Showing posts with label Civil Rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Civil Rights. Show all posts

November 9, 2016

ACLU Will to Go War with Trump

 This morning, Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States, and the ACLU has a message for him.

President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.

These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

One thing is certain: We will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency. And when you leave the Oval Office, we will do the same with your successor as we have done throughout our nearly 100 years of existence. The Constitution and the rule of law are stronger than any one person, and we will see to that. We will never waver.

ACLU By Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director

November 9, 2016
NEW YORK — In response to Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following statement:
“For nearly 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has been the nation’s premier defender of freedom and justice for all, no matter who is president. Our role is no different today.
“President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.
“These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers, and millions of card-carrying supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.
“One thing is certain: we will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency and when you leave the Oval Office, we will do the same with your successor.

The ACLU released its analysis of candidate Trump’s policy proposals in July, which can be found at:

October 26, 2016

In Louisiana an Immigrant May Not Get Married [Gay or Straight]

 Humans without human Rights! Louisiana


When Victor Anh Vo went with his fiancée to obtain a marriage license, he instead received a nasty shock: The couple was legally barred from getting married. Both Vo and his fiancée are American citizens of legal age—but Vo was born in a refugee camp and has no official birth certificate. As a parish clerk informed the devastated couple, that disqualifies him from obtaining a license, because Louisiana law forbids anyone without a birth certificate from marrying within the state.

This requirement is no ancient rule. It was enacted just last year during a fit of legislative xenophobia driven by paranoia that immigrants were committing marriage fraud in Louisiana. Now a coalition of attorneys from the National Immigration Law Center, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, and the law firm Skadden, Arps is challenging the measure in court. Their fight to overturn the law is the first big marriage equality battle post-Obergefell, and it poses a nearly identical question: Can states deny individuals their fundamental right to marry because they don’t think certain people deserve to get married?

On the surface, the Lousiana law, dubbed Act 436, might not appear especially insidious. The bill simply adds documentary requirements to the marriage licensing process. Applicants must now provide a Social Security number and a birth certificate before receiving a license. If they don’t have a Social Security number, then they must present a birth certificate and a passport. If they don’t have a passport, they need official documentation showing that they are in the United States legally—in addition to a birth certificate. (A previous statute allowed an individual with no birth certificate to prove his or her identity before a judge, but that judicial bypass procedure is now gone.) The upshot of these requirements is that someone like Vo, who was born in a refugee camp in Indonesia after his parents fled Vietnam, cannot ever get married in Louisiana.

Why did the Louisiana legislature add these extensive new requirements, which then–Gov. Bobby Jindal happily signed into law? Rep. Valarie Hodges, Act 436’s sponsor, initially asserted that the bill was necessary to “combat marriage fraud” broadly. But after the bill passed, Hodges acknowledged that its true purpose was to combat immigration fraud, stating that her measure was necessary to prevent immigrants from marrying citizens solely to get lawful permanent resident status. Immigrant marriage fraud, however, is not known to be a particular problem in Louisiana—and federal law explicitly grants the federal government, not the states, the power to combat it.

I asked Alvaro Huerta, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, what he thought the bill’s true purpose was.

“Act 436’s intention isn’t really combatting marriage fraud writ large,” Huerta told me. “The bill is trying to get at immigrants—and, in particular, making it very difficult for undocumented immigrants to obtain marriage licenses.”

Audrey Stewart, the managing director at the New Orleans Center for Racial Justice, agreed. “This law is not about marriage fraud,” she told me. “It is an attack on immigrant families and communities. And it’s rooted in anti-immigrant sentiment.”

But Act 436’s challengers don’t even need to prove the bill’s insidious intent in court: It is, by its own terms, almost certainly unconstitutional under Obergefell. In that decision, the court reiterated that marriage is a fundamental right, a critical component of the “liberty” protected by the Constitution, and held that states may not deny marriage rights based on some arbitrary distinction. Nationality or immigration status is surely as arbitrary a distinction as gender—so a law that restricts marriage rights on those bases is just as invalid as a law that restricts marriage rights on the basis of sexual orientation. That’s why the suit against Act 436 opens with the stirring peroration from Obergefell, an encomium to marriage proclaiming that all loving couples deserve “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

“Obergefell didn’t explicitly extend to immigration,” Huerta told me, “but the argument is there. It’s spot-on precedent for this case. Louisiana can’t pass laws that infringe on that right to marry unless they have a very compelling state reason. And we can’t think of any compelling reasons for wanting to keep some people, particularly immigrants, from getting married to the people that they love—or preventing the people who love immigrants from marrying them”
Without the certificate, how can we be sure they were actually born?

Huerta noted that even if the suit doesn’t prevail under Obergefell, Act 436 is still a straightforward violation of the Equal Protection Clause (which generally prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin). But Obergefell is the headlining precedent here, and the all-stars of the marriage equality movement have already lined up to support the suit. Indeed, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has already signaled its eagerness to contribute to the litigation in any way it can. I asked the group’s legal director, Shannon Price Minter, why the group was jumping into this battle. He provided me with the remarks he delivered to the National Immigration Law Center in throwing his organization’s support behind the suit:

Speaking on behalf of the LGBT community, whose fundamental freedom to marry was only recently recognized in this country, just last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, we are appalled by Louisiana’s blatant attempt to deny the fundamental right to marry to immigrants, which of course includes many LGBT people who have come to this country from other places and who are now living in Louisiana.
As LGBT people know from recent experience, the purpose and impact of such laws are so invidious and harmful—and especially so here, when the discrimination is targeted at a class of people, immigrants, who have already experienced so much discrimination and abuse and who are under attack in such a vicious way by one of our presidential candidates.

Laws such as these are intended to—and do—send a clear message that immigrants are not entitled to equal dignity and respect, and that their relationships are not worthy of the same protections as other. They have a devastating practical impact as well, as same-sex couples experienced for so many years, in denying couples the ability to protect their relationships and their families.

The connection Minter draws between this litigation and same-sex marriage is potent and depressingly topical. This election season has featured relatively little conversation about gay people’s rights—and extensive debate about the rights of immigrants. Much like George W. Bush campaigned on homophobia in 2004, Donald Trump has rooted his campaign in vicious xenophobia, promoting legalized discrimination against immigrants and making many feel unwelcome in the United States. For LGBTQ advocates, the parallels to their own recent history are impossible to ignore. And Louisiana will soon discover that after Obergefell, the constitutional guarantee of “equal dignity” for all cannot be so easily abridged.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues

May 25, 2016

World Freedom Ratings

 During his time visiting Vietnam, President Barack Obama urged the communist government to learn from its past human rights abuses, insisting that greater freedom for Vietnamese citizens is the key to the economic success the country desires. The development comes only a day after the President lifted what was left of a U.S. arms embargo on the country stemming from the Vietnam War.

Below are visualizations overviewing freedom rankings across the globe, top U.S. trade partners and Vietnam's GDP per capita growth over time

 (Interactive Graph) 

May 21, 2016

Your Body does Not Care Where it Relieves it self but Politicians Do

 Written by Jeffrey Kluger and it was originally posted on Time yesterday.

Ted cruz examining dildoRepublican Ted Cruz by #GOPdildo                                                                          

Your genes don't care who you share a bathroom with, but your politicians do

Want to see a living experiment in what happens when traditional gender lines are truly blurred? Forget North Carolina or Mississippi or any of the places in the U.S. where politicians have made the question of which person uses which bathroom an unlikely cultural flash point. 
Take a look instead at Samoa—the tiny island nation that can teach the world’s most powerful democracy a thing or two about the basic business of human sexuality. Samoa, like the U.S. and every other country in the world, is home to plenty of men and plenty of women, but, unlike any other country in the world, it’s also home to the fa’afafine. 
The fa’afafine are, nominally, boys—with a boy’s anatomy and a boy’s chromosomes and, therefore, the “boy” box ticked on their birth certificate.
But the fa’afafine are something more too. They’re typically gay, yes, but they think and act and dress and feel almost entirely “in the manner of a woman,” which is what fa’afafine means. They are thus considered—even embraced as—a third sex.
Typically, the fa’afafine assume traditional female roles in the Samoan culture and, while they are less likely to have children of their own than heterosexual males are, they compensate by being exceedingly dedicated alloparents—the broad category of family caregivers that also includes uncles and aunts and grandparents. That makes the fa’afafine especially prized by evolution. Babies with a greater number loving adults looking after them have a better chance of surviving than those with fewer.
Oh, and as to which public bathrooms the fa’afafine use? Nobody flipping cares.
That’s worth keeping in mind as advocates of restrictive bathroom laws argue that separate accommodations for men and women are more than merely custom, they’re fundamental to human nature—just the way nature wants things to be. On its surface, a scientific argument like this does seem to track.
All evolution is in one way or the other built around the goal of reproducing yourself and your genes, so it stands to reason that there should be no ambiguity about the gender we present to the world, and typically there isn’t. Indeed, we work hard to advertise our maleness or femaleness in the most appealing ways possible. That’s the purpose of sexual signaling like makeup for women or muscle shirts for men.
Ambiguity in this context should be unsettling, especially in public places that require us to disrobe even partially. Things get more disturbing still when the specter of male sexual predators masquerading as females to gain access to women’s bathrooms is thrown into the mix. But none of these arguments bear close scrutiny.
The easiest part to dispense with is the least scientific part—the dangerous man in the girls’ bathroom. Transgender people are no more or less likely to be sexual predators than any other people, and a biological male who wanted to cross-dress to gain access to a bathroom not meant for him would have been doing it already—and presumably could continue to do it despite local laws.
As my colleague Michael Scherer reports in this week’s TIME cover story, “The FBI and local law enforcement do not keep consistent stats on the number of crimes committed in public restrooms, so there is no way to track every claim…But there is not yet any anecdotal evidence that trans-friendly rules have been abused by predators, or that incidents of violence or sexual assault have increased.”
More nettlesome is the human nature argument. It’s undeniable that for most people the idea of mixed gender bathrooms may take some getting used to, but the question is why, and the answer has less to do with evolution than socialization. Even in cultures that have rigid bathroom-division norms, the rules break down fast depending on context—consider camping trips; co-ed dorms; crowded stadiums or theaters where women waiting in long bathroom lines are often waved into the men’s room to help speed things up. And those comparatively conservative cultures are by no means the only kind.
“There is no evolutionary, genetic or primordial drive for a gender binary as we do it and absolutely no primordial drive for two bathrooms, one labeled male and one labeled female,” says anthropologist Elijah Edelman of Rhode Island College. “We have thousands of cultures that do not, and have not, had the gender binary we have right here.”
Even outside the bathroom, sex divisions in the U.S. have blurred and blurred again over just the past half century so that what was once jarring—men with long hair, women in pants, earrings and piercings and tattoos on both sexes—has become entirely unremarkable. A culture that embraces a style trend like the 1990s’ androgyny chic is not a culture governed by genetically determined gender roles.
“We are not sacks of genes walking through the world acting on instinct alone,” says anthropologist Eric Plemons of the University of Arizona. “We are people who learn to see ourselves and each other through the frameworks of cultural practices.”
Yes, some of those those cultural practices can be more deeply felt than others. The proper way to hold a fork is a cultural practice too, but we don’t get terribly rattled when it’s violated. However, the mere fact that we do get rattled—at least at first—by the unexpected anatomy of somebody sharing a locker room with us, does not mean that’s the way we’re all hardwired.
“It would be worth asking who thinks trans-people using the bathroom is such a big deal,” says Plemons. “Clearly groups living in different geographic regions of the U.S. do not have substantively different evolutionary pasts, so why is panic about trans-people organized so differently across the country?”
The answer to that question is partly benign—a large heterogeneous country is likely to be home to many different regions with many different customs and practices. And it’s partly cynical—with some of those regions adopting policies that appeal to an ideological faction, even if it comes at the expense of a minority.
But all of the people in all of those places do come factory-loaded with a human sense of fairness and compassion and empathy—and those are traits that cut across all cultures. For legislators considering restrictive bathroom laws, that should be all the science that’s necessary.

October 24, 2015

Disgusting Deceptive Ads used to repeal an LGBT Anti discrimination Ordinance


The battle over Houston’s nondiscrimination law took a real ugly turn last week, when opponents aired one of the most outrageous and disgustingly deceptive ads in their effort to repeal it at the ballot box in November.

Even though the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) protects 15 different characteristics from discrimination in Texas’s largest city, those who want to kill the legislation are focused on only one of them: gender identity. And they are ginning up support and misinformed hysteria by calling it “the bathroom ordinance.”



Take a look at the ad from an outfit called the Campaign for Houston. The last frame is as terrifying as the entire ad is flat-out false. Here’s what it says:

Any man at any time could enter a woman’s bathroom at any time simply by claiming to be a woman that day. No one is exempt, even registered sex offenders could follow women or young girls into the bathroom and if a business tried to stop them they’d be fined. Protect women’s privacy. Prevent danger. Vote “no” on the Proposition 1 “bathroom ordinance.” It goes too far.
What goes too far is this bigoted ad and its perversion of the facts. It is an outright lie to say “any man at any time could enter a woman’s bathroom at any time simply by claiming to be a woman that day.” Such a statement reveals a willful ignorance of what it means to be transgender. In addition, the so-called “bathroom ordinance” people completely ignore a rather specific Houston law that has been on the books since 1972.

According to Code 1968, 28-42.6; Ord. No. 72-904, 2, 6-2-72 , “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex without the permission of the owner, tenant, manager, lessee or other person in charge of the premises, in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance.”

In short, if you’re in the bathroom for any purpose other than relieving yourself, you’re breaking the law. And if you’re in there to molest children or commit rape, you’re also a monster.

Due to a legal challenge to HERO, the Texas Supreme Court ordered the Houston City Council to repeal the law or put it up for popular vote this November. The straightforward question asks whether the law should go into effect.

Of course, the answer to the Houston ballot question should be yes. HERO foes ignore the fact that nine other Texas cities with more than 100,000, including Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin, already have anti-discrimination laws on the books. Houston isn’t breaking new ground here.

That there is such a pitched battle over the Houston statute is further proof that the fight for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans did not end with the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling in June. And it makes clear that opponents will stop at nothing to ensure that full equality never comes.


Last week, Samantha Power received an award from the Council for Global Equality. The group, which pushes to have American foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, presented the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations with its Global Equality Leadership Award. While Power’s remarks were focused on gay rights around the world and had nothing to do with Houston, the sentiment they expressed definitely applied to Houston.

“If we are horrified by the Islamic State singling out LGBT people for attacks and executions, and of course we should be, why shouldn’t we be horrified when other rights of LGBT persons are violated? When, for example, police refuse to investigate attacks against LGBT persons? Or when businesses, schools or other institutions turn away LGBT persons because of who they are?” Power asked. “While the gravity of these abuses vary, all of them reject the inherent rights and dignity of LGBT people.”

Power then added this: “We are all striving to create respect for LGBT rights in those countries because we are not willing to accept a world where basic human rights can only be enjoyed in constricted places. Whether that place is a home or a neighborhood or a state or a country. There can’t be no-go zones for these rights to be real.”

If the voters of Houston reject Proposition 1, they will create a no-go zone for LGBT people. And they better be prepared for the backlash that will result.

June 28, 2015

After World Record Victory, What’s next for this gay Community?


The Senator leading the push for a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill in Congress tells TIME that he is working with civil rights groups so the coming legislation isn’t just about being gay or lesbian.

Within hours of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling granting same-sex couples the right to marry in every state, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon was laying the groundwork for a sweeping bill that would expand gay rights even further. He says he plans to introduce within the next two months. “We need to put forward a bill that captures that full range. We cannot nibble around the edges,” he said in an interview.

Friday’s ruling, while a tremendous milestone for gay rights, had no effect on what conservative attorney Ted Olson, who argued California’s landmark same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court, called a “crazy quilt” of laws that unequally treat gays and lesbians.
Indeed, more than 206 million Americans — nearly two thirds of the country — live in states where employers can be fired someone for being gay. Only 18 states and the District of Columbia prohibit housing discrimination based on a tenant’s sexuality or sexual identity. Three others prohibit discrimination based on sexuality. The remaining 166 million Americans live in states where landlords can evict someone for their sexuality.

That’s why Merkley is working with fellow Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Cory Booker of New Jersey on the Senate’s version of a sweeping non-discrimination law that would bar individuals from being denied services—including housing and jobs but also mortgages and education—based on their sexuality. In the House, efforts are being led by Rhode Island’s David Cicilline, an openly gay lawmaker, and civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia.
“Equal dignity involves equal opportunity. It involves equality in the basic functions of our society,” Merkley said. “There should be the ability for the LGBT community to fully participate without discrimination.”

Merkley is also working with a coalition that includes the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and National Council on La Raza. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign are also lending their advice to Merkley’s drafting process.
“We want to place nondiscrimination for the LBGT community on the same foundation as is anti-discrimination in the Civil Rights Act,” Merkley said.

The politics, however, could be tricky. Neither House Speaker John Boehner nor Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was a fan of earlier gay rights proposals. Yet that was before the Supreme Court decided all Americans have the right to marry. No Republican is yet publicly working with Merkley’s council.
“There is a sense of acceleration on this. There has been a huge change, year by year,” Merkley said. “The inherent logic is that if you believe that every individual should be able to be married with the person that they love, then you believe that every individual should pursue employment without discrimination. … You surely also believe that people should have equal access to mortgages, equal access to public accommodations, equal access to housing, equal access to all of the fundamentals of our society that give a person a full chance to participate and to thrive.”

August 23, 2014

Brainier-less Law Maker Introduced a Kill Switch for Police on Smart Phones in California

Tech and civil liberties groups are pushing back on a California "kill switch" bill that they warn could be used to silence protests like the ones seen this week in Ferguson, Mo.
Critics say a California bill passed on Monday contains a dangerous carve-out that could give law enforcement the power to shut down cellphones during emergency situations, possibly including public demonstrations.
 The California bill is aimed at curbing cellphone theft by requiring all smartphones sold in the state — home to 37 million people — to come equipped with a feature that allows users to remotely wipe their personal data and make the devices inoperable.
It requires that the “kill switches” be turned on by default, though a user can opt out of using the tool.
If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), the bill will add to the features that some companies already offer to let users disable their phones if stolen.
But the bill “is not explicit about who can activate such a switch,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a June letter opposing the bill.
“And more critically, the solution will be available for others to exploit as well, including malicious actors or law enforcement.”
Concerns about the provision have been heightened by the demonstrations this week in Ferguson, where police at times demanded that protestors and journalists turn off the video cameras on their phones.
Jake Laperruque, fellow on privacy, surveillance and security at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the California bill could create the potential for an abuse of power by law enforcement.
“This could effectively be co-opted to disrupt protests,” Laperruque said.
“So much of what’s happening [in Ferguson] is relevant,” he continued, wondering what the situation would look like “if this was required there.”
The bill’s supporters say it incorporates protections against the hypothetical police actions.
The measures specifically references California law that requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to interrupt communications services except in the cases of “extreme emergency” situations.
In situations where there is “immediate danger of death or great bodily injury and there is insufficient time, with due diligence, to first obtain a court order,” law enforcement officials must quickly obtain retroactive court approval for activating the kill switch.
Max Szabo — a spokesman with the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, which supported the bill — called critics concerns “alarmist” and “akin to ambulance chasing.”
“This legislation addresses the violent, global epidemic of smartphone theft,” he said.
“Not only does the bill forbid usage of such technology by government without a court order, these solutions will only be available on smartphones.”
According to 2013 figures from the Public Policy Institute of California, roughly 58 percent of California residents have smartphones.
Because the bill only requires kill switches for smartphones — as opposed to all cellphones — “the utility of limiting speech for a fraction of protesters defies logic and basic commonsense,” Szabo said.
In its letter, the EFF notes that current California law limits when law enforcement would be able to use the kill switches but also “provides the necessary legal roadmap” to disable cellphones in some circumstances.
“Because it is difficult to implement a ‘kill switch’ that can only be utilized at the behest of the device user but not third parties or the government, EFF strongly believes the state should not mandate this backdoor be installed into phones in California.”
Laperruque agreed that those legal protections are insufficient.
“If you give law enforcement a tool that can be abused, you’ll have an instance of asking for forgiveness rather than permission,” he said.
The bill “creates a pretty concerning risk considering history on the issue,” he said, recalling a controversial 2011 decision by San Francisco’s subway authority to interrupt cellphone service in the hope of clamping down on protests.
While the bill is specific to phones sold in California, phone companies may “just start doing this nationally” to cut down on costs, meaning law enforcement could soon have access to the power in every state, Laperruque said.
Laperruque said the focus should be on creating a federal cellphone kill switch bill, such as the one from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), which would let device owners wipe their phones of personal data and make the phones inoperable if stolen. 

August 2, 2014

PM in Turkey Prohibits Women to Laugh in Public- What would women do now?LoL


Women? Laughing? IN PUBLIC?! Not on Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Arinc’s watch! In a speech this week, Arinc decried supposedly immoral women who dared to visibly chuckle. “A woman should be chaste,” Arinc said. “She should know the difference between public and private. She should not laugh in public.”
Although ludicrous, Arinc’s stance is not altogether shocking given prevailing attitudes toward women amongst Turkey’s leaders. Stifling a women’s ability to laugh – to express and experience joy – is part of a larger effort to stifle women’s rights in general.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with his wife Emine Erdogan-  Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Bulent Arınc, advised women they should not laugh out loud in public
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with his wife Emine Erdogan- 
the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Bulent Arınc, advised women they should not laugh out loud in public Photo: AP
Women and progressive men in Turkey found Arinc’s words to be, well, laughable, and as such took the most appropriate course of action: laughing a lot in public. Throughout the country, citizens posted photos of themselves on social media unabashedly laughing, tagging their posts with #direnkahkaha, which translates to “resist laughter.”
“[Arinc’s] words perfectly illustrate his and the AK Party’s attitude towards women,” said Mehtap Dogan, a member of the Socialist Feminist Collective. “In their eyes, women should not have any rights, they treat us like a separate species. Using moralism to hide behind, they defend violence, rape, and sexism.”
Meanwhile, Arinc dismissed claims of any wrongdoing, calling it a “disgusting, ugly, and unfounded fabrication.” Granted, he definitely did say those words in his speech, but he didn’t intend for that to be the takeaway, apparently. “I believe I have made a useful speech,” he said. “If I had only said women should not laugh, then I have done something irrational, but my speech was about manners and moral rules.”
Arinc elaborated that it’s women who indulge in “fake laughter” (whatever that means) that really upset his sensibilities. He also took the opportunity to make a swipe at ladies who “never miss the chance to wrap themselves around a dancing pole,” further demonstrating his general disdain for women.
While Turkey’s feminist activists have been attempting to steer the conversation toward ongoing violence toward women, it’s a shame that the prime minister continues to blame women for supposed wrongdoing rather than promoting positive change.
Fortunately, not all of Turkey’s leaders believe in limiting women’s happiness. Presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a member of the oppositional party, publicly denounced Arinc’s comments, telling his supporters, “Our country needs our women to laugh and to hear everyone’s joyful laughter more than ever.”
Indeed, the defiant women are taking that call to heart by refusing to bow to unreasonable pressure. In this case, literal laughter is the best way to laugh off Arinc’s sexist condemnation. May the women of Turkey continue to snicker at these antiquated “morality” claims and pursue gender equality.

June 10, 2014

Gov.Christie squeaks by with a D+ on Civil Rights

A report card released by the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday gave Governor Christie poor marks for his first term’s record on civil liberties and rights.

“Gov. Christie’s overall record on civil liberties and civil rights has been poor, ranging mostly from mediocre to failing,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer in a statement releasing the card. “The Christie administration’s first-term record on civil liberties will be remembered for its assaults on judicial independence and the separation of church and state, as well as for its disdain for transparency.”The ACLU-NJ examined 12 civil rights areas and gave the Governor a D+ average based on his and his administration’s public statements, actions and inaction on policy decisions. Christie received above average grades in respecting freedom of religion (B) and voting rights (B-), but received failing marks in separation of church and state, separation of powers, economic justice and transparency, where the report cited the ongoing George Washington Bridge scandal as exposing how the administration attempts to keep the public out of government business.

Michael Drewniak, the governor’s spokesman, dismissed the report saying it was to be expected from the ACLU, a non-profit liberal advocacy organization that works to protect individual rights.
“Does anyone really think the ACLU could fairly assess anything we do that doesn’t fit squarely into its agenda?,” Drewniak said in an email. “ I give them a D- for predictability.”
John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, said report cards by advocacy groups are a way to get attention to issues that are important to them, but said they don’t generally have impact on political figures. He said they are only really helpful if they can be compared to previous report cards given to others in the same position.
He said he was surprised by Christie’s low scores on criminal justice and drug policy, since the Governor has been vocal about being supportive of finding alternatives for prison as a means of drug treatment.
“He has been more supportive of that and more outspoken of that than other recent governors in New Jersey, including Democrats,’’ Weingart said. “I would have thought that was an area the ACLU would have been somewhat enthusiastic about his actions in that area.”
The group also gave marks for freedom of expression, separation of church and state, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, privacy, lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender rights.
The report criticized the governor harshly for not following through on prior statements. For example, the report states, that although the governor opposes discrimination against LGBT families, he fought against same-sex marriages in court and in the legislature, and while he supported giving immigrants living in the state illegally a chance at higher education by signing the NJ Dream Act, which allows them to pay in state tuition at public colleges, he removed a provision that would have allowed them to apply for state financial aid.
“Rhetoric without any substantive action helps no one but Gov. Christie,” the report reads.
The report lauded Christie for his “respect for religious diversity” citing his appointment of a Muslim lawyer to serve as a Superior Court judge, for speaking against critics of plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero and for signing legislation requiring out of state law enforcement agencies to notify state authorities of their actions before conducting surveillance in the state — a response to NYPD surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey.
The B- grade for voting rights came for his administration’s quick response after Superstorm Sandy in making sure that eligible voters could receive ballots through email.
“The Christie administration has worked closely with voting rights advocates, convening regular meetings that focus on improving elections,’’ the report reads.
For women rights, the governor received a C. He was given credit for signing legislation requiring insurance companies to cover breast exams and other testing, and signed a bill exempting cosmetic expenses related to breast reconstruction surgery from sales tax, outlawing genital mutilation of females under the age of 18, and supporting several measures aimed at closing the pay gap between men and women. But the report criticizes him for rejecting $7.5 million item in the budget for women’s health at family planning centers, and for rejecting federal funding that matches the state’s expenditure on family planning


January 31, 2014

The Revolution Wont Be Blond

The Mindful Revolution, Time Magazine Cover, Time Magazine Mindful Revolution, Slavoj Zizek, Ethan Nichtern, mindfulness, Twin Peaks Buddhism, Zizek Buddhism

The next cover for Time magazine is getting a lot of attention—and a ton of heat—from the mindfulness community. It is actually the second time that they have run a cover about meditation with a beautiful blond Caucasian woman on the cover. The first was Heather Graham in 2003. I must admit that my biggest personal bias against Heather will always be her performance in Twin Peaks, not her Time cover.These covers have created an interesting uproar over what motivates a mainstream media outlet to cover meditation and Buddhism. There is a lot of concern in the Buddhist communities in which I am involved—but maybe sometimes not enough concern—that Buddhism may just turn into a folk spirituality for elite middle-class and upper middle-class white people in wealthy countries, allowing us privileged folks the tools to remain calm and balanced while the world goes to deeper into a state of suffering and torment. This argument was most famously forwarded by the cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek in his critique of Western Buddhism. I tried to respond in this article to Zizek a few years ago in Huffington post.The thing that immediately strikes me about both covers—beyond what’s already been critiqued—is that both models seem (in their expression and closed-eye, chin-tilted distance) to be tuning out the world for the sake of comfort. From the standpoint of the Shambhala tradition, the entire purpose for practicing mindfulness is to tune into the world and engage with reality and society more deeply. Both cover models seem like they are simply somewhere else, not here with us.


January 5, 2014

Utah Gays’ Way of Life is been with Hostility and Acceptance

Jon Jensen (left) and his partner, Jared Reesor, walk away hand-in-hand from the Ogden clerk and auditor’s office after it canceled a special Saturday opening to issue marriage licenses in Ogden, Utah. A day earlier, a federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution.
Jon Jensen (left) and his partner, Jared Reesor, walk away hand-in-hand from the Ogden clerk and auditor’s office after it canceled a special Saturday opening to issue marriage licenses in Ogden, Utah. A day earlier, a federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has long been known as a bastion of red-state conservatism with deep roots in the Mormon faith. It’s the kind of place that historically has been unwelcoming to gay marriage.
The state is the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which championed California’s gay marriage ban that eventually was tossed out in court. The church looms over almost every aspect of life in Utah, where an estimated two-thirds of residents are Mormon.
But, like the rest of America, how gays are received depends on where they live. Some gay couples describe feeling hostility in conservative, heavily Mormon cities such as Provo. The suburban areas that surround Salt Lake City are a mishmash of family-friendly communities across the political spectrum.
And Salt Lake City is more open to gays than many people outside the state realize.
The city is home to gay bars and coffee shops and a pride parade that attracts 25,000 people. There’s a bus that takes gay men and women to Nevada to party. Salt Lake also is the city where hundreds of gay couples rushed to the county clerk’s office to obtain marriage licenses and get married in the lobby of a government building, after a judge overturned the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage
As they wait for the courts to sort out the legal challenges to the Dec. 20 ruling, three gay couples describe differing experiences in Utah:
same everywhere
Cheryl Haws and Shelly Eyre have been lesbian partners for eight years in Provo, about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and arguably the most conservative city in Utah.
They have been the target of outright hostility and insults. Eyre left the Mormon church years ago; Haws was excommunicated, they said.
A Mormon church leader once told Eyre, “‘I would rather see you dead than commit this sin,”’ Eyre said in what she described as one of her most painful experiences of being gay in Utah.
Provo is in Utah County and home to Brigham Young University, the flagship school for the Mormon faith where students are prohibited from having premarital sex and drinking alcoholic beverages. The county is overwhelmingly Republican; President Barack Obama received less than 10 percent of the vote there in 2012.
The couple initially was turned down for a marriage license by Utah County, which only reluctantly started granting them days after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban. The couple got a license Thursday.
Haws and Eyre are licensed clinical social workers with a private counseling practice in Utah County. A few patients abandoned them after their effort to get a marriage license made their relationship widely known.
“I’ve never been unfriended by so many people on Facebook,” Eyre said.
Eyre said she moved from more gay-friendly Salt Lake City to Provo eight years ago to live with Haws, a mother of seven children from a previous marriage who wanted to stay close to her family. Haws still was caring for two of the children, who are now off to college.
When Haws’ oldest son died in a car accident in 2006, Eyre found her name disappeared from a published obituary as the mother’s partner.
But Eyre said the couple has a circle of supporters, including traditional couples who have been “good, kind and generous — people who have protected us.” Some of her neighbors help out mowing their lawn or shoveling snow.
“We’re not trying to judge others who judge us,” Eyre said. “The folks who said they’d rather see us dead — in their mind that was all the love they could muster.”
The struggle in Utah is the same everywhere, Eyre said.
“Just being gay or lesbian and not having support or being afraid your family is going to kick you out or will not speak to you — Catholics and Baptists can be the same way in other states,” she said.
changing attitude
Jon Jensen has been with his partner more than six years, but it wasn’t until last week that the couple finally was able to become husband and husband.
It was a huge moment in their lives, but also, Jensen thinks, a reflection on changing attitudes in the state and more specifically, a backlash against the Mormon church over decades of repression.
Jensen and his husband, Jared Reesor, are more fortunate than others around Utah given they live in Salt Lake City, the state’s liberal hub, despite the presence of the church’s gleaming headquarters in the middle of downtown.
In fact, Jensen said, the church has had such a polarizing effect on Salt Lake City’s younger population that he thinks people in the capital are more open to gay people.
“It makes people stand up more for what they believe in,” he said.
With clubs and bars, coffee houses and tattoo parlors, Salt Lake City has become a bustling center for the younger, hipper crowd that doesn’t live up to Utah’s generally buttoned-up, clean-cut image. That’s why Jensen and Reesor, 36, a residential contractor, have chosen to live here after being raised Mormon in surrounding counties where acceptance wasn’t so easy to come by.
“People don’t even question that you’re a gay couple. In Utah County, we’d have to explain who we are,” said the 35-year-old software developer. “People here, they don’t even care. They don’t even bat an eye when you introduce your husband or partner.”
Jensen said the changing attitude toward gays in the city is prevalent in the number of outspoken critics he has counted during protests at the annual pride festival.
“It’s so reduced at this point it’s barely noticeable,” he said.
Jensen recalls his youth in Utah with hesitation and a bit of remorse, a legacy of his Mormon upbringing that stifled his individuality.
“As a young kid, I remember lying on my bed ... feeling so guilty I wanted to die. I always felt like I just didn’t belong,” he said.
Jensen left the church about 10 years ago while still hiding his sexuality, unable to come to terms with who he was and feeling unwelcomed by those around him. And now, living in Salt Lake City — without the guilt, without the judging eyes of others — Jensen and his husband are finally feeling free and rewarded for having waited.
They talked about going elsewhere for their nuptials, maybe Hawaii, “but we wanted to be married in our home state. We just never expected it to happen so soon.”
having family helps
Greg Jaboin is raising two teenage children with his partner in Salt Lake City. He grew up in the Boston suburbs, came out after college and moved to Utah in 2005 after meeting partner Steve Kachocki during a work training trip.
He said Utah is a huge shift from Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003. Jaboin, who is black, said people stare more often because of his skin color than because they notice he’s gay. Utah is more than 90 percent white.
“They can’t get past race to get to sexuality until they see Steve,” he said, referring to his white husband.
Steve’s former wife lives on the same street, four houses away with her new husband.
Their two children walk back and forth between the two homes, he said.
“For the most part, I’ve had a pretty decent time here being gay,” Jaboin said. “However, when work and gayness collide that’s when things change.”
Jaboin, 35, works in banking, and while there’s a relatively diverse workforce and accepting corporate policy, he said he still notices what he calls “passive disapproval” from some Mormon co-workers, such as a normally chatty co-worker turning silent after he brought up Monday that he’d just gotten married.
Jaboin said having a family helps him gain acceptance in Utah. People become more comfortable with them because their life is similar to that of heterosexual couples, “the children, the mortgage, the two cars, the school, the soccer on Saturdays, that kind of thing,” he said.
He said that he thinks full acceptance will come within his lifetime.
“The change will come more fully to Utah in the next 10 years,” he said. “Right now, they are a little bit shellshocked.”

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