Sunday, August 31, 2008

Women champions boycott world chess tournament, in Russia, over Georgia

I have a love-hate relationship with chess: my father was a junior champion and we had beautiful chess sets and a handmade board, as well as chess books in Russian, inherited from my Lithuanian grandfather. (image credit) We also had chess books in English, which my brothers read, memorizing moves in the hopes of beating my father, who studied George Koltanowski's column in the newspaper and even took us all to a tournament in Sonoma to play against the master, who could beat two opponents playing simultaneously while blindfolded. I loved the pieces and the heritage, but couldn't get interested in the competitiveness and strategy. And there didn't seem to be any women chess champions out there to inspire me, or even any girlfriends playing chess.
Today, however, there are 64 women qualified to play in the world championship being held in Nalchik, a Russian city in the Caucuses. Among them are former (women's) world champion Maya Chiburdanidze of Georgia. She and 8 of her consoeurs (5 other Georgians, Marie Sebag of France, Irina Krush of the US and Tea Lanchava, born in Georgia but now living in the Netherlands) have been disqualified, however: on August 12, they wrote to the World Chess Federation to protest the location of the tournament because Georgia was in a "state of war" and did not show up.
Claiming logistical impossibility, the president of the Federation, who is also president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, replied that the tournament could not be moved, and asked that players not mix sport and politics (just like the Olympics, n'est-ce pas?). But in turning it into a "sport," the Federation seems to have done just that: chess is a game of strategy, of brain not brawn, but the tournaments are apparently segregated and male players obtain the title of world champion, while female players become the "women's world champion." Looks like the 'Grrls will have to keep mixin' it up.

On August 31

On this day in ...
... 1962, Trinidad and Tobago gained full independence from Britain. It then joined the Commonwealth of Nations, and though independent, it "acknowledged the British monarch as the figurehead chief of state from 1962 until 1976." Since then it's been a parliamentary republic. In 1498 Christopher Columbus had landed on Trinidad, the larger of the 2 islands that comprise the Caribbean country. Today Trinidad and Tobago, which is about the size of Delaware, has a population of 1.3 million.
... 1979, Sally Rand died of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Glendora, California. She'd been born Harriet Helen Gould Beck 75 years earlier in Hickory County, Missouri; Cecil B. DeMille gave her her stage name in the 1920s. Rand gained global renown in 1933 and 1934 at the "Streets of Paris" concession (right) at Chicago's Century of Progress World's Fair. (photo credit) There throngs watched her dance to classical music, waving giant ostrich-befeathered fans that appeared the only cover of her seemingly nude (but actually bodysuited) self. Her famous fan dance is captured in the video below. Rand's political side extended to more than sexual politics, according to her New York Times obituary:

During the 1930's, when her notoriety was at its height, she made repeated appearances before small-town civic groups and spoke out in favor of the republican forces in the Spanish Civil War.

Sally Rand's fan dance

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Guest Blogger: Margaret deGuzman

It's IntLawGrrls' great pleasure today to welcome Margaret deGuzman (left) as a guest blogger.
A Ph.D. candidate at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland-Galway, Margaret's an Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights Law at Georgetown University’s Institute for International Law and Politics. Previously, she practiced criminal defense law for six years at a San Francisco firm. While attending Yale Law School, from which she earned her J.D. in 1999, Margaret served as a legal advisor to the Senegal delegation at the U.N. Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, held in Rome in summer 1998, and at subsequent Preparatory Commission meetings.
Margaret's publications focus on international criminal law issues -- not only the ICC, but also crimes against humanity and efforts to secure accountability in Cambodia. Her guest post below discusses her most recent article, an examination of the concept of "gravity" as it pertains to offenses within the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Margaret is a candidate for law teaching positions this fall.
Heartfelt welcome!

Gravity, legitimacy & the ICC

Thank you to IntLawGrrls for inviting me to write this guest post about my work in progress, entitled "Gravity and the Legitimacy of the International Criminal Court."
The article seeks to unlock a puzzle concerning the appropriate demarcation of spheres of jurisdiction of national and international criminal courts. In particular, the work examines the concept of gravity of crimes and cases embedded in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
For the ICC regime, the gravity of the crimes and cases at issue represents the primary normative justification for international adjudication. The notion that the core international crimes are particularly grave or serious is not new. In fact, most international criminal law scholarship and jurisprudence simply assume the necessity of a gravity element. This article takes a critical look at the roles that gravity plays in the ICC regime, from both theoretical and doctrinal standpoints, as follows:
► In terms of theory, the article posits gravity as a key determinant of the ICC’s moral and sociological legitimacy. The Rome Statute’s gravity threshold for admissibility in Article 17 helps to ensure the Court’s minimal moral legitimacy by requiring a preliminary balancing of justice and sovereignty before the Court exercises jurisdiction.
► In a related but distinct role, the prosecution’s discretionary consideration of relative gravity, pursuant to Article 53 of the Rome Statute, helps to ensure the Court’s sociological legitimacy in relevant audiences.
The article’s prescriptive contribution seeks to assist the Court – not only the judges, but also Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (above right) and his team, which must ensure the gravity of the cases it investigates and prosecutes – in developing a gravity doctrine and policies that comport with the theoretical roles that gravity plays in the ICC regime.

On August 30

On this day in ...
... 1943 (65 years ago today), during World War II, in its version of an Anglo-American "Declaration on German Crimes in Poland," the U.S. Department of State detailed allegations that Polish civilians were being killed, displaced, and sent to work camps in Germany, then stated: "The United States Government reaffirms its resolve to punish the instigators and actual perpetrators of these crimes."
... 1999, "the population of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia," which had invaded the country 9 days after it declared its independence from Portugal in 1975. The country, officially known as the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, occupies the eastern half of an island within the Indonesian archipelago. (map credit)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama: It's About Us...

(Warning: This post has very little to do with international law. Instead, it’s about all those people with tears in their eyes in living rooms, bars, classrooms, conference centers, and a big sports arena in Denver, Colorado, on Thursday night. It’s about the smile on my mom’s face (she doesn’t get to smile often enough) when she got a glimpse of Senator Barack Obama at a campaign event last winter... Or maybe it is about human rights after all.)

Then and Now
As a child of the 60s and 70s, I was constantly instilled with the belief that individuals or groups could change the world. The problems of the day were clear even to children — war, racism and apartheid, sexism, violence in streets and homes, political corruption, abuses against immigrants, and grinding poverty in urban centers and rural valleys.
But the sense that we could participate in broad social movements and thereby could DO something about these things was palpable. We had the optimistic expectation that grassroots action and organized political pressure on governments could result in real change.
This sense of commitment to social justice was both substantive and enmeshed in popular culture. People flashed peace signs and Black power salutes to strangers on the street. We called each other “sister” or “brother.”
Women marched for “liberation” and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Music and art called for cross-cultural and cross-gender respect and dialogue.
Young people joined the Peace Corps.
Civil rights laws were passed, a massive anti-war movement took place, and anti-poverty, early childhood education, and healthcare programs were organized. Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (see photo left: courtesy of, testified about state-sanctioned racism and violence at the Credentials Committee before the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Prior IntLawGrrls post here; click here for audio and text of speech). Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm spoke out in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment and ran for President (lower right). (Prior IntLawGrrls post here.)
Such efforts had their successes and failures, as have the movements that came before them. Since then, however, we’ve seen the Gulf War, the September 11 crimes against humanity, the Iraq War, the Rwanda genocide, “ethnic cleansing” in the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, systematic rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Darfur genocide, and other violent conflicts throughout the world.
We’ve seen governments fail to protect the economic and social rights of the poor, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and other marginalized groups among us on a daily basis, as well as during massive crises such as Hurricane Katrina and Cyclone Nargis in Burma. We’ve seen too many young men in prisons or hospital emergency rooms who should have been in high school classrooms.
Fundamental human rights are under attack. Over the last 8 years, the absolute legal prohibition on torture under international law and the international and domestic laws protecting privacy and due process have been put up for grabs.
So, instead of the urge toward social change, a sense of cynicism, helplessness, and despair began to pervade the atmosphere and our popular culture. That included those of us in the academy.

“Rock Star” or Leadership?
What many pundits missed from the beginning about Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is that Americans need to believe that THEY can do something that matters again. All the remarks about “rock star” status and “Obamania” aside, it is that desire that primarily motivates the crowds to show up in Iowa and New York, Wisconsin, and Illinois, South Carolina, Oregon, and now, Colorado.
Charges of “elitism” ring hollow. If anything, Obama’s life story fits the classic American Dream narrative instead. African-American son of a white working-class single-mother and a Kenyan immigrant rises to attend Ivy League schools on scholarship and loans. He ends up vying for the presidency of the United States. Elitism involves looking down on, or mistreating, others because of class bias, not whether one did well at a high-profile university.
Of course, many are engaged by the senator’s individual charisma, intelligence, oratory, and political savvy. We tend to be an image-driven society after all.
But when I talk with young and older people who are committed to the campaign, it is apparent that they have a sense of relief and renewed energy. Even the young felt beaten down and silenced by immoral and illegal official policies, unreliable or superficial news coverage, fears about relatives and friends sent off for third deployments in an ill-conceived war, anger that Americans had become hated targets for some, and frustration that the promises of the American Dream are still largely unattainable for most poor, working-class people, and people of color.

“Yes We Can”
That is why, like some other crusty skeptics of my generation, I found myself in tears in front of my computer when I first saw the “Yes We Can” music video making the rounds on the internet (and about which IntLawGrrls posted here). Nice song, yes. Stylish images, yes. Famous young entertainers, yes (although I was sufficiently out of touch not to know who most of them are). And evocative of Martin Luther King Jr.’s great oratory. (IntLawGrrls posted video examples of Dr. King's speeches here and here.)
What was most moving, however, was the evidence that young people had been inspired to believe that THEY, in diverse coalitions, could help create social change. Everything was possible.

The End of Racism? Or A Step in the Right Direction?
The Iowa primary was another such moment. No matter what followed, the buzz on the phonelines and e-mails was that change is possible. Possible, despite pundits that said racism would always prevail in presidential elections. Possible, despite the ingrained belief that voters would never think outside traditional race, class, and gender demographic expectations.
Yet, neither Obama himself, nor the rest of us can believe that a single primary, nomination, or election victory signals the end of racism in the United States. There are some who prefer to believe this, I know. But every long-time activist is aware that the ascendancy of “firsts” are an important beginning, not the end. Real change is broad, deep, and complex.

Still, it is those historic and symbolic moments—Rev. Dr. King proclaiming his dream for America in Washington, DC, and his vision for an end to the war in Vietnam and an end to poverty at home (click here for audio of his “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” speech) and the Obamas’ potential to be the First Family of the United States — that inspire us all to keep working for change.

Still "A Woman" in the mix

Turns out "Democratic Party unity" doesn't mean "no more women" in this year's Presidential campaign:
Today the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, tapped A Woman as his running mate.
Got nothing against Sarah Palin (left). Hard to; never heard of her. Do, however, have something against the identity politics that brought her to the fore.
Here's what pundits are saying to make sense of McCain's decision to place in the Presidential mix someone who's 2 years into her 1st term as Alaska governor, whose only other elective post was 6 years as mayor of a city of 9,000:

she gives women who are angry about Hillary being passed over another reason to vote McCain
she's an exciting, exotic (yet heartlandish) female pick
a pro-life working mom
We have been here, done this. Choosing a person solely because s/he fits "A" category seldom has done us much good.
One can only hope that Palin's better than pundits' soundbites augur. That, for example, it's the fault of this website -- and not a genuine deficit in her qualifications -- that Palin has "[n]o issue stance" on the critical issues of our time: Corporations, Drugs, Families & Children, Government Reform, Jobs, Local Issues, Principles & Values, Technology, Welfare & Poverty, Immigration, Free Trade, War & Peace, or Foreign Policy.
One can only hope.

Knocking Down That Wall . . .

My friend and former colleague Denise Gilman (pictured left), a Clinical Professor at the University of Texas School of Law, has submitted a request for a hearing on the Texas/Mexico border wall to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR). Gilman has pulled together an impressive Working Group on Human Rights and the Border Wall at UT, comprised of professors and students in law, anthropology, and environmental science, including Gilman's husband, Ariel Dulitzky, the former Assistant Executive Secretary of the ICHR. This is a seriously dynamic human rights duo; Dulitzky now runs the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at UT (recent law grads take note of the great fellowship opportunity at the Center). But I digress; in June, Gilman and her Working Group submitted briefing papers to the Inter-American Commission outlining the human rights violations resulting from the border wall: violations of the right to property and equal protection; violations of the government's obligation to consider harm to the environment when undertaking public projects; and violations of the rights of indigenous communities. As the United States, in typical fashion, signed but never ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, the request relies on the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man [sic], which, while not a legally binding treaty, is viewed by both the Inter-American Court and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a source of international obligations for all members of the Organization of American States, including the U.S. In any case, the Working Group's arguments are creative and well thought out: that the United States is taking private property that has been held by families for generations without "properly considering other alternatives for controlling the border"; that the land of small landowners who are disproportionately poor, Latino, and less educated will be taken while more lucrative properties will remain intact; that the wall will cause severe environmental degratation of the Rio Grande river and its wildlife; and that the wall will harm Native American communities that "live and practice their traditional cultures and religions along the Texas/Mexico border." Moreover, because the "United States has . . . stripped away, in relation to the border wall, judicial protection that it otherwise provides" for indigenous rights and the environment, "possibilities for a court challenge to the taking of property and construction of the border wall are extremely limited", and the Working Group thus posits a violation of Art. XVIII of the American Declaration, guaranteeing the right to judicial protection. While a hearing before the ICHR won't produce a ruling that's enforceable in U.S. courts, the Working Group's painstakingly collected evidence should have at least some shame value, and might inspire other OAS members to condemn the wall, as Chile, Mexico, and 26 other countries already have done. You go, Grrl.

Women's words at the DNC

Some of the most moving words heard this week at the Democratic National Convention were uttered by women. Here's a sampling (videos available here):
From Sen. Hillary Clinton (left), the 1st woman to compete in every presidential primary, whose name was put in nomination, and for whom votes were cast before she herself moved that Sen. Barack Obama be nominated for President by acclamation:
I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible? ... This won’t be easy. Progress never is. But it will be impossible if we don’t fight to put a Democrat in the White House.
(Full text here.)
From Madeleine Albright (right), the 1st woman Secretary of State:
In high school, I won the Rocky Mountain Empire Award for reciting, in alphabetical order, the 51 members of the United Nations. Back then, the task was not so hard, but the world now is more fragmented, with more countries, multiple centers of power and many sources of danger.
(Full text here.)
From Claudia Kennedy (left), the Army's 1st and only 3-star general, now retired:
[T]orture is not only morally repugnant, it’s militarily ineffective. It doesn’t work. It puts our troops at risk. It endangers our national security.
(Full text here.)
From Maya Soetoro-Ng (right), schoolteacher and sister of Obama, on their mother, named at birth Stanley Ann Dunham:
Above all, she was a storyteller. She told us tales from history about heroism in the face of injustice, about beauty breaking through darkness. These stories suggested that our deepest humanity and happiness would be found by reaching out to, empathizing with and working to serve others. In these interconnected times, we need such stories.
(Full text here.)
And finally, from the superb speech by Michelle Obama (below left) on which IntLawGrrls posted a few days ago, a story about her husband that embodies -- to use Soetoro-Ng's words -- "our deepest humanity and happiness":
He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he’d struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father’s love.

On August 29

On this day in ...
... 1982, 67 years to the day after she was born in Stockholm, Sweden, Ingrid Bergman died from cancer at her home in London, England. Star of Casablanca (1942) (right) and other Hollywood movies, Bergman had been box-office gold in the United States until 1949, when she gave birth to a child with her lover, Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, before divorcing her Swedish husband. (photo credit) The "scandal ... rocked the movie industry, forced her to stay out of the United States for seven years and made her life as tempestuous as many of her roles. ... She was even condemned on the floor of the United States Senate," an attack that 22 years later would spur the entry of a Senatorial apology into the Congressional Record. In a bit of understatement, her New York Times obituary observed: "In a sense, she became a barometer of changing moral values in the United States."
... 1991, in Moscow, by a vote of 283 to 29, the Soviet Parliament voted to suspend all activities of the Communist Party. By this vote, the New York Times wrote, "[T]he party of Lenin had been relegated to the dustbin of history."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Girl Soldier & 2nd Chautauqua Declaration

I post again from the 2nd Annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs at Chautauqua, New York. The conference closed with the solemn reading by American Society of International Law Executive Director Betsy Andersen (left) of the 2nd Chautauqua Declaration, signed by the international criminal prosecutors present. The first two operative paragraphs are powerful:
That states must conform their conduct to the law, to settle disputes peaceably to refrain from aggressive acts, to honor the sanctity of the person, and to allow the peoples of the world to live free from want, fear, and to worship and express themselves without repression;
That states honor their legal commitments to uphold the directions and orders of the justice mechanisms they have created and once again, call upon all states to arrest and surrender to the appropriate court, tribunal or chamber Ratko Mladić, Felician Kabuga, Joseph Kony, Ahmad Harun, Ali Kushyab and all others not listed here and who are sought by international justice.
Missing from the list of fugitives in the 1st Chautauqua Declaration is Radovan Karadžić; let's hope for more missing names next year. The full text is posted on the website of the Robert H. Jackson Center.
The most moving event of the day was the talk by former child soldier Grace Akallo (left), one of the Ugandan schoolgirls abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army. Grace quietly recounted her story, not flinching at describing the mistreatment that caused her to become a killer to survive. With a shy smile, she told us about her college degree and infant son. Her message to us? Just as she is speaking out to educate the public and counseling other victims, we as lawyers should work to bring Joseph Kony and the LRA to justice and thereby facilitate lasting peace.
I highly recommend Girl Soldier (2007) (right), the book that Grace co-authored with Faith J.H. McDonnell.

'Nuff said

(Occasional item taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)

His beef is not really with women's studies but with the way it spreads the 'religion' of feminism, again helped by federal money, which he contends violates the establishment clause.

-- Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum, explaining the rationale behind a new lawsuit in which a male lawyer "best known for suing Manhattan nightclubs because they offered free or discounted Ladies Night drinks to women" alleges that Columbia University cannot spend federal money it receives on its Institute for Research on Women and Gender, based on this reasoning: "Women's studies courses ... discriminate against men and are therefore in violation of the 5th and 14th amendments" to the U.S. Constitution.

On August 28

On this day in ...
... 1968 (40 years ago today), Chicago police waged a "pitched battle" against anti-Vietnam War protesters just outside the Democratic National Convention hall where, inside, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was nominated as Democrats' candidate for President. Tactics used by the police drew "scorn and mockery" from "[f]oreign newsmen from East and West."
(photo credit)
... 1943 (65 years ago today), amid anti-Nazi strikes in which Danes had been taking part for a month, the Danish government refused a Nazi ultimatum that the government declare a state of emergency, accepting censorship and summary justice and outlawing strikes. Hours later, the German military imposed its own state of emergency and seized control of the country. (credit for photo of Danish protesters)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peace, justice & the Genocide Convention

I am posting from the 2nd Annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs meeting which began yesterday at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York.
For those who don’t know, Chautauqua was started in 1874 as an educational experiment in vacation learning for the mind, spirit and body. Join us next year, at the glorious historic Athenaeum Hotel, after taking in the last week of the official season, with the theme "The History of Liberty." (See all about Chautauqua here.)
The theme of this year's 2nd Dialogs is "The Genocide Convention: A 60th Anniversary Celebration"; the pervasive question, the tradeoffs between peace and justice.
The opening speaker was Omar Ismael, the Darfurian who started the ENOUGH! Project. As to the current political discussion of the potential risk to peacemaking of the recent ICC indictment of President al-Bashir, he asked (posing a question that echoed a prior IntLawGrrls post):
'What peace? What peace will be disrupted by the indictment, six years into the war?'

Almost as Ismael spoke, there were new attacks on the refugee camps in Darfur (as the end of the Olympics marked the end of international leverage over China, and the start of the Democratic National Convention marked official U.S. preoccupation with its November elections).
Ismael continued:
'Why don’t the creators of the ICC defend it? Where are the Europeans? Why allow Sudan to control the dialogue?'

In his view, there are peace-justice tradeoffs, but “without justice there will never be peace.”
The core speakers are the international criminal prosecutors: Nuremberg veterans Whitney Harris, Henry King and Benjamin Ferencz, as well as Serge Brammertz (ICTY), Hassan Jallow (ICTR), David Crane (Special Court for Sierra Leone), Stephen Rapp (Sierra Leone), Fatou Bensouda (ICC) (left) and Robert Petit (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia). Their dialogs yesterday were public sessions (private sessions are today) over the course of two panels: one an "Around the World Report" moderated by Leila Sadat (Washington University School of Law) and the other on :Atrocity and Genocide: The Challenge of Semantics" moderated by Michael Scharf (Case Western University School of Law).
Among the matters discussed:
► Whether genocide is and/or should be referred to as the “crime of crimes.” Ben Ferencz answered, simply and eloquently, that illegal war making – the criminal aggression that remains purposefully undefined in the Rome Statute – is the ultimate crime, as the root of genocide and other international crimes.
► Whether international criminal justice really can be said to have a deterrent effect: views differed markedly, but most agreed the primary focus should be on accountability rather than deterrence.
► What possibly can be the appropriate sentence in a genocide conviction: the death penalty? life imprisonment? something less than life in exchange for cooperation with prosecutors? The best answer, in my view, went unspoken (though obviously understood): no sentence can match the crime, and what matters is that the sentence results from justice rather than summary execution, as Russia and England urged for Nazi officers pre-Nuremberg.
► Finally, based on comments from several, watch the ICC and what it might do with Russia/Georgia.
What prompted the most talk in the halls was the Q&A session following the luncheon address by Clint Williamson (right), U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues. The address itself was (understandably) a scripted, optimistic description of U.S. advances in international criminal law. Henry King immediately asked him (cross-examined him, really) whether, in light of the ICC and Guantánamo situations, there was not “some hypocrisy” in his remarks about U.S. advances. Surprisingly, Ambassador Williamson agreed, making several remarks along the lines of "I agree with you. … We’ve taken a black eye. … The next administration will have a lot to do to repair things.” Ambassador Williamson emphasized our “ultimately robust system” and complimented (my word) the courts for becoming “more interventionist on Guantánamo.” When asked about the tension between peace and justice in Uganda/Sudan, he offered his view – cautioning that others in the administration do not necessarily agree – that “the ideal way to deal with the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony" is “to see Kony arrested and sent to the ICC.”

Tomorrow: The 2nd Chautauqua Declaration of the international criminal prosecutors, past and present.

On August 27

On this day in ...
... 1973 (35 years ago today), in Attorney General v. Lavell, a divided Canadian Supreme Court held that the Indian Act -- which stripped aboriginal women who married non-Indians of their Indian status but did not similarly deprive aboriginal men who married non-Indians -- was valid. The ruling, involving the cases of First Nations women Jeannette Corbière Lavell (right) and Yvonne Bédard, was reversed by legislation in 1985.
... 1896, the shortest war in history broke out and ended, in as few as 38 minutes. It was the Anglo-Zanzibar War, which pitted Britain, at that time engaged in trying to end the slave trade, against a nephew of the just-deceased leader of Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean archipelago now part of Tanzania. (map credit) Britain won, installed its preferred new leader, and, as recounted by the BBC's website:

As a final proof of their control over Zanzibar, the British demanded payment from the Zanzibar government to cover the cost of the shells fired on the country during the course of the war -- every last minute of it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Legacy of Hope: The 2008 Democratic National Convention

Washington is the sort of place that quickly turns even the most wide-eyed ingénue into a hard bitten, been-there-done-that cynic. After six years of wading through Washington politics, I certainly believed myself immune to fairy tales and Pollyanna-like calls for hope and change and making a difference. I was wrong. Watching the Democratic Party's 2008 national convention cannot help but make optimists of all of us, I think. One hundred and forty-five years after freeing its slaves--with little but the clothes on their backs--the country stands poised to officially nominate a Black man to hold the highest office in the land. There is something . . . magical about watching the United States come to grips with both its failings and successes. And so, I am spending the next week glued to my television (and computer!) watching this miracle unfold.

I stand in hope because now everything seems possible. I stand in awe.

(See too post below.)

A most interesting trope at the DNC

Lots said and seen on opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, as Marjorie so eloquently posts above. One phrase resounded in this IntLawyer's ear.
Heard it 1st from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

America needs a president who knows that health care is a right, not a privilege. ...

Later, from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy:

[B]reak the gridlock and guarantee that every American -- North, South, East and West, young and old -- will have decent quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

It's a phrase Kennedy's used for years, as the video tribute to him demonstrated. But Pelosi's call shows that it's reached the mainstream, at least within the Democratic Party. The preamble to the party's platform declares:

We believe that quality and affordable health care is a basic right.

It's a moment to mark, in this country where one President's proclamation of 4 Freedoms helped to spur a social, economic, and cultural rights movement, yet other Presidents' words pushed back as that movement grew elsewhere in the world.
In the United States, perhaps, as elsewhere, a right to health.

On August 26

On this day in ...
... 1920, as the New York Times reported it:

The half-century struggle for woman suffrage in the United States reached its climax at 8 o'clock this morning, when Bainbridge Colby, as Secretary of State, issued his proclamation announcing that the Nineteenth Amendment had become a part of the Constitution of the United States.

(credit for photo of celebration this day in 1920)
... 1928 (80 years ago today), at about 8:50 at night, a tumbler filled with ice cream was placed on a table at the in the Wellmeadow Café in Glasgow, Scotland. Poured over it was 'some ginger beer from a brown opaque bottle bearing the name "D. Stevenson, Glen Lane, Paisley"' (left). May Donoghue took a sip, and only then "saw, floating out of the bottle, what she believed to be the partly decomposed remains of a snail." That sight and Donoghue's consequent illness touched off a legal battle that ended with the issuance of Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932), among the most famous judgments in English common law, by which the House of Lords established the duty of care that manufacturers of products owe to consumers.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Read On! Proposing a Solution to the Failure of the United States' Immigration Policy

(Read On! ... occasional posts on writing we're reading)

Immigration policy in the United States is in disarray. The legal regime exists in contradiction to the market realities of the U.S. job market and the effects of an increasingly globalized and integrated world. It is the search for opportunity and response to transborder economic incentives, not the desire to break the domestic laws of the United States, that draw immigrants to the United States. The legal regime and stepped-up enforcement (for example, the recent raids, including the Postville, Iowa, debacle) also contradict the civil rights and human rights ideals and laws which the United States is obligated to adhere.
The recent book by Kevin R. Johnson, Dean at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, Opening the Floodgates: Why America Needs to Rethink Its Borders and Immigration Laws, offers a calm, rational and far-seeing proposal for resolving the hornets’ nest of U.S. immigration law. Johnson analyzes the history of immigration policy in the United States, pointing to the often conflicting impulses of welcome and exclusion, racial animus, exploitation, and cruelty with which the policy is rife. He offers the provocative but well-thought out solution of opening the borders and welcoming would-be immigrants who do not offer a threat to national security and health.
Despite the apprehensions and misunderstandings regarding the potential results of implementing such a policy, Dean Johnson offers a convincing argument that his proposed solution offers the best resolution for the current immigration disaster.
In our review of the book, my colleague Maria Pabón Lopez and I, conclude:
Once the predictable partisans in the immigration debate – politicians, business and labor interests, anti immigration activists, and nativists, among others – overcome their initial distaste at the very term open border, they may over time realize that this may be the only way to fix the immigration system which all agree is broken.
I encourage everyone who cares about U.S. immigration policy and the stature of the United States to read this timely contribution to the literature.

'Nuff said

(Occasional item taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)

'Le CIO et les Jeux olympiques ne peuvent imposer des changements à des nations souveraines ou régler tous les maux du monde.'

that is,

'The International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Games can neither force sovereign nations to change nor settle all the world's problems.'
-- IOC President Jacques Rogge, in a LeMonde interview. Rogge, who represented Belgium in the 1968, 1972, and 1976 Olympics, insists that the Olympics' primary purpose is to improve sports, yet added that the just-concluded Beijing Games promoted better understanding between China and the rest of the world.

On August 25

On this day in ...
... 2003 (5 years ago today), 2 car bombs exploded in Mumbai, India, "within minutes of each other" at the lunch hour. Among the targets was a top tourist attraction. The incident, for which no one claimed responsibility, killed 52 people and injuring 150.
... 1925, Thea Astley (right) was born in Brisbana, Australia. A schoolteacher, she published her 1st novel, Girl with a Monkey, in 1958. Her works became renowned; indeed, at the time of her death in 2004, she'd won Australia's top literary award more than any other writer. Among her acclaimed novels was Drylands (1999). Yet it's a work about which she herself seemed ambivalent. To a producer who acquired the movie rights, she complained:

'Why are you doing that novel? That was written during my feminist phase.'

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Rainmakers" and global warming

First, in the figurative sense, 8 scientific organizations representing thousands of American scientists and technicians are calling for the development of a policy to help (the United States, presumably) better withstand global warming and meteorological extremes. Noting that the country loses billions of dollars per year because of natural disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, cyclones, forest fires, snow storms and drought, these organizations suggest creating an Earth-observation network of satellites and ground instruments while improving the calculation ability of computers fed meteorological and climate data. By investing about 9 billion dollars in such a program, the scientists hope to better prevent catastrophes. Meanwhile in Burkina Faso (map credit), a landlocked country in the Sahel, local farmers, agricultural engineers and NGOs are working in a more literal sense to battle desertification, a phenomenon closely related to global warming. Desertification results from farming techniques that deplete the soil: in Burkina Faso, a standard technique was to chop down the trees then plant and harvest until nothing more would grow, then move on and do the same thing again. Desertification contributes to global warming just as does the destruction of forests, and can also be intensified due to global warming: longer dry spells followed by torrential rains leave even less water in the soil. Since the 1980s, a return to traditional techniques involving terracing and other methods to retain water and help it penetrate deep into the soil are helping to green the Sahel.
Despite the clear benefits, not everyone is leaping on the bandwagon: the farmers are so poor and donations so few that not enough of them can afford the roughly $84/acre investment in picks and shovels to dig trenches, gas and a rental truck to go get stones to use for terracing, hired help for the heavy work (note however that the article discusses the success of one man while the photo shows barefoot women digging trenches with picks and shovels) and ongoing training in greening techniques.
Since activities in one place affect the climate in another, perhaps rather than (or along with) investing 9 billion dollars in a system to alert the US of disasters in time to prevent them, we could invest more in greening the Sahel and other areas suffering from desertification, as this might actually reduce some of those catastrophes and their attendant human security problems wherever they occur.

On August 24

On this day in ...

... 1215, the Magna Carta (left) -- the document in which King John, in June of the same year, agreed to accord certain liberties to certain Englishmen -- was declared null and void by Pope Innocent III (below right), on the grounds that it was "an agreement exacted by force, which was shameful, demeaning illegal, unjust and derogatory to the king's rights and dignity."

... 1954, the Communist Party effectively was outlawed in the United States when the Communist Control Act went into effect. The legality vel non of the act was never reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

On women playing well

To Jaya's excellent post yesterday on "Olympian Courage," I'd like to add a bit more recognition for women's plays during this Summer Games season.
Here's to:
Hamchétou Maïga-Ba (left) and all the women hoopsters who represented Mali. These 2008 Beijing Games marked the 1st time a women's basketball team was sent by the country, which the New York Times described as "a predominantly Muslim country where women are subject to traditional subservience, genital mutilation, inequitable access to education and household violence." But the simple feat of fielding a team may have begun to change things. Maïga-Ba, who plays forward for the Women's National Basketball Association's Houston Comets, said of the land of her birth:

'Everybody is proud of us, even the guys.'

Mona Eltahawy (right), an Egypt-born, New York-based commentator. She published in the Washington Post a stinging op-ed, which criticized Saudi Arabia for not including any women on its Olympic team. The Post then published its own editorial echoing Eltahawy's complaint.
No country deserves to claim too-high ground on the matter of women in the Olympics. The Times article reminds:

Women were not allowed to participate at the 1896 Summer Games in Athens, the first Olympics of the modern era.
They were expected to contribute applause, not athletic skill. Not until 1984 were women permitted to run the Olympic marathon, in reefer-madness fear that they might grow old too soon with such exertion; or worse, they might grow a mustache.
Or their uterus would fall out, as if it were a transmission.

Nineteen women competed in the 1900 Paris Olympics. The art student who took 1st place in the 9-hole golf tournament (above), Margaret Abbott, "is now recognized as the first female American Olympian winner."
Even today, when many women from many countries compete in many events, there's much room for improvement. More than 1 commentator's wondered if women's beach volleyball would get as much air time if its bikini-clad competitors covered up. (To which should be added this question: Would an activity so singly centered in 1 nation even be included in inter-national competition absent the costumes?) Then comes news, from Nayeli Rodriguez at Slate's XX Factor blog, on "the International Table Tennis Federation’s latest strategy for reversing low attendance to its matches": "draw attention to the sexier side of table tennis" by "urging lady players to adjust their competition outfits to flaunt more 'curves.'" (credit for 2007 photo at right of Chinese champion Wang Nan)
Here's hoping one day for an Olympics where attention's focused on how well women played, and not on how well they looked while playing.