Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Annise Parker’s Ongoing Legislative Barrage On Houston’s Homeless—Isn’t The Dignity Of All People Connected?

For the third time in recent months, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Houston City Council are considering regulations directed at homeless people.

From the Houston Chronicle

“Mayor Annise Parker is asking the council to adopt rules that would require organizations and people who feed the homeless to register with the city, take a food safety class, prepare the food in certified kitchens, serve only at three public parks, and leave those parks as clean as when they entered them…Councilwoman Helena Brown agreed and praised the speakers from groups who serve meals on the streets, telling them she hoped they’ll “have the freedom to do that and you don’t have to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, I have to go visit City Hall first…”It’s kind of strange and ironic that they want to stop help. We have actually been called to do this, to help those in need,” said Edward J. Sweet Sr., Strait & Narrow’s bishop. “It’s kind of sad that they would want to stop different organizations who are trying to make a change.”…If adopted, the feeding rules would mark the third time in nine months that the council has acted to contain the city’s homelessness problem, which by some estimates has 13,000 people living on the street. Last July, the council expanded the area where it is illegal to sleep on the sidewalk per the city’s so-called civility ordinance. The next month, the council forbade panhandlers from coming within eight feet of patio diners…Parker said in her inaugural address in January that making progress on homelessness would be a priority of her second term. Her administration pitched the rule changes as a way to protect the homeless from food poisoning and allergies, although opponents insist there is no evidence to suggest any health threat from donated food.”

This item will be considered again on March 21. Thanks to Councilpersons Helena Brown and Wanda Adams for delaying this issue so there can be more public attention and debate.

Here is the press release from the Mayor’s office on this issue.  

Is this how Mayor Parker feels she can best meet her inaugural pledge to help the homeless?

The way we help the construction of soccer stadiums and of so-called arthouse movie theaters in Houston, is to give them millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars.

If you feel that these are good projects for Houston, why not also allocate resources to help those most in need in our city? Wouldn’t that be a good investment as well? How does a Sundance movie house merit more concern than do human beings out on the street?

Are we supposed to believe that three council initiatives directed at the homeless in a nine month stretch are about making the lives of the homeless better?

Mayor Parker has quite correctly spoken up in recent weeks about full rights in our society for people who happen to be born gay.

I don’t assume Mayor Parker holds these beliefs for the rights of gay folks because she is a lesbian.

My assumption is that Mayor Parker sees the rights and advancement of all people as connected. This is the underlying logic of any civil rights cause.

Yet Mayor Parker appears to view one segment of our population as meriting an extraordinary series of restrictive ordinances.

Not worthy of government subsidy in the fashion that Mayor Parker rewards multi-million dollar private enterprises with taxpayer dollars, and seemingly outside her conception of who merits full concern as an equal human being in our great City of Houston, the homeless find themselves under legislative and legal assault by Mayor Annise Parker and our Houston City Council.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Role Of American Evangelical Christians In Spreading Anti-Gay Hate And Violence In Africa

A story that merits wide public attention is the role of American conservative evangelical groups in promoting brutal homophobia in Africa.

A symbol of this homophobia in Africa is an anti-gay bill in Uganda that if passed could have lead to death sentences for some gays. While the death penalty provisions of the legislation are no longer  part of the bill, a bill remains on the table in Uganda that would do great harm to gays in that country and do great harm to the cause of human rights everywhere.

On July 5, 2010 the severed head of a Ugandan gay rights activist named Pasikali Kashusbe was found on a farm in Uganda.

From the Times of London

Some argue that the African rows over homosexuality are really a proxy skirmish in an American cultural dispute, with both evangelicals and gay rights groups in the US pouring in money and support.In Uganda, attention has focused on a visit by three US evangelicals, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer, just before the anti-homosexuality bill was introduced. They held seminars for MPs and officials where homosexuality was described as a disease that could be healed, although they have subsequently disclaimed any responsibility for the bill. Lively, the president of Defend the Family International, told Ugandans that legalising homosexuality would mean legalising “the molestation of children and having sex with animals”.

These folks say being gay is a disease that can be treated. A disease is something you go after and seek to eliminate.

Here are additional links to articles on this subject—

The Economist magazine writes about steps backward for the rights of gays in Africa, and suggests that some American “Christians” may  play a part in these attacks.

From The Economist—

“In many former colonies, denouncing homosexuality as an “unAfrican” Western import has become an easy way for politicians to boost both their popularity and their nationalist credentials. But Peter Tatchell, a veteran gay-rights campaigner, says the real import into Africa is not homosexuality but politicised homophobia…. This has, he argues, coincided with an influx of conservative Christians, mainly from America, who are eager to engage African clergy in their own domestic battle against homosexuality. David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who proposed its horrid bill, is a member of the Fellowship, a conservative American religious and political organisation. “Africa must seem an exciting place for evangelical Christians from places like America,” says Marc Epprecht, a Canadian academic who studies homosexuality in Africa. “They can make much bigger gains in their culture wars there than they can in their own countries.”

The New York Times writes about American evangelical involvement in the terrible Uganda anti-gay bill.

Here is a Nightline report about the Uganda bill. The report runs just under 8 minutes.

Political Research Associates has published an article by Kapya Kaoma of Zambia that discusses research Mr. Kaoma has done about the link between the American Christian right and anti-gay actions in Africa.

From Mr. Kaoma’s work–

“If they had faced strong opposition, U.S. conservatives might not have been so successful in promoting their homophobic politics. Traditionally, evangelical African churches have been biblically and doctrinally orthodox but socially progressive on such issues as national liberation and poverty, making them natural partners of the politically liberal western churches. But their religious orthodoxy also provides the U.S. Right with an opportunity. Africans resonate with the denunciation of homosexuality as a postcolonial plot; their homophobia is as much an expression of resistance to the West as it is a statement about human sexuality. Similarly campaigns for “family values” in Africa rest on rich indigenous notions of the importance of family and procreation. In Africa, “family” expresses the idea that to be human is to be embedded in community, a concept called ubuntu. African traditional values also value procreation, making those hindering this virtue an enemy of life.”

Here is the link to Mr. Kaoma’s full 42 page report called Globalizing the Culture Wars–U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia.

Given the brutality of the social and economic positions of the American evangelical right, any vicious viewpoint or act is possible from this element. These groups should be monitored by international human rights groups and by the U.S. government. We know from hard experience in the U.S that religiously motivated hate can spread across international borders.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

England-United States World Cup Preview—Both Nations Looking To Recover From Tough Iraq Match

This is the third Texas Liberal World Cup preview post. This post is on the match to be played between England and the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday, June 12 at 2 PM Eastern time.

Here is my preview of the Mexico-South Africa game.

Here is a look ahead at Argentina-Nigeria.

(Above–Bristol, England. Here is information about visiting Bristol.)

As we assess this match, let’s see the basic facts for the two squads. ( It is England playing his match and not the United Kingdom. Scotland and Wales have their own teams. But for the text of this post we’ll look at the U.K. as a whole. The pictures are of England.)

For England-

Nationality: Noun–Briton(s). Adjective–British.
Population (2010 est.): 62.2 million.
Annual population growth rate (2010 est.): 0.7%.
Major ethnic groups: British, Irish, West Indian, South Asian.
Major religions: Church of England (Anglican), Roman Catholic, Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), Muslim.
Major languages: English, Welsh, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic.
Education: Years compulsory–12. Attendance–nearly 100%. Literacy–99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2009 est.)–4.85/1,000. Life expectancy (2009 est.)–males 76.5 yrs.; females 81.6 yrs.; total 79.0 years.
Work force (2009, 31.25 million): Services–80.4%; industry–18.2%; agriculture–1.4%.

(Of the 62 million people in the U.K., about 49 million English.)

(Above–Chicago. Maybe the best American city of them all. Here is information about visiting Chicago.)

For the United States

  • Full name: United States of America
  • Population: 314.7 million (UN, 2009)
  • Capital: Washington DC
  • Largest city: New York City
  • Area: 9.8 million sq km (3.8 million sq miles)
  • Major language: English
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 77 years (men), 81 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 US dollar = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Computers and electrical machinery, vehicles, chemical products, food and live animals, military equipment and aircraft
  • GNI per capita: US $47,580 (World Bank, 2008)

(The U.K. facts are from the U.S. State Department. The U.S. facts are from the BBC. At both locations you can find extensive information about the nations of the world.)

(Above—English countryside in an area called Widecombe in the Moor. This picture was taken by a Dennis Redfield.)

Human Rights are an important aspect of any nation’s game.  Let’s review how Amnesty International sees the U.K.—

“Amnesty International has released a new briefing outlining its call for a full, independent and impartial inquiry into UK involvement in human rights abuses post-11 September 2001. The briefing outlines ten key questions that an inquiry should seek to answer.”

You can read the full article here. The U.K. sure got itself into a mess when it went along with George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq.

Here is all of the Amnesty content on the U.K.

(Below—Badlands National Park in South Dakota. this picture was taken by Wing-chi Poon. Here is information about visiting this park.)

Here is what Amnesty has on the United States—

“Since June 2001, more than 334 individuals in the United States have died after being struck by police Tasers. AI is concerned that Tasers are being used as tools of routine force, rather than as weapons of last resort. Rigorous, independent, impartial study of their use and effects is urgently needed.”

Anyone who thinks the U.S. does not have a number of human rights issues is mistaken. We’ve made great progress since the days of Jim Crow, the second-class status of women, and the near-complete closeting of gay folks that existed 50 years ago. Yet one consequence of this progress is to illustrate how far we still must go. For example—Economic justice is denied to millions who work hard each day and still don’t earn a living wage and who can not afford health insurance for themselves and their families.

Here is all that Amnesty has to say about the U.S.

The bottom line is that even in countries that some in the world may associate with the advancement of human rights, that there is much more to be done.

(Above–The great warrior Tecumseh. Tecumseh lived 1768-1813. He fought to the last against the taking of his land.  Here is a timeline of American history.)

Match Summary—In this battle of mother country against former colony, let’s all root for each of these global powers to meet the hopes of the world’s people in terms of human rights and global peace. The unlawful invasion of Iraq was an “own goal” of self-inflicted harm for both these nations. Hopefully the lessons learned from Iraq will force both America and the U.K. to choose diplomacy over war in the years ahead. One way the U.S. can learn from the U.K. playbook is to continue the drive towards universal health care.  With some sense of decency and human concern returned to the White House in 2009 after 8 years of George W. Bush, progress has been made on this front. Yet there is still more to be done.

Here is the link to the British government.

Here is the link to the White House where Barack Hussein Obama serves as President of the United States.

(Below–Stonehenge. Who the hell knows why it was built? Here is a history of England.)

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Obama Will Not Meet With Dalai Lama—Martin Luther King Wrote Why We Can’t Wait

President Barack Obama will not be meeting with the Dalai Lama as he visits Washington this week.

This is the first time in 18 years that a sitting President will not meet with the Dalai Lama during a U.S visit by the Tibetan leader.    

President Obama will be ing China next month. It seems that not wanting to offend China is more important than human rights. 

Regretfully, this action by our President is consistent with the pattern already set by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did meet with the Dalai Lama on his visit. The Dalai Lama spoke of the need for the United States to address the gap between the rich and poor in the world.  

Here is how President Obama’s decision has been reported in the Times of India.

It is hard to see in this respect how President Obama is improving our image abroad.

Martin Luther King wrote the book Why We Can’t Wait. 

It seems that President Obama can wait a long time for the Chinese government to give greater freedom to over one billion Chinese citizens.

(Please click here for the best Martin Luther King reading list on the web.)

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Houston Councilwoman Jolanda Jones Should Mention That The Boy Scouts Don’t Let Openly Gay People Join

Houston Councilwoman Jolanda Jones made a Facebook update recently about a Boy Scouts event she attended. Ms. Jones praised the Boy Scouts.

Here is what Ms. Jones wrote in Facebook—

“As member of Internat’l & Protocol Committee, last nite I received letter from Mayor of Chiba, Japan (Sister City 2 Houston), on behalf of Mayor Bill White at Boy Scouts of America, who sent 13 Scouts on exchange program 4 10 days 2 Chiba. These Scouts ROCK & are leaders of future & dedicated 2 service 2 others! :-)”

Okay.

However, Councilwoman Jones left out how the Boy Scouts won’t allow openly gay kids to join. It seems that Ms. Jones missed a chance to speak out for what is right.

Ms. Jones is a person committed to justice for all. I would ask Ms. Jones to please consider her strong commitment to justice for all when she next interacts with the Boy Scouts.

 Ms. Jones is endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in the 2009 Houston municipal elections.  

Here is a San Francisco Chronicle article about how some Boy Scout troops are taking part in clear-cutting forests to help make up for revenue lost, in some part at least, by anti-gay policies.

Ms. Jones represents Houston in At-Large Position 5.

August 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tiananmen Square Massacre Of June 4, 1989—The Ongoing Supression Of Freedom In China

In Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, the Chinese government massacred a large number of their own people who were protesting for greater political freedom.

Here is how the BBC reported events in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989.

The Chinese people do not yet have political freedom. Human rights abuses go in China each day. The current government of China contains many of the same officials who held positions of power in 1989. Today’s Chinese government is the continuation of the government that ordered the Tiananmen attack.

File:Tianasquare.jpg

Here is the Amnesty International 2008 report on human rights in China.

From the report—

Growing numbers of human rights activists were imprisoned, put under house arrest or surveillance, or harassed. Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighursand Mongolians, continued. FalunGongpractitioners were at particularly high risk of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. Christians were persecuted for practising their religion outside state-sanctioned channels. Despite the reinstatement of Supreme People’s Court review of deathpenaltycases, the death penalty remained shrouded in secrecy and continued to be used extensively. Torture of detainees and prisoners remained prevalent. Millions of people had no access to justice and were forced to seek redress through an ineffective extra-legal petition system. Women and girls continued to suffer violence and discrimination. Preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were marked by repression of human rights activists. Censorship of the internet and other media intensified.”

(Above–Chinese characters meaning freedom.)

Here is an eyewitness account of the Tiananmen massacre with some history of the Tiananmen movement from the Huffington Post.

President Barack Obama does not seem view China’s human rights record as an important concern in U.S.-China relations.

The following is from a column in the New York Times written about Tiananmen by a Chinese writer named Yu Hua who was there in 1989—

THIS is the first time I am writing about Tiananmen Square. I am telling my story now because 20 years later — the anniversary is June 4 — two facts have become more apparent. The first is that the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests amounted to a one-time release of the Chinese people’s political passions, later replaced by a zeal for making money. The second is that after the summer of 1989 the incident vanished from the Chinese news media. As a result, few young Chinese know anything about it.But most important of all, I realize now that the spring of 1989 was the only time I fully understood the words “the people.” Those words have little meaning in China today. “The people,” or renmin, is one of the first phrases I learned to read and write. I knew our country was called “the People’s Republic of China.” Chairman Mao told us to “serve the people.” The most important paper was People’s Daily. “Since 1949, the people are the masters,” we learned to say…. In China today, it seems only officials have “the people” on their lips. New vocabulary has sprouted up — netizens, stock traders, fund holders, celebrity fans, migrant laborers and so on — slicing into smaller pieces the already faded concept of “the people… But in 1989, my 30th year, those words were not just an empty phrase. Protests were spreading across the country, and in Beijing, where I was studying, the police suddenly disappeared from the streets. You could take the subway or a bus without paying, and everyone was smiling at one another. Hard-nosed street vendors handed out free refreshments to protesters. Retirees donated their meager savings to the hunger strikers in the square. As a show of support for the students, pickpockets called a moratorium….”

 Here are four views on Tiananmen published by the N.Y. Times. 

( Below—Bodies of people killed by Chinese government at Tiananmen Square.)

Here is an overview of China today from the BBC.

China is a nation where over a billion people don’t have basic political freedom and human rights. This denial of basic rights was maintained by the murder of Chinese citizens by the Chinese government.

These facts are the defining facts of modern China.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cincinnati NAACP Hires Right-Wing Attorney With Poor Civil Rights Record—Can’t Black Folks And Gay Folks Get Along Better?

The Cincinnati NAACP has hired conservative lawyer Christopher Finney to serve as it’s Director of Legal Redress.

The Cincinnati NAACP has done this despite Mr. Finney’s record of opposing the rights of gay folks in Cincinnati.

(The links above are to my blogger friend at Queer Cincinnati.  Texas Liberal is always glad to be listed at that shop as a Queer Cincinnati blogger.) 

Mr. Finney had a large hand in the passage of the terrible Issue 3 in Cincinnati back in 1993. This measure denied legal protections to gay citizens of Cincinnati that were extended to all other Cincinnatians.( It has since been repealed.)

The rights all people are connected.

I’ve long had the frustration that some advocates of gay rights don’t look behind their own interests. They don’t always seem to see the link between their rights and the rights of all people. Sometimes they come of as elitist and looking for more of a kind economic empacipation rather than looking for the freedom of all people.

Yet what impression can be left with gay rights advocates and with all freedom-loving people in the Cincinnati area when  Christopher Finney is hired to work for the Cincinnati NAACP?     

Why can’t black folks and gay folks get along? When will leaders in the black community speak more forcefully about accepting all people as they were born? Black folks and most gay folks came together to vote for Mr. Obama last November.  Can’t this fact be used as a starting point for better relations between the two groups?  

Writing about this issue and seeing that Chris Finney is still causing trouble after I’ve been away from Cincinnati for 11 years reminds me of the Jean Sartre play No Exit. The same people year after year after year afflicting each other by dredging up bad memories and the inability to leave the room even though they may in fact have the option to go elsewhere.

It’s not really different anywhere else. Though in a big spread-out place like Houston, with a young and often transient population, fewer people make the pretense of caring.  I don’t advocate widespread apathy, though sometimes I see its virtues. 

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Obama And Clinton Must Maintain Human Rights Pressure On China

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while on a tour of Asia,  has said that human rights issues in China should not interfere with areas of possible cooperation with China. Secretary Clinton mentioned climate change and the global economic downturn as other issues in U.S.–China relations.

As important as these issues are, how can the freedom of over a billion people not be at the top of the Obama-Clinton agenda for our China policy? 

Here is what Amnesty International says about Mrs. Clinton’s remarks–

“T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific, made the following statement in response to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments to reporters that human rights will not be at the top of her agenda in her first visit to China”

“Amnesty International is shocked and extremely disappointed by U.S. Secretary Clinton’s comments that human rights will not be a priority in her diplomatic engagement with China.

“The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues. But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future U.S. initiatives to protect those rights in China.

“The Chinese people face a dire situation. Crackdowns on Tibetans, Uighurs and religious groups such as the Falun Gong are widespread, resulting in thousands of political prisoners–some of whom have been executed. Half a million people are currently in labor camps. Women face forced abortion and sterilization as part of China’s enforcement of its one-child policy.

“It’s not too late for Secretary Clinton to do the right thing for the Chinese people. Amnesty International urges Secretary Clinton to repair the damage caused by her statement and publicly declare that human rights are central to U.S.-China relations before she leaves Beijing.”

I agree with Amnesty’s view of this question. I hope that President Obama and Secretary Clinton will reflect further on this concern and choose a more just and decent path. 

Here is the web home of Amnesty International USA.

February 21, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama | , , , , | 4 Comments