Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Human Rights: October 2009

Out of the Mouth of Babes

LARNED, Kan. - My wife noticed a phenomenon involving our two year old son. While they were walking at the mall, he would spontaneously shout "Barack Obama!" Pleased, but embarrassed by the unsolicited outbursts, she called me from her cell phone to report the incident. I reasoned that it must have been due to viewing so many pictures and television appearances of the newly elected president. She agreed, but wondered what triggered the behavior.

Benefits for Murderers?

COLBY, Kan. - How in the name of religion (whatever the flavor) can we imagine society organizing benefit fund raisers for the defense of an individual's unilateral judgment and execution of another human being? Especially if it is premeditated! The murder of Dr. Tiller was not an act carried out in an emergency situation that indicated immediate danger for anyone.

Society cannot tolerate individual privilege of being judge, jury and executioner, nor can we tolerate lynch mob justice.

In the Christian's New Testament, Jesus refuted the idea of 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'. You may have a little trouble interpreting those words with how we interpret some of the early history of God's Chosen People of the Old Testament. But, never the less, Jesus indicated revenge or returning evil for evil was not what His Gospel was all about.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Yesterday, Judy Thomas of the The Kansas City Star reported that eBay corporate officials would not allow an eBay auction to go forward. The auction has been planned by abortion opponents who wished to raise money to help in the defense of Scott Roeder, 51, who is charged with first-degree murder. Roeder is accused of killing Wichita abortion doctor, George Tiller. Tiller was shot last spring while standing in the foyer of his church. Even from his jail cell, Roeder has warned that "similar events" of violence would continue.

The online company's action followed a week of increasingly vocal outcry against the auction (Rhonda Holman: WE Blog, Mike Hendricks: Prime Buzz, RoederWatch, etc). The company provided a statement, yesterday, saying that the intended auction violated its policy against "offensive material" and that it would "not permit the items in question to be posted to the eBay site." The company added that the items would be "removed if they are posted."

The Kansas City Star had reported that "an autographed copy of 'A Time to Kill,' a memoir of a man who served time for firebombing abortion clinics, is one of the likely offerings. So is a manual from the 'Army of God,' which advised people on ways to close clinics, including by bombing."

COLBY, Kan. - Today, women now earn 60 percent of the college degrees awarded each year and fully half of the Ph.D.s and the professional degrees. Almost 40 percent of working women hold managerial and other professional positions. Women make 80 percent of the buying decisions in American homes. Companies led by women generally are proving to have healthier bottom lines. This is a permanent change in our culture.

There's far more occurring here than simply a change in workplace demographics. In the preface of the recently released study, The Shriver Report, Maria Shriver offered the goals for the report:

We decided we needed to learn some new, hard facts about today's American woman. Who is she? How does she live? What does she think? What does she earn? What are her politics? How does she define power? How does she define success? What does she think of marriage? What does she really think of men? How does she want to live her life moving forward?
The project combined the efforts of The Center for American Progress and Shriver's Women's Conference.

Amelia Earhart
GREAT BEND, Kan. - Hilary Swank doesn't have two "Best Actress" Oscars sitting on her mantle for nothing. And her performance in Amelia (2009) brings such flesh-and-blood realism to the life of Amelia Earhart that I left the theater feeling like I knew Earhart - almost like she was a girl I went to college with or something. Swank is incandescent as Earhart.

Of all Kansas heroes, two stand apart: General Eisenhower and Amelia Earhart. Ike succeeded wildly in a man's world. And so did Atchison native Amelia Earhart. Early in the film the child Earhart is shown running through a Kansas wheat field, marveling at an airplane, and vowing that she will someday fly.

The film is about many things: dreams, feminism, marriage, airplanes, but it is mostly about an incredibly gutsy Kansan who succeeded on a scale difficult to imagine. At the age of 34 she became the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo.

WICHITA, Kan. - Friday night, Wichita State University's feminist group FOCUS (Feminists On Campus Uniting Students) will be hosting an event at the CAC Theater from 7:00 pm -10:00 pm. Join us in celebrating and supporting a woman's right to choose while enjoying local folk and rock n' roll music!

Artists: Michelle Monger, Degenerate List, Justin France

Speakers: Peggy Bowman, Kari Ann Rinker

Organizations: WSU FOCUS, Peggy Bowman Second Chance Fund, Kansas National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Missouri

Click here to RSVP on Facebook to attend this concert!

TOPEKA, Kan. - Just as "Bleeding Kansas" was effectively the first theater of the Civil War, Kansas also played a major role in setting the stage for the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. Kansas' pivotal role in both of these historic struggles - or two parts of the same struggle - is underappreciated.

At 1515 Monroe Street in Topeka is a quiet, modest looking school building that seems to be barely noticed even by Topekans. It was formerly the Monroe Elementary School, but today it is a museum under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, Secretary of the Interior. Monroe School was made a national monument by an act of Congress in 1992 in recognition of its importance as the site where the historic 1954 lawsuit Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka originated. When the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court it led to the decision that legally ended segregation in public schools in America. The museum opened May 17, 2004, on the 50th anniversary of the decision. The museum now houses a multi-media exhibition that takes visitors through the history of the struggle against segregation with a lively presentation of pictures, artifacts, videos, movies and displays.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Innocence Project, according to their website, "is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice." I first learned about the Innocence Project through some posts that Gerald Britt has posted at (here, here, and here). Gerald has shared some of the successes of the Innocence Project of Texas, including stories about its freed exonerees and some of its funding woes in these tough financial times.

Then, recently, I was pleased to learn that we have an Innocence Project that serves Kansas, The Midwestern Innocence Project (MIP). The local organization has worked to free six wrongly committed individuals so far, including three from Kansas City.

Don't Get Raped in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. - My eyes are being opened to the problem of sexual assault in Kansas. The more information that I seek, the more alarmed and outraged I become. The fact that one rape occurs every seven hours in Kansas is a fact that I find unacceptable. The fact that the ordeal of many victims is often intensified by current post assault procedures currently practiced by hospitals throughout the state... well, that is a fact that I find inhuman.

A recent sexual assault on the campus of Wichita State University is what began my education in this area. Initially, it was the "tips" for lowering the risk of rape that prompted me to contact WSU campus police. The "tips" that obviously indicate that women should shoulder the responsibility to protect themselves from potential attackers, rather than counseling drunk frat boys on how NOT TO RAPE WOMEN. Well, every journey must have a starting point and that was mine.

Really, Sam Brownback? Really???

LAWRENCE, Kan.- Does the name Jamie Leigh Jones ring a bell? If not, don't worry. I didn't know who she was either until I heard about the bill Sam Brownback voted against that was introduced in her name.

Her story is just as important as it is tragic. Here are the basics, taken from Think Progress:

"In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration."

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Thanks to the required First Amendment class I'm taking, I've been thinking way too much about freedom of speech lately. We talk about the market place of ideas, in which citizens have a right to listen to, deny, accept or even contribute to public discussion. We talk about the importance of allowing beliefs to be expressed without government regulation. And we talk about how every view, no matter how unpopular or gross, is considered equal.

I really do believe that the First Amendment defines America, which is a good thing... sometimes.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The National Equality March organized by Equality Across America drew an estimated 200,000 marchers to Washington, DC, on Sunday October 11th. Included in the sea of marchers were 13 marchers from Manhattan - 11 students from Kansas State University's LGBTQ & More organization and two from the Flint Hills Human Rights Project.

This was my third march for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. At the height of the AIDS crisis, I had returned to the US in 1987 from my then home in Italy to be part of a very angry march as the LGBT community dealt with President Reagan who refused to respond to the growing AIDS crisis or even speak of it in public. By the time the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt was unfolded on the Mall at that march, I had made eight panels, including one for my former partner.

WASHINGTON - Alliance for Justice's new documentary film - Tortured Law? - is now available to activists in local communities and campus leaders of law schools, colleges, university campuses and interested political groups. Groups are free to use this film as a centerpiece for discussions, forums, debates and other educational events. For the asking, AFJ will send a free copy of the documentary to interested groups. I'm excited to tell you about it and hope to encourage local Kansas groups to get involved with its screening. Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, poses these questions,

The legal architecture for torture was originally outlined and sanctioned in 2002 by a series of memos drafted by lawyers in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. Were these lawyers simply giving the President their best legal advice? Or was their work part of a larger criminal conspiracy to distort the law and authorize torture?

The film is a tool in an ongoing campaign calling on Attorney General Holder to release the OPR report and authorize a full investigation of those who ordered, designed, and justified torture.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - I consider myself fairly well immersed in the political world. I read the news constantly, regularly read blogs for up to date opinions and inside information, and am relatively comfortable when it comes to the subject of political history. Because of all of this it is not often that I am legitimately shocked by an occurrence in modern day politics.

Today, however, I was completely floored.

It would seem that in the fight against sexual violence, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas is on the side of... sexual violence?

Seeing in Full-Blown Color

WICHITA, Kan. - "You say the word hell, and that's where all of you are going," shouted a lone fundamentalist preacher in front of the Rhatigan Student Center at Wichita State University last Tuesday, September 29.

In this same spot, this man and his associates have preached for the past week and a half to students on campus that, he says, "worship the Shockers."

Most students that I have talked to aren't particularly excited about their mascot like students at different universities are. In fact, they may be as big of fans of the wheat this man devours in his communion bread every week.

As I observed this situation, I decided it was best to ask him about sports. Did he ever play football, or any other sports? "Well," he said, "I played some ball in my day, but now that I am working for the Lord, I have not focused on sports as much." The key, I thought, was to get him talking about something completely unrelated to his original plan and purpose.

WSU's That Gay Group! took the initiative to stand close to this man and his friends with signs and a rainbow flag. When the rainbow flag touched the man, he said, "Get this off of me!"

"I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense ..." Thomas Paine, 1776, pamphleteer

HAYS, Kan. - Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer over 230 years ago. Though he's thought of as one of America's earliest, and perhaps its most famous journalist, if he were alive today, it's fairly unlikely that he'd be working as a glam television anchor, covering car chases on the L.A. freeway or following the sagas of divorcing celebrities. Tom Paine probably wouldn't aspire to political punditry either. It's doubtful that he'd end up an argumentative or abrasive talking head on some cable news channel.

No. The man who is the original embodiment of the the 1st Amendment would strive for something much greater.

If Tom Paine were to be among us now, it's likely that he would aspire to be one of us. He'd probably be writing furiously and freely at a free press on the Internet, just like this one. And, just as we hope to, he'd be speaking of issues that he believed to have the most relevance to his fellow citizens.

Citizen-powered websites, like this one, are bringing about a real revival of pamphleteering, and a renewed understanding of freedom of the press.

The Founder of MY Humanism

LAWRENCE, Kan. - I have been amazingly lucky in my life to have been surrounded by extremely strong role models since a young age. While many of them have been flawed, occasionally astoundingly so, each and every one of the people that I have considered a role model in my life has changed my life in ways that I don't even have the ability to express intelligently. However, since when has not being able to express something intelligently ever stopped me from trying?

One of the more remarkable things about my role models throughout my life, considering that I am a product of small-town Western Kansas, is that, even as a very young man, the majority of my role models have been women. While this doesn't shock me from the position I find myself in now, at 30 years of age, it is something that is unusual, due to the societal roles that men and women are expected to fulfill in conservative atmospheres, like Western Kansas. While I do have many males that have served as important role models in my life, I will leave discussion of them for another day. Today, let me tell you about one amazing women I've known.

WASHINGTON - "I want you to protect the Constitution," expressed a sign carried by a young woman protester at the September 12th Washington D.C. Tea Party. Where was that woman in October 2001, when the USA Patriot Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush? That's when she should have expressed her concern about protecting the Constitution.

Almost eight years later, as the Senate Judiciary Committee met Sept. 23, 2009, to consider reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, Sen. Al Franken (D.-Minn.) read the 4th Amendment to the Constitution in the presence of a Justice Department lawyer who was arguing in favor of reauthorization of the Act.

SALINA, Kan. - Among the ancient Greeks, the dictator was known as the tyrant. His one-man rule was called a tyranny. He ruled with absolute and uncontrolled power. This form of government frequently occurred in the Greek city-states in times of public distress or national danger.

Many of the empires of the East and West were tyrannies, or depotisms. The emperor, king, or potentate was authoritarian in character. This means that he took upon himself the right to rule; his authority was not a grant of powers from the people.

Dictatorships of our own times have much in common with the tyrannies of the ancient world.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Last week, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six announced a new measure to protect seniors from being exploited by fraudulent schemes: The Senior Consumer Advisory Council.

"Our experience shows us that seniors are often targeted by scams and fraud. This new advisory council will help us stay ahead of the curve in our effort to protect elderly Kansans from consumer fraud," Six said.

The Kansas Attorney General's office reports that seniors are being targeted more frequently as of late by mail and email scams as well as identity theft and other types of financial fraud.

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