Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Good news for widows in India

India - 7th largest country, 2nd most people

We have to take good news when and wherever we can find it.  Kai Schultz found good things happening in Vrindavan, India, not far from Delhi.

Nirmala Maheshwari told Kai that she had lost her social value in the eyes of her family, and her son and other relatives starved and beat her.

She found refuge, however, in a government-sponsored ashram for widows.

Without a husband, a small portion of India’s approximately 40 million widows are violently purged from their homes each year.
But many of India’s castaway widows — most of them illiterate, some married off as infants — have seen significant improvements in their quality of life over the last few years. Prodded by a flurry of public petitions and court rulings, the government and rights groups have invested tens of millions of dollars into lifting the conditions of abandoned women.

Thank you for this small locus of hope, Kai.  See the full story at

How to wreck a life

By Stefan Kühn - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
You want to wreck a life?

First start with some one young, a child or a teenager.  Offer her a job, a trip, an opportunity to follow her dream.  Or his dream.

Then sexually abuse her or  him.  For details, see today's New York Times report, "The sisters who first tried to take down Jeffrey Epstein... An Early Effort to Unmask Epstein Falls on Deaf Ears."

Make sure that you bring powerful people in to your game--that way they will be compromised and will protect you if the victim reports the abuse or goes to court.

Threaten her with losing her dream if she reports anything to the police.  If necessary, threaten her life--as Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell did to Maria Farmer.

Tell her or him that no one will believe her if she tells.  It's true--the police probably won't do anything, especially if it's outside their jurisdiction and if it's not quite rape and it's the 1990s.

If she goes to the media, contact the journal's owner to make sure the report does not include sexual abuse.  Epstein & co. did this with Vanity Fair in 2003.

After your victim gives up her dream and flees New York City or whatever city you are using, make sure she never knows how many others you have attacked.  Don't let them communicate and form a #metoo movement or a joint lawsuit.

At this point you will have successfully wrecked her life.

And you will have wrecked your own too.

Epilogue:  In this case,  in 2019, Maria Farmer lives and is putting herself back together--after Epstein's grotesque death.  Thank you, Mike Baker and the NYTimes, for your reporting.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Pretty please

Wildflowers persisting...
Women's suffrage
Women's right to vote
We suffer you to vote. 
We allow you to vote. 
"Suffer the little ones to come unto me" said Jesus.
"Allow the little ones to come unto me."

We may suffer you to vote.
We hold the power.
We may allow you to vote if you say pretty please.
We may suffer you to vote.
We may suffer.
We may lose some of our power.
No, we can't suffer you to vote.

If you say pretty please.
If you are pretty.
If you are good.
If you vote the way we want you to vote.
If you don't cancel out my vote.
If you are silent.
If you don't rock the boat.

If you don't try to run for office.
If you don't run for Congress.
If you don't run for president.
If you don't don't don't.

We can do whatever we want.
They let us.
They don't care.
They don't tell.
They don't speak.
We don't listen.
No one listens.
No one cares.

We suffer.
We speak.
We tell.
We vote.
We run for office.
Nevertheless, she persisted.

Humiliating--how we won the right to vote

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
 Public Domain

They call it "Women's Equality Day," but that's a euphemism.

It wasn't the day women won equality--it was just the day US women finally won the right to vote. 

A 24-year-old boy in Tennessee voted yes--because his mama asked him to "be a good boy" and give her and all American women the right to participate in elections.  That was on August 18.  Eight days later, the 19th Amendment became law.

After attempts to delay it, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed it into law at his home on August 26, though he denied notable suffragists Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt's requests to film the signing. It was a quiet but hard-earned win for the women's rights movement.
These circumstances surrounding my right to vote are humiliating--and the fact that women had to work for this right from 1848 to 1920--72 years--is outrageous.  Aug. 26 was not even marked as a milestone until 1971 when Rep. Bella Abzug pressured Congress to honor women's suffrage.  

Actually, women still don't have equality in the US or anywhere else. 

Case in point, the defeat of a qualified woman presidential nominee by an unqualified fool whose campaign constantly highlighted his possession of the XY chromosome and the appendage that goes with it.

He hadn't even done a good job of managing his little tail, but he was given the US and its nuclear codes to manage.  The experienced diplomat and negotiator was sent home--she was female.

Thanks to the Electoral College, a system of weighing votes in southern states more heavily than votes in other states, we have a goofus in the White House.  Never mind that Hillary Rodham Clinton won 2.9 million more votes than he did.

Time Magazine explained:
If the system’s pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.
Southerner Thomas Jefferson, for example, won the election of 1800-01 against Northerner John Adams in a race where the slavery-skew of the electoral college was the decisive margin of victory... Thomas Jefferson metaphorically rode into the executive mansion on the backs of slaves.

Then the celebrity joker rode into the White House in 2016 on the backs of slaves, women, immigrants, and others.  It has been a long three years, but women are patient.  We will dump him in 2020.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Queen Njinga the Brave

Queen Njinga of Ndongo, 1583-1663

Queen Njinga ruled Ndongo (now called Angola) starting in 1624.

She fought off the Portuguese, who were attacking her nation and kidnapping her people to sell them for slaves.

For many years she fought and sheltered runaway slaves.

Her statue was set up in Luanda, Angola, in 2002.

Who knew?

Not I--until the 1619 Project featured her.  Thank you, New York Times.

Here's a list of all the articles in the project.

The 1619 Project: Slavery Revealed

In August, 1619, a ship landed in Jamestown
with 20 African slaves.

Read this.  Listen to it.  Absorb it into your understanding of who you are, what your nation has been, and what it is now.

The 1619 Project was created by reporters and editors at the NY Times to help Americans understand how pervasive slavery was in the birth of our nation and how much history affects our lives and institutions today. 

The 1619 Project is a program organized by The New York Times with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival in America of the first enslaved people from West Africa. It is an interactive project by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the New York Times, with contributions by the paper's writers, including essays, poems, short fiction, and a photo essay.[1] Originally conceived of as a special issue for August 20, it was soon turned into a full-fledged project, including coverage in the paper and on the website.[2]
The New York Times describes the project as a "major initiative (...) observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery".[3] The project was almost exclusively contributed to by Black academics, journalists and writers. According to Hannah-Jones, all the contributions were deeply researched, and arguments verified by a team of fact-checkers in consultation with a panel of historians.
Pt. 1 1455-1775 Slavery, Power, and the Human Cost
Pt. 2 1776-1808 The Limits of Freedom
Pt. 3 1809-1865 A Slave Nation Fights for Its Freedom

Get hold of it online, in print via The New York Times Magazine, and through podcasts.



Produced with help and photos from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, the 1619 Project is like taking a walk through the museum, looking at the exhibits, and reading all the posted signs while wearing an audio phone to explain them. 

I want to fly to Washington, D.C., to visit the museum, but meanwhile it's all here at my fingertips-- for example, the law passed in 1662 that changed slavery from one person's status, perhaps temporary like indenture, to a condition passed from mother to child.  Even if the father was a white landowner, his child was his slave and was often sold both for profit and for the convenience of not having evidence of his infidelity living with him, his white wife, and his children.  See No. 1 Slavery, Power, and the Human Cost.

Here are some quotations from the 16-page insert in the Sunday, August 18, issue of the NYT.

"If one minute's freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it." --Mum Bett, who in Boston sued for her freedom in 1882 and won it, becoming Elizabeth Freeman. 

"In 1787, the Rev. Richard Allen and other black congregants walked out of services at St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia to protest its segregated congregations."  Initially he preached to integrated congregations, but that changed.  He founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which has 7,000 congregations today.

"The life span of an enslaved person on a sugar plantation could be as little as seven years." Sugar cane--a deadly commodity.

"A Woman Bequeathed" --Aunt Rhody, sold in 1832 at age 1, considered part of the family, not freed until 1863.

"I shall never forget that memorable night, when in a distant city I waited and watched at a public meeting, with 3,000 others not less anxious than myself, for the word of deliverance which we have heard read today.  Nor shall I ever forget the outburst of joy and thanksgiving that rent the air when the lightning brought to us the Emancipation Proclamation." -- Frederick Douglass

"Slavery gave America a fear of black people and a taste for violent punishment.  Both still define our criminal-justice system." --Bryan Stevenson, "Why American Prisons Owe Their Cruelty to Slavery" 

Note: Fox News, Newt Gingrich, and the Federalist Society don't like The 1619 Project.  Too much truth for their taste.

Slave trading in my blood?

John Newton, who penned "Amazing Grace"

Am I carrying the genes of someone who captured Africans, transported them to the American continent, and sold them as a commodity?

If so, should I end the survival of that evil person's genes?  His goal was survival and wealth, and perhaps I am one in the chain of those who keep his race and identity alive, one of those who profit from his gain.

But my children too carry those genes... My own suicide would not end the successful transmission of those genes.

My great-grandfather, Herschel Brown, was born in 1859 into a family that owned a few slaves in northern Georgia near Hiawassee.  His parents or their parents bought African Americans and perhaps sold them. 

How far back does that trafficking in humans go?  Am I the descendant of slave traders who forced humans into chains and ships?  Does my blood perpetuate the life of those who shed human blood for their own profit?

I am complicit in slavery and human trafficking, no matter how you dice it.

John Newton, who was born in 1725 and penned the lyrics of "Amazing Grace" in 1772 at the age of 47, was a slave trader turned priest who eventually abjured slavery and influenced Great Britain's ending of slave trade in 1807.

It was not until 1788, 34 years after leaving it that he renounced his former slaving profession by publishing a blazing pamphlet called “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade.” The tract described the horrific conditions on slave ships and Newton apologized for making a public statement so many years after participating in the trade: “It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” 

Like Newton, perhaps the best I can do is to confess myself to be a wretch, repent, and try to make amends.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

How to Change Anti-Semitism

Museum of Tolerance on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles

How do you change 12 Pacifica High School boys who are jokingly saluting a swastika before their athletics banquet?

You invite them to visit the Museum of Tolerance on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles and let them talk with a Holocaust survivor.  

"The students were transformed," said Jordanna Gessler, director of education at the museum, who did just that.  See an article on the Nazi salute made last November in today's Los Angeles Times.

"Many wrote thank-you notes afterward explaining that they thought they were participating in a joke but now understood the seriousness of the topic," she continued.

Thank you to Joe Mozingo, Sonali Kohli, and Lilly Nguyen for interviewing her as well as a retired German teacher, a Mexican-American parent, a principal, and others regarding incidents of hatred and bigotry in Garden Grove and other parts of Orange County.  

Thank you also to the editor who placed this story on the front page, not in the B section.

But the headline and most of the story are about "Diversity and Hate in O.C."--not about the beautiful resolution you find out about if you read all the way to the end.

Other acts of hate and repentance:

1) Students saluted a swastika at a house party last March.  Some wrote letters of apology a day later:

"A parent who did not want to be identified said that on Sunday he invited a Holocaust scholar to his home to speak with nine students who had attended the party. Some teens who had defended the behavior at the gathering did not accept invitations to his home, but the students who did go expressed remorse and decided to write apology letters. 

"The parent released those letters Monday evening," reported a crew of Times journalists on March 5: ANH DOMATTHEW ORMSETHALENE TCHEKMEDYIANJULIA SCLAFANILILLY NGUYENSARAH PARVINI.

2) A teen who was both gay and Jewish, Blaze Bernstein, was murdered by a neo-Nazi former classmate on Jan. 2, 2018, in Lake Forest in southern Orange County.  His attacker has not repented yet--he's in jail without bail, awaiting trial.

LAT Columnist Robin Abcarian wrote last March about the swastika salute at the house party and included commentary on the death of Bernstein and other acts of anti-Semitism.

Tracy Smith  reported on the Bernstein case for CBS's 48 Hours on July 20, 2019.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Jail for Abortion In El Salvador

AP story in the Los Angeles Times, Aug. 20, 2019

The saddest story in today's LA Times: a young woman served 2 and 1/2 years in prison for having a miscarriage at 32 weeks in El Salvador.  And on Monday she was retried and found not guilty--of abortion.

The AP story is heart-wrenching.

The father of the baby never faced a jury.  He never spent one night in prison.  

Her crime was "failing to protect her fetus."  She did not know she was pregnant.  She went to the latrine outside her home with severe abdominal pains and did not know she had delivered a premature baby.

She had no medical care and no emotional care, either before or after giving birth.  

She didn't have the opportunity to get some form of birth control or to understand the signs of pregnancy. 

Perhaps she didn't seek help because the father was a family member.  Perhaps she didn't go to the hospital afterward because she knew she might be accused of deliberately ending the pregnancy.

This is the status of a poor young woman in Cuidad Delgado, El Salvador.  No one outside her family cared about her until she gave birth prematurely, and then they only cared enough to put her in jail. 

El Salvador--the nation named for the Savior.  

Friday, August 16, 2019

Do you love Israel?

A t-shirt I bought in the West Bank near the Salt Sea (aka Dead Sea)
(was I in Jordan? Palestine? or Israel?)
When I visited Israel in January of this year, I often was asked, "Do you love Israel?"

Shopkeepers in the Jewish quarter of Old Jerusalem, vendors at the Dead Sea, passengers on the bus or metro--everyone posed this question.

Clearly the right answer was "Yes," but I wondered what this declaration of loyalty meant.

Now I know that it has a corollary: If you don't love Israel and don't support the Netanyahu government and all of its policies, you hate Israel.

Anyone who supports Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is considered to "hate Israel."

It's as if a parent were accused of hating a child when he/she punishes bad behavior.  Or as if I were accused of hating a Trump-supporting friend because she/he cheered "Lock her up" or "Send them back."  The parent does not hate the child.  I would not hate the friend, but I would need to make clear that I do not support the choices of that friend.

I love Israel, but I also support the Palestinians in their desire for free movement within Israel and a return to their homes or at least the towns and neighborhoods from which they fled in 1947-48. 

But the president of the US is not capable of understanding this distinction, or worse still, he chooses to erase the difference between concerned love and hate--for his own political advantage. 

Our president successfully pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ban two Muslim members of Congress from visiting Israel.  He tweets and shouts at rallies that Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar "hate Israel."  

He agrees with the far-right wing of Netanyahu's supporters that those who advocate a boycott of Israel are "haters of Israel."  See the reference to Bezalel Smotrich in today's NY Times article titled "Law Invoked Was Passed 2 Years Ago."

Anyone who doesn't support Netanyahu and his oppression of Palestinians hates Israel, according to the US and Israeli far right.  

No, we love Israel and want it to be a better place for all.  We want peace in Israel, and true peace includes justice.

 Netanyahu "bows before a tweet" said Columnist Bari Weiss in today's NY Times

And today Netanyahu reversed his government's decision to ban Representatives Tlaib and Omar--if they sign a statement that they will not promote boycotts while visiting.  

Of course, Representative Tlaib said she could not visit Israel or her 90-year-old grandmother in Palestine under that restriction.  Just to walk down the street of Bethlehem would be a tacit call for boycotts.  Her grandmother, who lives in a Palestinian village near Ramallah, has already faced a "global political storm," according to NY Times reporter Isabel Kershner.

"If You Think Trump Is Helping Israel, You're a Fool" writes columnist Thomas Friedman.  When the current president is ancient history, the Democrats in power will be less likely to give Israel the blind support that dt did. 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Kalishnikov rifle kills so efficiently

Kalishnikov rifle

Only one thing matters: end universal access to assault rifles.

Stop asking what was his motive?  is he mentally ill?  did he have a record of other crimes? what race is he? was he a white supremacist? why did he drive ten hours from Dallas to El Paso?  why were Walmart shoppers his targets?

Just face one fact: he attacked with a Kalishnikov rifle.  The USA allows any fool to buy fully automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles.  Most other countries don't.

Until we take these weapons of war away from every Tom, Dick, and Harry, more young white males will use them in mass shootings.

It's the third multiple shooting in one week: Gilroy CA, Los Angeles CA, El Paso TX.

Two shooters used assault rifles.  They each sought a soft target and killed people randomly.

The cities of El Paso, Texas, in the USA and Juarez, Chihuahua, in Mexico are divided by the Rio Grande and by an international border.

In Juarez, the problem is gangs, but no one can legally buy an assault rifle.

In El Paso and the rest of Texas, any male can buy as many handguns, hunting rifles, fully automatic rifles, and semi-automatic rifles as he likes.

And he can end many lives before the police can stop him.

We must rise up and demand sensible gun reform. 

Step 1: Tell Mitch McConnell to stop blocking a Senate vote on the House bill to enact backgrounds checks.  Then vote him out of the Senate.  Here's what the Giffords Center says:

The House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act more than 100 days ago. But Senator Mitch McConnell is blocking the bill. Stand with Gabby Giffords and demand a vote.

Step 2: Vote out of office any legislator--any city, state, or national leader--who will not ban assault rifles.  Start with Mitch McConnell and the fool in the White House. No more gun-enablers!

Step 3: Donate money to United Against Gun Violence: Brady and Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence.

Step 4: Impoverish the NRA. 

Step 5: Control magazines and bullets.

Soldiers & Suicide

A flag waves over the Pacific shoreline in Malibu, California, expressing someone's patriotism.

It's easy to fly the red, white, and blue, but here's a high cost to serving in the Armed Forces, even if you don't lose your life, an arm, or a leg.

An on-going tragedy is the number of suicides among our military each year as a result of trauma: 325 active-duty persons in 2018.  That doesn't count the veterans who take their own lives.  See this report from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.

Recruiters don't mention the higher rate of suicide among active-duty and veteran soldiers.

Beach homes in Malibu, California
A recent analysis found a suicide rate among veterans of about 30 per 100,000 population per year, compared with the civilian rate of 14 per 100,000, according to Wikipedia.

"War is not healthy for children and other living things" says the bumper sticker popular during the Vietnam War protest era.

In 2012 alone, an estimated 7,500 former military personnel died by suicide. More active duty veterans, 177, succumbed to suicide that year than were killed in combat.

We need to stop romanticizing combat in film, video games, and political rhetoric.  

Instead, we must care about these men and women who are suffering, being injured in combat or training, and taking their own lives.  We must pray for them and do our best to prevent US military intervention around the world.