Monday, October 31, 2005

Demonizing Dual Citizens

from The Washington Post:
A year after Samuel Huntington's book "Who Are We?'" portrayed Hispanic immigrants as the greatest threat to U.S. national unity, Stanley Renshon has written a book that is likely to once again stir up suspicions toward the foreign-born -- particularly those who have gone a step further by becoming naturalized citizens while maintaining citizenship in their countries of origin.

In "The 50 Percent American: Immigration and National Identity in an Age of Terror'' (Georgetown University Press), Renshon, a professor of political science at the City University of New York, argues that dual citizens have a "shallower attachment to the American national community.''

In Renshon's mind, "the question of American national identity and the strength of our attachments to the American national community are ... in an age of terrorism ... perhaps the most important domestic national issue facing this country.''

The danger, Renshon contends, is that dual citizens have been brought up outside the United Sates and their attentions are divided between their adopted home and their countries of origin. According to Renshon, attachment to a nation is patriotism, something which dual citizens critically lack.

What Renshon is really searching for, as was Huntington before him, is a rationale for why immigrants today threaten the long-term national interests and viability of the United States. But to find one, Renshon pursues arguments that defy common sense and reveal a bizarre generalization that all immigrants are potentially terrorists.

The connections that dual citizens maintain to their countries of origin -- voting in elections, investing in family and business affairs -- are worrisome to Renshon. These connections create conflicts of interest that would be a liability if the United States were ever at war with one of 150 countries that today allow some form of dual citizenship.

In Renshon's world, dual citizens sound like potential sociopaths.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rosa Parks Dies at Age 92

from the Washington Post:
Rosa Parks, the dignified African American seamstress whose refusal to surrender a bus seat to a white man launched the modern civil rights movement and inspired generations of activists, died last night at her home in Detroit, the Wayne County medical examiner's office said. She was 92.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cheney Plan Exempts CIA From Bill Barring Abuse of Detainees

from the Washington Post:
The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody.

The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by "an element of the United States government" other than the Defense Department.

Although most detainees in U.S. custody in the war on terrorism are held by the U.S. military, the CIA is said by former intelligence officials and others to be holding several dozen detainees of particular intelligence interest at locations overseas -- including senior al Qaeda figures Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida.

Cheney's proposal is drafted in such a way that the exemption from the rule barring ill treatment could require a presidential finding that "such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack." But the precise applicability of this section is not clear, and none of those involved in last week's discussions would discuss it openly yesterday.

McCain, the principal sponsor of the legislation, rejected the proposed exemption at the meeting with Cheney, according to a government source who spoke without authorization and on the condition of anonymity. McCain spokeswoman Eileen McMenamin declined to comment. But the exemption has been assailed by human rights experts critical of the administration's handling of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is the first time they've said explicitly that the intelligence community should be allowed to treat prisoners inhumanely," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "In the past, they've only said that the law does not forbid inhumane treatment." Now, he said, the administration is saying more concretely that it cannot be forbidden.

from the New York Times:
Amid all the natural and political disasters it faces, the White House is certainly tireless in its effort to legalize torture. This week, Vice President Dick Cheney proposed a novel solution for the moral and legal problems raised by the use of American soldiers to abuse prisoners and the practice of turning captives over to governments willing to act as proxies in doing the torturing. Mr. Cheney wants to make it legal for the Central Intelligence Agency to do this wet work.

Mr. Cheney's proposal was made in secret to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who won the votes of 89 other senators this month to require the civilized treatment of prisoners at camps run by America's military and intelligence agencies. Mr. McCain's legislation, an amendment to the Defense Department budget bill, would ban the "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners. In other words, it would impose age-old standards of democracy and decency on the new prisons.

President Bush's threat to veto the entire military budget over this issue was bizarre enough by itself, considering that the amendment has the support of more than two dozen former military leaders, including Colin Powell. They know that torture doesn't produce reliable intelligence and endangers Americans' lives.

But Mr. Cheney's proposal was even more ludicrous. It would give the president the power to allow government agencies outside the Defense Department (the administration has in mind the C.I.A.) to mistreat and torture prisoners as long as that behavior was part of "counterterrorism operations conducted abroad" and they were not American citizens. That would neatly legalize the illegal prisons the C.I.A. is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition. It also raises disturbing questions about Iraq, which the Bush administration has falsely labeled a counterterrorism operation.

Mr. McCain was right to reject this absurd proposal. The House should reject it as well.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Report Shatters Myths about U.S. Women's Equality

from the National Organization for Women:
It turns out that when it comes to narrowing the gender gap, the United States is being outdone by 16 countries, including Estonia and Lithuania. For a country that considers itself the best of the best, in truth the U.S. barely made better marks than Costa Rica, Poland, Belgium and the Slovak Republic. The World Economic Forum, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization based in Switzerland, ranks the U.S. a low 17 out of 58 countries surveyed in measuring the global gender gap. Both developed and developing countries were included in the survey, showing that the state of gender equity in the world is meager at best.

"Women's Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap" judged each country based on five criteria, with Sweden ranking No. 1 and Egypt coming in last place. The criteria included measures of health and well-being, economic participation, economic opportunity, political empowerment and educational attainment.

The U.S. was ranked 19th in economic participation for women and in political empowerment, but earned the low rank of 46th for economic opportunity and 42nd for health and well-being. Other countries that outrank the U.S. on the overall score include: Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Latvia, France, Netherlands and Ireland.

New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Finland, United Kingdom and Germany led the list of nations that offer the most political empowerment for women - not surprisingly, those are also among the wealthiest and most democratic nations. While poorer countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt ranked at the low end of the women's political empowerment scale, the wealthier nations of Japan, Korea and Italy had similarly low scores on that measure.

Worldwide, working women are still averaging slightly less than 78 percent of the wages given to men. Women, who in some parts of the world provide more than 70 percent of agricultural labor and produce 90 percent of the food, are not even represented in budget deliberations. Women also continue to be a rarity in high level government positions, meaning that resource allocation is being decided without their input.

In the U.S., the legal and social systems continue to use maternity laws to penalize women economically for childbirth and child care responsibilities. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, a majority of countries offer paid maternity leave, some with a guaranteed wage of 50 to 100 percent of salary. The United States is one of the exceptions, guaranteeing nothing at all to women who work for small and mid-size employers (under 75 employees), and requiring only 12 weeks of leave, completely unpaid, for those at large companies.

This fact puts U.S. women on the same playing field as women in Swaziland, Lesotho and Papua New Guinea. This is highlighted by a U.S. study which found that 49 percent of high-achieving women have no children, as compared to only 19 percent of high-achieving men. This shows that despite the gains made for women in the past several decades, many women are nonetheless forced to choose between success in her career and having children.

Some good news is that the U.S. ranked eighth in educational attainment, which the report's authors identify as "the most fundamental prerequisite for empowering women in all spheres of society." Despite this, the U.S. ranked poorly in the categories of health and well-being, and economic opportunity. The low ranking of the U.S. is primarily due to our country's large number of adolescents bearing children and the high maternal mortality ratio, especially given the greater numbers of physicians available in the U.S.

In developed countries such as the U.S., women gain employment with ease, but that employment tends to be concentrated in unskilled or poorly paid jobs which leave no room for promotion or better opportunities. The "glass ceiling" continues to prevent women in the U.S. and many other countries from attaining the opportunity for high advancement in their careers. Careers that have been "feminized," such as nursing and teaching, offer persistently lower paying jobs simply because they are seen as women's work.

This report shatters any myth that the U.S. is at the top when it comes to women's empowerment and shows how poorly this country continues to do in reducing the economic gap between men and women. For a country that boasts to the world about women's empowerment, in actuality the U.S. has a long way to go before making any claim of gender equality. Perhaps this report will help the U.S. and other countries to realize that women are important contributors to the world's economies, and encourage those countries to ensure that women are rewarded fairly and equitably for their work, to improve opportunities for women to share in political and economic power and to assure equal treatment through laws and constitutional provisions.

Rumsfeld Wants Speedy Probe of Body-Burning Allegations

from the Washington Post:
October 23, 2005

VILNIUS, Lithuania, Oct. 22 -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Saturday that he wanted U.S. commanders in Afghanistan to expedite their investigation of allegations that U.S. soldiers burned the remains of Taliban fighters they had killed, and then used the scene for propaganda purposes.

Investigators should proceed with a "sense of urgency," Rumsfeld said, in light of the potential for damage to U.S. interests from a backlash in the Muslim world.

Rumsfeld said Pentagon lawyers had advised him to be careful about what he says because his remarks about specifics of the case could complicate the proceedings.

Rumsfeld made it clear that he was worried by the allegations, whatever their merit.

"The reality is that charges of that type are harmful," he said. "They don't represent the overwhelmingly positive behavior of the men and women in uniform who do such a wonderful job. It's always disappointing when there are charges like that. It's particularly disappointing when they're true. That needs to be determined, but one hates to see the adverse effect of it, if it is true."

The defense secretary cited as an example the riots in Afghanistan this year that some people linked to anger over reports that a copy of the Koran was flushed down a toilet by U.S. military personnel in the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. U.S. investigators said they found no evidence of such an incident, but confirmed other examples of Koran abuse.

Rumsfeld was in the Lithuanian capital to attend meetings of NATO defense ministers beginning Sunday.