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

WICHITA, Kan. - Kansas is in a financial crisis, this is not news. However David Koch's group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has the Kansas Legislature in fear of repealing tax exemptions and offering revenue enhancements that will solve this financial crisis. This extremist group attacks anything that may be perceived as threatening Koch industries profits.

David and Charles Koch are known for their generous contributions to the arts and cancer research, but the Koch brothers are also known to fund vicious attack campaigns. Such as the "No Stimulus" television and radio ads launched to stop President Obama's stimulus package.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Sometimes something is right in front of your face, and you don't notice it. The Bible repeatedly warns against the sin of "usury" - of charging excessive interest rates. There was a historic consensus among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that charging high interest rates is wrong.

I have sat through hundreds of sermons in my life, and I've never heard this issue mentioned once by a clergyman. The "pelvic" issues seem to be the only issue most pastors want to talk about - abortion, and issues regarding sexuality. The Bible contains thousands of verses that admonish us to help the poor. Yet economic justice simply isn't spoken of much today.

It reminds me of the story of the two monks. One obsessively studied various religious sects, to the point where he would spend hours a day reading and talking about obscure offshoots of mainline religion. His fellow monk got fed up and told him: "Sects, sects, sects, that's all you think about is sects!"

Tale of Two Approaches

WICHITA, Kan. - Let's take a look at two alternatives in the so-called war on terror:

  1. You arrest a guy, put him on trial, take testimony from the people who saw what he did, get a slam dunk conviction and put him away until the end of time.
  2. You put him into the war-on-terror netherworld, disappear him, deny him access to legal representation, and - what the hell - water board him a few times for good measure. It is now impossible to convict him (impossible solely because of what you did to him) but you don't care about that: your intention is to put him away forever without any kind (or with the most circumscribed kind of) trial, and by the time the courts throw out what you did to him you won't be in office anymore and you can blame the people who have to pick up your mess as "soft on terrorism."

WICHITA, Kan. - The year 2009 was an eventful year for the women of Kansas and the rest of the women of the nation.

We saw the advancement of the Kansas ERA in 2009. The hearing in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee was successful and SCR 1608 currently waits in that committee with the potential for placement on the Senate calendar for debate in 2010.

The 2010 legislative session may see the advancement of the DV Tagging Bill (HB 2335), a comprehensive sex education bill and potential legislation to address the short falls of the sexual assault examination procedure in Kansas communities. As always, there is sure to be an abundance of attempts at legislative restrictions on women's reproductive access and health care choices.

HALF MOON CAY, Bahamas - The final seminar of The Nation's 2009 Cruise featured Narda Zacchino, Patricia Williams, Christian Parenti and William Greider discussing the effects the "War on Terror" has had on the United States. Eyal Press moderated the panel.

Given the events that transpired on December 25th with the attempt to blow up Flight 253, the views and opinions share during this panel, have new and more urgent significance for progressives.

Each panelist was given five minutes to present his/her ideas. After each panelist had made their presentation, panelists were allotted an addition two minutes to respond to what had been said or pose questions to each other.

Christian Parenti, a Soros Senior Justice Fellow and a Ford Foundation Fellow at the CUNY Graduate School's Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, has reported from both Iraq and Afghanistan. He opened by looking at terrorism in context of the conflict in Afghanistan.

A Merry Christmas to All

MANHATTAN, Kan. - One of my favorite of all holiday traditions is Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol. I know I am not alone since, at one point, circulation of this little tale was second only to the Bible. Dicken's life was almost as fascinating as his literature, and unfortunately, often as sad. According to Kathryn Harrison, who wrote "Father Christmas," for The New York Times Review of Books,

"What is true is that Christmas, more than any other holiday, offered a means for the adult Dickens to redeem the despair and terrors of his childhood. In 1824, after a series of financial embarrassments drove his family to exchange what he remembered as a pleasant country existence for a 'mean, small tenement' in London, the 12-year-old Dickens, his schooling interrupted - ended, for all he knew - was sent to work 10-hour days at a shoe blacking factory in a quixotic attempt to remedy his family's insolvency. Not even a week later, his father was incarcerated in the infamous Marshalsea prison for a failure to pay a small debt to a baker. At this, Dickens' 'grief and humiliation' overwhelmed him so thoroughly that it retained the power to overshadow his adult accomplishments, calling him to 'wander desolately back' to the scene of his mortification. And because Dickens' tribulations were not particular to him but emblematic of the Industrial Revolution - armies of neglected, unschooled children forced into labor - the concerns that inform his fiction were shared by millions of potential readers. ..."
Dicken's redemption becomes our joy and a cornerstone of popular culture, but it also becomes a nice reminder that it is not a crime to be poor. Criminalizing poverty is particularly devastating to children.

Gridlock, Sports and My Uterus

WICHITA, Kan. - I have been a member of Kansas National Organization of Women (Kansas NOW) since 2005. During that time, I have seen the women of Kansas seemingly take two steps forward and then take two steps back, stuck in a state of gridlock. The Shiver Report of 2009 illustrates this. The findings show that for the first time in history half of U.S. workers are women. This seems like quite an accomplishment for our gender... but wait... women earn merely 70% of what their male counterparts earn. Women you may now take one step forward with pride, but then be sure to follow that with one giant step backward.

Healing vs. Wounds

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - I have just had spine surgery and am currently in the period of inactivity which recovery requires. In the Oxycodone-induced fog that blankets my days, it's hard to separate one thought from the other. I've been thinking of my good fortune in having had a skillful surgeon; I keep reaching for the phone to call my mother, who died of congestive heart failure over a year ago; and my thoughts return again and again to my dear friend Jan Garton, who committed suicide last month. Healing and hurt seem all mixed up together. As T S Eliot wrote, "These fragments I have shored against my ruins." But fragments are ruins, as well as buttresses. Here are three of mine--but whether they amount to a holding up or a falling down, I do not know:

While I was coming out of anesthesia, I hallucinated that my caregivers were looking down on me through a giant microscope, while I lay at the bottom, in a circle of light. Their gaze seemed a part of the light, which felt both warm and bright, the tangible, visible manifestation of kindness. Their helpfulness seemed to match my helplessness exactly, and I relaxed totally into their care. The revelation of their beneficence seemed a glimpse into the nature of the cosmos itself. I was in good hands! Even now I think back on that vision with exhilaration and a sense of having learned something new and wonderful about reality.

TOPEKA, Kan. - For most students, high school will always be high school, driven by concerns about homework, curfew, popularity and the prom. But students at Southeast of Saline High School received special recognition for their efforts to raise awareness and money to combat domestic violence in Kansas last week.

As part of the kick-off events and press conference for Jana's Campaign,, the domestic violence advocacy movement announced by nationally known activists Christie and Curt Brungardt in honor of their daughter, the late Jana Mackey, the Brungardts drew attention to students in Juanelle Garretson's Life Dimensions class.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - As I sat in Prof. Harry Shaffer's "Economics 101" class in 1979 as a sophomore, the KU professor dropped, what was for me, a bombshell. "Lawrence had a public swimming pool called The Jayhawk Plunge," he said. "Anyone in town could buy a day pass and swim there, except black people," he said. For all I knew he was talking about the "Bleeding Kansas" era.

John Brown, from State Capitol mural, Topeka, Kansas
Then he said something that caused my jaw to drop. "We organized pickets, and protested at The Jayhawk Plunge all through the 1960's," he said. "The pool was finally integrated in 1969," he said.

I was dumbstruck. Just ten years before I had enrolled at KU, Lawrence, Kansas would not admit blacks to the only public swimming pool in town? I thought Lawrence was settled by New England abolitionists, and that Lawrence was different, progressive. What happened to the spirit of John Brown?

Although Kansas was pitched to former slaves as "The Promised Land," and "The Land of John Brown," I knew from growing up in Great Bend that Kansas didn't deliver as promised to thousands of Exoduster families who migrated here starting in 1879.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - As a nation we have been slow to evolve in our understanding of human rights. When asked, most of us think that civil rights are human rights. They are, but they are only the beginning.

Civil rights are basically your right to be created equal to everyone else. Civil rights are incomplete if they are not accompanied by economic, social, political, and cultural rights. Unfortunately early on in the civil rights struggle, here was a big battle in the NAACP over human vs. civil rights. At the heart of this battle were two men: Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP and a lawyer who could pass as white, and W. E. B. DuBois one of the founders of the NAACP. DeBois asked: "Why should we ask for only one of the five rights categories?" Eventually, White won, and force out an ever more radical DeBois from the NAACP which set human rights back 50 years. Equality is precious but is incomplete.

Political rights are closely related to the Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. They cover codes such as freedom of speech, assembly, and the right to vote. But they also cover such things as forbidding torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; slavery or involuntary servitude; arbitrary arrest and detention; and, debtor's prisons. Political rights forbid propaganda advocating either war or hatred based on race, religion, national origin, language, sex or gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity,

Political rights provide for the right to equality before the law; the right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty (something our mass media often forgets these days); the right to appeal a conviction; the right to be recognized as a person before the law; the right to privacy and protection of that privacy by law.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - On December 10 the world marks the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is commonly referred to as Human Rights Day and this year's theme is: "Embrace Diversity: End Discrimination."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillary said: "Discrimination lies at the root of many of the world's most pressing human rights problems. No country is immune from this scourge. Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order."

Download and read An End to Discrimination, the official publication for the 2009 Human Rights Day.

How appropriate considering that the FBI released hate crimes data in November that once again showed a "slight increase" in the number of "hate crimes" committed in 2008 as compared to 2007 with 7,783 incidents and 9,691 victims (including individuals, businesses, and institutions) that were reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies across the country.

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is Human Rights: November 2009. The next archive is Human Rights: January 2010.

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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Human Rights: December 2009 section.

The previous archive is Human Rights: November 2009. The next archive is Human Rights: January 2010.

The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.

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