Focal Points Blog

Chinese Mother’s Sex-Crime Protest Morphs Into Labor Camp Reform

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

“The 2,000 something yuan state compensation will be of help to my poor family but it’s really not a lot of money. The main reason for my appeal is to prove my innocence,” Tang Hui, mother of a rape victim, told the South China Morning Post. On July 15, Hunan Provincial People’s High Court ruled for Tang Hui to receive compensation for having spent nine days of unjustified detention in a labor camp. The ruling holds important and promising implications, for both reform of the labor camp system and for the power of the Chinese public.

In October 2006, Tang Hui’s daughter was kidnapped, raped, and forced into prostitution for two months before she was rescued and returned to her home. Of the seven kidnappers tried in June 2012 at the Hunan Provincial Higher People’s Court, two [P1] were sentenced to death, while four received life sentences and the last was sentenced to serve in prison for 15 years.
Read More

Russia Declares Open Season on Gays

Peter Gray / Wikimedia Commons

Peter Gray / Wikimedia Commons

With even Pope Francis wondering, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” it would appear that the world has reached a milestone in gay rights. However, a quick trip to Russia would quickly confirm that this progress is decidedly uneven.

President Vladimir Putin recently signed into legislation a series of anti-gay laws that ban the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples and to anyone living in a country where marriage equality exists. The new legislation will also allow police to arrest tourists and foreigners suspected of being “pro-gay.”
Read More

Patriot Act Sponsor James Sensenbrenner — Progressive Champion?

James-SensenbrennerYou remember James Sensenbrenner, don’t you? A Republican from Wisconsin, he introduced the Patriot Act in the House of Representatives 42 days after 9/11. Among his other “accomplishments” was authoring the Real ID Act in 2005 and acting as a general thorn in the side to any legislation that could be interpreted in as at all humane and progressive. Turns out, even Sensenbrenner has his limits.

In a New York Times article titled Momentum Builds Against N.S.A. Surveillance Jonathan Weisman reports on the beginnings of a congressional change of heart.

The rapidly shifting politics were reflected clearly in the House on Wednesday, when a plan to defund the National Security Agency’s telephone data collection program fell just seven votes short of passage. Now, after initially signaling that they were comfortable with the scope of the N.S.A.’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet activities, but not their content, revealed last month by Edward J. Snowden, lawmakers are showing an increasing willingness to use legislation to curb those actions.
Read More

Peter Buffett: Corporate Rich Use Philanthropy to Paper Over Wounds They Inflict

Bill Gates -- spreading the wealth?

Bill Gates — spreading the wealth?

“Conscience laundering” is what Peter Buffett (son of Warren) calls “feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.” He provides perspective from inside the world of philanthropy, where, like his father, he’s a player in a startling op-ed in the New York Times on July 27 titled The Charitable-Industrial Complex. He writes:

Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.
Read More

Egypt: The Deck Reshuffled (Pt. 2)

Read Part 1.

Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.

Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.

While media in the United States has focused on the Egyptian uprising that triggered a military-led coup in which the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) led government was dissolved, hardly any media reports here have considered the regional implications of the Egyptian events, nor the implications for U.S. Middle East policy. Reeling from the coup’s impact, the echoes of which extend far beyond Egypt, the MB is now scrambling to limit the regional damage to its influence. U.S. Middle East policy slips back into disarray.

Yet, analyzing Egyptian politics, economic, and social structures requires taking into consideration the country’s role in the region, and not in isolation. Assessing the Egyptian crises, the subject matter at hand, in abstraction, without due attention to the Egypt’s regional context misses the proverbial forest through the trees.  To better understand what happened in Egypt and the ramification of the recent events we need to explore a number of issues:

1. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its regional and internal politics
2. The regional power players
3, The sectarian campaign against the Shia.
Read More

Santiago Train Crash: What, No Speed Governor?

AlviaOnly China has a more extensive high-speed train network than Spain. On Wednesday night at least 80 people were killed when a high-speed train, rounding a curve, flew off the rails in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Reuters reports:

El Pais newspaper said the driver told the railway station by radio after being trapped in his cabin that the train entered the bend at 190 kilometers per hour (120 mph). An official source said the speed limit on that stretch of twin track, laid in 2011, was 80 kph.

The driver, Francisco Jose Garzon, was reported as saying:

“We’re only human! We’re only human! … I hope there are no dead, because this will weigh on my conscience.”
Read More

Indonesian Mass Killings Should Have Shortened Vietnam War

McNamaraJohnsonIn a lengthy piece for Slate, Errol Morris, the author and filmmaker, writes about a controversial new movie for which he served as an executive producer. Directed by Josh Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing is an examination of an atrocity, in this case, the 500,000 to a million killed in Indonesia in the mid-sixties. Conducted with the aid of Western governments, especially the United States, it was yet another heavy-handed attempt to staunch the spread of communism.

Rather than write about the film’s innovative approach, for which the director is being hailed, we’ll focus on a point Morris brought up in his article. He writes:

I had picked up Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960–1968, a book by Bradley Simpson, professor of history at Princeton [who wrote]

“The annihilation of the largest non-bloc Communist party in the world vividly undermined the rationale for the escalating U.S. war in Vietnam, as former defense secretary Robert McNamara has noted, eliminating at a stroke the chief threat to the Westward orientation of the most strategically and economically important country in Southeast Asia  …  .”
Read More

Lindsey Graham Ready to Play the “Last Card” on Iran

John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel

John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel

Lindsey Graham is no longer just rattling his saber at Iran — it now looks like he’s en garde and ready to face off against the Islamic Republic. At ThinkProgress, Ben Armbruster reports that, on Tuesday (July 23), the Republican senator from South Carolina said

“If nothing changes in Iran, come September, October, I will present a resolution that will authorize the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb,” … “The only way to convince Iran to halt their nuclear program is to make it clear that we will take it out,” Graham said, echoing comments he made last week, calling the war authorization “the last card to play in a very dangerous situation.”

Not only is he talking about playing the last card, he’s playing to the cheap seats. Senator Graham was addressing Christians United for Israel (CUFI), fundamentalist kingpin John Hagee’s suspicious foundation. In 2008, at Politico, Ben Smith reported in 2008:  “Hagee is viewed with distrust by some Jews and Israelis because his brand of Christian Zionism closely links support for Israel to the end of the world and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.”
Read More

Occupy Slovenia

Cross-posted from John is currently traveling in Eastern Europe and observing its transformations since 1989.

Sara Pistotnik

Sara Pistotnik

The Occupy movement began in the United States – at a statue of a bull standing in the heart of Wall Street in New York City. It spread quite rapidly to other places around the country and around the world. In many locations, it built on or connected to pre-existing movements that had been working on questions of economic inequality for some time. But for many people, it was their introduction to activism.

In the United States, at least, the movement resisted both conventional leadership and conventional political program. It favored a more decentralized approach to both structure and content. It wasn’t that Occupy lacked a leader or a program. It had plenty of both. Indeed, to quote Walt Whitman, Occupy “contained multitudes.” And, like the poet, it sometimes contradicted itself. But Occupy never promised uniformity or consistency.

Perhaps the chief defect of Occupy had nothing to do with these purported weaknesses. It had to do with process. In many Occupy movements across the United States, the participants could only move forward on projects with the consensus of the group. In a relatively homogenous group, such as Quakers, consensus can be an effective tool for decision-making and group cohesion. But Occupy was far from homogenous. Even the “modified consensus” that some of the groups used, which required 90 percent approval on proposals, frequently came up against a minority bloc determined to dig in its heels.
Read More

Egypt: Requiem for a Revolution that Never Was

Cross-posted from Counterpunch.

 “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

EgyptDemonstrationAs the military in Egypt consolidates its putsch against the leadership and political structures of the Muslim Brotherhood, it should be obvious that the initial narrative rationalizing intervention by the military as a necessary corrective to a “revolutionary process” has lost all credibility. Yet many liberals and radicals appear united in a fanciful reading of the events in Egypt that not only legitimizes the coup but characterizes the collection of small-minded state-capitalists thugs who make up the top officer corps of the military as part of the people and the revolutionary process.

From bourgeois intellectual hacks like Isabel Coleman to venerable Marxist materialists like Samir Amin, who implied that the Egyptian army was a neutral class force, the emotional response to seeing hundreds of thousands of people on the streets seems to have created a case of temporary insanity, or as Frantz Fanon refers to it as – cognitive dissonance. This can be the only explanation for the theoretical and rhetorical acrobatics many are engaged in to reconcile their beliefs in democratic rights and revolutionary transformation with what is occurring right before their eyes in Egypt.
Read More

Page 53 of 200« First...102030...5152535455...607080...Last »