective in the parallel world inhabited by the earnest left. They are good people, the earnest left. God keep them.

Here's an idea for stopping genocide. Let's take a page from the history of the last racist imperialists to go around practicing genocide: smash their stuff and kill their thug overlords. I don't know what level of force it would take to persuade/demonstrate to the small tyrants of Africa that maybe peaceful co-existence is better for the actuarial tables. I have my suspicions that it would take a pretty high level, but a level we're capable of achieving.

"Never again" implies "whatever it takes". A strong word, "never".

One wonders if we're as strong as a word.

Holocaust Remembrance Day – A Suggested Remembrance

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights,International Politics — Ampersand @ 1:53 am

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (thanks to Bob Hayes for reminding me).

Here’s my suggestion for what you can do today, or in the next couple of days, that I think is appropriate: Go check out the Genocide Intervention Network’s list of ten things you can do right now, and do at least one or two.

Here’s my letter to President Bush:

Dear President Bush,

During your first year in the White House, you wrote in the margins of a report on the Rwandan genocide, “Not on my watch.”

I urge you to live up to those words by using the power of your office to support a stronger multi-national force to protect the civilians of Darfur.

As I type this email, it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Like most Jews of my generation, I was taught that the single most important way to honor the victims of the Holocaust is with the simple vow “never again.” Never again, will we allow genocide to happen while the world stands by and watches.

But it has happened again, and again. It is happening again, right now, as I write. As many as 400,000 have died so far, and many more will die if the Western World doesn’t find a way to say – firmly, unmistakably, and with a real commitment of troops and resources –

Not now. Not in Darfur. Not anywhere.

Never again.


Go to A Million Voices for Darfur to send a message of your own. It seems to me that if bloggers decided to push this in the next few days, for Holocaust Remembrance, that might generate a lot of signatures. I’d like to encourage Alas readers to go there right now and send a message – it really will take less than a minute.

I also donated a small amount (here’s the donation page – they take credit card and paypal), and filled in the “in memory of…” field to indicate that the donation was in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

April 25, 2006

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Filed under: History,Human Rights — Robert @ 2:35 pm

April 25 is Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated here with a series of photographs and links. (Warning: disturbing images and text.)

All too timely a memorial, as the spectre of another Holocaust looms over the Jewish people.

April 23, 2006

Abu Ghraib and “What Are We becoming?!”

Filed under: Ethics,Free Speech,Human Rights,International Politics — Adam Gurri @ 3:20 pm

From Amp's recent link farm, I mosied over to this post.

This paragraph could have been downloaded from any given right wing blog over the last three years. Of course Abu Ghraib was bad (if we are allowing that it happened, and isn't just some kind of fiction), but Saddam Hussein/Iran/Hu Jintao/Soviet Russia was much, much worse, so quit yer bitching.

(…)China, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are all dictatorships whose governments employ or employed various degrees of tyrannical means, including torture, in order to remain in power. They are not, however, considered role models for compliance with international human rights. No one points to China as a model for emulation in respect for human dignity.

(…)The United States, however, IS a model for human rights emulation. When states and governments look at the international system for a set of appropriate behaviors, they look first at the United States, then at the advanced European democracies and Japan. The United States is deeply identified with the international human rights regime that it took pains to construct in the post-war years and has maintained, with more or less success, since then. Thus, when the United States engages in torture, extra-legal detention, and murder of prisoners, it matters. A lot. In fact, it matters a lot more than what happens in Tehran or Pyongyang. If the United States can ignore human rights practice in dealing with those it declares its enemies, then any country can.

This is why the US deserves the criticism it receives on this point. We have the right to expect better from the United States, and, indeed, if we value human rights then we NEED to expect better from the United States. If the US doesn't take human rights law seriously, then no one will.

I find much to agree with in this post, except for what passes as an example of government-sanctioned human rights violations.

I understand criticism of the higher ups who allowed Abu Ghraib to happen in the first place.  But talking about it as though it were either sanctioned by our government, or even interrogational in nature, is I think unsupported by the evidence.

This wasn't about disciplined, overbearing officers beating information out of their prisoners.  This was a pack of uncontrolled young officers throwing a depraved party at their prisoners' expense.

What is more, they were exposed for what they did, and held accountable.  Not only are they no longer a part of our military, they are serving jailtime.

If anything, Abu Ghraib is a good example of what differentiates us from those regimes which we are often compared with.  Like them, we are human, and humans are capable of cruelty for their own selfish reasons.  Unlike them, when this cruelty is brought to the light of day, it is expected that the perpetrators will pay for what they have done, and their actions will be condemned.

As for things like Guantanamo Bay, or "extra-legal detention", there's a lot of conflicting evidence circulating around, and unlike Abu Ghraib, we don't have something as solid as a photograph to demonstrate one way or the other.  All we have are a pack of interest groups, be they political critics, or the military trying to cover for itself, either way, I haven't seen too much to inspire confidence in any particular diagnosis of the situation.

But there are plenty of critics making their arguments in prominent public places none the less, and that in it of itself puts pressure on our politicians and seperates us by yet another degree from the tyrannical regimes of the world. 

March 29, 2006

American vs. European Social Models

Filed under: Blog Status,Debate,Ethics,Human Rights — Brutus @ 10:23 pm

Update: This post continues to draw traffic even after five years and despite this group blog being abandoned. It is cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase, which is my personal blog and is still active. Feel free to comment either place.

Original post: The comment by Bazzer about flattened tax structures, my rejection of the idea, and Adam Gurri’s invitation to expand on the topic prompts me to describe more fully why I reject Reagan’s success in flattening the tax structure — a process that continues unabated today. Let me start by contrasting the American and European social models, albeit briefly.

I attended a lecture last month by T.R. Reid called the “European Social Model.” That term refers succinctly to the welfare state, which in Europe has none of the negative connotations it does in the U.S. High tax rates in European support a variety of human services, including socialized medicine, unemployment insurance, welfare, and free public education through university. Although the specific levels of support vary among European states, Europeans are justifiably proud of their collective accomplishment in caring for each other and creating a humane social contract. Recent uprisings in France over employment rules make a great deal of sense from within that context, though from an American perspective the agitators appear positively insane.

In the U.S., considering our history of tax revolt, we categorically flee from the idea of socialized anything. Nonetheless, we have socialized education (through high school), socialized defense (we should go back to calling it the Dept. of War, IMO), socialized roads, and socialized medicine in the form of Medicare/Medicaid. Levels of support and benefit for human services are considerably lower in the U.S. compared to Europe, and our overall tax rates are lower. It’s more of a continuum than a toggle switch.

However, I doubt anyone in the U.S. could be justifiably proud that we frankly allow our fellow citizens to literally live on the street and die of exposure and/or starvation. In that respect, we are inhumane, and Europeans think we’re insane for allowing it to persist in what is arguably the richest country in the world. Of course, the rich and powerful, who stand to gain from tax rates lower than those in Europe and lower than U.S. tax rates from the 1960s, say, have succeeded in flattening the U.S. tax structure. What used to be a fairly progressive structure (high earners paid a high percentage) has moved incrementally toward a regressive structure (low earners pay a higher percentage when various penalties are factored in, such as the inability to exploit tax loopholes for not having enough money, or Social Security taxes on all of one’s income instead of the first $84K only, or even sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes).

The flabbergasting thing to me is that the poor have been convinced that possibility of hitting it big (winning the lottery or being a rapper, mostly), which only happens to a miniscule number of people, makes protecting immense wealth advantageous to them even when they don’t have it. Hope is kept alive — and the underclass with it. The range from top to bottom of the socioeconomic scale has been widening for 50 years in the U.S., whereas in Europe, except for a few royal and aristocratic families, it’s been narrowing.

Which model delivers better social justice? For my money, the European social model.

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