Friday, October 26, 2007

The Victors Make History

The House was discouraged recently from putting forth a bill that would declare the early 20th Century Armenian deaths genocide. The White House and its constituents were fighting the bill, stating that it would damage relations with U.S. ally Turkey. Turkey is a very important point of access to the Middle East and is considered a vital military asset.

One of the goals of the genocide bill is to set a path for defining genocide in order to prevent future violations of human rights. In the case of Rwanda, for example, the U.S. and the U.N. refused to acknowledge the mass killings as a genocide until after the majority of the violence against Tutsis had terminated. The passing of the resolution regarding the Armenian genocide is important in setting a historical standard against massacres based on race or ethnicity. In the case of the Armenian slaughter, there was at least a level of justice offered to the victims in the form of a series of court martial trials against the major perpetrators, whereas justice in modern genocides such as Rwanda is still lacking.

Congress ratified the bill, with the following results: Turkish governmental officials have expressed disappointment with the passage of the bill, citing it as irresponsible of a super-power. Now the Turkish government has responded by ignoring American pleas to stave attacks on the Kurdish separatist rebels. The Congressional has tried to maintain a focus on the fact that the issue is a 90-year-old genocide that happened when some of the current governments were not even in place.

The story of the Armenian Genocide:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pet Peeve: Rush Hour Protesting at the Capitol on a Weekday Morning

Everyone has a right to protest. Not everyone is so smart about it. I'd really like a better explanation linking the Iraq war to global warming, but it didn't really come despite the cute polar bear suits and the ever present Code Pink. (See the video.)

But, you out-of-towners just don't get the security challenges at the Capitol. Not even thinking of terrorism, there was a crazy man who shot two people and killed them, including a Capitol policeman. These folks work very hard, are nonpolitical, and are just trying to keep people safe. Sure, the Capitol has real symbolic significance. But Monday morning? Staffers (not congressmen and women) are rushing to get to work, and you're blocking traffic with a nonsensical chant?

Please . . .

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Ever Evasive Dalai Lama

Last week, on October 10th, I went to see the Dalai Lama on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in order to celebrate him receiving the United States Congressional Medal. However, the information pertaining to the event was incorrectly listed on the internet (at least the website that I personally visited), and therefore I paid $40 of cab fare in order to see the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. This did not turn out to be all that bad because the Garden does have some particularly intriguing, pleasant, and peaceful works. Still, hearing the Dalai Lama seemed a bit more exciting and eventful.
In order to get my fill of the Dalai Lama, I yet again extended myself and made an effort to see his Holiness on October 17th. For what its worth, the effort included an hour and a half bike ride to and fro to the Capitol and countless drops of sweat. While the Dalai Lama was supposed to deliver his speech "at about" 2:30pm, he did not get to the podium until a quarter after 3:00pm. Somewhere after this time, he delivered a speech. It may have been exhilarating, enlightening, or even heartwarming, but James DiPietro will never know, for he had to ride his bike back to Georgetown University to attend class like the good student he is.
Now of course the speech is most likely viewable online, as everything is, but to be honest, I am quite disappointed and do not care too much about the speech anymore. I am tired of concerts, meetings, speeches, etc. always commencing late. If Grammy Award winner Kitaro, Tibetan dancers, and Richard Gere are to perform/speak at 2:30pm, then just say that on the flyer. Additionally, one would think that Richard Gere would be able to put some sentences together that have some meaning instead of "I see the Tibetan supporters up front, are there any in the back?" While the day was meant for peace, unity, awareness, wisdom, understanding, and communication, I only encountered these principles amongst the mass of people in attendance. Still, it was a great thing and tear jerking to an extent to see so many people gathered for the cause of non-violence. However, I wish the Dalai Lama, or the scheduler of the ceremony, could have been more prompt or honest, respectfully. On the bright side, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has some nice pieces and I advise anyone to go and check them out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Address by The 14th Dalai Lama

Molly and I went to the West Lawn of The U.S. Capital Building to listen to the address by Dalai Lama today. It was a ceremony of his receipt of the Congressional Gold Medal.

The weather was so beautiful today and the white color of the building was shining against the blue sky.

First we listened to a congratulatory address by Richard Gere and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, following some traditional Tibetan music.

Dalai Lama finally showed up more than one hour behind of the schedule, being screed by an umbrella colored in red and white, gathered by VIPs in black suits and under close guard.

The notable first word from His Holiness The Dalai Lama was...

"Wait a second."

And he wore a sun visor which was the same color as his religious costume!
The way he talks reminded me of my kind grandpa.
He was such a humorous and warmhearted person, I felt.

The main things he was addressing were the appreciation for the presentation of the medal and the message that if the Tibetan problem could be solved in non-violent way, which is the only effective solution based on the historical experience, it would mean a lot not only to the Tibetan but to the people around the world trying to gain right and free as a hope and as a good example.

The word which I keep in mind is that non-violent principles are attainable in our own lives.

"My article will appear on the Washington Post this weekend. So please check it!"
This was the conclusion of his address.

Sat dawn on earthy smelling loan where birds and squirrel were playing around, listening to the warmhearted grandpa.
It was really peaceful space there.

To Molly
Please back me up! hahah

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

According to the UN and World Bank, 1 billion people lived in extreme poverty worldwide, and according the the US Census, approximately 12 percent of Americans- that's 36.5 million people- lived below the poverty line in 2006. Poverty can be cause and consequence of violence. So, if poverty is so widespread, can we really talk seriously about eliminating violence without eradicating poverty?

Observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty began twenty years ago in Paris, France when over 100,000 people gathered to hear a reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognize and honor victims of poverty. The main purpose of the day is to draw attention to the international problem of poverty.

The UN Department of Public Information and UN Millenium Campaign are again sponsoring their annual event STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT against poverty. Last year, they set the world record when 23 million people participated around the globe.

At Georgetown University, OurMoment will be hosting Stand Up at 1pm in Red Square. "Stand Up" with millions of other people around the world in solidarity against poverty, and make an impact by showing you care.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

These Hands Won't Hurt

These Hands Won't Hurt Campaign
Sponsored by Take Back The Night
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 9th-12th, 10am-4pm, Red Square
Did you know that around the world at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime? And that in the United States, 5.3 million women are abused each year?
Take a stand against domestic violence by stopping by our table in Red Square this week, and pledging your commitment against it through participating in a visual and interactive campaign. Stop by to also get buttons and purple ribbons in honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and show your support for this important cause.
For more information, please contact us at .

Friday, October 5, 2007

Is the death penalty on its way out?

I was so pleased to see Susan's post on the NCADP, and coincidental since I planned on writing a post this morning about the death penalty in the news, so yeah for the media and class attention, hopefully more people will become aware and petition to their local state governments and federal government and we can stop this after all!

On that note, what inspired me to write this post was a few actions by both the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the last few days. On Tuesday, October 2, the Texas Criminal Appeals court stayed the lethal injection of a man scheduled for death on Wednesday the 3rd. This action by the court, according to the NYT, signals an 'indefinite halt to executions in Texas.' If you're like me, you'll do a 'double-take' and read that again, Texas indefinitely halting the death penalty... it's about time.

Yet, the Appeals court hasn't released any information regarding what led to their decision and how the 5 to 4 vote was split between judges, yet it's safe to say that this action is a direct consequence of the Supreme Court's decision to grant a writ of certiorari and consider whether or not death by lethal injection is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, thus unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment.

This drastic and incredibly significant decision on behalf of both the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Appeals could have resounding impact in the process of the criminal justice system throughout the country, and might finally, decide that the death penalty process is both cruel and unusual and incredibly racist.

What I thought makes this case interesting is the fact that the lawyers are not trying, it seems, to abolish death penalty as a whole, at least not openly. They are specifically attacking the method of lethal injection and provide staggering statistics abouts in ineffectiveness. The Texas Court of Appeals gave the district attorney in Texas, Tim Curry, and the state's director of criminal justice, Nathaniel Quarterman 30 days to respond to claims outlined by the inmate's lawyers stating that the chemicals used in lethal injection do not provide a quick and painless death, but rather, 'paralyze[ed] the condemned inmates while they painfully suffocate.'

Based on information I received from the NCADP, lethal injection can be incredibly painful, especially when time is spent searching for viable veins and chemicals are not properly introduced into the blood stream. There are records of people laying on the table for 30 minutes to an hour, quietly saying, 'it's not working.' That plea should be taken as a direct attack on the use of the death penalty as a 'deterrent' for crime, something which has never worked anyway. See the NCADP website for a story on 'Nine Botched Executions' and read for yourself how inhumane this practice is... especially the part where the blogger mentions that the chemicals used in lethal injection were banned from use on animals because it was proven that it was not quick and painless, are we at a point where human pain is less significant than an animals pain?

Hopefully this will stimulate some discussion about the death penalty and it's tragic consequences and keep watching the news to see where the Supreme Court and Texas court go next!

Also, on a side note, The Nomadic Theatre group on campus is performing the acclaimed play, 'The Exonerated' this month. Here is the information, I strongly suggest everyone attend and see for yourself how unjust the system is.

Nomadic Theatre’s first show of the 2007-2008 season, and the very first production of the Georgetown school year, “The Exonerated”.

October 17th at 8pm *This show will be followed by a talk back with Shujaa Graham, an exonerated death row inmate and anti-death penalty activist.

October 18th and 19th 8pm
October 20 at 2pm and 8pm
October 21 at 7pm

Sentenced to death. For crimes they didn’t commit. Sentenced to years behind bars. Ripped away from wives, husbands, children. Jobs. Lives left behind. Imprisoned by a racist and unjust justice system. Thrown behind bars in cruel and brutal prisons. Raped. Abused. Alone. For crimes they didn’t commit.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Creative Campaign Against the Death Penalty

It struck me recently that so many of our intellectual debates about nonviolence and so much of our focus is centered around international crises, wars, and structural violence. And this makes sense; when we see grave human rights violations, crippling wars, or genocides, we ought to be outraged. It is necessary for us to draw attention to these circumstances and to do what we can to halt mass violence and prevent future harm.

But I sometimes wonder if, because we focus so intently on these troubling examples of violence, we sometimes forget to question the forms of violence that have become almost acceptable in our own country, such as the death penalty. I volunteer in the Prison Outreach program at Georgetown, which has led me to become involved in the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). They often send out emails asking members to petition on behalf of people who are soon to be executed. I regularly click on the links included in the email and submit my petition, but it was beginning to be merely automatic, and I was unsure if I was even helping the cause at all. However, today the NCADP asked members to do something a little different, and a lot more creative. In mixing up their strategy, I think they will be much more effective.

Basically, instead of merely sending out petitions to state governments protesting a sentencing, NCADP is launching a massive YouTube campaign on behalf of Troy Davis, called the "Troy Davis Innocence Matters Video Project".
Troy is on death row in Georgia for a murder that he almost certainly did not commit. The NCADP says, "Troy was sentenced to die despite the fact that seven of the nine people who testified against him at trial have recanted their testimony. (An eighth 'witness' is missing, while the ninth is thought to be the real killer. No physical evidence whatsoever tied Troy to the crime.)" Troy has an appeal before the Georgia Supreme Court this fall, so in support of him, and because his birthday is October 9th, NCADP is asking people to submit YouTube videos wishing him happy birthday as well as defending his innocence and advocating for a fair trial. This creative campaign will not only show solidarity with Troy, but it will also serve to question and draw attention to the larger problems surrounding capital punishment. I think newer media and technology are finally being used as nonviolent and effective tools against a violent, flawed justice system. I suppose we will just have to wait and see if this strategic campaign is actually successful. Definitely check out the campaign, and if you are opposed to the death penalty, think about becoming a member of the NCADP! Also, feel free to sign the petition demanding justice for Troy.