Saturday, October 06, 2018

The Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

The Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

In spite of the fact that Kavanaugh has shown himself to be remarkably unsuited for a life-time position on the Supreme Court, the push to have him confirmed by the right-wing conservative Republican Party will most likely succeed. This should be of no great surprise when considering the history of the Supreme Court in the United States.

The supposed role of the Court as established in the U.S. constitution (Article III) is to ensure that the constitution is upheld and, thereby, serve as a balance to both the executive and legislative branches.

The following is the full text of Article III as it appears in the constitution –


Article III


The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.


The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;-- to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States;--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment; shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.


Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Note: Section II as shown above was subsequently modified by the 11th amendment – “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.”

In fact, many of the major decisions made by Court before the modern post-World War II era have sided with and protected the interests of the powerful – the ruling class - and the status quo. For example, two of those major decisions that have had far reaching implications in the nation’s history are shown below.

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court that sanctioned the right of slave owners to take their slave to the Western territories.

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), was a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that had far-reaching implications for the country. It validated the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities – Jim Crow - as long as the segregated facilities were supposedly equivalent - a doctrine that came to be known as "separate but equal." In fact, this proviso. was never adhered to.

In contrast, the Warren Court (1953-1969) made decisions that protected and affirmed the civil rights of the individual as well as the accused. Some of these are listed below.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), was a profoundly important Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.

Miranda v. Arizona, (1966), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court. In a 5–4 majority, the Court held that any self-incriminating statements made by a defendant in a criminal case in response to police interrogation would only be admissible in a court of law provided that the prosecuting attorney could show that the suspect was told of his right to an attorney and his protection from self-incrimination prior to the questioning. This decision gave rise to the required reading of the so-called “Miranda rights” to a criminal suspect upon arrest. ...

Roe vs Wade - Roe v. Wade (1973), was a decision that struck down the constitutionality of laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions.

This period of so-called liberal decisions made by the Supreme Court was short lived as the right-wing gained prominence in American politics. This is exemplified in the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in regards to:

· Gun Control - affirming gun ownership as a constitutional right as specified by the Second Amendment - McDonald v. Chicago (2010). This particular interpretation of the Second Amendment – “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” - has been seriously questioned.
· Campaign Finance - eliminating federally-mandated restrictions on campaign contributions equating campaign contributions with the protection provided by freedom of speech guaranteed in the constitution - Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). In effect, this decision insures that the powerful monied interests have unfettered access to legislators and ultimately to the crafting of legislation through the influence of lobbyists working on their behalf.
· The Voting Rights Act of 1965 – voiding that portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required states with a proven history of voting rights abuses to provide evidence that no inequitable obstacles were created to restrict voting among minority populations - Shelby County v. Holder (2013). This decision gave license to states with a history of voting-rights abuses to impose a broad range of voter qualification requirements that were previously restricted in the Voting Rights Act.

The political leanings of the current Supreme Court especially within the environment of a right-wing government is in keeping with the traditional role of the Supreme Court as the guardian of the rights and protector of the privileged position of the powerful in American politics, government and civic life. I would argue that this is yet another symptom of the apparently inexorable decline of liberal democracy in the United States. Without the guaranteed protection of the basic rights of such a vibrant and diverse people that live in this immense country, the future remains in question. Under the aegis of those who hold immense power, daily life for ordinary citizens would become increasingly oppressive with ever-narrowing opportunity.

Apparently, it has become quite acceptable for a substantial portion of the American citizens to accept and embrace the leadership of a president who is a known liar with absolutely no respect for the truth, a supporter of white supremacy, a misogynist and who is busily deconstructing vital protections in regard to the natural environment in a time of growing concerns about climate change. In addition, he seems particularly drawn to dictators. Although his “reign” will end, a precedent has been set in regards to the quality of leadership we can expect in the future.

All of this does not bode well for the coming generations; unless, the next generation wakes up from its seeming torpor and becomes actively engaged in politics and community. It will be in their hands.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Plea for a Sane and Viable Future

The current administration under the aegis of a President, whose rantings describe an apparently emotionally juvenile and disturbed personality, has helped magnify the real politic of the US government.  Elected officials are supposed to be servants of all the people.  It has become abundantly clear that they serve the affluent and corporate class above all else.  How else does one explain the passage of a supposed tax reform bill that increases still further a massive transfer of public wealth to private hands.  How else would one explain the fact that the Supreme Court has codified the rampant and excessive ability of the wealthy to have unlimited access to politicians through campaign contributions and has effectively equated money with free speech.  How else would you explain a leadership that refuses to accept the expert advice from the scientific and professional communities that conflict with the entrenched fossil fuels industries that currently hold inordinate sway in determining national policy.  This underlying reality has naturally led to a corrupt government that responds primarily to the needs and interests of the powerful.  It has become acutely apparent that this is a disastrous way to “run a country” as diverse and necessarily complex and multi-faceted as our own.

Throughout human history, civilized society has always been susceptible to disruption and dissolution – it is a fragile state of existence.  Currently, the forces of repression seem to be on the ascendency.  The egalitarian and democratic principles upon which this nation has been built are definitely floundering.  The current holder of the office of the Presidency has definitively helped to accelerate movement towards a deeply divided nation in which cruelty, bigotry. blatant mendacity, intimidation and irrational behavior are apparently encouraged.  Science and scientists, journalism and journalists have been maligned and have on more than one occasion been described as “enemies of the people.”

The American people have been led to crossroads where a definitive choice is now available to us.  Either we listen to reason, pay attention to reality, i.e. real data, respect intelligence and balanced judgment, demand true equality and representation in government and make sound and informed choices at the polls; or, we continue on the current path to inevitable disaster.

We do not possess the commodity of unlimited time to be a country we can actually be proud of and that will apply its wondrous resources and human capital to fashion a nation that sets its sights towards the greater good for everyone – we are all part of the human family - rather than remain in the emotionally-charged region of the lower brain.  As sentient beings we can do better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

America's Steady Decline

There is mounting evidence for the decline of the United States of America.  This evidence manifests itself in a number of particular ways.  The following examples provide ample evidence of this reality. 

At the current point in time (circa 2018) the national economy seems to be thriving.  This propitious overview, however, is quite misleading.  In fact, there is a profound divide between the minority of the population that is doing exceedingly well and the majority of individuals and families that are in the margins and experience a day-to-day struggle with maintaining their precarious position within the economic strata.  In fact, many find themselves in an economically desperate situation requiring public and private assistance in the areas of health, nutrition and housing.

The ubiquitous presence of racism permeates the fabric of American society and culture.  The evidence of this abounds in spite of the strides that had been made in the latter part of the twentieth century especially as a result of the civil rights movement.  Many populations are at risk in the current climate including Blacks, Hispanics and American Muslims.  This reality is evidenced in many facets of society and has been exacerbated by the apparent racist policies established by the current federal administration formulated under the guise of national security.  The statistics are quite clear in this regard and can be seen in the overwhelming majority of Blacks and Hispanics that are currently incarcerated in the nation’s prisons; the disproportionate percentage of non-whites who have inadequate or non-existing health care; the disparate mortality rates when comparing whites and non-whites and the rate of poverty between these two population groups.

The current epidemic of mass school shootings resulting in the death of many innocent children and adolescents has become almost commonplace in America.  The toll this gruesome reality takes on not only the victims and their friends and families but the larger society is incalculable.  The apparent inability of a sizeable portion of the population to make reasonable and appropriate compromises in regards to gun ownership in the face of such unnecessary and disastrous gun violence is remarkably unsettling.

There is a seemingly prevalent view that science and scientific data is of no value especially when it relates to the real impact of human activity on climate change and the current state of the natural environment.  Public policy has been actively employed in suppressing both scientific inquiry and public access to scientific data that quantifies the extent of the damage being inflicted on both climate and nature by human activity.  This has been done for the primary benefit of profit and the powerful.

The relentless assault on truth and the unabashed use of lie and exaggeration to undermine confidence in public institutions on the part of the national government is having a deleterious impact on the very essence of democratic principles and the very future of democracy.

The examples cited above demonstrate the reality of this decline and if left unabated will undoubtedly accelerate the movement towards further decline.

I would like to conclude by attempting to define the underlying forces that are involved in this process.  In my mind, there are many factors that have converged over the nation’s history to produce this overall result. 
  • There has been an apparently ineluctable movement towards placing the individual above the common good.  The net result of this process has led to the gradual disintegration of the Commons.  As a result, we as a people can no longer can rely upon the accessibility of adequate housing, nutrition, health care for all.
  • The goal of making profit has come to supersede all else.  This has become abundantly clear in the movement towards privatizing what we have previously expected to come from the public sector such as the control and management of the nation’s prisons, the control and development of the country’s public spaces such as national parks and monuments and space exploration among others.  This is also the predominant reason for the state of the nation’s health care system – it is effectively in the hands of entities whose sole purpose is to generate profit.
  • Over the past decades, there has been a marked increase in the flow of the nation’s wealth from the many to a vanishingly small minority of the powerful.  Ironically, wealth is flowing to those who have the least need for it.  This is happening in the face of deep-seated problems that require human and economic resources to resolve including economic and social justice, the health of the earthly environment, climate change, health care, homelessness, adequate nutrition etc.  As an expected consequence of this unbalanced redistribution of wealth is the unbridled power and influence of the few and attendant corruption of government as witnessed in the financing of campaigns and the inordinate influence of lobbying groups whose main goal to maintain and expand the reach of the powerful.  The public and the public good has paid a terrible price for this influence.   
  • Since its very beginnings, this nation has been burdened by two apparently impervious factors that feed upon each other, namely racism and violence.  Racism has led to creating horrific conditions for racial minorities in this country and proved to be an important factor in wars of aggression fought in regions around the world.  Militarism has come to dominate the national economy and consume a vast portion of the national budget.  We as a people are so prepared for war, that it is quite inevitable that we wage them.

Obviously, there are also positive and progressive forces working in the greater culture.  This movement is directed and guided by thoughtful and intelligent individuals and groups that embrace real data and work toward the greater good for all.  However, these voices have ben unable to gain the ascendency.

Given the stark nature of what has been outlined above, change remains dependent upon the cumulative choices and priorities of individuals.  The question I would like to pose in closing – ‘What kind of country and world do we envision for future generations and how do we contribute to help make the future a reality?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Rose Mapendo

Rose Mapendo was born in Mulenge within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1963.  She was a member of the Banyamulenge Tutsi tribe.  Mapendo grew up in a Christian household.  As is customary for women in her culture, she was married at the young age of sixteen years.  In 1994, she moved to the city of Mbuji-Mayi where her husband could successfully pursue his career as a butcher her children could go to school.

These plans, however, were severely disrupted with the outbreak of genocide against the Tutsi people that began in neighboring Rwanda.  On April 7, 1994 members of the Rwandan army murdered ten Belgian peacekeepers as part of strategy to eliminate the Tutsi people from Rwanda.  In three short months, the Hutu- led government of Rwanda, killed an estimated one-half to a million innocent civilian Tutsis.  This madness ultimately spread to the DRC.  Mapendo and her family attempted to hide from the invading troops but were eventually found and captured.  They were taken to a prison camp on the night of September 23, 1998.

She remained in that camp for sixteen months.  Her existence there is hard to imagine.  The government ordered the extra-judicial killing of all the men; Mapendo’s husband was among them.  The camp lacked sanitation, medical care and the food provided was woefully inadequate.  During this time, Mapendo was pregnant with twins.  In order to save her own life, she was coerced into giving her seventeen-year-old daughter to a soldier for sex.  Mapendo managed to give birth under abysmal conditions and tied and cut the umbilical chords with a piece of wood.  She wisely named her newborns after two of the camp’s commanders.  This strategy ultimately saved her life: for, when orders from the government came to have the prisoners executed, one of the commanders had her and her family were transferred to another prison facility in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC.  Within weeks they were delivered to a human rights center and ultimately to a Red Cross center in Cameroon through an American effort to resettle Tutsi refugees.
Finally, in 2000 Mapendo and her children received refugee status and settled in the United States.  In 2007, she received word that her eleven-year old, daughter was alive, and Nangabire ultimately rejoined her family in the U.S. 

Once securing the safety of herself and family, Mapendo could certainly have chosen to quietly pursue her new life.  However, this is not what she chose to do.  Instead, she chose the path of forgiveness and women’s empowerment.  She was compelled to tell her story.  As a result, a PBS documentary entitled, Pushing the Elephant was released that describes Mapendo’s mission and experiences culminating in the reunion with her daughter.

The following is an audio excerpts from that film (hosted by Michel Martin) –

“And now we meet a remarkable woman. Her name is Rose Mapendo. She was the 2009 United Nations Humanitarian of the Year. She is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is an advocate for global health and women's empowerment and a mother to 10 children. But those words don't really capture her story, which is both remarkable and all too common. That story is told in a new documentary called "Pushing the Elephant." It premiered this week as part of the PBS series "Independent Lens."
And, again, I have to say that this conversation does touch on the issue of sexual violence and thus might not be suitable for all listeners. With that being said, Rose Mapendo is with us from Tempe, Arizona. Welcome, thank you so much for joining us.
Ms. ROSE MAPENDO (2009 United Nations Humanitarian of the Year): Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: The documentary tells your story of surviving the violence that your family encountered doing what many people call the African world war. Certainly, living through those events had to have been incredibly painful. I must tell you that watching the film is painful. But recounting those events time and again must also be painful. And I wanted to ask why you were willing to do it.
Ms. MAPENDO: First of all, it is to raise the awareness and to tell a story of the innocent people. And I truly believe I just survive for reason. It was a choice for me to be a voice even though I knew nobody will change my past. Because I think the people can learn from the past to fix the present.
MARTIN: Just to some of the things that you lived through, which are recounted in the documentary, at the time that your community was invaded, your husband was killed, you were captured with how many children at the time? Seven, at that time. Correct?
MARTIN: You were separated from one child. And while you were imprisoned in, really, what can only be called a death camp, women and children were really just kept there to die with terrible conditions. You found that you were pregnant with twins and this presented a terrible dilemma, not just because the conditions that you were suffering were so terrible, the children were very sick. There were no conditions.
But, also, that if you revealed that you were sick in any way, you would be taken away. And many people who were ill, understood to be ill, were taken away and never seen again and it was assumed that they were killed. You talk about how at times you did pray that you would not survive this, that you just could not take any more. And I did want to ask, how did you find the strength?
Ms. MAPENDO: The strength, I believe, is the strength from God, because first of all, I grew up in a Christian house, but I was rejected that, like, resentful, according for what I have been through, but it was a pregnancy situation. Because in my belly, it was - the skin was came off because sleep on the cement. The lice was everywhere.
And of course I still hungry. Like, when you feel hungry, when the baby's inside, you feel like baby is look like he want to jump - to pass through your mouth. And I became weak and my body changed to yellow. And when I stood and I would feel dizzy, and I fell sometimes, down. And I thought my life was really freezing, stopped, and I thought I cannot pass. And I said, no matter what, there is a God - creation.
I came from somewhere and that God always give people choice. I believe in a God who put them in that situation. God can use people. And I made a decision to forgive the people who thought I am their enemy. And when I changed that, when I made the decision to forgive them, I became free from angry.
MARTIN: You made the truly remarkable, what many people consider the truly remarkable decision, to name your newborn twins after two of the prison guards.
MARTIN: Why did you do that?
Ms. MAPENDO: When you name somebody mean you love the person. But the decision to name the commanders who killed my husband, it was the way I try to think I can save my children's' life. And that way to try to tell them I am not your enemy. I know nobody understood, but I do that because I forgive you no matter what. I am one of your people.
MARTIN: One of the most difficult things, I think, for any parent, though, is to see a child suffer. And your son, John, was beaten every day that you were in the camps. And your daughter, Amy, essentially saved his life. And what happened is that you made the decision to essentially give Amy to a soldier for a sex partner.
MARTIN: And I'd like to ask you if she has forgiven you.
Ms. MAPENDO: Yes. My daughter - I didn't - first of all, I love my daughter. I did - she knew I did not do because I hate her. She understood exactly the situation. And this is not - sometimes I think this is not our shame. It is not my shame either. It's not my daughter's either. It is the government's shame. I love my children. This is not my shame. And my daughter, I believe my daughter, she's forgiven. And we talked. I told my daughter before, I said, my mom, I will not left you behind, because even though my daughter, she survived, but she pay a lot price. And I believe one day she's going to tell her own story -it will be in the public.
MARTIN: Well, as I said, it is a remarkable story and we do appreciate you being willing to talk about these very difficult things. As we are speaking now, there are many parts of the world which are in conflict, as you know. In the Ivory Coast is in the midst of a terrible, you know, political conflict, which has already led to the loss of life. There are a number of places around the world which are in conflict. What do you feel - what do you think we can draw from your story?
Ms. MAPENDO: I believe it's everybody's responsibility to take the action to save these people's life. There is many thousands of people who are seeking for life, who need my help, who need my voice, who need your voice, who need the world's attention to save their life. If I forgive somebody, if I united by myself with somebody who kill my last husband, or somebody who tortured my life, somebody who kill my own people, you can try the best to unite with that person.
It's not to change the past, it's to change the future for your family, for your neighbor, for your friend. That's change your family. You know, be better, let our children pursue the happiness like everybody because the past is gone.”

It is stories like these that need to be told regardless of how uncomfortable it might make the reader feel.  Otherwise, to remain in ignorance, is to allow this colossal inhumanity to continue.  There is, in fact, a powerful women’s movement arising in all of Africa and it needs the world’s encouragement and support.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Nadia Murad Basee Taha

Nadia Murad Basee Taha (Murad), was born in 1993 in the village of Kocho in Sinjar, Iraq.  Her family members are part of the Yazidi ethno-religious minority.  Their livelihood was faming.  The Yazidis have come into focus and captured the world’s attention on account of the fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has made repeated attempts to annihilate them.  It has been estimated that there are some 700,000 members of this community living in the countries of Iraq, Armenia and Georgia and other parts of the world.  Taha has become an international voice of conscience in regards to her peoples’ plight.  The vast majority of the Yazidis reside in northern Iraq around Mt. Sinjar

Who are the Yazidis?
As mentioned earlier, estimates put the global number of Yazidis at around 700,000 people, with the vast majority of them concentrated in northern Iraq, in and around Sinjar.  The following description is taken from a report that appeared in The Guardian in August of 2014 authored by Raya Jalabi.

“A historically misunderstood group, the Yazidis are predominantly ethnically Kurdish, and have kept alive their syncretic religion for centuries, despite many years of oppression and threatened extermination.

“The ancient religion is rumoured to have been founded by an 11th century Ummayyad sheikh and is derived from Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith founded by the philosopher Zoroaster (~630 – 550 BC), Christianity and Islam. The religion has taken elements from each, ranging from baptism (Christianity) to circumcision (Islam) to reverence of fire as a manifestation from God (derived from Zoroastrianism) and yet remains distinctly non-Abrahamic.   This derivative quality has often led the Yazidis to be referred to as a sect.

“At the core of the Yazidis’ marginalization is their worship of a fallen angel, Melek Tawwus, or Peacock Angel, one of the seven angels that take primacy in their beliefs. Unlike the fall from grace of Satan, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Melek Tawwus was forgiven and returned to heaven by God. The importance of Melek Tawwus to the Yazidis has given them an undeserved reputation for being devil-worshippers – a notoriety that, in the climate of extremism gripping Iraq, has turned life-threatening.

“Under Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries alone, the Yazidis were subject to 72 genocidal massacres. More recently in 2007, hundreds of Yazidis were killed as a spate of car bombs ripped through their stronghold in northern Iraq. With numbers of dead as close to 800, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent, this was one of the single deadliest events to take place during the American-led invasion.

The Yazidis had been denounced as infidels by Al-Qaida in Iraq, a predecessor of Isis, which sanctioned their indiscriminate killing.”

ISIS fighters invaded the village of Kocho where Murad was a student.  She was nineteen years old at the time when she witnessed the massacre that followed resulting in the death of 600 inhabitants including six of Murad’s brothers and step-brothers.  The younger women were forced into slavery.  She was one of 6,700 women taken prisoner by ISIS.  As a prisoner she was beaten, tortured and raped when she made a failed attempt to escape her captors. 
Murad ultimately did escape when her captor unwittingly left the door unlocked in the house where she was imprisoned.  She was eventually smuggled out of ISIS-controlled territory and was safely transported to a refugee camp in the neighboring town of Duhok.  In February of 2015, she gave her first testimony of her horrific ordeal to reporters.  Murad moved to Germany, taking advantage of a refugee program sponsored by the German Government.

The following, is the statement Murad made to the UN Security Council on December 18, 2015 -
Mr. President:
Ladies and gentlemen, Delegates of the Security Council, Good afternoon.
“I would like to thank United States for calling for this debate and for inviting me to speak.
“It is with great sadness, gratitude and hope that I stand before you today as one of the few survivors of one of the world’s oldest ethnic and religious group now threatened by extinction.
“I am here today to speak on the way the so-called Islamic State trafficked us, transformed the Yazidi women into Sex slaves, and the way IS committed a genocide against my people. I am here to tell what has happened to me and my community that lost hope is headed to the unknown, I am here also to speak on behalf of those who remain in captivity.
“I am here to speak about a global terrorist organization that came to end our existence, culture and freedom, to speak about the nightmare that change life for a community overnight.
“Before August 3, 2014, I was living with my family in Kocho village with my single mother and brothers and sisters, our village was beautiful, we were living in peace. But on August 3rd, the militants of the Islamic State, attacked our areas and we found ourselves faced with a brutal genocide. These large groups of armed men of various nationalities in uniforms with weapons, had decided that the Yazidis were infidels and had to be eradicated.
“The Islamic State didn’t come to kill the women and girls, but to use us as spoils of war, as objects to be sold with little or to be gifted for free.
“Their cruelty was not merely opportunistic. The IS soldiers came with a pre-established policy to commit such crimes.
Islamic State had one intention, the destroy the Yazidi identity by force, rape, recruitment of children, and destruction of holy sites they captured, especially against the Yazidi woman where the used rape as a mean of destruction for Yazidi women and girls and ensuring these women will never return to a normal life.
“On August 15th, the Militants called us to the school building, where the separated men from us; I witnessed from the second floor of the school, they took the men and killed them, including 6 of my brothers and step brothers who were killed, and 3 who escaped the mass killing with Creator Blessing.
“We, the women and the children, were driven away to another area. Along the way, they insulted us, they were forcefully touching women and girls.
“I was taken with some other 150 girls to Mosul, in a building in Mosul, there were thousands of Yazidi women of children and who previously captured by ISIL to be offered as gifts.
“A militant approached me, he said they would take me, I was looking down, I was terrified, when I looked up, I saw a big man, he looked like a minister. I cried, I said I won’t want you, I told him you are too big for me, I am a little girl. Another militant walked in, I was still looking down, I saw his feet, he had small feet, I begged him to take me for himself, I was so scared from the big militant.
“The one who took me asked me to convert, I did not, he then one day asked me for “marriage”, I told him I am sick, most of the captive women there had their menstrual period due to the fears. Then he one day forced me to dress for him and put make up, I did, and in that black night, he did it.
“He forced me to serve his militant squad, he insulted me by forcing me to dress improperly. And I was unable to bear more rape and torture, I decided to escape, but I failed and I was captured by on the guards.
“That night, he beat me up, forced to undress, and put me in a room with 6 militants. They continued to commit crimes to my body until I became unconscious.
“After three months of abduction, finally I was able to escape. Now I live in Germany. Thanks to Germany who accepted to treat me.
“But it was not only me who suffered, it was a collective suffering, The Islamic State gave us two choices, covert of die, for those who accepted to convert fearing their lives, their men were killed, women were enslaved and children were recruited.
“To date, 16 mass graves have been found, including a mass grave of 80 women who they didn’t desire, therefore decided to kill. more than 400,000 Yazidis are displaced, more than 40 percent of our areas remain under control of IS, and the liberated areas are not habitable because of the destruction and Yazidi fears to return and live in their homes with peace.
“Over the past week only, more than 70 Yazidi women and children drowned on their way through dangerous paths to Europe, thousands are seeking and exit, a great percentage see immigration in the only choice.
“Mrs. President, Ladies and gentlemen:
“The Islamic State have made the Yazidi women a fuel for human trafficking.
“I am presenting to you our requests and I have hope that humanity has not died, yet:
  1. Bring back more than 3400 women and children currently suffering under the mercy of those who lost every bit of mercy.
2.      Recognize the mass killing, enslavement and human trafficking committed as a genocide, I appeal to you to find a way to open a case before the International Criminal Court.
3.      Liberate our land, Liberate Kocho so that Kocho people can bury the remains of their dead, provide Yazidi Areas and other threaten minorities Areas with international protection so we can return one day and live in peace, I also request that you allocate an international fund to compensate victims and build our areas.
4.      Open your borders for my community, we are victims of a genocide and we have the right to seek a safe place where our dignity will be preserved. We request that to give Yazidis and other threatened minorities the choice to resettle, especially to the victims of human trafficking, as Germany Did.
5.      Bring an End to ISIL, I have seen them, I have lived the pain they caused. We have to bring all human traffickers criminals and Those who committed a Genocide to justice so that the women and children in Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, and everywhere in the world can live in peace. These crimes against women and their freedom shall stop now.”
This statement paints a compelling and moving story of the experiences of a young woman and is an indictment of the abhorrent and extremist behavior of those who are apparently “possessed” by a fanatical ideology that sanctions such unimaginable brutality in the name of religious belief.  It is also illustrates the remarkable persistence, courage and strength of character of Murad in the light of her horrendous experiences in her native Iraq. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Black Pregnancies at Risk in the U.S.

The fundamental racial disparity in the nation's health care system is demonstrated by the following report from the New York Times -

Saturday, April 14, 2018

William Wilberforce

 William Wilberforce, born in August of 1759, was a powerful advocate for the abolition of slavery in the then extensive British Empire.  Great Britain’s involvement in the promulgation of slavery was, for most part, driven by economic and commercial interests that spanned the globe.  The industrial revolution that began in England, was essentially financed by its colonial activities that embraced slavery.

Wilberforce was born into a wealthy and influential family in Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.  Following his father’s untimely death in 1768, his mother sent her nine-year old son to his affluent uncle and aunt who had residences at St. James’ Place, London and Wimbledon.  He eventually became very attached to his “new” family.  His mother, however, was a member of England’s traditional Anglican Church and was concerned about her son’s exposure to Evangelical Christianity and had him return to her at the age of 12.  It was his Aunt Hannah who was especially influential in this regard.
At eighteen years of age (1777), Wilberforce attended St. John’s College in Cambridge University.  He was not an exceptional student; he already had an inheritance and was not particularly motivated.  However, there be became close friends with William Pitt who would later become Prime Minister (1783-1801 and 1804-1806).  Nearing the end of his stay at Cambridge, Wilberforce decided to run for Parliament and won a seat at the age of 21 as an independent.
While he was in Parliament, he distinguished himself as an eloquent speaker.  There, he met James Ramsay in 1783 and for the first time the subject of slavery was discussed.  The Reverend James Ramsay (1733 – 1789) was a ship's surgeon, Anglican priest, and was a leader in the abolitionist movement.  This relationship signaled a change in Wilberforce’s perception.  Between 1784 and 1786, Wilberforce seemed to have experienced an intense religious conversion.  As a result, he was tempted to abandon his political ambitions; however, his good friend and mentor John Newton encouraged him to use his political position to push for social reform.  John Newton was an Anglican clergyman and former slave ship master who eventually spoke out against the slave trade.  In 1789, Wilberforce witnessed his country’s loss of the American Colonies after its defeat in the American Revolutionary War.  This may have impressed upon him the reality of a shrinking British Empire as further encouragement for the need for major reform.
Using his new-found religious conviction, Wilberforce began to lead, guided by conscience.  The slave trade and the abhorrent character of slavery, inspired him to become a forceful advocate for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade.  He was encouraged by Sir Charles Middleton to represent the cause in Parliament.  Charles Middleton was a British Royal Naval officer who, in his later years, played a critical role in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. He was also influenced by the writings of Rev. James Ramsay (as mentioned earlier).  Furthermore, in 1787, Wilberforce was introduced to Thomas Clarkson who gave him a copy of his treatise on slavery entitled, “Essay on Slavery.” They joined together in a collaborative effort to abolish the slave trade that lasted nearly a half of a century.
The following is Wilberforce’s impassioned speech in support of the abolition of slavery to the Parliament in 1789 in its entirety –

“When I consider the magnitude of the subject which I am to bring before the House—a subject, in which the interests, not of this country, nor of Europe alone, but of the whole world, and of posterity, are involved: and when I think, at the same time, on the weakness of the advocate who has undertaken this great cause—when these reflections press upon my mind, it is impossible for me not to feel both terrified and concerned at my own inadequacy to such a task. But when I reflect, however, on the encouragement which I have had, through the whole course of a long and laborious examination of this question, and how much candor I have experienced, and how conviction has increased within my own mind, in proportion as I have advanced in my labours;—when I reflect, especially, that however averse any gentleman may now be, yet we shall all be of one opinion in the end;—when I turn myself to these thoughts, I take courage—I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out, and that I shall be able to justify upon the clearest principles, every resolution in my hand, the avowed end of which is, the total abolition of the slave trade. I wish exceedingly, in the outset, to guard both myself and the House from entering into the subject with any sort of passion. It is not their passions I shall appeal to—I ask only for their cool and impartial reason; and I wish not to take them by surprise, but to deliberate, point by point, upon every part of this question. I mean not to accuse any one, but to take the shame upon myself, in common, indeed, with the whole parliament of Great Britain, for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried on under their authority. We are all guilty - we ought all to plead guilty, and not to exculpate ourselves by throwing the blame on others; and I therefore deprecate every kind of reflection against the various descriptions of people who are more immediately involved in this wretched business. Having now disposed of the first part of this subject, I must speak of the transit of the slaves in the West Indies. This I confess, in my own opinion, is the most wretched part of the whole subject. So much misery condensed in so little room, is more than the human imagination had ever before conceived. I will not accuse the Liverpool merchants: I will allow them, nay, I will believe them to be men of humanity; and I will therefore believe, if it were not for the enormous magnitude and extent of the evil which distracts their attention from individual cases, and makes them think generally, and therefore less feelingly on the subject, they would never have persisted in the trade. I verily believe therefore, if the William Wilberforce’s 1789 Abolition Speech National History Day 2007 61 wretchedness of any one of the many hundred Negroes stowed in each ship could be brought before their view, and remain within the sight of the African Merchant, that there is no one among them whose heart would bear it. Let anyone imagine to himself 6 or 700 of these wretches chained two and two, surrounded with every object that is nauseous and disgusting, diseased, and struggling under every kind of wretchedness! How can we bear to think of such a scene as this? One would think it had been determined to heap upon them all the varieties of bodily pain, for the purpose of blunting the feelings of the mind; and yet, in this very point (to show the power of human prejudice) the situation of the slaves has been described by Mr. Norris, one of the Liverpool delegates, in a manner which, I am sure will convince the House how interest can draw a film across the eyes, so thick, that total blindness could do no more; and how it is our duty therefore to trust not to the reasonings of interested men, or to their way of colouring a transaction... As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might - let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.”

After years of concerted effort during which time public sentiment in favor of abolition grew, Wilberforce put forth a bill called the Slave Trade Act that made it illegal for slave owners to participate in the trading of slaves with the French colonies.  Although this bill fell short of an entire ban on the slave trade, it reduced the slave trade by 75% - it was a masterful piece of legislation.  It became law in 1807.
However, the battle was not yet won.  Finally, in 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed.  This act made slavery illegal in most parts of the Empire.  Just three days after this monumental reform in British law and custom, Wilberforce died on July 29, 1833.
Without Wilberforce’s persistent and undaunted efforts to end the support of slavery In the British Empire, it probably would not have happened in a timely fashion.  It would take some thirty years before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863} that ended slavery in the United States in the midst of the disastrous American Civil War.