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Archive for March 3rd, 2012

In feudal times, you could be put to death if you didn’t kneel when the carriages of the nobility passed by.  This is a step in that direction (although very few people care). […]

This new bill, about to be signed by the President, is called the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.  It is not as innocent as its name.

Essentially, it makes it a federal offense to be anywhere near, from being in the area or in the same building, somebody protected by the secret service.  That’s from the President to candidates for political office (Romney or Santorum) to senior government officials to foreign dignitaries (G20).  In other words, lots and lots of people.

While being sold as a way to close a loophole in the current law regarding White House security, it is actually much more than that.  It changed one word that made a world of difference.  What’s the difference?

To be arrested and imprisoned, all you need to do is be the same building or area around a person that has secret service protection.  You don’t even need to know they are there to be arrested and imprisoned.  If you are merely walking by the area, you can be legally jailed for one year.  If you are carrying something that can be seen as a weapon (legally or not), that imprisonment can be extended to ten years.

In short, if you are within the same building or neighborhood as a political or foreign personage without their expressed permission, you can be imprisoned.

“Trust us” or “they are good people” isn’t a valid answer to this critique. If a new power can be abused legally, it will eventually be abused.  Very simple tautology.

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Beginning in the late 1970s and 1980s, Afghanistan became the hot battlefield in which Cold War rivalry was fought out. The U.S., solely interested in winning the battle against the Soviet Union, funded the Mujahideen to the tune of $3 billion; Saudi Arabia provided as much and likely more. Neither country appreciated the ramifications of such a decision—especially the effects it would have on women’s rights. When asked about support for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a misogynist figure who became notoriously known for throwing acid on the faces of women who refused to wear the veil, and whose group, Hezb-e-Islami received as much as 50 percent of U.S. aid , a CIA official in Pakistan responded: “fanatics fight better.”

With the end of the Soviet invasion, which had caused the death of countless civilians, and the subsequent withdrawal of Soviet forces, the U.S-supported Mujahideen came to power in the early 1990s. Burhanuddin Rabbani, the president of the Mujahideen Government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan suspended the constitution and issued strict religious decrees in its place. In 1992, Ayatollah Asif Mohseni (the interim governing council spokesman), who is now a close friend of President Karzai and the United States, along with Sayad Ali Javed (now a member of Parliament) publicly announced that they would begin implementing a new set of rules governing the conduct of women, which were referred to as the “Ordinance of the Women’s Veil.” These edicts prevented women from going out without their husband’s permission or talking with men who were not close relatives, and consequently led to the closure of many schools. Yet despite their similarities to the Taliban edicts, edicts collaboratively introduced by Rabbani, Mohseni and Javed received little criticism and the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan was anything but important for U.S. and its allies prior to the 9/11 tragedy.

Today, eleven years after the NATO-led intervention, Human Rights Watch has determined that the situation for Afghan women is “dismal in every area, including health, education, employment, freedom from violence, equality before the law, and political participation.” The same warlords, drug lords and fundamentalists who were in power in the 1990s (whom Ronald Reagan called freedom fighters against the communist threat) have now formed the Northern Alliance. What is most apparent is that the re-empowerment of such individuals and the growth in the militarization of Afghan society have increased, not decreased, violence against women.

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