Monday, April 12, 2010

LGBT issues

Two things I’ve learned over the years that I’ve worked with LGBT students at the American Civil Liberties Union are that many school administrators and teachers don’t have the slightest clue about what their students’ legal rights are, and that a lot of the ones who do know go right ahead and violate students’ rights anyway because they think they can get away with it.

The only way to be sure that your school will respect and uphold your legal rights is for YOU to educate yourself about what your rights are and hold your school to its responsibility to protect and enforce them.

That’s never more true than during Day of Silence, an annual event designed to bring attention to the bullying, harassment, and name-calling LGBT students often experience in school. Here are four things you need to know about your rights as you mark Day of Silence this year on Friday, April 16.

That's from Chris Hampton's "Four Things You Should Know about Student Rights and Day of Silence" (ACLU Blog of Rights) and that's this Friday. When I was in high school, we didn't have Day of Silence or most of the things that are on campus today.

However, I was out in high school. I played sports and didn't get messed with much. I had a girlfriend senior year (had a girlfriend during most of high school, but this was a longer term thing) and she was out on campus but not to her parents. We broke up because she wouldn't go to the prom with me -- even as friends -- because she didn't want her parents to know she was gay. So she was going with this guy. I'll keep my mouth shut about the guy because he's really not the issue.

But I ended it with her. I told her that she could go with me as a 'friend' or she could go with a group of friends but that if she went out on what her parents and that guy thought was a date then we weren't a couple anymore.

Things are a lot different these days, thank goodness.

But they aren't perfect and that's why things like Day of Silence are needed. Day of Silence is to draw attention to the issues, not to continue to ignore them. The latter is Brad Ellsworth's approach. Bill Browning (The Huffington Post) reports:

Indiana Congressman and Senate hopeful, Brad Ellsworth, held a liveblog on Blue Indiana Thursday evening that highlighted an important aspect of what LGBT Hoosiers can expect if he's elected to office; they can expect to be ignored and marginalized by the conservative Democrat.
While the state party leadership has a history of taking LGBT voters for granted, the Ellsworth campaign's blatant disregard for queer concerns is indicative of how far away from the party platform the local arm is willing to stray in the pursuit of electoral wins. Not only is the conservative democrat unwilling to budge from his tepid support of LGBT rights, he won't even speak about the topic with gay constituents.

That's shameful and shame on anyone who votes for Ellsworth. You're voting for silence and homophobia by voting for him. You're rewarding both. Shame on Ellsworth.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, April 12, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, illegal war is big business, US tax payers get fleeced, DoD tries to spin Gates' statements, Human Rights Watch issues a statement, and more.
Monday WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. Appearing on ABC's This Week yesterday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered his thoughts on the July 12, 2007 assault in Baghdad in which 12 Iraqis were killed by US forces, "But by the same token, I think-think is should not have any lasting consequences." Isaiah illustrated that 'lovely thought' last night in "No Lasting Consequences?" and today the Defense Dept rushes to do spin control creating a quote ("Painful to Watch") that, in fact, Gates did not utter in his interview but someone thought it was just the headline for John J. Kruzel's Defense Dept propaganda ("Gates Calls Air Strike Video 'Painful to Watch'") released by the Defense Dept's "American Forces Press Service. Gates is an idiot -- one apparently still mourning the recent death of his former lover (and wasn't it cute the way the press averted their eyes on that) -- because expressing any sympathy for the dead -- killed by US service members -- would have gone a long way in mitigating the ill will that is brewing. At one point during the 2007 attack, a van pulls up -- containing two children -- and attempts to rescue those who have been shot. The van is then targeted by the US military. Today on Democracy Now!, Juan Gonzalez introduced video noting that "earlier this month, journalists from the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, who were part of the investigative team that released the US military video on WikiLeaks, visited the family of Saleh Mutashar, the driver of the van and the father of the two children. They showed his family the recently released video footage of the attack on the van that led to his death, and then spoke to his son Sajad, his nephew Anwar and his widow Alham Abdelhussain."
AHLAM ABDELHUSSAIN: [translated] My husband did nothing wrong. He saved a wounded person and had his children with him in the car. How do I feel? What can I say? Why was he shot with his children in the car? They did nothing wrong. He was helping a journalist. What was his crime? What was the crime of our children who are left with no father and no support?

ANWAR: [translated] He was carrying wounded people during the American attacks. He was trying to help. They believe that someone who was carrying a gun will take his children along with him? Unbelievable. What can we do? God take revenge from the Americans. They destroyed us and destroyed our nations. What is the future of those children? They are orphans.
SAJAD MUTASHAR: [translated] I want to get our rights from the Americans who harmed us.
And for the record, it's now four days since Rick Rowley made an 'unusual' claim on Democracy Now! You'll note that neither he nor Amy Goodman has rushed to back that claim up. As we said in real time, if he had video of such a thing, he would have shown it. The refusal in the time since to show the video makes his dubious claims even more so. Those who play fast and loose with the truth can make many a pleasing claim but no one is helped by falsehoods or the repeating of them. Rowley shaves corners and facts repeatedly. It's a pattern with him. He made a ridiculous claim last week that Goodman allowed to be broadcast without challenge. A week later, no proof has been supplied. You'll also notice that David Enders -- on that trip to Iraq with Rowley -- has not stepped forward to back Rowley's claim up. When the left refuses to obey by any standards, we do not help ourselves. Rowley's pleasing claim was, no doubt, repeated by many and it, no doubt, stoked hatred. Rowley is very good at doing the latter. He's just not very good at supplying proof of his claims.
Fast and loose with the facts? Because they don't want to kiss goodbye 'good' illegal wars, Timothy Lynch and Nicolas Bouchet assembled a bunch of false claims for the Guardian -- claims Lynch knows would turn him into a laughingstock (okay, a bigger one) if he made them in this country so better he present them to British audiences apparently. Attacking Simon Jenkins' Guardian column from last week which noted that the US effort to promote 'democracy' in Iraq was done via thuggery, Lynch and Bouchet lie through their teeth and insist that, "The United States went to war in these countries because it believed, rightly or wrongly, that their rulers posed a serious national security threat. The short-term solution was to topple the Taliban and Saddm. Neither war was fought to turn Iraq and Afghanistan into Western-style democracies." On the first claim:
The United States went to war in these countries because it believed, rightly or wrongly, that their rulers posed a serious national security threat.
It's a shame lightening can't fall from the sky and strike dead liars who resort to revisonary history. The US did not believe that either the Taliban or Afghanistan posed a national security threat -- serious or otherwise. The proof of that is in the offer not to bomb the country that was made following September 11th. The US government requested that Osama bin Laden be turned over -- well, ordered. If he wasn't turned over, the US administration stated they would bomb the country. If turning over bin Laden would mean no bombing, then you can't claim that Afghanistan or the Taliban was a US security threat. For those who have forgotten (many have), the Taliban (this isn't an endorsement of the Taliban) responded by asking for proof of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the attacks. The US government maintained they had proof, the Taliban asked to see it before doing an extradition. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, spoke for the administration when he insisted that proof would be supplied . . . after bin Laden was handed over.

Without proof, Afghanistan refused to extradite the wealthiest citizen their country had (bin Laden is not from Afghanistan, he's from Saudi Arabia). At which point, the US bombed. This does not demonstrate that Afghanistan or the Taliban was a security threat. Also worthy of note is that before George W. Bush left office, the FBI would remove bin Laden from their ten most wanted list and, when the press noted, explain that they had no proof connecting him to the 9-11 attacks. Apparently Colin Powell didn't wish to share the proof with the FBI either?
Iraq? Not a security threat. There is no way you can make that claim with a straight face. Some will argue, "Easy to say now! But back then --" To which the reply, should be, "Isn't it past your bedtime?"
The Iraq War was not sold by the US administration as a war in response to an attack. It was sold on a "some day Iraq might be able to attack the US." That's not a security threat. All US schools should probably spend a day teaching the defintion of the term "threat" because so many damn idiots keep getting it wrong. (The idiot Melinda Hellinberger, for example, called expressing a wish a "threat" when she made a bigger fool of herself than usual on last Friday's The Diane Rehm Show.)
That is what the war sold on and that is why, in real time before and immediately after, a number of think pieces were written exploring the concept of "just wars." (The Iraq War did not and does not meet the criteria for a "just war.") It is why the Pope came out against the Iraq War.
Turning to the topic of the continued persecution of Iraq's LGBT community, we'll note this from "David Cameron answers our question on LGBT asylum :"

In his interview with Cameron, Haari posed the same question he asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown about the Home Office policy of saying that LGBT can return (to countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia) and 'be discrete'.

Haari professed surprise at Cameron's response to his LGBT asylum question ("he is at his best and at his clearest – to my surprise") and quotes him as "unequivocally" saying in response to 'whether it is wrong that gay refugees are told to go back home and hide their sexuality from police forces who would imprison, torture or kill them for it': "I think it is. If you have a legitimate fear of persecution, that it seems to me that is a perfectly legitimate reason to stay."

This was in contrast to the bureaucratic fudge of PM Brown in his reply to the same question. LibDem leader Nick Clegg restated his party's longstanding criticism of the UK's asylum system to Haari. He describes it as "a moral stain on our collective consciousnesses" and "the most inhumane, irrational, cruel system imaginable".

In his answers to questions posed by readers of Cameron said the following to Canning's question (our highlight):
Q. If there is unfairness in the asylum system against LGBT people (as you suggested in your Attitude interview) what do you plan to do about that?

A: As I said in the interview, this does have to be looked at on a case by case basis, but if you are fleeing persecution and that fear is well-founded, then you should be able to stay. As things stand, the 1951 Refugee Convention doesn't mention sexuality but because it mentions membership of a social group, that phrase is being use by the courts, rightly in my view, to say that if someone has a realistic fear of persecution they should be allowed to stay. It's also important that the guidance the Home Office produces for asylum adjudicators to use in judging claims provides up-to-date and accurate information on homophobic persecution in every country.
Although Cameron does not actually answer the question - he doesn't say what he will do about 'unfairness in the asylum system' - the new comment on the information used by UK Border Agency staff known as country-of-origin information (COI) is interesting as it does suggest that someone in his office has done their homework.

The United States' record on Iraqi refugees since the start of the illegal war is shameful. It is probably the worst record of any nation. But vying for that title is England (and others, including Iceland, but we'll set them aside for the moment) which has not just been inhospitable, it has attempted -- over UN objection and international condemnation -- to forcibly deport Iraqis back to Iraq. From Kelvin Lynch's "US, UK, France ignore plight of LGBT Iraqis" (Examiner):

IraqiLGBT is an organization that operates as a modern-day Underground Railroad to provide safe houses for LGBT Iraqis who would otherwise face certain death in the country. So why do the United States, the United Kingdom, and France continue to ignore its pleas for help?

More than 700 gay Iraqi men have been brutally murdered by roaming death squads since the U.S.-lead occupation of the country began in 2003. The violence has escalated in recent years, and there have even been reports from inside Iraq that American soldiers are turning a blind eye towards the situation, and have even been involved in some of the killings. Iraqi gays have even said they enjoyed more freedom under Saddam Hussein's rule.

The latest crisis facing Iraqi LGBT is securing asylum in France for 21-year-old Anwar Saleh, who was arrested by Iraqi police in 2009 for coordinating a safe house in Baghdad. He was badly beaten up, tortured and suffered post-traumatic stress after his detention and the abuse he was subjected to. He was put under investigation and interrogated about his role as an LGBT activist and his involvement in the running of the safe house.

Violence continues today in Iraq. Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib car bombing which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left fifteen people injured, a Mosul car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-one people injured and, dropping back to Sunday, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person.
In post-election news,Meanwhile Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported Saturday that Iran was publicly indicating that they want Sunnis in the new government. They should have let Nordland do a news analysis which would have allowed him to offer the opinion that Iran is making those noises now because Iraqis are not keen on Iran pushing their country around and Iran's heavy-handed and highly visible gestures have not helped any politicians in Iraq since the election. Sunday, Timothy Williams and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) reporred that Nouri al-Maliki is freshening up his charges of fraud, adding a claim that over 700,000 votes were miscounted. Press TV quoted Nouri's spokesperson Hachim al-Hasani stating, "We believe the amount of manipulation in the votes in these five provinces could reach 750,000 votes ... this is a huge number and possibly could change enormously the elections results. This is why we presented this appeal and we hope that the judicial appeal panel will do its duty ... and look into it seriously." Today Al Bawaba reports that Nouri al-Maliki is insisting that others should cease interference in Iraq -- apparently, Nouri's a wee bit cranky as a result of his repeated attempts to interfere with the political process after his political slate came in second in the March 7th elections.
Thug Nouri schemes to hold onto to the position of prime minister, utilzing energy he never put into ensuring a free press in Iraq but then a thug wouldn't, now would he? Human Rights Watch released the following on press freedoms (or the lack of them ) in Iraq:

The Iraqi government should suspend media regulations that impose tight restrictions on the country's broadcast media and revise them to comply with international standards, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today to the official Communication and Media Commission (CMC).

The Commission began enforcing the regulations ahead of the March 7, 2010, parliamentary elections ostensibly to silence broadcasters who encourage sectarian violence, but the regulations are vague and susceptible to abuse. The regulations should be revised to define in detail all restrictions on and give meaningful guidance to broadcasters by clearly delineating their responsibilities, Human Rights Watch said. While the government can prohibit and punish speech that constitutes direct incitement of violence, the broad and vague wording of the regulations, such as prohibiting "incitement of sectarianism," falls short of international norms governing freedom of expression. "These broadcast regulations are a real setback for media freedom in Iraq," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "These restrictions open the door to politically motivated discrimination in the regulation and licensing of broadcasters." Over the months leading to the parliamentary elections, the government restricted freedom of expression in a number of ways. It clamped down on scrutiny of public officials, denied media accreditation to journalists, and sued media outlets that criticized government officials. In addition, police and security forces have harassed, arrested, and assaulted numerous journalists.

The regulations appear to give the CMC unfettered power to halt broadcast transmissions, close offices, seize equipment, revoke licenses, and levy fines on broadcasters. The rules empower the agency to cancel licenses even after the first minor violation of the licensing terms. In its letter, Human Rights Watch asked the agency to ensure that punishments are proportionate to the offense, increasing only in step with the severity and repetition of offenses. The rules should also give license applicants a clear and expeditious path to appeal denied applications.

Human Rights Watch also urged the agency to stop requiring broadcasters to provide it with a list of employees, as this poses an unacceptable security threat to media workers. Iraqi journalists already operate in an extraordinarily unsafe environment. Since 2003, at least 141 journalists have died in Iraq, some in politically motivated murders. Muaid al-Lami, head of the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, has been the subject of two assassination attempts, including one last month. Journalists in Iraq who wish to stay anonymous should be able to do so, Human Rights Watch said.

"Not only do the regulations give this agency enormous power to shut down broadcasters for minor and first-time transgressions, but they place the lives of Iraqi journalists at greater risk," Stork said. "The Media Commission should suspend the regulations until it fixes them."

This afternoon, Human Rights Watch Joe Stork spoke with Free Speech Radio News about the report, noting, "It comes in a context, you have to understand, it comes in a context in which free expression has been under assault."
The illegal war continues and so does the profit. SourceWatch notes that DynaCorp has long been plagued by scandals such as flying 'combat' missions in Columbia, sex trafficking in Bosnia and financial scandals in Iraq:
In January 2007, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., reported that "he had identified tens of millions of dollars worth of accounting discrepancies, missing weapons and unauthorized billings" by DynCorp. Bowen accused DynCorp of "lax accounting and monitoring procedures." [2]
At issue is a $43.8 million State Department contract "for a camp that was never used by police trainers," including $4.2 million that DynCorp billed for "unauthorized work." Another $36.4 million expenditure, intended "for weapons and equipment, including armored vehicles, body armor and communications equipment ... cannot be accounted for," reported the Dallas Morning News. [3]
Shortly after Bowen announced that his office would investigate DynCorp for fraud in its Iraq work, the company hired the PR firm Qorvis Communications for "messaging and image work," reported O'Dwyer's PR Daily. [4]
Having fleeced the tax payers, they're now exiting Iraq. Nathan Vardi (Forbes) brags, "For all the talk about Blackwtaer and Houston oil industry firms connected to Dick Cheney, it took a Wall Street player to truly figure out how to play the war game." The New York Times explains DynCorp is being bought out by Cerberus Capital Management. Back to Nathan Vardi so busy jizzing in his shorts that he has no idea how he comes off to the average tax payer as he gushes, "If the deal goes through, McKeon will have turned a $48 million personal investment in DynCorp into some $320 million for himself. McKeon's performance has apparently inspired Stephen Feinberg, chief of Cerberus, to also venture into this sector." War is big business, no question, but you rarely come across someone -- especially in the current economic climate -- who is so eager to applaud the fleecing of the American people.
In peace news, Friday's snapshot noted 12-year-old Frankie Hughes whom Tom Harkin's office 'had to have' arrested because a 12-year-old girl sitting in your office to protest the Iraq War is too-many-kinds-of-scary for Senator Harkin. In addition to Frankie being arrested, her mother was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor -- because a child that lives our Bill of Rights is apparently a delinquent in today's society. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) reports:

"I did it because it's just completely and totally wrong to give money to something that kills hundreds and hundreds of people," Frankie tells me by phone. "I needed to stay. I've sent letters. I've called. And it never seems to get their attention. I've tried pretty much everything. We're completely nonviolent. We just have to get their attention."
When the police came, Frankie was sitting in a chair in Harkin's office.
"They asked me if I wanted to be arrested," Frankie says. "I said no."
After the police conferred in the hallway, they came back. "They were saying they could put my mom on charges of delinquency of a minor," she says. "She thought it was a joke, but I didn't."

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