In Which We Learn We’ve Been Banned in China

Breaking news: Wronging Rights has been banned in China.

On this bright Thanksgiving morning, blogger Codrin Arsene of A Romanian in Africa informs us that Africa Unchained and Wronging Rights are both on the wrong side of the Great Firewall of China. He writes:

“Way to go man! Not many foreign bloggers (i.e. not Chinese) do work that’s notable enough to make the Chinese state add their website to the forbidden list. So, I guess, congratulations are in order.”

Gosh, we’re just so flattered to even be nominated as a Threat to Chinese Democracy. To be considered in the same category as so many other amazing banned blogs is just incredible. We’d like to thank the Academy…

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

(Thanks to @ryanbriggs for bringing this to our attention.)

And the Award for "Most Creative Rationale for Kicking a Prime Minister out of Office" Goes to…

The Thai Constitutional Court handed down a verdict today that Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej must step down because he violated the constitution by hosting a televised cooking program while in office.

Samak, whose hold on political power is already quite shaky (see here re: two-week occupation of prime minister’s office by anti-government protesters), began hosting his popular show, translated alternately as “Tasting While Grumbling” or “Tasting and Complaining” (for reals) in 2000. He was taken off the air in 2007 when the army-appointed government commandeered the network. Upon taking office in January of this year, Samak informed reporters that he would be bringing back the weekly program. In response to questions about possible constitutional conflicts, he replied: “No. I checked the constitution already, there’s no obstruction with that.”

Apparently he did not check it carefully enough, because today his opponents prevailed on a constitutional claim that Samak had unlawfully accepted private employment while in public office. D’oh. The court rejected Samak’s defense that he appeared on the show as a freelancer rather than an employee and ordered him to resign.

Samak’s (questionably) ruling People Power Party replied with a resounding “sucks to you, constitutional court, we’ll just reappoint him!” No word yet on how they plan to respond if the appeals court scheduled to review Samak’s conviction for defamation later this month upholds the three year jail sentence imposed by the lower court.

And The First Official Battle Diplomats of Awesomeness Awards Go To…

The Times of London ran an article last week discussing the efforts of a group of foreign diplomats in Zimbabwe to document the abuses that Mugabe’s allies are perpetrating against opposition supporters. The group -which includes the Ambassadors from Great Britain, the U.S., Japan, The E.U., and the Netherlands, as well as the Deputy Ambassadors of Tanzania- has apparently been piling into a convoy of eleven diplomatic vehicles and investigating human rights abuses. The Zimbabwean security forces aren’t handling the situation gracefully: when told that the foreign officials had been “looking at people who have been beaten,” they apparently responded that they were going to “beat you thoroughly too.” (No word on whether they added that “I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”)

The details of what followed are a little unclear, but apparently the diplomatic convoy managed to escape un-beaten, un-disappeared, and un-extrajudicially-killed through some sort of magical use of U.S. Ambassador James McGhee’s butt: “The two agents in the vehicle tried to flee, but James McGee, the US Ambassador, stood in their path. When they tried to push him away with the car, he sat heavily on the bonnet. He went on to take photographs of the agents, who were trying to hide their faces.”

I think we are all in agreement that these diplomats deserve medals. Luckily, I just happen to have the perfect thing lying around the office here at Amanda HQ: The Battle Diplomats of Awesomeness Awards, each named after a special power of a celebrity U.N. Goodwill Ambassador. Without further ado:

The Shakira Award for Creative Use of One’s Booty in Support of Human Rights goes to U.S. Ambassador James McGhee, for recognizing that sometimes, to protect human rights, even an ambassador has to plant his butt on the hood of a hostile vehicle and refuse to move.

The Roger Moore Award for Kicking Ass via Suave Britishness goes to U.K. Ambassador Andrew Pocock, because I assume he was wearing an impeccable linen suit and cradling a shaken-not-stirred martini whilst being temporarily seized by security forces.

The Juanes Award for Ambassadors You May Not Have Heard of, But are Actually So Much More Awesome than the Others goes collectively to the Deputy Ambassadors of Tanzania, because Tanzania currently holds the chairmanship of the African Union. And all joking aside, it is time for African leaders to convince Mugabe to go. Tanzania and its diplomatic staff deserve a great deal of praise for their willingness to address human rights violations head on.

Those diplomats who did not receive an award today should not lose heart. This was a tough competition: there’s a lot of awesomeness going on amongst the Battle Diplomats of the world. But there are more awards where these came from! I strongly urge all the other diplomats to persevere the awesomeness competition by fighting for the forces of good in the world.

Hooray justice! Human rights yay!

Congratulations Junot Diaz!

We at Amanda HQ are THRILLED to announce that Junot Diaz has won a National Book Critics Award for The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao.

Brief Wonderful Life is my favorite book right now. It puts the book form to better use than anything I have seen in a very long time, by telling the story of how the Trujillo dictatorship affected three generations of a Dominican family through the lens of the “brief wonderful life” of the story’s protagonist: an obese nerdtastic Dominican kid living in New Jersey. Throughout the book are footnotes explaining the historical details of the dictatorship, allowing the story to rumble along at the perfect pace and the heretofore uninformed reader to keep up.

Oh, and the footnotes compare Trujillo to Sauron from The Lord of the Rings. I really think that political theory writing should make use of iconic sci-fi/fantasy figures more often. The things that happen in our imaginations are, in every way that matters when reading about new ideas, far more “real” than the things that happen in the faraway corners of the planet (or islands within spitting distance of our coastline) that we have not thought about yet. Might as well take advantage of that.

Finally, the book is funny, even though it is about torture and rape and how dictatorships can casually crush a soul or two on the way to breakfast. All books should be funny. Especially those that are about torture, and rape, and the early-morning destruction of innocents.

Books like this are to the struggle against authoritarianism as clowns are to rodeos.

Congratulations Junot!

A Very Special Wrongingrights: Devon Saves the World! Hooray Devon!

Today it is my pleasure to present…… dum da da dum da DA TUM…the first ever Wrongingrights Claire Bennet Award!!!!!

This is all VERY exciting.

For those of you who have not already guessed, the Claire is awarded to petite blondes who Save The World.

The first Claire goes to Ms. Devon Chaffee, for being just like Claire Bennet except with lots more law degree and a little less superhuman self-healing ability. Devon works for Human Rights First, and has worked tirelessly to lobby the Senate to pass Section 327 of H.R. 2082, which states:

(a) LIMITATION.—No individual in the custody or under the effective control of an element of the intelligence community or instrumentality thereof, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.

(b) INSTRUMENTALITY DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘instrumentality’’, with respect to an element of the intelligence community, means a contractor or subcontractor at any tier of the element of the intelligence community.

Translation for those of you who chose not to drop $100k on a law degree: no more torturing people in U.S. custody. Or at least, no using techniques that are not listed in the Army Field Manual, which for now means no more torturing. (But yes, that probably means that the manual will be given a super-top secret attached addendum that lists everything from “incessant John Tesh music” to “electrodes on scrotum,” but please do not spoil this happy moment.)

This is a very big deal. Ramming legislation like this through the U.S. Congress, whose members can always be counted on to wimp out on civil liberties to avoid looking like they’re wimpy on “terror,” is no easy task. It requires dedication, intelligence, a thick skin, and a willingness to talk to people whose actual job is to make you miserable.

Luckily for all of us who wish to keep our fingernails in their original attached-to-fingers packaging, Devon and her fabulous colleagues were up to the task.
Devon Saves the World! Hooray Devon!

P.S. Among the senators who wimped out on this bill was Senator John McCain, who voted “no.” Memo to Senator McCain: this doesn’t make you look tough. At best it just makes you look calculating, at worst a little bit senile. Everyone knows that you used to have a different position on torture, so which is it? Willingness to compromise on your most cherished ideals in order to con wingnuts into voting for you, or inability to remember what your cherished ideals actually are? Sorry, John, I know that’s harsh. But do you know what else is harsh? Being TORTURED. Oh, wait. You do know that! So what gives?
P.P.S. Full Disclosure: I went to law school with Devon, where we worked on this together.

Best in Show

We thought we’d close out the month (our blog’s first!) with a nostalgic look back at human rights abuse in January 2008.

And then we thought, you know what’s more fun than a retrospective? An awards ceremony! We love awards.

So, here you go. The first-occasional Gadaffi Awards for Excellence in Human Rightsiness.

In the category of “Best Oh-My-God-You’re-SO-Going-to-Hell-for-That Legal Defense.”

The nominees are:

  1. Defense counsel for Charles Taylor for their patented “your witness has been driven so crazy by our client’s atrocity-committing ways, he cannot possibly testify reliably to any specific atrocity” trial strategy.
  2. Joshua Milton “General Butt Naked” Blahi for his audacious “nah man, demons made me do it. I’m cured now!” testimony before Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia.
  3. Defense counsel for Charles Taylor for their argument that the inherent “untruthfulness” of Sierra Leonan children renders statistics on the number of child soldiers forced into the RUF meaningless.

And the Gaddafi goes to… two-time nominee Charles Taylor’s defense team for their attempt to discredit witness Varmuyan Sherif!!! It was a tough decision, but in the end there was no other choice. That’s some balls-out EVIL right there.

In the category of “Most Unexpected Threat to Our Precious Freedoms.”

The nominees are:

  1. Roombas with autonomous combat capabilities. Seriously, we’re scared.
  2. Ted Kennedy.
  3. Marcia Pappas.

This is a tight race, but we’re going to have to give the Gaddafi to…..Ms. Pappas! Because, for the first time, we are actually hoping people will dismiss the comments of a prominent feminist leader as “just a raging case of PMS.” Ugh.

In the category of “Hottest New Accessory for the Human Rights Abuser Who Has Everything.”

The nominees are:

  1. The Nepal police force’s human rights pocket books.
  2. Laurent Nkunda’s “Rebels for Christ” pin.
  3. Bracelets handcrafted by real life victims of super-serious sex trafficking.

We’re going to follow he-of-the-gold-tipped-baton here and award the Gaddafi to the “Rebels for Christ” pin.

In the category of “Most Ruggedly Handsome and Yet Somehow Suavely Sophisticated Carrier-Pigeon of Peace EVER

The nominees are:

  1. George Clooney.
  2. George Clooney.
  3. George Clooney.

Oh, Clooney…

Oppressors of Women React to Ted Kennedy Being Crowned "Ultimate Betrayer" of Women

Established Betrayers of Women expressed disappointment today at the decision by the New York chapter of the feminist organization NOW to crown relative newcomer Senator Ted Kennedy the “Ultimate Betrayer of Women.”

NY-NOW made their decision yesterday, after Kennedy endorsed the presidential campaign of penis-having Barack Obama instead of vagina-having Hillary Clinton. Kennedy’s endorsement was, according to NY-NOW President Marcia Pappas, both “the ultimate betrayal” and “the greatest betrayal” to women everywhere.

NY-NOW’s statement has been greeted with varying degrees of surprise and anger by other members of the female-oppression community.

A representative of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a short statement saying that “King Abdullah understands why NY-NOW felt compelled to award Senator Kennedy this title. He would like to extend his congratulations to Senator Kennedy on behalf of the Saudi government and other oppressors of women everywhere.” However, a close associate of the king’s has told Wrongingrights exclusively that this statement is a brave mask for the king’s bitter disappointment. “Poor Abdie is devastated. He knew that it might not be enough that his courts ordered a gang-rape victim imprisoned and given 200 lashes, but he thought that going after her lawyer too, thereby discouraging attorneys from representing future rape victims, would really clinch it for him.” However, observers have noted, the king lost a great deal of Betrayer “street cred” when he pardoned the young woman, demonstrating that his betrayals “lack follow-through.”

Many observers of the Ultimate-Betrayer race thought that if electoral politics turned out to be this year’s “hot” betrayal, then the title might go to Valeriano Lopez. Mr. Lopez, the Deputy Mayor of Santa Maria Quiegolani, Mexico, has gained notoriety recently for his bold decision to crush female suffrage in his town by tearing up votes for a female candidate for mayor. His rationale is that only citizens can vote, and possession of a Y chromosome is a prerequisite for citizenship. Some commentators have hinted that the decision to pass over Mr. Lopez in favor of Kennedy might be based in racism, noting that Lopez had committed himself far more seriously to limiting women’s political participation.

Lopez, however, remains sanguine about his prospects in the future. “I am pleased that NY-NOW has recognized the important role that denying political participation plays in the global Betrayal of Women movement,” he said through an interpreter, going on to say that “I will be travelling to the United States to support the Obama campaign alongside Senator Kennedy as my brother in this struggle. I believe that support for the Obama campaign may have become a new “litmus test” for Betrayers everywhere, but it is one that I am more than capable of meeting.”

More experienced Betrayers of Women were less positive. Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, when contacted in his jail cell in The Hague, accused Pappas of having “the memory capacity of a goldfish,” and wondered if his record -which includes ordering his troops to kidnap, imprison, rape, torture, mutilate, enslave, and murder thousands of women during wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia- would ever receive the recognition it deserves. “Who can compete with me? I mean, how many women has that c*cksucker Kennedy ever killed? One, maybe. And that was never even proven! WEAK.”

When pressed, Taylor did reluctantly concede that he, too, would be willing to campaign for Obama in the hope of winning the title in future years. “He can use my slogan if he wants,” said Taylor, apparently referring to the refrain of “He killed my Ma, he killed my Pa, I’ll vote for him!” that echoed through Freetown shortly before he won a controversial election there.

Women’s groups, when contacted for comment, were reluctant to speak, explaining that “we’re still waiting for NY-NOW to tell us what Women’s reaction is.”