The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights

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Eudocia Tomas Pulido (“Lola”), ages 18 and 82

Hello Widdershins,

This will be a short post today! In part because I would like you to take some time and instead of reading my nonsense, read a feature story in The Atlantic instead.

In March I wrote a post here discussing human trafficking.  When we talk about slavery too many of us think of by-gone eras. But slavery exists today and not just in far-off lands. It exists right here in the United States, perhaps involving our next-door neighbors. Nearly 21,000,000 human beings today are victims of human trafficking.

One of the stories I recounted in my post, told by Sister Joan Dawber, who runs a safe-house for victims of human trafficking in NYC, involved a young woman from Africa who came to NYC by family with the promise of going to school. Instead the family enslaved her for 5 years. She escaped eventually with the help of a suspicious neighbor. But how many do not escape?

In the harrowing and heart-breaking story published in The Atlantic, called My Family’s Slave by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Alex Tizon, Tizon describes his family’s slave – gifted to his mother by his grandfather. The woman they called Lola served the family for 56 years, right here in the United States. She cooked and cleaned for the family, she raised the children. She was not kept in physical shackles. And yet – she remained their slave. Tizon’s shocking realization as he got older than his parents kept the woman who raised him and his siblings as a slave is heart-breaking. Lola’s story is not unique and it needs to be told. (In a sad addendum, Tizon died suddenly on March 23, 2017 at the age of 57.)

Mom would come home and upbraid Lola for not cleaning the house well enough or for forgetting to bring in the mail. “Didn’t I tell you I want the letters here when I come home?” she would say in Tagalog, her voice venomous. “It’s not hard naman! An idiot could remember.” Then my father would arrive and take his turn. When Dad raised his voice, everyone in the house shrank. Sometimes my parents would team up until Lola broke down crying, almost as though that was their goal.

It confused me: My parents were good to my siblings and me, and we loved them. But they’d be affectionate to us kids one moment and vile to Lola the next. I was 11 or 12 when I began to see Lola’s situation clearly. By then Arthur, eight years my senior, had been seething for a long time. He was the one who introduced the word slave into my understanding of what Lola was. Before he said it I’d thought of her as just an unfortunate member of the household. I hated when my parents yelled at her, but it hadn’t occurred to me that they—and the whole arrangement—could be immoral.

“Do you know anybody treated the way she’s treated?,” Arthur said. “Who lives the way she lives?” He summed up Lola’s reality: Wasn’t paid. Toiled every day. Was tongue-lashed for sitting too long or falling asleep too early. Was struck for talking back. Wore hand-me-downs. Ate scraps and leftovers by herself in the kitchen. Rarely left the house. Had no friends or hobbies outside the family. Had no private quarters. (Her designated place to sleep in each house we lived in was always whatever was left—a couch or storage area or corner in my sisters’ bedroom. She often slept among piles of laundry.)

 

This is an open thread.

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Over the weekend I edited a short fundraising video for organizations that help victims of human trafficking. These are all religious institutions and the women interviewed were all nuns. One from NYC, one from London, and one from Mombasa, Kenya.

Human trafficking is the 2nd largest crime industry in the world, only behind drug trafficking. It generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profit – at the expense of human lives. And it is also the fastest growing “industry” in the world today. In 2012 it was estimated that as many as 20.9 million people around the world were victims of human trafficking. Imagine what those numbers are in 2017. Human trafficking includes sexual exploitation (including sexual slavery), forced labor, organ harvesting. The International Labour Organization (a United Nations agency) last compiled their statistics in 2012. Some excerpts:

90% are forced to labor for private economies or corporations

22% are in forced sexual exploitation

55% are women and girls & 45% are men and boys

26% are under the age of 18

Sister Jane Kimathi, from Mombasa, speaks of victims as young as 4 years old, forced into prostitution. Many, she says, come to their safe houses unable to speak because of the trauma. Some stay with the Sisters for as long as two years, as they try to rehabilitate them and find new homes. While their order is Catholic, they welcome all victims and their prayer room is nondenominational. She mentioned that Mombasa is a popular tourist destination. But the “tourist destination” designation is people who come there specifically searching for young children to abuse. Because of the many conflicts in Africa, the number of refugees spikes the numbers of slaves. They are people looking for ways to support their families. Nobody is looking for glamour or prestige in the sex trade, Sister Kimathi says. “It’s poverty and desperation.” Some of the children were sold by their parents into slavery. Some are orphans and some are runaways who were promised happiness by relatives, who then exploited them.

It’s a story the Sister from New York, Joan Dawber, picks up on. Sister Joan runs safe houses in Queens. She described one woman’s story: She came to New York to be a student, sponsored byp1562069350-3 an extended family. When she arrived, the family forced her to become their slave. She never attended school. She was forced to take care of the family, including raising their young children. She was forced to eat off the floor. Not just having her plate on the floor, she didn’t have a plate. Whatever food she was allowed to eat was put on the floor. If she was hungry and snuck any food out of the fridge, she was punished. She was her family’s slave in Queens, NY for five years. Her salvation came in the form of a neighbor who suspected something odd based on the young woman’s behavior in public. She tried to speak to her repeatedly, ask her how she is, only to have the young woman run away. Eventually the neighbor gave the woman a cell phone with pre-programmed numbers for the police and safe shelters. The young woman finally found courage to escape, using the cell phone to call for help. She has since finished school and lives in New York.

Sister Dawber points out that human trafficking exists in every state of the USA. It is not an issue that only happens out there somewhere. It exists all around us. It could be the waitress in a restaurant, or a manicurist at the nail salon. They could be of any age and any race. It can be almost impossible to know that this person ringing up our groceries is indentured to someone.

Sister Lynda Dearlove runs a safe house in London. Their organization primarily helps prostitutes. The interesting thing is that their mission isn’t strictly to “rescue” the women from prostitution. It is to offer them a safe home and counseling when in need. Many only come to sister-lynda-dearlovespend the night, take a shower and eat. Some then return to the streets. The Sisters there never force anyone to stay. Many women have been coming to them for years for a night or two of peace. The Sisters hope that by offering women a shelter and offering them counseling they can help them enable themselves. Sister Dearlove passionately says that the can not force anyone to do anything. The best they can do is show the women that there is hope and they need to find it for themselves. Maybe not today, but possibly tomorrow. “They are valued and they are loved, and if anything happens to them we want them to know that we will miss them.” She says that people blame women for becoming prostitutes and that it is one of the biggest challenges we as a society face: The need to understand that if any of these women choose prostitution it is only because they are fleeing abuse, or drugs, or so many other possible traumas. Many are trying to support families and stay alive. They must never be judged or condemned, she says. They must be offered hope.

Note: Sister Dearlove was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind fellow Widdershins?

Good Saturday to you Widdershins.  You may have noticed  I commented previously about having issues with my internet connection.  It has been working very hit-or-miss.  It’s now after 4 a.m. and I finally have a connection back.  So, this late in the game, I decided to search for an old post I had done before and put that up.  And really, it seems as if nothing much has changed since I wrote this post.  A  good number of the red states are clamping down even more on a woman’s right to choose.  Hope you find this repost as timely as it was the first time.

 

 

Thanks to the Virginia General Assembly, soon, if you are a woman in Virginia who has decided to have an abortion, your vagina will be the property of the state.

I say that because a piece of legislation has been passed and will most assuredly be signed by the governor, Bob McDonnell.  Both houses of the Assembly have passed a law stating that if you as a woman have decided to have an abortion, you have to go through a little song and dance with some new state requirements first.  What are those requirements?

Well first you have to have an ultrasound.  Now, not just an ultrasound mind you, but a transvaginal ultrasound.  To do this type of ultrasound a probe must be inserted into the vagina.  The purported reason for this violation is it “would determine the gestation age of the fetus and [the woman would] be given an opportunity to view the pictures”.  I’m not a doctor, nurse or anything of the sort but I don’t see any reason for determining the gestation age of the fetus.  But wait there’s more!  If you do not want to see the pictures, you would be required to to sign a statement to that effect and it would be placed in your medical file at that facility!  Lovely that.

You’d think that a piece of shit legislation like this would have been drafted and sponsored by a fat, balding, probably not-to-attractive male wouldn’t you?  Nope, not in this case.  Meet Virginia State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel.  Yes, a woman has come up with this lovely idea.  Senator Vogel has stated there are some very good reasons for this legislation:

Supporters of the ultrasound measure say it would provide crucial medical information to women seeking abortions, while opponents say it would subject women to unnecessary tests and invade their privacy.

“It’s a legitimate health issue,” said Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester), who sponsored the legislation.

Vogel also said the measure “does not infringe on a woman’s decision, her autonomy.” She added: “It is not invasive. It does not attempt to infringe in any way on the doctor-patient relationship, and it absolutely does not infringe on her right to have an abortion.”

But there’s more to this wonder piece of legislative work.  From WaPo:

The bill also would require women who live within 100 miles of their provider to wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion, except in emergencies. Those who live farther than 100 miles would have to wait two hours.

Yep, after you are invasively probed, you have to wait 24 hours before you can have the procedure done unless you:

(a)  Live more than 100 miles away from the provider

or (b)  It is an emergency

In those two circumstances you only have to wait two hours.  Again, lovely that.

There were at least a few sane folks in the Virginia State Senate.  Said Ralph Northam, a Democrat from Norfolk and a pediatric neurologist:

“I really don’t want to be in the position — as a clinician — where I say you need to have this diagnostic test done and the patient asks me, ‘Doctor, why? Why do I need that done?’ ” said Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), a pediatric neurologist.“And I would say, ‘Sir or ma’am, the reason is a group of politicians in Richmond are telling you, you have to have it done.’ That is not our place as a government.’’

But wait!  Like those late night infomercials, there’s more!

The companion legislation to the Senate bill was created by Kathy J. Byron.  So in the Virginia legislature we have two women who have decided to declare war on other women.  Again, lovely that.

Some of the real fun in the House of Delegates began when Del. Todd Gilbert had this to say about the bill:

No comment provoked more surprise than that of Del. Todd Gilbert in diminishing the gravity of the decision to have an abortion.

“We hear the same song over there. The very tragic human notes that are often touched upon involve extreme examples,” said Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. “But in the vast majority of these cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience.”

Now if this isn’t enough, the Republican legislature in Virginia has also passed a “personhood” bill.  You know the one…it says life begins at conception.  This is the one where the idea was soooo far-fetched that even the voters of Mississippi rejected it at the polls.

You may wonder why this has gotten me so irate.  After all, I’m a male, a gay male, and will never have a need to go through an abortion.  But if the Virginia lege can do this to women, involving a procedure that is legal in this country, what do they have in mind for gays and lesbians?  I have no idea if adoption by gays is permitted in Virginia, but if it is I’m sure they’ll work on changing that.  And what about gay or lesbian teachers?  Will the Republican lege think they should not be allowed to teach children?  If the Republican legislature has their eyes on one group of us, they’ll be out for all of us.

Meh. I doubt it.

UPDATED

I tried adding the “more” thingie in here to break the pages but it didn’t work right.  The rest of the post is visible now!  Sorreee!

Thanks to the Virginia General Assembly, soon, if you are a woman in Virginia who has decided to have an abortion, your vagina will be the property of the state.

I say that because a piece of legislation has been passed and will most assuredly be signed by the governor, Bob McDonnell.  Both houses of the Assembly have passed a law stating that if you as a woman have decided to have an abortion, you have to go through a little song and dance with some new state requirements first.  What are those requirements?

Well first you have to have an ultrasound.  Now, not just an ultrasound mind you, but a transvaginal ultrasound.  To do this type of ultrasound a probe must be inserted into the vagina.  The purported reason for this violation is it “would determine the gestation age of the fetus and [the woman would] be given an opportunity to view the pictures”.  I’m not a doctor, nurse or anything of the sort but I don’t see any reason for determining the gestation age of the fetus.  But wait there’s more!  If you do not want to see the pictures, you would be required to to sign a statement to that effect and it would be placed in your medical file at that facility!  Lovely that.

You’d think that a piece of shit legislation like this would have been drafted and sponsored by a fat, balding, probably not-to-attractive male wouldn’t you?  Nope, not in this case.  Meet Virginia State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel.  Yes, a woman has come up with this lovely idea.  Senator Vogel has stated there are some very good reasons for this legislation:

Supporters of the ultrasound measure say it would provide crucial medical information to women seeking abortions, while opponents say it would subject women to unnecessary tests and invade their privacy.

“It’s a legitimate health issue,” said Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester), who sponsored the legislation.

Vogel also said the measure “does not infringe on a woman’s decision, her autonomy.” She added: “It is not invasive. It does not attempt to infringe in any way on the doctor-patient relationship, and it absolutely does not infringe on her right to have an abortion.”

But there’s more to this wonder piece of legislative work.  From WaPo:

The bill also would require women who live within 100 miles of their provider to wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion, except in emergencies. Those who live farther than 100 miles would have to wait two hours.

Yep, after you are invasively probed, you have to wait 24 hours before you can have the procedure done unless you:

(a)  Live more than 100 miles away from the provider

or (b)  It is an emergency

In those two circumstances you only have to wait two hours.  Again, lovely that.

There were at least a few sane folks in the Virginia State Senate.  Said Ralph Northam, a Democrat from Norfolk and a pediatric neurologist:

“I really don’t want to be in the position — as a clinician — where I say you need to have this diagnostic test done and the patient asks me, ‘Doctor, why? Why do I need that done?’ ” said Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), a pediatric neurologist.“And I would say, ‘Sir or ma’am, the reason is a group of politicians in Richmond are telling you, you have to have it done.’ That is not our place as a government.’’

But wait!  Like those late night infomercials, there’s more!

The companion legislation to the Senate bill was created by Kathy J. Byron.  So in the Virginia legislature we have two women who have decided to declare war on other women.  Again, lovely that.

Some of the real fun in the House of Delegates began when Del. Todd Gilbert had this to say about the bill:

No comment provoked more surprise than that of Del. Todd Gilbert in diminishing the gravity of the decision to have an abortion.

“We hear the same song over there. The very tragic human notes that are often touched upon involve extreme examples,” said Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. “But in the vast majority of these cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience.”

Now if this isn’t enough, the Republican legislature in Virginia has also passed a “personhood” bill.  You know the one…it says life begins at conception.  This is the one where the idea was soooo far-fetched that even the voters of Mississippi rejected it at the polls.

You may wonder why this has gotten me so irate.  After all, I’m a male, a gay male, and will never have a need to go through an abortion.  But if the Virginia lege can do this to women, involving a procedure that is legal in this country, what do they have in mind for gays and lesbians?  I have no idea if adoption by gays is permitted in Virginia, but if it is I’m sure they’ll work on changing that.  And what about gay or lesbian teachers?  Will the Republican lege think they should not be allowed to teach children?  If the Republican legislature has their eyes on one group of us, they’ll be out for all of us.

Meh. I doubt it.

From Encarta:

crit·i·cal mass
  1. point of change:a point or situation at which change occurs
  2. necessary size or amount:the size or amount of something that is required before an activity or event can take place
  3. amount of fissionable material: the smallest amount of fissionable material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction.

Is it just me, or do events appear to be escalating?  It’s almost as though everyone has awakened from a loooooong nap, rubbed their eyes, looked around them and said “Damn!  What the hell is going on here?”

Granted, there have been some rumblings heretofore.  Occupy Wall Street began several months ago, and has experienced numerous highs and lows.  Some iconic images of OWS, such as the marine calling out the NYPD, and the UC Berkeley police disbursing military-grade pepper spray in massive point-blank doses in the faces of non-violent students.  We have spoken before on the hypermilitarization of your local police forces, but those pictures will be in my mind for a very long time.  Clearly, our right to free speech and free assembly ain’t what it used to be.  In fact, many liberties once thought to be the very foundation of American life exist, at best, in attenuated form.

Let’s go back to those bitter days in the fall of 2001.  President George W. Bush claimed extraordinary powers in the name of “keeping us safe”.  No longer did we need to go the FISA courts after 72 hours and explain our wiretaps.  Just put the taps on and hold forever – national security will cover this.  Wonder what I’ve checked out of my local library?  Pay them a visit, as no subpoena is required these days.  In fact, the US government has now decided that we may track you via GPS sans warrant if it pleases them to do so.  Should we ever have enjoyed the right to privacy cited in Griswold v. Connecticut, I assure you that it is long gone.  When we demurred, we were told that if we weren’t doing anything wrong, then we had nothing to fear.  Oh, and forget any right to civil litigation with any entity who assists in monitoring us, as the US government has declared them immune from suit.

Nothing to fear?  Maybe, maybe not.  The US government now claims the right to detain not only enemy combatants but also US citizens and legal residents indefinitely without trial or much recourse should the President deem this necessary. Variously, should we decide to try you we may allow the military to do so rather than the whole jury-of-your-peers thing.  Or, if you get too difficult to deal with, a rendition to another country may well be in your future.  That way, we didn’t torture you – someone else did.

I’m not certain if there is anything else going on out there, but I’m certain that we will find out even more on an ongoing basis.  Absolutely none of this is consistent with the whole “land of the free, home of the brave” concept as I understand it.  The President signed the latest incursions on our liberties, but added a signing statement that he would not use his newest power to indefinitely incarcerate civilians.

Is this the President that ran on civil liberties?  The constitutional scholar who thundered challenges to the whole Bushian concepts of authoritarian rule?  If so, is that the best that he can do to protect and preserve the American way of life?  I give up, just as I gave up on Congress a long time ago..  Lindsay Graham feels that all of these extraordinary powers must be in place as long as the nebulous “war on terror” continues.  Carl Levin, who at one time was one of my heroes, feels that the executive branch does have far-reaching powers, but they don’t have to use them.  (Rationalize much, Carl??  I could have sworn that the Constitution did not place too much power in any one area in order to avert any such problems.)  All in all, it’s none too pleasant to contemplate the future in an authoritarian government such as the one that is forming on our shores.  Frankly, if this keeps up we’ll be more on a par with countries that we once called fascist than I would have cared to contemplate.  That said, we’ll be safe – except from ourselves.

This is an open thread.

Very simple, they want control.

Control over what you eat, who you love, what you buy, and where you work. Simply put, these current congress critters love the idea of “authoritarianism” so much so that they are willing to see it translated into law.

Power is their aphrodisiac. With power you can exert control over the masses by slipping the yoke of comformity around their necks while shouting “freedoms” to the rooftops. Freedom in their world is another form of control. Infuse the idea of “god” into the mix and freedom takes on a different hue.

Gays should be invisible. Women should submit their health and well being into the hands of the government. The sick and the elderly should be shown no mercy. The poor are to be blamed for their condition. Regulation of industries hampers “free trade”. Guns should be in the hands of all its citizens. All wars are just.  Outsourcing is good for the economy. Education is for the elite.  The wealthy hold the key to the future. The “bottom line” has risen to the top. The rest of us are on our own.

It never occurred to me that I would ever live to see my government actively turning its back on the nation. Accountability is a joke. That the only way to balance our government overspending is to deprive the majority of its rights and privileges with a Democratic president leading the charge.  Where once we looked to the three branches of government for relief, we find there is little trust in any one institution. The deck is stacked against us as we watch our rights being whittled away for political advantage on all fronts.

We could have made some headway in our present economic crisis by increasing the taxes on the richest among us by a mere 3%. Instead we stand back while these morons insist upon cutting the services that have created the middle class and kept many of us from living in poverty. Where did we lose our common bond and sense of proportionality? What happened to the empathy that taught us to look out for one another, most especially those amongst us who were most in need?  When did it become patriotic to protect the “haves” over the “have nots”?

We are witnessing a movement that would deny gays, women, the elderly, the sick, the unfortunate among us from sharing in equality. One senator has even gone so far to suggest that gays and unmarried couples living together should be denied public service jobs. That gays should be denied the opportunity to adopt children. That women should be denied medical treatment when the “conscience clause” rules. That programs that ensure children living at poverty level be denied services that would at least afford one hot meal a day. Another has suggested that the elderly have for too long “lived off the tit” of government programs designed to keep them from abject poverty that has been social security.

They want control of our lives, our bodies, our thinking. They want to impose their personal beliefs on the rest of us by making these beliefs a matter of law. They wish to rewrite the history of this nation. They want Creationism taught as a school subject. They want to infuse our military with a litmus test of religious indoctrination. They want the Constitution to reflect the bible. They want to ban, exclude, and discriminate. They want control.

These are people without conscience.  People who feel justified in thinking this way. People who will turn this nation backward in their belief of going forward as they deprive the rest of us of the freedoms we have come to expect.  As they scream, rant, and shout out their brand of what “freedom” is in their world, they would deny others the right to enjoy those same freedoms that are being attacked from the halls of congress today. There are few freedoms in the hands of those who would deny others the same.

If we are all created equal than the expectation is that we are.  Healthcare is a right not a privilege. There is no role in government when a woman is faced with a decision. Children and the elderly have the right to live in dignity. Advancing poverty is not the answer to budget reforms. Enforcement of religious beliefs does not make a nation stronger. Deregulation paves the way for disaster. Critical thinking is not on display here but an overall push to control a nation through force of law by denial is the surest way to the end of democracy as we know it.

If what is coming from the nation’s capital today is what “the American people want” then I fear for the future of this country. We are traveling a very dangerous path if this continues and we seem to be going at a speed that will continue for decades to come. Something or someone needs to apply the brakes before we fall off that cliff that is looming ahead.

If history has taught us anything it is that any nation who seeks to control every aspect of the lives of the individual, revolution lurks in the shadows.  Authoritarianism fails in the long run.

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Abortion rights: the term is everywhere these days. 

Pro-choice organizations use it; anti-choice organizations use it. The phrase seems to have slipped into today’s lexicon without making a splash. But really, what does it mean?

Let me ask you, feminist females who are in the pro-choice camp. Do you want abortion rights? Are you going to go around carrying a sign saying, “My body, my abortion?”

I don’t think so.

I believe that this meme is classic rightwing ratf*cking from the Gingrich school, and to use it is giving the He-Man Woman-Haters’ Club yet another victory in the framing wars.

Here’s how they do it. First, they smear pro-choice activists as “pro-abortion” (yes, this meme is all over anti-choice sites). BZZZZZT! Wrong-o. No woman is pro-abortion. No woman says,”Hooray! I’m getting an abortion today!” No woman goes skipping down the street, deciding between a mani-pedi, lunch with Samantha, Carrie and Charlotte, and an abortion. That idea is pure misogynistic crap. Women are airheads who can’t be trusted to make these decisions, the fundiegelicals imply (or state outright). These godless temptresses think abortion is cool and hip. They don’t want the responsibility of caring for the child they, apparently, created all by themselves out of angel wings and holy water (because of course, men are never blamed or held responsible for an unwanted pregnancy by the fundies).

Read the rest of this entry »


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