Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Even before the new Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, House Republicans made it clear that they had no real intention of draining the Washington swamp. They voted in secret on Monday to gut the one quasi-independent office that investigates House ethics. President-elect Donald Trump, who ran on a promise to drain the swamp, didn’t demand that they stop — he merely asked them to wait awhile. And that they did. Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia emerged as an architect of the G.O.P. miasmic agenda with his attack on the Office of Congressional Ethics. A rules change would have prevented the office, known as the O.C.E., from investigating potentially criminal allegations, allowed lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee to shut down any O.C.E. investigation and, for good measure, gagged the office’s staff members in their dealings with the news media. When the public learned about this plan, outraged constituents deluged House members with phone calls. Mr. Trump’s response was something altogether different. He didn’t condemn these Republicans for defying and undermining his drain-the-swamp pledge. He asked them to address more urgent business first, like destroying health care reform and passing tax cuts for the rich. Indeed, while he was tweeting on Tuesday morning, Kellyanne Conway, the incoming counselor to the president, had already been on television supporting Mr. Goodlatte and his gang, saying House Republicans had a “mandate” to curb “overzealousness” over ethics. For Paul Ryan, the attack on the ethics office was certainly a milestone: He hadn’t even been re-elected House speaker when he was rolled by his caucus. Afterward, his statement suggested he was more worried about how bad this fracas looks for him than about his members’ effort to undermine congressional accountability. The claim by Mr. Ryan and Mr. Goodlatte (who, hilariously, leads the House Judiciary Committee) that gutting the office would improve “due process” for accused lawmakers is a marvel of Orwellian newspeak. So is Mr. Goodlatte’s insistence that dismantling the O.C.E. “builds upon and strengthens” it. The Office of Congressional Ethics was created in 2008, after a series of bribery and corruption scandals tarred both parties and sent three House members to jail. So guess who joined Mr. Goodlatte in calling to gut it? Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas, who had been investigated by the O.C.E. for sexual harassment. Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois, who came under O.C.E. scrutiny after he and his wife took a $24,000 trip to Taiwan, which appeared to have been paid for, improperly, by the Taiwanese government. Representative Sam Graves of Missouri, who was the ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business in 2009 when he invited expert testimony on the renewable fuels industry from a representative of a renewable fuels business in which his wife had a financial stake, a potential conflict of interest. And Representative Steve Pearce of New Mexico, who last year tried to eliminate the O.C.E.’s entire budget after it investigated one of his staff members. None of these lawmakers or staff members were sanctioned, by the way — they just didn’t like the scrutiny. The O.C.E. is the only House body that investigates allegations from the public, including anonymous tips. Its staff of independent, nonpartisan professionals must be private citizens, not elected officials; most are lawyers and ethics experts. The O.C.E. refers cases it finds substantial to the House Ethics Committee with recommendations. The committee is notoriously weak, but at least the O.C.E., by making its work public, helps hold legislators accountable. No wonder swamp dwellers of both parties have tried to put the O.C.E. more completely under the thumb of Congress. The public protests over the House move to weaken the office were heartening. Even the conservative group Judicial Watch paused in its pursuit of Hillary Clinton to decry the Goodlatte proposal as a “poor way to begin draining the swamp.” The O.C.E. proposal has now gone back to the House, which will likely take the rest of the session to “study” it. Americans will be watching to see whether Mr. Trump, Mr. Ryan and other lawmakers return to this rotten idea. http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/03/opinion/house-fires-at-ethics-and-shoots-self.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0
By Helena Andrews-Dyer
January 2017 will definitely see an onslaught of A-list tourists at the White House. But they’re not coming for the inauguration.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host a goodbye party for close friends and major donors Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the marquee affair. The Obamas themselves confirmed during an interview with People Magazine last month that they’d have one final bash at the White House. The president told a young fan that they’d have a “grown up” party before packing their bags.
Of course, there’s no official word from the White House yet. Typically the Obama administration keeps a tight lid on celebration details until the 11th hour. But the big names thought to be on the guest list have been slowly trickling out this week.
Old standbys such as singer Usher and actor Samuel L. Jackson will most likely be there, according to another person with knowledge of the invitees. Also currently practicing their sweet moves are media titan Oprah Winfrey, who snagged an exit interview with the first lady last month on her fellow invitee and bestie Gayle King’s network CBS; actor Bradley Cooper, who showed up to the French state dinner sans underpants; Beyoncé, who sang at both of Obama’s inaugurations, and her husband, rapper Jay Z. We’re also hearing that Stevie Wonder, who has performed at the White House, director J.J. Abrams and director George Lucas make the list.
If this star-studded shindig follows the traditional Obama script, cellphones will be confiscated at the White House security gate and social media crumbs will be few. But afterward, tales of the president’s dance moves and sore feet will make the late-night talk show rounds.
The White House party will act as the kickoff of a goodbye tour of sorts for President Obama, who will head to Chicago to deliver a farewell address Jan. 10.
Musa Khan Jalalzai
In 2016, the amount of sexual abuse and violence culminated while the culture of entering marriage with two or three sisters at one time has become a national shame.
The ooze remains. Notwithstanding the presence of 49 civilised nations in Afghanistan — those advocating women rights in their own states, the painful story of Afghan women subjected to sexual harassment, torture and authoritarian treatment has not yet changed. In fact, women in Afghanistan are being burnt, tortured, harassed and traded with commodities, sold like goats and treated like dogs. Their torture and sexual abuse in workplaces, prisons, private jails, police stations, homes, streets, in armed forces barracks, and government offices in all the major provinces of Afghanistan continue with impunity. On 17 December 2016, a gunman killed five women officers in Kandahar airport; no one regretted but said they needed to serve their husbands at home.
In 2016, the amount of sexual abuse and violence culminated while the culture of entering marriage with two or three sisters at one time has become a national shame. Unfortunately, in Northern Afghanistan, women and girls are facing countless challenges including forced abortion, forced prostitution, the demand for illegitimate sexual acts, husband’s extramarital relations, and forced watching of pornographic films. Last week, a female Afghan pilot, Miss Nelofer Rahmani claimed asylum in the United States and refused to return to her country due to her fear of persecution. She hammered the leadership of Afghan national army for harassment and sexual abuse. The unity government is a conglomeration of different war criminals, private militias, and ethnosectarian mafia groups who have been involved in war crimes, sexual abuse and male prostitution during the last 30 years’ civil war.
Captain Nilofer Rahmani, who was a first female pilot to serve her war-torn country’s air force, refused to return to Afghanistan because she is “scared” of her life as she and her family received death threats from war criminals, Taliban, and the ISIS. “I would love to fly for my country — that is what I always wanted to do. But I am scared for my life”, she told Wall Street Journal. On her return to Kabul, experts say, Miss Nelofer may possibly face torture and humiliation or may be killed like Farkhanda Malikzada who was tortured to death last year in Kabul. Miss Farkhanda was severely tortured by a number of extremist elements, and her face bloodied; she tried to stand, holding her hands to her hair, looked horrified to find why she was being tortured. The mob closed in, kicking and jumping on her chest again and again, and finally, she was brutally killed in broad daylight. Deputy Director of Asia wing at Human Rights Watch, Phelim Kine warned that due to the inattention of the Afghan government to protect women from moral crimes persecution underlined the glaring gap between its intention and rhetoric.
On 25 October 2015, Afghanistan Analyst Network in its paper reported 19 years old girl Miss Rukhshanda was stoned to death in Feroz Koh district of Ghor province. She was married to a disabled man at the age of 13, but she ran away to seek refuge in the police station, but unfortunately, police arrested her and handed over to her father. After two months, her father married her off to another man, but she again ran away to Marghab district. This time she was kidnapped by a local commander Mullah Yusuf for ransom, and demanded 5 million rupees. When her father failed to purvey the fixed amount, the Mullah ordered his militia to stone her to death. On 20 November 2015, a 26 years old girl, Shirin Gul was tortured to death. On 28 December 2016, a woman was reportedly beheaded by extremists after being found in a market without her husband. This incident occurred in a Taliban-controlled Sar-e-Pul district.
On 29 November 2016, in Jalalabad province, a woman told the head of the department of women affairs that her husband tortured her in the first night of their marriage and accused her of losing virginity, and then went to her father house and forcefully married her younger sister as well. These incidents proved that Afghanistan is a dangerous place for women where they are unable to breathe in the open air or go shopping without their husbands. However, on 13 December 2016, Afghan Minister of Women Affairs, Delbar Nazari told journalists that more than 87 percent of women in Afghanistan were not safe. “Deprivation has caused a lot of threats for women across the country, we have witnessed bitter events including poisoning, throwing acid on girls, sexual abuse, the immolation of a woman and young girls, stoning and rape allegations and accusations of them running away from home,” said Nazari. During the last six months, more than 5,000 cases of sexual assaults were registered by the police. However, Afghan Ministry of Women Affairs during the last nine months recorded more than 4,000 cases of violence against women. The journey of Afghan women is full of miseries, wretchedness and inflicted pain.
Adult and young children are also facing shameless business of sexual abuse and practice of Bachabazi (male prostitution). Warlords and war criminals in all parts of Afghanistan hire male prostitutes to become their dancing boys and gay friends. There are numerous accounts of Bachabazi in world media that diverted the attention of authorities to the vulnerability of homeless and orphan children whose parents were killed in civil wars. In the tail-end of this debate, I want to highlight a single incident of Bachabazi occurred on 14 December 2016 in Jowzjan province, where known war criminal and Vice President of Afghanistan, General Rashed Dostum sexually abused a former governor Mr Ahmad Eshchi. He (Mr Eshchi) told journalists that Vice President and his ten cronies sexually assaulted him, raped him and kept in a private jail for five days. This shameless incident painted a transmogrified picture of the Afghan nation in the international community. Both European Union and the Unites States called for a thorough investigation and the war criminal and Vice President of Afghanistan.
However pious it might portray itself by adapting religiously premeditated physical and apparel features, the masses are beginning to see through the elite’s lies.
Alcohol related deaths have become a routine affair in this culturally starved and socially suffocating country. According to police in Toba Tek Singh at least 42 people died and over 70 were taken to a hospital in Faisalabad, including 10 in critical condition, after consuming toxic liquor on Christmas eve. Some of those undergoing treatment at the hospital could be impaired for life; loss of vision is a usual complication of methyl alcoholic poisoning. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s belated response was ironic if not callous, saying that those who had died should have checked if the liquor was safe before consuming it. The near and dear ones of the deceased had not only to overcome the grief from this tragic loss but were perhaps more worried about the future of their own livelihoods, safety and future.
The prohibition of liquor consumption was imposed during the dying days of the Z.A. Bhutto’s government. This was because of the mounting pressure of the religious right, which was specifically aimed at undermining one of the first progressive leaders of the PPP. Hence, Bhutto had little choice but to give in to them.
The reaction in form of the PNA movement led by the Islamist parties was launched and sponsored by the CIA along with Pakistan’s crooked bourgeoisie that had been bruised by nationalisations in the first two years of PPP’s rule. Instead of going on the offensive against the reaction, Bhutto tried ‘reconciliation’ with the ruling classes and Islamic clergy. When Bhutto capitulated on alcohol prohibition and issues of personal beliefs, it accelerated his demise as the mullahs became more virulent. In this vulnerable moment US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who had warned Bhutto of making a horrible example of him, stabbed in his back. Bhutto was deposed and later hanged through the gallows by Pakistan’s first Islamic despot general Ziaul Haq.
This bigoted tyrant unleashed a havoc of brutality under the guise of Islam to perpetuate his vicious rule. Infringement in personal lives and ethics along with sectarian hatreds were instigated to divide and atomise the working classes. On the economic, social, and cultural fronts the military regime savagely attacked the toiling masses and the youth. The vested interests of the capitalists and imperialist monopolies were propped up in the name of Islam. Alcohol prohibition was reinforced with barbaric punishments of floggings, imprisonment and social disgrace. The state and the Islamist vigilante gangs unleashed terror upon those who dared to take a sip of the forbidden brew. The democratic regimes that followed Zia’s dictatorship cravenly continued the practise even when the political and state’s elites were hardly having any dry evenings.
The coerced morality upon society pronounce drinking as sinful and profane and edict it to be violently crushed. This dictatorial mentality leans on religious, nationalist, ethnic and sectarian biases haunting in periods of social inertia. But the ultimate motive of these acts of absolutism are to preserve the perks and profits of the ruling classes by individualising social and economic issues to undermine the wider structural causes of the socioeconomic decay.
Any prohibition in a situation where the plague of drunkenness in society becomes a curse for social life and obstacle to socioeconomic development has a viable justification. But here sections of the ruling class indulge in concealed orgies of drunkenness and sexual perversion, while other rich imposters in the garb of religious piety commit inhuman, heinous acts. Imposing prohibition and other acts of social and cultural restriction in the name of religion only worsens the malaise and decay of society in the clutches of a system of dire want, plunder and extortion.
Banning the consumption of alcohol for the purposes of whipping reaction and thrusting manufactured ethics determined by religious reactionaries against the will of the individual is bound to boomerang. It’s only the smugglers and the criminal gangs that benefit most from such prohibitions. Paradoxically instead of lowering alcohol consumption, prohibition raises it sharply. The examples of such prohibitions in Scandinavia, Latin America, some of the US states and certain states of India are but a few examples of this phenomenon. In Pakistan the per capita consumption of alcohol is six times more than that in India.
The ladies and gentlemen of the propertied and moneyed classes enjoy the best brands of Scotch whiskies, quality French wines and cognacs, Russian vodkas, English gins and Mexican tequilas in culturally obnoxious architectural palatial residences and clubs. But the oppressed and exploited, alienated and deprived, have to risk their lives for a sip of this heavenly brew. The poor often resort to home brews that can contain methanol, commonly used in anti-freeze and fuel. These liquors brewed clandestinely under a regime of prohibition are prone be adulterated and methylated. The profits of these ‘brewers’ are relatively minuscule with the police and state personnel grabbing their shares. Paradoxically these very law implementation personnel guard the bungalows of the obscenely rich indulging in alcoholic carousals.
These poor souls from oppressed classes are driven to risk their lives for this perilous booze for various reasons, ranging from psychological and socioeconomic deprivation to a flight into oblivion from the pains of their daily lives. Prohibition and dearth further boosts alcohol intake. Defiance of this prohibition lays bare the ideological and argumentative defeat of the devout masters of morality that reeks of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of elite stands exposed by the contradiction of their flamboyant life styles and preaching piousness that they don’t really believe in themselves. The question is how long these double standards and extortionist probation is going to last? Ultimately even this discrimination is class based. However pious it might portray itself by adapting religiously premeditated physical and apparel features, the masses are beginning to see through the elite’s lies. Such ruling classes that use fake ethical methodologies to perpetuate their rulership are doomed to annihilation by history.
A Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under blasphemy laws has led to death threats against the son of a provincial governor killed five years ago for criticising the same laws.
The case highlights the continuing influence in Pakistan of Muslim hardliners who praise violence in the name of defending Islam, despite a government vow to crack down on religious extremism.
The hardliners have called for mass protests if police do not charge activist Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam - a crime punishable by death.
Taseer's father, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was gunned down by his bodyguard for championing the case of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws, which he said needed to be reformed.
In a video message posted on his Facebook page, Taseer, a Muslim, wishes a happy holiday to Christians, in solidarity, and also asked for prayers for the woman and others victimised by what he called "inhumane" blasphemy laws.
Taseer said on Monday that he had received "very credible death threats" from supporters of the hardline Muslim philosophy that inspired his father's killer, bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri.
"They are sending me Mumtaz Qadri's photos with messages that there are several Mumtaz Qadris waiting for me," he told Reuters late on Monday.
Tens of thousands people attended Qadri's funeral last March after he was put to death for killing the governor because they considered him a hero - showing the potential for this case to become another flashpoint.
More than 200 people in Pakistan were charged under blasphemy laws in 2015 - many of them minorities such as Christians, who make up one per cent of the population.
Critics say the laws are often used to settle personal scores, and pressure for convictions is often applied on police and courts from religious groups and lawyers dedicated to pushing the harshest blasphemy punishments.
At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Centre for Research and Security Studies report and local media.
A spokesman for the hardline Islamist movement Sunni Tehreek said it was demanding police in Lahore charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam. Police declined to comment, and a copy of the police report on the complaint did not mention Shaan Taseer by name.
The police report did reference the Christmas message and opened an investigation the blasphemy laws' Section 295-A, which bans hate speech against any religion. However, Sunni Tehreek has threatened mass street protests unless the younger Taseer is charged under Section 295-C - blasphemy against Islam or the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). Sunni Tehreek figure Mujahid Abdur Rasool told Reuters the group was in negotiations with the government over the case.
"When we gave them a warning for protests, a delegation of Punjab government met us today," Rasool said, adding they had set a deadline of Tuesday for police to meet their demands.
He said Sunni Tehreek was not calling for Taseer's murder, only his prosecution and eventual execution.
Punjab government officials could not be reached for comment.