24 July 2014

'An eye for an eye' is a problem

Last night, there was another botched execution - this one in Arizona. It took Joseph Wood almost two hours to die, during which time he was reportedly gasping and snorting while strapped to the gurney with the fatal drugs flowing into his veins.

This comes just three months after another botched execution. In Texas in April, Clayton Lockett died after reportedly writhing and groaning for 43 minutes.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, including torture. I am not a doctor, but it sure seems as though Wood and Lockett may have been slowly tortured to death. In any case, we don't know for certain how much pain they experienced. And that unknown seems like reason enough to immediately abolish lethal injection.

But some people seem to think that torturing the torturer is the fair thing to do.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said in an official statement regarding last night's Joseph Wood execution that "[t]his is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims - and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family."

That's the old "eye for an eye" attitude. Wood made people suffer, so he deserves to suffer at least equally. But we as a society should be above the level of the criminal.

And, surprisingly, I got a similar pro-death reaction from a Facebook friend who (unlike Gov. Brewer) is otherwise fairly progressive. She saw it as possible karmic payback. But it's not up to us human beings to dole out karmic justice. It is, by definition, best left to some higher force in the universe. Because we humans are so fallible.

As Mohandas Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

23 July 2014

Tomorrow, 7/24: Day of Action for Gaza!

The Israeli military continues its attacks on Gaza, and innocent Palestinian men, women, and children continue to die.

NPR reported today that the Palestinian death toll had risen to 649 in the 16 days since the assault began, most of them civilians. By comparison, only 29 Israelis have died in the conflict, most of them soldiers. In other words, it's a very lopsided massacre. And civilians are supposed to be off-limits in armed conflict, per international law.

We must raise our voices and do something about this.

So, on Thursday, July 24, activists and concerned Americans across the nation will participate in an urgent National Day of Action for Gaza.

Please join us.

What you can do:

Sign on and tell Congress to push for a ceasefire now!

• Use social media to spread the word and share the petition to Congress.

Find a protest near you.

• Get more ideas at Code Pink's Pink Tank.

21 July 2014

Obama signs order to protect LGBT federal employees and contractors

Today, in another step forward towards equality for all, President Obama signed an executive order that guarantees workplace protections for LGBT employees of the federal government and federal contractors.

Then he urged Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination by any employer with at least 15 employees. Of course, that bill has gotten nowhere in the House, even after passing the Senate last November by a bipartisan vote of 64-32.

It shouldn't be an issue at all. This is 21st century America. Non-discrimination should be a no-brainer.

But let's be grateful for each small piece of progress. Kudos to President Obama for taking this step today.

20 July 2014

Israel uses shrapnel bombs in Gaza, violates international law

According to the European Institute for International Law and International Relations (EIILIR), a Norwegian surgeon told the French newspaper l'Humanité that "Israel is using Dense Inert Metal Explosive bombs in Gaza, violating the Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, to which Israel is party."

Dr. Erik Fosse, on a humanitarian mission, said these bombs "have a shrapnel effect on civilians," and their use may amount to a war crime.

According to the EIILIR, "Dense Inert Metal Explosive are a mix of explosive material and small particles of chemically inert material, for instance tungsten. The metal is mixed in very small particles (1 – 2 mm) or in powder, and thus the micro-shrapnel can slice through soft tissue and bone. The mix, in a carbon fibre casing, has a very potent shrapnel effect in a small radius : the probability of killing people within a small radius is increased, and survivors may have to be amputated (esp. of the lower limbs), because the shrapnel cannot be detected through x-ray in the bodies of the victims and the injury cannot be cured. The tungsten powder « dissolves » in the body, and any minor injury interferes with the clotting process, leading to profuse bleeding."

And, to add insult to injury (literally), Israel dismisses these casualties as mere "collateral damage".

19 July 2014

Why I won't use eHarmony

When people think of online dating sites, eHarmony is probably one of the first ones that come to mind, because of their ubiquitous TV and radio ads. But, while I do some online dating myself from time to time, I will not use eHarmony.

I almost signed up for an eHarmony account several years ago, until I noticed something that rubbed me the wrong way: While I am a woman seeking a man, I couldn't help but notice that eHarmony didn't seem to accommodate women seeking women, or men seeking men.

This got me curious, and so I sifted through the site's FAQs until I found a statement that said something to the effect that their matching methodologies are based on their understanding of heterosexual relationships, and that they don't know enough about gay and lesbian relationships to do same-sex matching.

That implies that they think that gays and lesbians want something other than "normal" loving relationships. And this proves eHarmony's ignorance and prejudice.

Today, after losing some lawsuits alleging discrimination, eHarmony offers same-sex matching through its sister site Compatible Partners. Perhaps they think of it as "separate but equal". But separate is never equal.

So I'll have no part of any of it.

17 July 2014

Israel and Gaza ignore the rules of war

Today, after more than a week of trading missile fire, Israel launched a ground offensive on Gaza.

No good can come of this.

The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is legendary for its huge numbers of civilian casualties. Calling them "collateral damage" doesn't make these deaths any easier to dismiss. We're talking about dead babies here. And, under international law, civilians are supposed to be off-limits in armed conflict.

According to the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts:

"The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations."


"The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited."

and, especially applicable to this particular conflict:

"Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited."

But neither party in this conflict seems to care much about all that. Does no one have a conscience here? Does no one have compassion?

Each side continues to point fingers at the other side and pass blame accordingly. As long as that continues, there will be no peace.

And, until each side can recognize the humanity on the other side, there will be no peace.

Today, I posted on Facebook a condemnation of this latest Israeli move. A reader pushed back by pointing out that Gaza has been bombing Israel, as if it justifies this escalation of violence.

As I then pointed out to her, two wrongs don't make a right.

And, as I pointed out to her:

"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."
-- Mohandas Gandhi

16 July 2014

July 16 - A bad day in history

This morning, with help from History.com, I am exploring events that have happened on July 16 through the decades. And I don't like what I see:

• On this date in 1945, the first atomic bomb was successfully tested in New Mexico. I wish it had never been invented.

• On this date in 2002, President George W. Bush unveiled his homeland security strategy, including preemptive military action abroad. The "war on terror" soon became a war on human rights.

• And on this date in 1958, Julia Lennon, mother of Beatle John, died in an auto accident. I'm sorry that she didn't live to see his great success, but grateful to her for giving him life (although his, too, ended much too early).

13 July 2014

Amnesty calls for UN investigation into civilian deaths in Israel/Gaza

As the Israelis and the Palestinians once again indiscriminately launch missiles at each other, the human rights group Amnesty International is calling for "a UN-mandated international investigation into violations committed on all sides."

According to Amnesty, "[u]nder international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict must distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects, and direct attacks only at the former. Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks are prohibited. The parties must take necessary precautions during attacks to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects."

Regardless, since the current hostilities began to escalate last week, "more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians who were not directly participating in hostilities. This includes at least 24 children and 16 women as of Friday morning. More than 600 people have been wounded, many of them seriously. More than 340 homes in Gaza have been completely destroyed or left uninhabitable and at least five health facilities and three ambulances have been damaged. In Israel, at least 20 people have been wounded by rocket attacks and property has been damaged."

"As the violence intensifies there is an urgent need for the UN to mandate an international independent fact-finding mission to Gaza and Israel to investigate violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. This is the first crucial step towards ensuring that those who have committed war crimes or other serious violations can be held accountable," said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

"The international community must not repeat previous mistakes, standing by and watching the devastating consequences for civilians of both sides failing to abide by and enforce the laws of war. Swift UN action is needed as lives hang in the balance," Luther continued.

I agree. But I shall not hold my breath. :-/

04 July 2014

Eating contests and starving babies

The news media are covering today's annual Nathan's hot dog eating contest at Coney Island as if it's an athletic event.

But it's not. It's quite the opposite, actually. It's gluttony. Unhealthy gluttony. And gluttony is as disgusting today as it was in the days of the ancient Romans.

But the American media are celebrating this gluttony - even as some 16 million children in this country currently experience food insecurity. These children don't know where their next meal will come from - or when - while food is being wasted on those Coney Island gluttons.

Enjoy your holiday picnics on this U.S. Independence Day. But please don't waste food. And, if you do, please atone by making a donation to Feeding America or your local food bank.

01 July 2014

With Rand Paul, will Guatemalans get good eye care?

What will Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) do on his summer vacation? According to the Washington Post, Paul, an eye doctor, will be going to Guatemala on a medical mission to help the blind.

While those plans are admirable, I am concerned about the fact that Paul is not certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO). Instead, Paul lapsed his certification, and then he and others created their own certification group. According to Fox News, whom I would have expected to defend the senator, "[Paul] is listed as the group's president; his wife, Kelley, is listed as vice president; and his father-in-law is listed as secretary." In other words, he certified himself.

I would be very reluctant to trust my eyes to someone like that. The Guatemalans should be, too.