March 20, 2004

Gender-based persecution

A worthwhile e-mail from Cory Smith over at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights:

There has been much attention given to the case of Ms. Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who suffered years of horrific abuse at the hands of her husband, and whose government did nothing to protect her from such abuse, which included repeated rape, severe beatings, knocking windows out with her head, attempting to chop her hands off with a machete, threats and humiliation, sodomy, and beating her unconscious in front of her children. Ms. Alvarado actively sought the protection of her government, but in every instance protection was denied. Ms. Alvarado fled Guatemala and sought safety in this country because she could not find it in Guatemala.

Granting Ms. Alvarado asylum, as recently recommended by the Department of Homeland Security, would protect a very narrow class of women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution. The experience of Canada, which has recognized gender-based persecution as a basis for refugee status since 1993, demonstrates that such recognition does not lead to a proliferation of such claims. Canadian government data reveal that gender-based claims consistently constitute only a tiny fraction of overall asylum claims - never more than two percent of the total - and that such claims have actually declined since 1994. DHS has done the right thing but now Attorney General Ashcroft has the
power to make the final decision on whether or not to grant Rodi-Alvarado asylum.

By granting Rodi Alvarado asylum we will protect a very narrow class of women and girls fleeing the very worst gender-related violence including: domestic violence, sexual trafficking, sexual slavery, rape, honor killing, coercive family planning, female genital mutilation, and honor killings.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I'm not alone in thinking that protecting women from domestic violence, sexual trafficking, sexual slavery, rape, coercive family planning, female genital mutilation, and honor killings is, you know, a good thing. Get all the information you want about the case here.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:11 PM

Science... it's hypocritalicious

An unidentified reader "beatrice" sent me this article about George Bush's stolid stance on banning stem-cell research in the United States. Apparently, his soul remains clean because no American embryos are dying for the advance of medical technology. He's just using Swedish stem cells for military research.

The Pentagon has granted $240,000 to a Swedish team for embryonic stem-cell research linked to Parkinson's disease, the researchers said Wednesday.

In a statement, Lund University in southern Sweden said the U.S. Department of Defense was supporting the Swedish Parkinson's study because the findings could be used to treat similar neurological illnesses caused by battlefield toxins.

The Swedish research, using human embryonic stem cells, will focus on ways to prompt the cells to develop into the type of nerve cells deficient in the brains of patients with Parkinson's. The disease causes tremors, muscle rigidity and slow movement in its sufferers and is currently incurable.

Now, I'm all for stem cell research, especially research which can cure second-tier major diseases like Parkinson's before they become first-tier, widespread incurable AIDS-type outbreaks. But that offhanded line about "battlefield toxins" sums up the real reason for this.

If Bush wanted to take a stance against the hardcore right about SCR, he's openly praise curing Parkinson's as a reason to advance U.S.-based research. But he's not. He's being, once again, a complete hypocrite, pretending to defend his moralistic "don't kill innocent cell clusters, they haven't been baptized and won't go to Heaven! position while advocating it overseas for, of all things, making the U.S. army a more efficient killing machine.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:01 PM

March 19, 2004

A take on the Spanish elections

Reader Ed Niedbalski sends me this letter from Ireland:

I went with one of the guys I live with to his place this weekend, and he has the satelite TV, and I watched myself a good bit of Fox News just for the pure entertainment value alone! I'd forgotten how bad it was! But what's unfortunate is that all the mainstream media here have seemed to be approaching the election results in Spain in the same way that Fox was, by having on people and asking poll questions about whether people believe the bombings in Madrid affected the Spanish elections, and if they thought a bombing in England and/or Ireland right before an election would change/affect the results. People seem to be answering "yes" to these questions, and a few 'experts' on this side of the pond have even gone so far as to call the election results in Spain "Al Qleida's 1st successful European election".

There are about a dozen Spanish students here at my university, and I know most of them, and we've been speaking about the whole issue for the last few days. I'm also still in touch with many of the Spanish students who were here last year, and they've all told me the same thing; that the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Spain have been against the war from the beginning, and that the government decided to send troops to Iraq despite the obvious objections of the majority of the people. As for the rest, the students I know have all basically reiterated on the same points that Tom Tommorrow made on his blog yesterday in the reprinted letter from a Spanish journalist (he was a journalist, right?), saying that there president had tried to cover up the Al-Quieda link and push the blame onto ETA,and that the people of Spain wouldn't tolerate being lied to that way, so they turned out in droves to get him out of there and to mend fences with there neighbors here in Europe and get their troops out of Iraq.

I'm just hoping that the kind of fear-mongering that has been going on in the U.S. media for years doesn't find its way over here, because who knows what horrible political objectives could come to pass on this side of the Atlantic if the governments of Europe start going the way of the U.S., passing equivalents of the Patriot Act and such. But I think the election in Spain might be an indicator to people in the know that this won't be the case; if anything, this should be seen as a victory for democracy, because the people of Spain took to the streets and voted their minds on the issues, and finally they've got a leader in power who is actually folowing the will of the majority of his citizens, and not one who makes decisions to go to war when up to 90% (by some estimates) of the citizens disagreed with the reasons for war and said they didn't want their country to participate. I just hope the media over here can begin to see this, lest they go the 'way of the Rupert'.

As for domestic affairs here in Ireland, there's going to be a 24 hour public transportation strike here tommorrow. The Bus and Rail services are striking against the proposed privatization of the public transit systems, so basically the entire country will be virtually shut down for a day. This even affect the airlines-- they'll be having a 6-hour shut down of services. I'll keep you posted on how this issue develops, but I can tell you it's going to get uglier, especially considering the fact that the asshole transportation minister over here referred to the nationalized public transportation services over here as a "monopoly". But anyway, I've got to get back to work, so enjoy your St.Patrick's Day, and have a pint of Guinness to mark the occasion!!

I think it's another example of how Ed has nothing to worry about- Europe isn't at a risk of becomming more like the United States. Because of George W. Bush the United States is rapidly losing all the support it crucially needs right now.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:13 PM

March 18, 2004

Like minds

Via Cursor I've discovered that I'm not alone in the "where's the Spanish beef" inquiries.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:39 PM


Josh Marshall with a perfect analogy for Bush's quagmire in Iraq:

I've always been strict about keeping four-letter words off this site. So I apologize for the graphic nature of this analogy. But this is like I come back to my office to find my new employee has taken a crap right on my desk.

Puzzledly and not happy, I say, "What, umm ... what happened here?"

To which he replies, "There you go again, always focusing on the past, how this or that could have been done differently, when what's really important is the future, how we deal with this and other challenges we're going to face."

To which I would reply, "No. The future is exactly what I'm thinking about. And that's why you're fired. Because in the future I can't afford to have anyone working here who craps on my desk, and then when I confront them about it all they can do is dodge responsibility with moronic excuses and try to put the blame on me for asking what the hell is going on."

These guys should be fired too.


Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:24 AM

Hypocritical Cowards update 3/18/04

Tom Friedman joins in on declaring the Spanish as "appeasers." Aside from the fact that Friedman, as always, needs to be clobbered over the head with a Nerf bat, I think a New York Times article condemning the Spanish as our enemy is an acceptable example of the argument officially in the mainstream.

So, let's continue to ask: why has the GOP refused to be as "patriotic" as they were a year ago? What are they afraid of?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:06 AM

March 17, 2004

Boy, it's a good thing you didn't say anything a few days ago that would make you look really stupid now or anything

Al-Qaeda wants Bush to be president.

The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."

Just so we're clear, of course this is irrelevant. But poetic justice makes we reflect on how utterly idiotic the folks at the National Review Online must feel right now.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:09 PM

Calling the cowards' bluff

Okay, now that the fringe right's demand that Spain's vote is an "endorsement of al-Qaeda" has started to delve into the mainstream right's rhetoric, is the anti-Spanish backlash the GOP so joyously endorsed against the French and Germans going to start soon?

Anyone seem to remember that? I mean, I know it was a whole long year ago and all, but you had GOP senators using "looks French" as an insult, boycotts of French wine and German sausage, and of course, the unforgettable-in-its-ignorance "Freedom Fries."

So, since Spain now is "against us" as opposed to "with us" and are just as much "appeasers" as France and Germany, is the Republican Party ready to boycott Spain? Let's see it. Open demands to protest Spanish restaurants and food. Bill O'Reilly using "you're so Spanish" as a euphamism. Come on, Republicans, you're the party of the Coalition of the Willing! Aren't you going to stand up against the silliness of the Spanish people who oppose America?

Of course they aren't. Because, you see, making fun of Spain would likely not be very good for Bush in the Latino vote, would it. I mean, just because they've got their shills writing in every major paper that the Spanish are "aiding al-Qaeda" should mean the GOP thinks people with ties to Spain and Spanish culture are appeasing, pro-terrorist traitors, are they? What a silly thing to say! Bush 2004, Florida! Yo Quiero Latinos, New Mexico and Nevada!

Conservatives are saying the same stupid shit about Spain that they did about France and Germany. But they're not going to make any public spectacle out of it because they're hypocrites and cowards.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:35 AM

Newest comic - "The rain in Spain"

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day to all you out there who are either Irish or, if not redundant, filthy drunks. (Hides from sister's boyfriend)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:05 AM

Fixing the nation with oreos

Oleg Slinin over at the True Majority Campaign sent me a link today to this cartoon starring Ben (of the & Jerry variety) Cohen. Stupidity of our budget emphasized through Oreo cookies.

TM is founded by Cohen, as I learned when I first met some of its reps at an event about two years ago. So I'm a long-time fan, and not just posting this because Oleg promised me free ice cream. Which he did, and for that I thank him. (Now if only Hefner started a PAC.)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:00 AM

March 15, 2004

I guess they have all that free time what with there being no more terror anymore and all

This article from next week's Time is in itself a well-detailed examination of the campaign strategies for both sides in the 2004 race, but Jesse among others have caught a disturbing paragraph in the middle of the article:

As the Bush team sorts out its internal mechanics, it will press the advantage of incumbency. Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.
Ummm.... what?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:40 PM

"Democracy failing"

Special reminder for Glenn and others harping the idea that Spain's vote was a "defeat for democracy:"

I was living in New York on September 11, 2001. The Tuesday the attacks occured was supposed to be the Democratic primary for mayor. Because of the attacks, the election was cancelled.

I'm sure that'll ring as insignificant to many, but when Spain has it's own 9/11 and managed to have a national election with 75% turnout three days later, over here in the U.S. we have no right to discuss the failures of managing a democracy.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:46 AM

March 14, 2004

Stupid people play with websites

Hesoid collects this evening's reactions from the anti-everyone-who-disagrees-with-us right about the electoral victories for the anti-Bush, anti-war Socialist party in Spain.

So far, my current favorite is Glenn Reynolds':

"Terrorists have succeeded in toppling the Spanish Government."
Gosh. And here I was thinking the citizens of Spain in a legitimate democratic election voted various persons in and out of office. I guess that's almost the same as terrorists toppling the government.

You know, personally, I'm all for getting the "voting for Kerry is voting for terrorists" garbage out of their systems now. It's by far one of the most vile, defensless suggestions the pro-Bush forces can make, and they might as well run it out now so they can have more time to deal with explaining real issues in the summer and fall.

Update: Atrios sums up.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:53 PM