Friday, August 29, 2008

VIETNAM: Dramatic rise in child abuse cases

Disciplining children by striking or humiliating them has traditionally been a normal part of good parenting in Vietnam

HANOI, 29 August 2008 (IRIN) - When Tran Van De strikes his grandchildren, he says he does it out of love. "I know it hurts; it hurts me too," says the 68-year old retiree, a grandfather of four. "But it helps them become good citizens. That was the way I was taught when I was a child. It's not abuse. I love my grandchildren. How could I abuse them?"

In many countries, a parent hitting a child or leaving them in a house alone would be reported to the authorities. A social worker would be sent to investigate. The police might be summoned and child abuse charges could even be filed against the parent.

In Vietnam, this scenario would not happen. There is no accepted definition of "child abuse". There are no social workers. There are no specific laws against physical punishment, according to Duong Tuyet Mien, a professor at Hanoi Law University, and other experts in the field.

Disciplining children by striking or humiliating them has traditionally been a normal part of good parenting in Vietnam. It is a part of good teaching. Indeed, it would be irresponsible not to use physical punishment if a child misbehaved, according to parents interviewed by IRIN and authorities at the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA).

For complete article go here:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Join with Maryam Namazie and CEMB to defeat radical Islam

Maryam Namazie, the extremely courageous Iranian human rights activist based in Great Britain, gave this presentation to explain the purpose of the Council of ExMuslims of Britain (CEMB). According to the Koran, apostasy is punishable by stoning to death. In the west, radical Islamists have access to Internet web sites they can use to condemn and threaten Muslims who dare to leave Islam, or convert to another faith, or speak out against the misogyny, oppression and hatred of radical political Islam.Peace loving people around the world must support CEMB and other organizations and people who are inspired to action by Maryam's vision and bravery. Here are actions you can take to support CEMB. (Go to

* Sign on to CEMB campaigns and urgent actions.

* Add your name and statement to CEMB's list of members or supporters.

* Volunteer your time and expertise. CEMB particularly needs help in charity law, conference organising, researching, writing and broadcasting.

* Tell others about CEMB by forwarding recent media coverage or CEMB press releases to everyone you know...

* Donate money

* Participate in the CEMB forum discussions

* Join the Facebook group, "1,000,000 activists for Maryam Namazie"

According to the writer and philosopher A. C. Grayling, CEMB's manifesto constitutes a bill of rights which is absolutely necessary for everyone, non-religious and otherwise, to adopt and observe now that the world is again experiencing, with such bitterness, widespread religion-generated difficulties.

CEMB manifesto

We, non-believers, atheists, and ex-Muslims, are establishing or joining the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain to insist that no one be pigeonholed as Muslims with culturally relative rights nor deemed to be represented by regressive Islamic organisations and "Muslim community leaders".

Those of us who have come forward with our names and photographs represent countless others who are unable or unwilling to do so because of the threats faced by those considered 'apostates' - punishable by death in countries under Islamic law.

By doing so, we are breaking the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam but also taking a stand for reason, universal rights and values, and secularism.

Whilst religion or the lack thereof is a private affair, the increasing intervention of and devastation caused by religion and particularly Islam in contemporary society has necessitated our public renunciation and declaration. We represent a majority in Europe and a vast secular and humanist protest movement in countries like Iran.

Taking the lead from the Central Council of Ex-Muslims in Germany, we demand:

1. Universal rights and equal citizenship for all. We are opposed to cultural relativism and the tolerance of inhuman beliefs, discrimination and abuse in the name of respecting religion or culture.
2. Freedom to criticise religion. Prohibition of restrictions on unconditional freedom of criticism and expression using so-called religious 'sanctities'.
3. Freedom of religion and atheism.
4. Separation of religion from the state and legal and educational system.
5. Prohibition of religious customs, rules, ceremonies or activities that are incompatible with or infringe people's rights and freedoms.
6. Abolition of all restrictive and repressive cultural and religious customs which hinder and contradict woman's independence, free will and equality. Prohibition of segregation of sexes.
7. Prohibition of interference by any authority, family members or relatives, or official authorities in the private lives of women and men and their personal, emotional and sexual relationships and sexuality.
8. Protection of children from manipulation and abuse by religion and religious institutions.
9. Prohibition of any kind of financial, material or moral support by the state or state institutions to religion and religious activities and institutions.
10. Prohibition of all forms of religious intimidation and threats.

Editorial comment

The Koran, Bible, and Jewish bible all contain harsh words and advocate cruel treatment to intimidate believers from leaving and non-believers for refusing to believe. This is ignorant tribal thinking unworthy of modern people. Join the gathering storm of protest against such stupidity and backwardness. Insist your faith community openly, publically, emphatically and continually renounces all the passages in your holy text and directives that contain injunctions against apostasy and non-belief. Withdraw financial support if they refuse. An even more effective strategy is to find a more modern approach to search for answers to the transcendental questions life poses (if you believe such questions are worthwhile pondering) and vote with your feet. Be sure to tell your cleric why you are leaving. You have the power to force your faith community to conform to fair and reasonable demands. Don't be a lamb, be a lion. Maryam Namazie is showing you the way.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The USA Should Institute International Standards on Child Rights

James G. Dwyer, The Relationship Rights of Children. Cambridge University Press, 2006, $ 55.00 hardcover.

The United States and Somalia stand as the only two nations in the world that refuse to sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a document that lays down the basic rights and moral standing of children. Nor has the U.S. attempted to adopt the comprehensive legislation passed in many countries, such as England's The Children Act, which focuses on all matters pertaining to children, with the child's welfare squarely defining all legal actions.

James Dwyer, in his complexly argued book, The Relationship Rights of Children, believes that, while the United States goes far in protecting parents" rights, it is often at the expense of the welfare of children. He does not offer why the United States leans so far in favor of parents (there are complicated historical and cultural reasons for our "difference"), but instead makes a strong case, based on two centuries of philosophical reasoning, for why children deserve the same moral and legal consideration as adults, even when this consideration steps on the rights of adults.

The debate about children's rights, when it takes place at all in this country, is usually carried on by legal scholars, with the occasional contribution of social scientists who either study child development or who offer measures of children's economic and psychological well-being. With Dwyer, we are offered extensive arguments from the philosopher giants, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls and others on the value of the moral autonomy of the individual. These philosophers, he admits, focus their arguments on adults, not children. In fact, he notes, John Stuart Mill, in his theory of liberty, specifically states: "[this] is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties." Not so for Dwyer. He makes a compelling case that the same moral rights apply to children.

"Critically then, each of us competent adults has rights of self-determination because it is generally assumed as a moral matter that our interests matter, and matter equally regardless of our status in society. This empirical assumption certainly applies to children as well, and if we are to respect children as equals, we must extend the moral assumption to them also--that is, that their interests matter as much as do adults' interests in state decision making."

But how do children know what their interests are, and if they did, how can they assert them? Children are, of course, dependent upon adults to do so for them. But which adults? Here Dwyer argues forcefully that although the law professes to promote "the best interests of children," in fact it is far more protective of parental rights, and that these rights are often based on a purely biological claim, not any test of parental ability. Dwyer promotes a view of parents as caretakers, not automatic owners of children. He focuses his criticism on laws creating parental rights at birth, and protecting them in events of abuse and neglect after birth. His solution is to drastically re-formulate the law so that, among other requirements, a birth mother must sign a "Parental Vow" promising love and support within two days after birth in order to become a legal parent, but the state may file a petition within seven days to determine in a court proceeding whether the mother is, in fact, unsuitable for one of many reasons, including age, mental incapacity, past conduct of violence against family members, etc. Fathers achieve legal parenthood only if the birth mother consents and they are married. Fathers not married to the mother can only be deemed legal parents if the mother consents and the father petitions the court, passing all the tests of adequate parenting. Non-biological adults may also petition the court within 30 days and their claim will be determined by the court. Following birth, similar strict tests are applied in cases of abuse or neglect of children, allowing the court to more easily terminate parental rights than is now the case.

His view of children's rights privileges birth mothers but gives little other advantage to biological ties. Unwed fathers still have an obligation to support but not to access unless they have passed all the above tests. Adults who have acted like parents, or have firm attached relationships to children, like stepfathers, have rights over non-involved biological fathers, and a child may have more than two significant adults in his life. From this perspective, attachment trumps biology and a parent must earn the right to become and to continue as a parent.

This concept of parents as caretakers or trustees rather than the owners of children who have independent rights is much more in keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and with most European efforts at establishing a code of children's rights. Some of its obvious consequences would be a move toward no corporal punishment and ultimately the right of children themselves, as they grow older, to petition to "divorce" their parents--the course taken in Europe.

Grounded in a strong tradition of moral philosophy, this child-centered approach adds valuable support to some American legal scholars and others who have been moving more timidly in this direction, most notably with a new revision of the influential American Law Institutes" treatise on Parent and Child where "de facto" parents (such as stepparents) without biological ties would be given greater access rights.

A limitation of this book is that Dwyer limits himself to the "protective" rights of young children and does not wander into the thornier "choice rights" of maturing adolescents. For instance: does the protective state have the right to insist on drug testing for children before they may join any after-school activity, as the Supreme Court recently ruled? or, are the rights of children served when in one courtroom a 13-year-old who steals a candy bar may be given a lawyer and nearly all the due process rights of a criminal defendant while down the hall a 13-year-old whose physical custody is being determined following divorce may have no voice or representation at all? Perhaps this philosopher will tackle maturing children's rights in his next book.

Mary Ann Mason

University of California, Berkeley

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Excerpt from article by Chris Hedges author of American Fascist


The movement seeks the imprint of law and science. It must discredit the rational disciplines that are the pillars of the Enlightenment to abolish the liberal polity of the Enlightenment. This corruption of science and law is vital in promoting the doctrine. Creationism, or "intelligent design," like Eugenics for the Nazis, must be introduced into the mainstream as a valid scientific discipline to destroy the discipline of science itself. This is why the Christian Right is working to bring test cases to ensure that school textbooks include "intelligent design" and condemn gay marriage.

The drive by the Christian Right to include crackpot theories in scientific or legal debate is part of the campaign to destroy dispassionate and honest intellectual inquiry. Facts become interchangeable with opinions. An understanding of reality is not to be based on the elaborate gathering of facts and evidence. The ideology alone is true. Facts that get in the way of the ideology can be altered. Lies, in this worldview, become true. Hannah Arendt called this effort "nihilistic relativism" although a better phrase might be collective insanity.

The Christian Right has fought successfully to have Creationist books sold in national park bookstores in the Grand Canyon, taught as a theory in public schools in states like Alabama and Arkansas. "Intelligent design" is promoted in Christian textbooks. All animal species, or at least their progenitors, students read, fit on Noah's ark. The Grand Canyon was created a few thousand years ago by the flood that lifted up Noah's ark, not one billion years ago, as geologists have determined. The earth is only a few thousand years old in line with the literal reading of Genesis. This is not some quaint, homespun view of the world. It is an insidious attempt to undermine rational scientific research and intellectual inquiry.

Tom Delay, following the Columbine shootings, gave voice to this assault when he said that the killings had taken place "because our school systems teach children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial mud." (speech Delay gave in the House on June 16, 1999 )

"What convinces masses are not facts," Hannah Arendt wrote in Origins of Totalitarianism, "and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system which they are presumably part. Repetition, somewhat overrated in importance because of the common belief in the "masses" inferior capacity to grasp and remember, is important because it convinces them of consistency in time." (p.351)

There are more than 6 million elementary and secondary school students attending private schools and 11.5 percent of these students attend schools run by the Christian Right. These "Christian" schools saw an increase of 46 percent in enrollment in the last decade. The 245,000 additional students accounted for 75 percent of the total rise in private school enrollment.

The Threat of Christian Fascism is Hidden, but Very Real

For more on fascism:

American Fascists, The Christian Right and The War on America, by Chris Hedges
Kingdom Coming, by Michelle Goldberg
American Theocracy, The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury by Kevin Philips
Reports on the web include: reviewer

Liars for Jesus

February 18, 2008
By Steven L. Roberts (Madison, WI) - See all my reviews

Liars for Jesus by Chris Rodda is one of the best written and most important books about contemporary American politics that I have read in years. The only problem with this book is that it was apparently published with the author's own money, making its availability somewhat limited. This book should be widely read and discussed, because it helps explain why the Christian Right seems so incomprehensibly loony to most of us who are not part of that movement, and, conversely, why they attack the rest of us with such unfettered zeal.

There has been a series of revisionist "history" books published since the end of WWII which give a "Christian" version of American history that attempts to paint the Founding Fathers and subsequent American culture in a way that is in agreement with contemporary Fundamentalism. We have now had a couple of generations of conservative Christians who have been buying into this version of history and reacting angrily to an America that assumes fundamental principals like the separation of church and state to be at the core of what America stands for.

Author Rodda systematically lists and then busts a series of myths that these spurious history books have generated. She leaves no stone unturned in doing so.

Things get really scary when she starts quoting Supreme Court opinions written by Rennquist, Thomas and Burger, and it becomes apparent that members of our highest court do not know the difference between real history and Fundamentalist wishful thinking.

The book is a fascinating study in how the desire for a different set of facts can, over time, morph into an alternative if deluded "reality".

My Comment:

There is an insidious clandestine effort underway driven by Christian fascists to polute the common person's understanding of American history and the part religion plays in that history. This is not merely the usual difference of interpretation that ethical historians normally write about. As Michelle Goldman explains in her book, "Kingdom Comming", what is dangerous is that a gradual shift has occurred so that what would have been unthinkable rubbish ten years ago is now embraced by the fascists as absolute truth.

Others, trained from childhood to follow authority blindly accept the lies as truth. Since kids in homeschools never encounter any other point of view they readily accept the lies. Which is exactly why their misbegotten parents sequester them in their sham schools.

Accordingly, this propaganda posing as history is being freely passed around over the Internet and incorporated in textbooks sold to the child abusers in charge of lying to their children. Revisionist history books by several different authors (David Barton, Peter Marshall, Mark A. Beliles (Author), and Stephen K. McDowell to name a few) are widely used in sham homeschools along with grossly distorted books on science that are teaching ID and creation myths and calling it science.

Parents do this because they trust the likes of James Dobson, Michael Ferris, Phylis Schafly, and Pat Robertson and they have no critical faculties. Dobson, the high priest of religious child abuse, insists the most important quality a child can have is obedience. According to him children are inherently incorrigible and they must be whipped to convince them to obey what they are told to do. These are the methods totalitarians use.

We know from engaging parents on public discussion forums how deranged these people are and how futile it is to try and hold an intelligent discussion with them. A constant retort is, "well that is your opinion", facts mean absolutely nothing. Their brains are reduced to a worthless pile of rotten cells that serve no function.