February 18th, 2004


Iraqi freedom.

I was wondering what happenned to Riverbend, and why she stopped blogging. Turns out that her cousin's husband was carjacked/kidnapped. $15,000 and five days later, he was returned.

Makes you wonder what will happen with the $15,000 and the car. Will it be used to pay for explosives, to be packed into the car with a suicide bomber behind the wheel? Or maybe it will just go into the hands of an organized group of thugs, who, perhaps, will parlay their resources into political power once the US have bugged out.

I hate to be so cynical about Iraq, and yes, I know that people there are slowly getting jobs again and there are some signs of progress. Still, it would have been nice if someone at the White House had the balls to say before the war that the process of bringing Iraq freedom and democracy would require their country to be seriously f*cked for the next 15-20 years or so (much like Russia) at which point those people who managed to do the best in the New Iraq (i.e. criminals, rightwing thugs, religious zealots, former inteligencia, Chalabi-style carpetbaggers, etc.) would achieve stability, finding permanent ways to give themselves advantages over everyone else... unless, of course, revolution breaks out, in which case the whole cycle begins again. Oh joy.

This leads me to think of what Churchill said...

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all
those others that have been tried."

...but how does that fit into the larger context of a world where some democracies (such as the US, European nations, Japan, etc.) have set themselves up with artificial advantages over the economies of other nations?! Is a third-world democracy better than some form of democratic socialism? Would it be too much to wish that the profits of Iraq's vast oil reserves be split amongst its people evenly, or used to fund a basic standard of living for the Iraqis, rather than going into the hands of multinationals? Yes, democracy can improve people's lives, but why do I get the feeling that Iraq is the latest sucker to buy into the pyramid scheme?

Something tells me that the average Iraqi won't be particularly better off than under Hussein, and that many may find themselves in a worse situation. Considering how incredibly screwed living under Hussein was, that's an awfully damning statement. Right now in Iraq, Churchill's words ring hollow.

Stop the Bush administration from rolling back orientation-based discrimination laws!

In 1998, an executive order was signed by President Clinton, declaring it unlawful to discriminate against federal civilian employees based on their sexual orientation.

As a result, the Office of Special Counsel, which oversees these discrimination cases, made it clear that a section of the civil service law that bans discrimination against employees and job applicants "on the basis of conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee or applicant" also meant that discrimination against federal civilian employees based on sexual orientation wasn't acceptable.

However, despite the fact that President Bush has never issued a contrary executive order, Scott J. Bloch, a Republican appointee, has taken it upon himself to remove all reference to the existing federal sexual orientation protections indefinitely from the department's forms, articles, and web pages. Discrimination complaint forms no longer list discrimination based on orientation as a valid reason for a discrimination complaint, and information about an investigation of an IRS supervisor who denied a job to an applicant because he was gay were removed.

Prior to his recent appointment as special counsel, Bloch headed up the Task Force for Faith-Based Initiatives in the Department of Justice. After Bloch's appointment, Bush appointed a friend of Bloch to the same department, who has been criticized for his open hostility to homosexuals. Clearly, such a person does not belong in a department that is supposed to protect the rights of *ALL* federal employees equally.

Note that Bloch doesn't question the existing policy's constitutionality or legality -- he just took it upon himself to have the material removed with no clear explanation or legal basis for his actions. It should also be noted that not enforcing this policy could cut both ways, allowing people to be denied jobs because they are heterosexual.

Want to do something? Then call the Office of Special Counsel directly and repeatedly at (800) 872-9855, letting them know that you request an immediate return of all references to sexual orientation discrimination, as per President Clinton's executive order. Pass this info around. Contact your representatives, requesting an investigation into Scott J. Bloch's actions.

It's important that we not let the Bush administration play political games with people's civil rights. If Bush wants to take away the rights of people based on their sexual orientation, then let him come out and say so. He will only make his discriminatory motives all the more transparent and and strengthen the cause of those who believe that *ALL* Americans should be equal under the law.