Knitting and Sljivovica

Aug 8, 2012

Texas Bases Execution Decisions on John Steinbeck Novel


Marvin Wilson sucked his thumb into his adulthood, reads at a second-grade level, has an IQ of 61, doesn’t know the difference between left and right, and as a child couldn’t wear a belt without cutting off his circulation.

This evening, he was executed in Texas.

Even though a decade ago the Supreme Court ruled, in Atkins v. Virginia, that low IQ would exempt a defendant from execution, Texas chooses to interpret that decision in a manner that allows them to poison to death defendants like Wilson:

Texas’s interpretation of Atkins isn’t that mentally disabled people can’t be executed; it’s that there’s a threshold of disability at which execution is no longer acceptable.


Texas’ standards for determining a convicted murderer’s mental competence came from the least scientific document imaginable—a John Steinbeck novel. As the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington explained:

The determinants were posited around the character Lennie Small in Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men.

“Most Texas citizens,” the argument ran, “might agree that Steinbeck’s Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt” from execution. By implication anyone less impaired than Steinbeck’s fictional migrant ranch worker should have no constitutional protection.

Over the past month or so, there have been intense debates about whether or not I have a right not to carry health insurance, about whether or not the Founders would have put semi-automatic weapons on their Second Amendment list of approved arms, and — of course — about tax exemptions for a presidential candidate’s Olympics-bound horse.

But let’s remember that virtually no one is debating the morality of the death penalty.

Aug 6, 2012

This Tuesday, Texas is set to execute a mentally retarded man


Note: While “mentally retarded” may not be a socially acceptable term and a slur, it is a legal term used to describe those who are developmentally disabled.

I highly encourage looking over the Supreme Court case, Atkins v. Virginia (2002), which ruled that the execution of individuals deemed “mentally retarded” violated the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. However, as is the issue here, what is often disputed is determining the degree of mental retardation which renders a personal ineligible to be executed and the Court decided that issue should be left up to the states to solve. Whether the Supreme Court grants the case in question certiorari will be very interesting.

(Source: think-progress)

May 9, 2012

Roma: Europe’s Silent Minority


Anti-immigration and anti-Muslim vitriol pervades the European press. This focus obscures the fact that the largest and most disenfranchised minority on the continent is native to Europe: the Roma.

Known as Europe’s “gypsies,” there are between 10 and 16 million Roma currently living in the EU. Most reside in Eastern countries that joined the Union in 2004 and 2007. The Roma are plagued by lower educational achievement, higher unemployment and higher birth rates than their co-nationals. Roma children tend to cluster in segregated schools and sometimes are even sequestered in schools for the mentally handicapped, leaving them without the skills necessary to enter the workforce.

Widespread discrimination against the Roma can be public and overt: in 2010, for example, the French government suddenly deported hundreds of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma. Paris received little more than a slap on the wrist from the European Commission for this extra-legal action. On the one hand, as European citizens, the Roma are entitled to freedom of movement; on the other, the French claimed they were not making substantive progress toward finding work and integrating into French society. Rather than work toward reconciling these competing imperatives, the European Commission backed down and avoided conflict.

The Roma are also lightning rods for hate crimes and fanaticism. In Hungary, for example, supporters of the far-right party Jobbik claim that one of the government’s major failures is its inability to combat “gypsy crime.” Vigilante groups seeking to remedy the situation sprung up in several parts of the country. One of the most extreme incidents took place in the village of Gyögyöspata last March when the vigilante group Vedero infiltrated the town, harassed Roma residents and started an armed brawl. Subsequently, more than 100 Roma moved out. Although such armed militant groups were banned last April, police harassment, employment discrimination and the subtler, everyday racism that permeates society remain features of daily life.

So far, the European Union has failed to take the lead on the issue of Roma integration, leaving the task instead to national governments. Formulating a plan to integrate the Roma was one condition for Romania and Bulgaria’s EU accession, but the EU has no plan to assist with the actual implementation. Not surprisingly, little progress has been made.

There was an undeniable glimmer of hope when the Decade of Roma Inclusion was launched in 2005, spearheaded by twelve countries with large Roma populations. Although the initiative itself is laudable and represents a government-level acknowledgement of the need to bring Roma into society, seven years later there has yet to be any monitoring and evaluation of programs. At best, the Decade is an opportunity for a lot of talk and no action; at worst, it represents yet another sinkhole for EU development money to be sucked into opportunistic politicians’ pockets.

The exclusion of Roma from European society is a pan-European problem. The leadership behind solving it must come from the European Union for several reasons. First, as European citizens and passport holders, the Roma must be allowed to move freely from country to country. Roma who do not feel tied to local communities in the East are able to move to Western Europe in the hope of finding better jobs or more generous welfare states. Integration of these migrating populations is necessary in order to prevent situations like the mass French deportation two years ago.

Second, the Roma represent the largest and fastest-growing minority group in Europe. By failing to integrate them into local economies, governments are missing out on thousands of Euros of revenue. Especially in times of crisis, Europe cannot afford a systemically disenfranchised population that will be a drag on the economy.

Third, the countries with the largest Roma populations are also among Europe’s poorest. By leaving integration to national governments, the EU is saddling countries that have little spare cash and less political will with an additional burden. As a result, pro-Roma initiatives take a back seat to more pressing concerns, enabling related funds to continue to be ill spent.

Finally, continuing discrimination against the Roma systemically undermines the European project of inclusion and equality for all its citizens. If the European Union cannot lead the way in improving the quality of life for one of its most disenfranchised minorities, then it reveals itself as hollow at the core. For the sake of its own integrity, and for the future of European cooperation, it is therefore imperative that in the coming years the European Union makes Roma integration a priority.

The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs

(via golden-zephyr-deactivated201401)

May 8, 2012

Italian football fans threaten pogrom against ethnic Roma


Police in the Adriatic port city of Pescara are fighting to prevent a potential pogrom after rising tensions between football fans and the local Roma community – the ethnic minority, rather than the football club of the same name.

The conflict has seen a murder and petrol-bomb attacks in the past few days – with the threat of worse to come.

Roma, often regarded as the most discriminated-against ethnic group in Europe, have already been the target of vicious attacks in other Italian cities, most notably in Naples where the local Camorra mafia have torched gypsy camps.

Now violent elements among Pescara’s football fans have told Roma that they have five days to leave the city or face the consequences.

The simmering ill feeling between the violent fans and local gypsies exploded on Tuesday evening when one supporter, Domenico Rigante, 24, was shot and later died in hospital after a group of six Roma broke into a house and attacked him.

The suspected Roma killer, Massimo Ciarelli, 29, had, according to local press reports, threatened to kill the victim a week earlier following an argument involving Mr Rigante and his twin brother Antonio. It has also emerged that Mr Ciarelli was arrested in 2005 following a shooting incident involving other Roma. Even before Mr Rigante died in hospital, extremist Pescara supporters, who are said to have links with the neo-fascist Forza Nuova political party, retaliated with petrol bomb attacks on Mr Ciarelli’s house.

On Thursday evening, a group of Pescara supporters, who call themselves the Rangers, held up a banner outside the town hall which read: “You have five days to drive them from the city”.

Pescara supporters plan a provocative demonstration on Sunday in the Fontanelle district, the heart of the city’s Roma enclave. This will be followed by a meeting in front of the town hall to press home their demands for the group to be cleared from Pescara.

One message that has sprung up on walls around the city reads: “If they don’t leave, we’ll expel them. This won’t be racism but a general clean up, whether they’re Roma or not.” Similar threats have appeared on Facebook.

Pescara’s mayor, Luigi Albore Mascia, has already held an emergency meeting with police chiefs in the hope of preventing further violence; extra police have already been put on duty.

Mr Mascia said: “There is concern in the city but we’re hoping that things don’t get out of control. Pescara is not the ‘wild west’ that many make it out to be. I for one am not signing up to intolerance and racism, and I’m launching an appeal for reasonableness.”

A police spokesman said the murder of Mr Rigante was the culmination of violence and confrontations between football fans and Roma “that had nothing to do with football”.

Alessandro Baldati, a spokesman for the local Right of Pescara political group, told La Stampa newspaper that the city needed policies to ensure that Roma “respect the rules, show public spirit and a life marked by work and non-violence and the proper education of children”.

Even one leading consumer group, Codici, the Centre for the Rights of the Citizen, issued a thinly veiled attack on the criminal elements in the Roma community: “Criminality has upped the battle against those of us it considers enemies, and it shows it has no compunction about killing on a whim.”

But Nazareno Guarnieri, the president of the National Roma Foundation, said it was wrong to use the killing as an excuse to slur all Roma. “The person responsible must be caught and put in prison like any other criminal,” he said.

“The Roma community is not delinquent. If anything, the responsibility lies with local authorities and the institutions in the sense that there are insufficient opportunities for them to avoid marginalisation and social exclusion.”

The Independant

May 6, 2012

Serbia: Bulldozers level Romani camp in Belgrade


The Mediafax press agency cites Agence-France Presse as reporting that at least 250 Romani families were removed last week from an encampment on the outskirts of the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Their settlement was subsequently destroyed. The Belgrade city hall is responsible for the eviction of thousands of Romani people.

Workers hired by a private firm loaded the Romani residents’ property onto trucks. Their shelters, made of cardboard, planks, and sheet metal, were then razed to the ground with bulldozers. Some of the Romani people were transported to their previous places of residence in southern Serbia, while others were moved into temporary “container” buildings on the outskirts of Belgrade.

Serbia, a country of 10 million, has one of the largest Romani populations in Europe. According to official records, there are 100 000 Romani inhabitants, but experts assume there may be actually almost half a million Romani people living in the Balkan state.

May 6, 2012

Evicted Roma face attacks in new Belgrade settlement


Belgrade, Budapest, 4 May 2012: The European Roma Rights Centre sent a letter to Serbian authorities yesterday urging protection of Romani people attacked in the settlement of Jabučki Rit. The Roma were among those forcibly evicted from Belgrade’s Belvil settlement last week.

On 1 May around 15 to 20 masked individuals attacked the settlement, shouting racist slogans including “Serbia for Serbs, Roma out of Serbia.” They also drew a swastika on one of the metal containers in which the Roma are living. To date, only one suspect has been arrested; a resident of Jabučki Rit.

“The Roma forcibly evicted from Belvil have the right to live safely in their new accommodation,” said ERRC Chair, Robert Kushen. “Any re-housing plans must address the safety of Roma being forced to relocate and offer the chance of real integration and inclusion.”

Serbian authorities have a responsibility under international law to provide adequate alternative accommodation to the evicted Roma and to ensure that evicted persons are protected from further human rights violations. The ERRC called on Belgrade police and prosecutors to fully investigate the attack and bring all perpetrators to justice. The ERRC also urged Belgrade authorities to provide adequate and appropriate protection to all Roma forcibly relocated from the Belvil settlement.

European Roma Rights Centre

Apr 25, 2012

California bill would crack down on ‘ex-gay’ therapy


A California state Senate committee on Monday approved a bill that aims to protect citizens against “reparative” therapies intended to change the sexual orientation of LGBT people.

By a vote of 5-3, the state Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development advanced SB 1172, which would ban children under 18 from receiving so-called “ex-gay” therapies. Therapists would also have to provide adults receiving treatment with consent forms to warn them of potential dangers.

“An individual’s sexual orientation, whether homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual, is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming,” the bill states. “Under no circumstances shall a patient under 18 years of age undergo sexual orientation change efforts, regardless of the willingness of a patient’s parent, guardian, conservator, or other person to authorize such efforts.”

For adult patients, the measure would mandate a consent form with the following warning:

Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

“Under the guise of a California license, some therapists are taking advantage of vulnerable people by pushing dangerous sexual orientation-change efforts,” bill author Sen. Ted W. Lieu (D) said in a press advisory Monday.

“Clearly, so-called conversion or reparative therapy is scientifically ineffective and has resulted in much harm,” Lieu added. “Simply put, this is an unacceptable therapeutic practice.”

While this is great and all, the reason trans* folks aren’t included in that little disclaimer is because trans* folks are still considered as having a mental disorder by the American Psychological Association.  So, while this effort against “ex-gay therapy” is good to some degree, it’s important to realize that the T* in GLBT* is still being left behind in these endeavors for queer acceptance.  We cannot continue moving forward like this without our trans* brothers and sisters. 

(via youbestnotmiss)

Apr 17, 2012

"Now, if the Democratic rank and file haven’t necessarily learned to love the bomb - though many certainly have - they have at least learned to stop worrying about it. Barack Obama may have dramatically expanded the war in Afghanistan, launched twice as many drone strikes in Pakistan as his predecessor and dropped women-and-children killing cluster bombs in Yemen, but peruse a liberal magazine or blog and you’re more likely to find a strongly worded denunciation of Rush Limbaugh than the president. War isn’t over, but one could be forgiven for thinking that it is."

TV presenter Rachel Maddow’s latest book speaks out against war, but not the system which makes wars inevitable. - Charles Davis.

Such an important critical analysis of how many liberal democrats and “peace” activists speak against the idea of war but rarely engage in actively criticizing the Empire that enables the possibility, funding and activation of war.

For one, Maddow, a self-described “national security liberal” who is “all about counterterrorism”, writes more like a politician seeking to flatter her US audience than a teller of tough, uncomfortable truths. While at times briefly alluding to its war-filled past, Maddow repeatedly paints a picture of the US as, at heart, a peaceful nation, one with a government structured by its noble founding founders with a “deliberate peaceable bias”. It is only recently, she maintains - post-World War II, but especially since Ronald Reagan - that war and a gargantuan military-industrial complex have been deemed “normal”.


Though many might perceive it as an anti-war work, Maddow’s overriding concern seems to be not so much the wars themselves - certainly not the non-American victims of them, who are never once mentioned - but the modern, unilateral way in which we go about fighting them. Reagan, for example, invaded Grenada without first seeking approval from Congress and armed and funded right-wing insurgents in Nicaragua despite a congressional prohibition, facts she holds responsible for the creation of all that “‘imperial presidency’ malarkey”.


Maddow doesn’t tell her readers any of that. Nor does she advocate a radical break from the system of hierarchical power that allows a few people in Washington - one if you’re a unilateralist, 535 if you’re not - to have the literal power to destroy the world. Rather: “The good news is we don’t need a radical new vision of post-Cold War American power,” she says. “We just need a ‘small c’ conservative return to our constitutional roots, a course correction.”

Just read the damn thing. It takes guts to face the Empire, the big guns that engage in war. Rarely will you find a media personality, political entity or activist questioning the validity of the Empire, of the Super Power. Those who do, have very little control and representation in the spheres where political narratives are established.

(via mehreenkasana)

Mehreen makes a very good and important point - those who routinely challenge conventional wisdom aren’t given the platforms that those who don’t are. It sounds cynical but it’s a reality. Rachel Maddow is a talk show host on a once heavily pro-war network that still touts neoconservative talking points. The U.S. media is all about access, that is, never angering politicians or government officials in hopes that they’ll appear on and return to your show or allow you to interview them in the future so you get your high ratings, pricey ad spots, and you sell more copies of your printed media. The heads of MSNBC have said that they are “the [Washington] establishment.” This is true of every mainstream cable network and media outlet. The military industrial complex is, arguably, the most powerful and largest actor in U.S. politics so, of course, presenting a challenge to U.S. foreign policy is going to be seen by Washington as unfavorable.

It’s not exactly fair to single Maddow out but using her as an example does a nice job of making the point that even the mainstream media giants who seem to be representative of leftist/progressive viewpoints really aren’t and there are a number of reasons why this is true, including all of the silly patriotic ideals we’ve absorbed, but much of it has to do with the nature of our media and their reluctance to challenge Washington conventional wisdom.

(via mohandasgandhi)

(via mohandasgandhi)

Mar 8, 2012

"The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

Eric Holder, explaining why there’s no constitutional problem with the Obama adminstration’s series of targeted killings overseas.

The whole thing is at once fascinating and absolutely maddening:

Broadly outlining the guidelines the Obama administration has used to conduct lethal drone stikes overseas, Holder said the U.S. government could legally target a senior operational al Qaeda leader who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans if the individual (1) posed an imminent threat of violence; (2) could not feasibly be captured; and (3) if the operation was conducted in line with war principles.


Holder said that the “imminent threat” evaluation had to take into account what would happen if the U.S. missed its window of opportunity and said the Constitution did not require the President to “delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning.”

The question of whether the capture of a terrorist is feasible is “a fact-specific, and potentially time-sensitive, question,” said Holder, adding that the “nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide” meant capture wasn’t always possible.

Holder also said that the administration informs members of Congress about counterterrorism activities and the legal framework for targeting individuals for killing, which he said was part of a system of “robust oversight”

“The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential - but, as a recent court decision makes clear, it does not require judicial approval before the President may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war - even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen,” Holder said.

Read the whole piece here.

I understand Holder to be claiming that the administration is providing due process by reviewing these case very thoroughly … but isn’t it pretty clear that the phrase in question, ”due process of law,” taken its entirety, more than implies a judicial review process? Does Holder think he’s going to convince many people who are critical of the policy with this line of reasoning?

(via kohenari)

The thing is, the guarantee of due process of law has been construed as being applicable to both U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike. As early as 1908 in Twining v. New Jersey, the Supreme Court declared, via Justice Moody, that the denial of the first eight amendments, which guarantee a number of judicial rights, is a denial of due process of law precisely because “they are of such a nature that they are included in the conception of due process of law.” In other words, the liberties included in due process of law are of such a high protected status not because they are enumerated in the first eight amendments but because they are fundamental and inalienable rights. One of the conclusions of this case was that it is an inalienable right of those accused of committing a crime being granted a trial heard by a court with proper jurisdiction. The Court has incorporated just about every provision of the Bill of Rights into the Due Process Clause, including the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees certain rights (procedural due process) to the criminally accused. It is beyond absurd to claim these rights guaranteed by the Constitution do not entail a judicial process.

Furthermore, even if one were to grant the Executive the privileges that come with war powers, assuming the conditions of national emergency are sufficient such that said powers be permissible, the assassination of a U.S. citizen (even abroad) is not consistent with the rights of the criminally accused during wartime guaranteed by our Constitution, as has been determined by our Courts. To allow the Executive to completely bypass the judicial process, even during a time in which conditions might be reasonably considered consistent with those of warfare, on the basis that due process does not entail or imply a fair judicial process, goes against the very foundations by which our country was founded and the principles guaranteed by our Constitution that have been consistently upheld by our Courts. Holder and the Obama administration are using an interpretation of the Constitution that completely alienates the Judiciary branch from the process of “bringing alleged terrorists to justice,” placing checks on the Executive, and upholding the Constitution. This interpretation allows the Executive to serve as the Judiciary, violating one of our most basic and fundamental principles of democracy.

(via mohandasgandhi)

(via mohandasgandhi)

Dec 15, 2011

“Don’t Be Fooled”: The Indefinite Detention Bill DOES Apply to American Citizens


by WashingtonsBlog 

Even at this 11th hour – when all of our liberties and freedom are about to go down the drain – many people still don’t understand that the indefinite detention bill passed by Congress allows indefinite detention of Americans on American soil.

The bill is confusing. As Wired noted on December 1st:

It’s confusing, because two different sections of the bill seem to contradict each other, but in the judgment of the University of Texas’ Robert Chesney — a nonpartisan authority on military detention — “U.S. citizens are included in the grant of detention authority.”

retired admiral, Judge Advocate General and Dean Emeritus of the University of New Hampshire School of Law also says that it applies to American citizens on American soil.

The ACLU notes:

Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.

But you don’t have to believe us. Instead, read what one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham said about it on the Senate floor: “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”

Another sponsor of the bill – Senator Levin – has also repeatedly said that the bill applies to American citizens on American soil, citing the Supreme Court case of Hamdi which ruled that American citizens can be treated as enemy combatants:

“The Supreme Court has recently ruled there is no bar to the United States holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant,” said Levin. “This is the Supreme Court speaking.“

Levin again stressed recently that the bill applies to American citizens, and said that it was president Obama who requested that it do so:

Under questioning from Rand Paul, another co-sponsor – John McCain – said that Americans suspected of terrorism could not only be indefinitely detained, but could be sent to Guantanamo:

U.S. Congressman Justin Amash states in a letter to Congress:

The Senate’s [bill] does not even distinguish between American citizens and non-citizens, or between persons caught domestically and abroad. The President’s power, in his discretion, to detain persons he determines have supported associated forces applies just as strongly to Americans seized on U.S. soil as it does to foreigners captured on a far away battlefield.

Two retired 4-star generals (Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar) write in the New York Times:

One provision [in the bill] would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson – General Colin Powell’s chief of staff – says that the bill is a big step towards tyranny at home.  Congressman Ron Paul says that it will establish martial law in America.

Indeed, Amash accuses lawmakers of attempting to intentionally mislead the American people by writing a bill which appears at first glance to exclude U.S. citizens, when it actually includes us:

Pres. Obama and many Members of Congress believe the President ALREADY has the authority the bill grants him. Legally, of course, he does not. This language was inserted to keep proponents and opponents of the bill appeased, while permitting the President to assert that the improper power he has claimed all along is now in statute.


They will say that American citizens are specifically exempted under the following language in Sec. 1032: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” Don’t be fooled. All this says is that the President is not REQUIRED to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial. It still PERMITS him to do so.


(via sanityscraps)