28 August 2012

Another GOP rape gaffe

He hardly waited for us to get over our disgust with anti-choice Republican Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri, who recently claimed that "legitimate rape" (an oxymoron, by the way) rarely causes pregnancy because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

On August 27, Senate candidate Tom Smith of Pennsylvania jumped on the anti-woman bandwagon and seemed to equate rape with pregnancy out of wedlock.

Specifically, when asked about the Akin gaffe, he talked about a family member who chose to give birth birth out of wedlock, and said, "it is similar."

He quickly tried to backtrack, but he nevertheless made it clear that he believes a zygote should have more rights than a grown woman (not to mention the fact that he seemed to dismiss the violent - or at least forced - nature of rape).

Every woman - Republican or otherwise - should see this as a huge insult.

But, sadly, I'm sure many will not.

Israeli court throws out Rachel Corrie wrongful death lawsuit

Disappointing news: This morning, a district court in Haifa ruled that the Israeli army was not at fault for the death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie. The court decided that her death was instead an accident.

The lawsuit was filed in 2005 on behalf of the Corrie family. Rachel was crushed to death in 2003 by a US-made Caterpillar D9 military bulldozer in Rafah while acting as a human shield, trying to stop the unlawful demolition of a civilian Palestinian home. She was 23 years old.

And to further add insult to injury, Judge Oded Gershon blamed Rachel for "[putting] herself in a dangerous situation." In his mind, apparently, bravery and resolve = recklessness.

My heart goes out to Rachel's family.

For more information about the case, and about Rachel's life and legacy, go to RachelCorrieFoundation.org

26 August 2012

Isaac's irony

The GOP is rescheduling some Republican National Convention events, because Tropical Storm Isaac is currently headed towards Tampa.

While I am hoping that everyone will be safe and damage will be minimal, I'm finding it very ironic that the GOP convention is being interrupted by an "act of God".

After all, if a similar situation disrupted a Democratic event, Pat Robertson and his cohorts would likely tell us it's "God's retribution" - just as he said that abortion was responsible for Hurricane Katrina and that the ACLU and feminists were to blame for the 9/11 attacks.

22 August 2012

Rachel Corrie trial verdict due next week

On August 28, at 9:00 am local time in Haifa District Court, the verdict will be announced in the civil lawsuit against the State of Israel for the killing of American peace activist Rachel Corrie.

The lawsuit was filed in 2005 on behalf of the Corrie family. Rachel Corrie was crushed to death in 2003 by a US-made Caterpillar D9 military bulldozer in Rafah while acting as a human shield, trying to stop the unlawful demolition of a Palestinian home. She was 23 years old.

The Corrie family will be in Haifa for the occasion, and will hold a press conference along with their attorneys after the verdict is read.

Stay tuned for the outcome.

Meanwhile, for more news and information about the case, and about Rachel's life and legacy, go to RachelCorrieFoundation.org

20 August 2012

Accredited rape??? (i.e., Fun with Todd Akin)

If you've been paying attention to the news over the last couple of days, you've probably heard of the latest GOP scandal involving Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), who claimed that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy.

Here are his specific words: "First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

My first question to the Congressman is this: How can my uterus tell whether a rape is "legitimate" or not, so that it can activate the pregnancy prevention mechanism accordingly or not? (I dare him to ask his doctor friends that question!)

My second question is this: When is a rape ever legitimate?

Perhaps he was alluding to the fact that many rape accusations are false. But actual rape, per se, can never be legitimate, and this careless choice of words speaks volumes.

And the implications are astounding.

To demonstrate this, as a writer and word person, I went to my good friend Thesaurus.com to get a clear understanding of what is meant by a "legitimate" rape.

It turned into a rather amusing exercise, despite the grim subject matter. (Hey, sometimes we need to laugh to keep from crying and/or losing our minds.)

So, with tongue in cheek, here is what Thesaurus.com taught me:

legitimate rape =

accepted rape
accredited rape (!)
acknowledged rape
admissible rape
appropriate rape (!)
authorized rape
canonical rape (see also: Catholic Church, altar boys)
certain rape
cogent rape
consistent rape
correct rape (!)
customary rape
fair rape (!)
genuine rape (OK, I'll give him this one.)
innocent rape (!)
just rape (!)
justifiable rape (!!)
lawful rape (!!!)
licit rape
logical rape
natural rape
normal rape
official rape
proper rape (!)
reasonable rape
rightful rape (!)
sanctioned rape
sensible rape
warranted rape (!)

(Antonyms = illegal, invalid, unlawful, unwarranted!)

So would someone please give Mr. Akin a dictionary? (And a new career?)

Financial settlement in swim club racism case

Three years ago, I wrote about an incident at a Philadelphia area swim club: A group of young day care students, who had a pre-arranged and pre-paid agreement to use the pool, were subjected to hateful and racially charged comments and then were ordered to leave the club. Most of the children, if not all, were black or brown. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission investigated the case and issued a finding that racism was indeed a factor.

Now, finally, the Valley Swim Club is paying a price for its bigotry. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with the club for as much as $1.1 million.

All the money in the world cannot heal the emotional wounds that the incident inflicted on its young victims three years ago. But at least this demonstrates that racist behavior could come with a hefty price tag. Hopefully this will be somewhat of a deterrent where the human conscience fails.

19 August 2012

Vladimir Putin and the crime of dissent

Russia may have made some steps forward towards social progress since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but it seems that President Vladimir Putin is doing everything he can to crack down on political dissent. And the new poster girls for this oppression are members of the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot.

On August 17, three members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred". The charges arose from a protest they staged in a Moscow cathedral in which they criticized Putin's policies. And the verdict came down despite international outcry.

Amnesty International has described the case as "emblematic of increased efforts by President Putin and his cronies to stifle free speech in Russia," and declared Pussy Riot to be prisoners of conscience.

"Say what you will about Pussy Riot: this may not be your kind of music. Some people find their shows offensive," said Michelle A. Ringuette, Chief of Campaigns & Programs for Amnesty International USA. "But it doesn't change the facts: Since March, these young women have been in jail and kept from their families, including small children, and they are being threatened with seven years imprisonment - all because of a peaceful protest song that lasted less than a minute."

Human Rights First called the verdict "the latest example of how Russia uses laws that are meant to combat hate crimes - extremism, incitement, and hostility or hatred statutes - to prosecute artists, independent media, and LGBT and other civil society groups."

The U.S. State Department issued the following statement: "The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia. We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld."

Celebrities including Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Sting have voiced their support for Pussy Riot.

And tens of thousands of ordinary citizens of the world have signed petitions on their behalf.

But the Russian authorities apparently don't want to hear it, and are cracking down on Pussy Riot's supporters within that country. Chess champion and Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov was beaten and arrested after he showed up at the sentencing. The police accused Kasparov of biting one of them - a charge he strongly denies. Other protesters at the sentencing were also arrested.

"We've been saying Putin is a dictator for years who doesn't care about the law. Today, he proved it," said Kasparov.

11 August 2012

Romney-Ryan: Good news, bad news

This morning the news broke that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate.

Some progressives are celebrating this choice, figuring that Ryan's ultra-conservative fiscal policy will alienate a lot of voters. That's the good news.

The bad news: This choice will, at the same time, fire up the conservative base, including the Tea Party. And they vote. And they could win.

A Romney-Ryan win could devastate this nation, especially if the GOP retains control of the House.

So is this enough to motivate the disillusioned left?

06 August 2012

Apology to the Sikh community

Yesterday, a white man with a gun opened fire in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. He killed six people and wounded three others before police arrived and killed the shooter.

As of this writing, investigators have not yet determined a motive for the crime. However, witnesses have indicated that the shooter had a 9/11 tattoo on his arm.

So, of course, there is speculation that this may have been a "revenge" shooting, even though Sikhs are not Muslims - they are two distinctly separate religions. (Of course, even if they were Muslims, this crime would be no more justified.)

Distinctions, however, are often lost on bigots who just see the world in terms of "us" vs. "the other". Sikhs wear turbans, and some al-Qaeda members have been seen on TV wearing turbans, so that's close enough. Brown skin is brown skin, and that is enough to earn the label of "other". An exotic style of dress further fuels the fire of hatred.

This kind of ignorance and blind prejudice disgust and embarrass me. My heart goes out to the Sikh community in the wake of yesterday's tragedy. I apologize for the ignorance and intolerance that some in this country force you to endure.


Update (08 Aug): It now appears that the shooter, Wade Michael Page, was not killed by police but rather died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head after being shot in the stomach. What a coward!