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Punk Band Pussy Riot Jailed In Russia For Engaging In Freedom Of Expression—The Work Of Freedom Is Up To Each Of Us

The Russian punk band Pussy Riot has been sentenced to two years in a Russian prison for exercising free speech and engaging in political protest.

This past February, Pussy Riot staged a performance inside of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This performance was directed at the linked repressive power of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Here is an overview of current politics and demographics in Russia from the BBC.

Pussy Riot has made a practice of staging political concerts in unusual places around Moscow. Above is a Pussy Riot demonstration earlier this year in Red Square. (Photo by Denis Bochkarev.)

After the appearance in the church was posted online, band members were arrested and charged with hooliganism and inciting religious hatred.

The Russian Orthodox Church had the option here to forgive those that trespass, but instead made the call to continue to ally itself with the corrupt and undemocratic power of Vladimir Putin.

Why is so often the case that powerful religious officials cannot get past a sense  of perpetual victimhood and so often choose to make common cause with the most retrograde political forces?

Top clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church said that they forgave the band, but still supported the prosecution.

Sure.

Amnesty International has written about this case and has called for Pussy Riot band members to be released.

The excellent website Global Voices has written on this issue.

It may seem there is no point to addressing an issue in Russia from where I am in Houston, Texas.

Yet the universal values of free speech and democracy merit our concern no matter where in the world they are under assault.

This case is also a reminder that free speech and freedom from unjust incarceration are hardly matters only for people outside the United States.

Here in our torture-industrial-prison state, no freedom is safe from the forces of big money, a bought government, and millions of mean-spirited and intellectually lazy fellow citizens.

The good news is that we all have the ability to fight back and that very many people all around the world care about these concerns.

As Pussy Riot well understood, the work of freedom is up to each of us.

(Below–Pussy Riot on trial.)

August 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arab Spring Protests Are Ongoing—Protests Started With One Act

There have been large protests in Yemen in recent days and renewed protests in Morocco as the so-called Arab Spring continues.

(Above–Protests in Syria earlier in 2011. Photo by Syriana2011.)

These events take place as the very brave protesters in Syria keep up the presssure despite Tiananmen Square style brutality from the Assad government and as a new government takes over in Libya. 

Longstanding repressive governments have previously been toppled in 2011 in Tunisia and Egypt. 

One of the best sources to learn about these uprisings and revolutions is Global Voices.

Global Voices offers reports from bloggers and non-governmental social media users from all around the world.

Here is a Global Voices report about bloggers running for the Tunisian parliament.  Two of the 7 candidates profiled are women.

There is no way to be certain if the changes in the Arab world will lead to expanded freedoms or to new forms of repression. It may take years for any accurate appraisal to be given.

Yet the alternative to Arab citizens finding out for themselves what they will do with newfound liberties would have been more long years of dictatorship.

How could that be acceptable to any freedom-loving person?

It should also be recalled that while there are many underlying causes to the Arab uprisings, it is also so that all this started with one act by someone who had not before been widely known.

On December 10, 2010, a college educated 26 year old Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire.

Like many Tunisians, Mr. Bouazizi had not been able to find steady work despite an education. Mr. Bouazizi had a number of rough encounters with local authorities in his town of Sidi Bouzid as he tried to peddle goods on the street.

Mr. Bouazizi reached a breaking point and set himself on fire with gasoline. This attracted attention all over Tunisia and led to the toppling of the Tunsian government.

From Tunisia these protests have spread to much of the Arab world.

Please don’t set yourself on fire—But who can know when or where the next act of defiance or despair will set in motion great change.

Hope and change that is more than a campaign slogan is always possible.

Yet just as we are seeing in the Middle East, it is up to everyday people to force change with brave and strong words and brave and strong deeds.

Below–Mohamed Bouaziz

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facts And Context About Ongoing Egyptian Protests

Blogger’s Note– This post is updated through 12 noon on 2/6.

This post seeks to offer history and context for what is taking place in Egypt. It is good to get the facts on what is taking place right now. It also has value to go back and better understand the underlying circumstances. This post attempts to offer a mix of current events and larger context.

There are significant protests taking place in Egypt against the longtime and undemocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak has ruled Egypt since 1981. A leading opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, has returned to Egypt. This is a strong challenge to the Mubarak government. Various oppostion forces in Egypt exist, but none of these groups can be said to be leading the demonstrations.

Europe and the United States are pushing for some type of transition of government. But at the bottom line, the Egyptian government does not appear to be yielding power. President Mubarak won’t give up power. But Mr. Mubarak’s departure is all that will meet the demands of the demonstraters. Given that the powerful army will not back a harsh crackdown, how can Mr. Mubarak hang on?

It is good to see people fighting for freedom and for a better life. People have to take charge of their lives. While circumstance does not always allow that, we see in Egypt that people can move ahead even in tough circumstances.

Let’s hope that something better does come to Egypt.

Here is a profile of Mohamed ElBaradei.

(Update 2/6–The Muslim Brotherhood has taken part in talks for the first time.)

(Update 2/6–Here is an Aljazeera profile of the Muslim Brotherhood.)

(Update 2/6—Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei says he is being excluded from talks. Mr. ElBaradei also says that the issue should long-standing change instead of an immediate  demand that Mr. Mubarak leave power.)

(Update 2/4–There are protests and conflict taking place in Cairo away from the cameras of Tahrir Square.)

(Update 2/4—This is a blog post I wrote with links to a number of liberal American media sources reporting on Egypt.)

(Update 2/4–Some Egyptians are praying for Mubarak to leave.)

(Update 2/2—Journalists were attacked by pro-government  protestors today.)

(Update 2/2–Hopefully, the protests will enhance the status of women in Egypt.)

(Update 2/2--The leading liberal magazine The Nation has a number of blogs and articles about events in Egypt.)

(Update 2/1—National Public Radio reports on the wide range of demands the protestors have.)

(Update 2/1—The U.S. says Hosni Mubrak should go.)

(Update 1/31—The respected U.S. online newspaper The Christian Science Monitor reports that it is not clear what opposition group or groups have the upper hand if President Mubarak is forced from office.)

(Update 1/31-Some wealthy areas of Cairo are being attacked by mobs.)

(Update 1/31—Here is how things are seen by India’s great newspaper The Hindu.)

(Update 1/30— Israel, a great nation that has every right to exist despite the thuggish right-wing leaders they keep electing, is watching events in Egypt with concern.)

(Update 1/30–With looting taking place, some Egyptians are guarding their own homes and business places.)

(Update 1/30-Here is the AlJazeera blog on Egypt.)

(Update 1/30—2000 people in Chicago marched for democracy in Egypt.)

(Update 1/29-This report from the Times of India suggests that members of the Mubarak family have fled to London.)

(Update 1/29–The excellent monthly news and features magazine The Atlantic is liveblogging from Egypt.)

(Update 1/28–-Live updates of events on the BBC.)

(Update 1/28-The British newspsper The Guardian is updating reports on the protests by the minute.)

(Update 1/28–Today’s protests are the largest yet.)

(Update 1/27–Reuters Africa reports many disruptions in internet service in Egypt. The government does not want people to organize.)

(Update 1/27– Mohamed ElBaradei is back in Egypt.)

(Update 1/27–As the BBC reports, the protests are now on day 3.)

(Update 1/27—The liberal magazine The Nation says that Barack Obama did little to support the people of Egypt and Tunisia in his State of the Union address.)

(Update 1/26—Some are defying a goverment order to stop the protests.)

(Update 1/26—Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Egypt.)

(Update 1/26– The latest videos and reports from Al-Jazeera.)

This 1/29 Los Angeles Times article connects events in Tunsia to the wider protests now going on in Egypt and elsewhere in that region.

From the L.A. Times—

“The most obvious effect is the empowerment of the citizen. The individual who felt helpless before the all-powerful state has now discovered that ultimate political power really does lie in his or her hands — that in spontaneous and collective action, a repressive regime, enjoying widespread regional and international support, can be brought down in a few weeks.”

Here are facts about Mr. Mubarak and his time in office from About.com.

(Below–Hosni Mubarak with former President George W. Bush.)

Amnesty International reports that civil rights abuses and repression are prevalent in Egypt.

From the 2010 Amnesty report on Egypt—

“The government continued to use state of emergency powers to detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security offences or involvement in terrorism. Some were held under administrative detention orders; others were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials before military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in police cells, security police detention centres and prisons, and in most cases were committed with impunity. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were curtailed; journalists and bloggers were among those detained or prosecuted. Hundreds of families residing in Cairo’s “unsafe areas” were forcibly evicted”


(Above–Mr. Mubarak getting a symbolic shoe tossed his way in the ongoing protests. Photo by Muhammad Ghafari.)

After protests in Tunisia that began this month, the government in that nearby North African nation was toppled. Yet it remains unclear if what will replace the old corrupt regime in Tunisia will be any better than what came before.

The population of Tunisia is as a general matter more educated and more connected online than is the population of Egypt. This is said in no way to disparage the Egyptian people. It is simply to say that when people have not been free for many years, it can be tough to establish a functioning democracy.

The great liberal magazine Mother Jones is writing ongoing updates on the protests.

From Mother Jones—

“Inspired by the recent protests that led to the fall of the Tunisian government and the ousting of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptians have joined other protesters across the Arab world (in Algeria, notably) in protesting their autocratic governments, high levels of corruption, and grinding poverty. In Egypt, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets.”

Bloomberg Businessweek has an article on the possible econmic impact of the protests for Egypt.


(Above–The Nile River in Cairo. Here are facts about the Nile River. Here are various travel blogs that describe visiting Cairo.)

Global Voices is an excellent resource for citizen bloggers and citizen reporters from across the world. Here is the Global Voices Egypt page.

Here is the blog The Arabist with reports about both Egypt and Tunisia.

Here is an extensive  series of articles on Egypt published last July by The Economist. This link is to the first of the eight articles. Links to the others are on the right side of the first article.

From The Economist–

“Political talk in Egypt has always been acidly cynical, but now a new bitterness has crept in. This has not been prompted by any change from above, since little has really changed in Egyptian politics since President Hosni Mubarak came to office 29 years ago. The sour mood is informed instead by the contrast between rising aspirations and enduring hardships; by a growing sense of alienation from the state; and by the unease of anticipation as the end of an era inevitably looms ever closer.”

(Above–Map of Egypt.)

Here are some basic facts about Egypt from the BBC.

84 million people live in Egypt.

Here are some basic facts about Tunisia from the BBC.

10 million people live in Tunisia.

At the bottom of both the BBC links are links to Egyptian and Tunisian media outlets.

Let’s hope that both Egypt and Tunisia find a path to better governments and towards a society that allows people to best use the talents they have in life. Let’s hope that these folks don’t end up with a right-wing religious government.

Let’s also use this North African unrest as a chance to learn more about this part of the world. We all have the abilty to learn more.  Accessible and affordable technology, as well the old- fashioned daily newspaper and public library, are always available to help us learn more about the world.

(Below–The Suez Canal Bridge. Also known as the Mubarak Peace Bridge. People in Egypt seem ready to pass on over to something new.)

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Haiti Earthquake Links

The earthquake in Haiti is a terrible disaster.

This event is being covered from many perspectives.

Here is a comprehensive report from the BBC.

Here is comment on the quake by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The excellent Global Voices has stories and links related to the quake.

The Miami Herald is providing extensive coverage of events in Haiti.

CNN is devoting many resources to this story.

A blog in Haiti writing about the quake is the Livesay (Haiti) Blog.

A blog focused on the Caribbean and writing about the quake is Repeating Islands.

The Reuters news agency has a live blog from Haiti.

Here are basic facts about Haiti from the BBC.

Here is an extensive history of Haiti.

Here is an account from the BBC of what causes earthquakes.

Help is needed for the survivors in Haiti

Many groups are taking donations.

The New York Times has a list of groups taking donations.

In addition to the organizations on the New York Times list, there is the United Way Worldwide Disaster Fund.

Most people in our country have at least some amount of money they can donate for earthquake relief.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protests Ongoing In Iran

Protests in Iran are ongoing.

Global Voices has links to blogs and people using Twitter who are reporting about events in Iran.

Here is the blog Revolutionary Road. This blog is based in Iran. 

Here is the BBC on Iran.

These protests have been taking place for a week now. These are people serious about being more free. They merit our support.

June 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Ongoing Protests In Iran—Links To Learn More

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi turn out to protest the result of the election at a rally in Azadi (Freedom) Square in Tehran, June 15, 2009

Protests, such the one seen above, are continuing in Iran over the disputed outcome of the Presidential Election.

It seems that the vote was rigged.

People in Iran want more freedom. 

Here are some links to learn more about this subject. It is up to you learn about the world.   

Global Voices Online is a good resource to read about Iranian bloggers and people using Twitter in Iran to talk about what is taking place.

Here is a Los Angeles Times story about the use of technology in the Iran crisis.

Here is the most recent Amnesty International report on Iran.

Here is the BBC on the situation in Iran. There is plenty of information here about what is going on right now and background information about the situation.  

Here is Al Jazeera on the conflict in Iran.

Here is Reporters Without Borders discussing censorship in Iran since the election.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Indian Election Notes & Links—Women Voters More On Target

Look how this woman voting in India is keeping her ballot private with that cardboard. They don’t have more involved screens, but they do at least have that cardboard. People all over the world value a secret ballot. 

Here is my overview of the Indian elections. Balloting began a few days ago and will extend into the middle of May. 

Al Jazeera has a series of blogger links about the Indian elections. There are nearly 130 million Muslims in India. If Indian Muslim were a nation unto themselves, they would be the tenth most populous nation in the world. (Here is a list of the 50 most populous nations in the world.)

From the Al Jazeera links, here is a blog dealing with being Islamic in India.

The BBC ran a series of articles asking Indian people what they would do if they were the Prime Minister of India. I’ll bet most of you have never pondered that question.

Here is a great story called Six Myths About Indian Elections. For example, do women vote as they are directed to do so by their husbands?

No! Women are more inclined that men to vote for parties of the left. That’s some good thinking by these women. It seems that both America and India would be better off if only women could vote.

The leader of the main opposition party, the  BJP, says there are too many folks from Bangladesh in India. What he really means is that voters who once lived in Bangladesh are likely to reject his call from extreme Indian nationalism. Immigrant bashers live all over the globe.

Global Voices has an Indian election page.  Global voices does a great job with everything they do. 

Below is a photo of a communist rally in the State of  West Bengal.  Communists hold power in this state, but may not do so well in the 2009 election.  The Communists are having trouble with rural voters in West Bengal because they are taking farm land and giving it over to a car factory and other industrial concerns. That may be the best policy, but it is not sitting well with the people losing the land. (The picture is from the Flicker page of slglanka.)

INDIA-ELECTION by slglanka.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello People Of The World!

I want to say this evening that I’m an American citizen and a citizen of the world as well. I’m a citizen of the United States because the wheel came up on my number and I was born here. I’m citizen of the world because we all are and because we all matter. Existence itself is good enough for me when it comes to seeing who counts in life.

I’m glad that folks around the world are taking heart and gaining hope from the fact that Americans elected Barack H. Obama as President of the United States.

Above are students at a school in New Delhi.

And here is my blogger friend at A Wide Angle View Of India.

Below are some folks in Kenya.

Hello Kenya!

Here is the excellent Global Voices with links to world bloggers writing on the American election. 

Both photos are from the New York Times.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Refugee Crisis & Ongoing War In Dem. Republic Of The Congo

There is a terrible refugee crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I’m not well informed about this nation, but I do have this forum to help make the issue more well- known.

Our problems here at home are real and important, yet we are often blind the needs of problems of our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, refugee camps have been burned and the people who lived in these camps have been cast adrift. As many as 50,000 people may have lived in these camps. In addition, 250,000 people in the D.R.C are fleeing fighting between the government and rebels.

This BBC article discusses the reasons behind the conflict.

From the article—

“For years, fighting has been fuelled by the country’s vast mineral wealth. DR Congo is about the size of western Europe, but with no road or rail links from one side of the country to the other. That makes it easy for all sides in a conflict to take advantage of any disorder and plunder natural resources. A five-year war – sometimes termed “Africa’s world war” as it drew in Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda – ended in 2003 with the formation of a transitional government and subsequent elections. But unrest has continued in the unruly east of the country and, as a result, some armed groups have refused to disarm or join the national army.”

The Economist reports that the European Union and the United States have sent top diplomats to the Congo to help resolve the crisis and to stop a recurrence of the terrible warfare earlier this decade on this part of the world.  

Here are some basic facts about Congo. Over 60 million people live in this nation and the life expectancy for both men and women is under 50 years. Can you imagine even more trouble for these people?

Here is Oxfam on the current situation in the Congo.

The very good Global Voices features bloggers who are discussing this issue. One on the scene blogger is a woman who runs the official blog of the Virguna National Park in Congo.

Maybe when we are done with the silliness of our election we can move ahead to a wider view of the world.

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment