Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Clarence Thomas: Please shut up

Although each network touts their “rare interview” with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, he is in fact all over the media selling his new book My Grandfather's Son. I caught a part of an interview last night on ABC, and realized, this man is really a lunatic. Every answer he gave was filled with victimization of himself, as if the only reason anyone could possibly not want him on the Supreme Court is because he's black. No, sir, but how about because you're nuts?

So I was pleased to read an opinion piece in this morning's New York Times by Anita Hill. Among Hill's thoughts:
I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me.

Regrettably, since 1991, I have repeatedly seen this kind of character attack on women and men who complain of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In efforts to assail their accusers’ credibility, detractors routinely diminish people’s professional contributions. Often the accused is a supervisor, in a position to describe the complaining employee’s work as “mediocre” or the employee as incompetent. Those accused of inappropriate behavior also often portray the individuals who complain as bizarre caricatures of themselves — oversensitive, even fanatical, and often immoral — even though they enjoy good and productive working relationships with their colleagues.

Finally, when attacks on the accusers’ credibility fail, those accused of workplace improprieties downgrade the level of harm that may have occurred. When sensing that others will believe their accusers’ versions of events, individuals confronted with their own bad behavior try to reduce legitimate concerns to the level of mere words or “slights” that should be dismissed without discussion.
Read the rest here.

Burma: Trying to make sense of a senseless situation

The stories coming out of Burma, such as they can, are disturbing on so many levels. The sheer violence is sickening. The fact that so many of the victims are peaceful Buddhist monks makes it more unbelievable. Added to this horror is the fact that there's not much you or I can do about it. But I cannot simply shrug and say “oh well,” and I'm sure you can't either, or you wouldn't still be reading this. So I offer some suggestions on what you (and I) can do.

First and foremost, get informed about the history. Learn some background information on Burma, such as the history of the National League for Democracy and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under military detention for 12 of the past 18 years. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Next although news is very hard to get directly from Burma (the government has cut off Internet access, and has imprisoned and even killed journalists) try to stay updated on events. Many people are trying to get the truth out, and a few good sources for news are the BBC, Global Voices Online, The Telegraph, to name a few. Also, visit sites such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Go to google news, and search on Burma. Then look for a variety of news sources. No one source will give you all you need to know. Today's facts, as I can find them:

  • Ibrahim Gambari, the UN envoy, has left Burma after meeting with the detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi hours after talks with junta leader Than Shwe.
  • Outrage over the junta's reaction to the protests continues to mount in capitals in the region. In Malaysia, lawmakers from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) called for the expulsion of Burma from the 10-nation organization.
  • Foreign Minister George Yeo of Singapore, which now holds Asean's chairmanship, said in a newspaper interview that Asean - which consists of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - had "no choice" but to deliver a tough position on the violent repression of the demonstrations.
Lastly, private companies and countries doing business in Burma must be the driving force behind bringing democracy and stability to Burma. Most notably absent in the public outcry over the current violence: China and India. No surprise, the biggest market in Burma: oil. Policymakers and the business world has seen this crisis coming for many years. The Bush Administration, for all it's recent talk at the U.N, has done very little, putting their sites on oil and gas, and away from human rights.

The situation in Burma will probably get worse before it gets better. Public outcry from around the world is the only thing that will force governments and companies to force the military junta to stop the killing and violence.

My best advice to all of us: it's time to step up and face our responsibility of global citizenship. I look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions, as well.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Indian Call Centers: O.K., now I feel kinda bad for them

According to a story in today's Times Online, call center employees (the ones who tell you their name is “Arthur” or some such thing when you call Dell, etc.) are suffering from alarming numbers of heart attacks and suicides.

After years of night shifts, junk food and abuse from irate callers, the youthful generation that made India the call-centre capital of the world are facing burnout.

Reports of heart attacks, depression, suicides and diabetes among workers in their twenties have so alarmed ministers that they are to draw up a health policy for the flagship IT sector.

The problem is so acute that some estimates suggest that £100 billion could be wiped off India’s national income unless more is done to protect the health of its workers. Anbumani Ramadoss, the Health Minister, said of the IT sector: “It’s the fastest-growing industry in our country but it is most vulnerable to lifestyle diseases. Its future growth could be stunted if we don’t address the problem now.”

Burma: Thousands dead in massacre of the monks dumped in the jungle

From the Daily Mail:
Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: “Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.”

Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand.

And from BBC News:

Thousands of monks detained in Burma's main city of Rangoon will be sent to prisons in the far north of the country, sources have told the BBC.

About 4,000 monks have been rounded up in the past week as the military government has tried to stamp out pro-democracy protests.

They are being held at a disused race course and a technical college.

Sources from a government-sponsored militia said they would soon be moved away from Rangoon. The monks have been disrobed and shackled, the sources told BBC radio's Burmese service. There are reports that the monks are refusing to eat.

Woman dies while in airport custody

If you can, just stay away from airports.

In a distressing new example of the ridiculousness of so-called “airport security,” a 45-year old woman has died at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport after being arrested and placed in handcuffs.

From the New York Daily News:

Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, of the upper West Side, died less than an hour later, after cops claim she apparently strangled herself while trying to escape from the handcuffs in a holding cell at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

“I'm not a terrorist! I'm a sick mom! I need help!” yelled the mother of three after she missed the 2:58 p.m. US Airways Express flight to Tucson, said airport workers who witnessed the confrontation Friday.

They said one cop put his knee in her back to restrain her while others grabbed her flailing arms.

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said Gotbaum kept screaming after she was placed in the holding cell, until cops realized she had been silent for several minutes and found her unresponsive. The county medical examiner has not determined a cause of death.

The money quote:
But [Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill] couldn't immediately explain why a distressed woman was left alone in handcuffs while seven police officers were in the security office.

UN attempting to mediate in Burma, junta continues to silence protesters

The junta leaders in Burma (Myanmar) are attempting to make the world think life is back to normal, but thanks to determined journalists, bloggers, and eye witnesses, the truth is still being revealed.

From BBC News
UN envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari has met detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the main city of Rangoon.

Mr Gambari is attempting to mediate between Burma's junta and the opposition, and end a bloody crackdown on mass pro-democracy protests.

Burma has seen almost two weeks of sustained popular unrest.

But the number of protesters on the streets is now much smaller than at the height of the rallies, and the Buddhist monks who led the initial protests are now being prevented from leaving their monasteries. Witnesses say one person was shot dead overnight when the military raided a monastery in Rangoon, detaining around 60 monks. A woman told the BBC people got angry after seeing monks being thrown into a truck. “One young man got up and shouted - they shot him. His wife came running after him - they slapped her. They took the body away and drove away,” she said.
And from Global Voices Online:
The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a non-profit news organization and one of the few places where the news from Myanmar still trickling in has posted a report in Burmese on soldiers trying to get the monks to give up their religious life.

It is considered to be a sin to just give up being monkhood without valid reasons. The soldiers are trying to significantly lower their influence on people down, to shame them.