David Rosen

It Looks Like the Right Wing Has Finally Given Up on the Idea of Gay Conversion Therapy

It may finally be over.  Nevada is the latest of eight states that officially ended the practice of sexual “conversion therapy” of minors.  Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill making it illegal for a physician or other health professional to perform therapy intended to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of someone under 18 years of age.  However, in a telling compromise, the bill exempts religious organizations and allows counseling by members of the clergy.

Keep reading... Show less

Immigrants Are Sitting Ducks: Prepaid International Calling-Card Scam

Have you ever used a prepaid international calling card?  If so, you’ve likely been ripped off.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump's Sick Predecessors: 6 Racist Bullies Who Stirred Up Americans' Basest Instincts

With the help of the mainstream media, Donald Trump is fueling a deep-seated nativist paranoia that has a long history in this country.  Loud-mouthed political bullies have been part of the American political system since its earliest days. America’s past is littered with the legacies of political demagogues like Trump and some of his Republican cronies.  

Keep reading... Show less

4 Very Good Reasons Prostitution Shouldn't Be a Crime

On July 16, 2015, Pres. Obama visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, OK, the first sitting president to visit a federal penitentiary. Reflecting on his visit, the president acknowledged, “When they describe their youth, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made, and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made.” He added, “The difference is that they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”

Keep reading... Show less

To See the Bleak Future of U.S. Workers, Look What Happened to an NBC Contractor Covering the Ebola Outbreak

The fate of Ashoka Mukpo, NBC News’ 33-year-old freelance cameraman and reporter suffering from the Ebola virus, remains tenuous. He worked in Liberia for the last three years before being infected and was recently flown to the Nebraska Medical Center for treatment. Amidst all the coverage about Mukpo and the Ebola crisis, one question that seems to have gone unanswered is whether NBC will pay his medical bills?

Keep reading... Show less

5 Scams and Rackets That Can Turn You Into a 21st-Century Indentured Servant

America is a debtor nation in crisis. According to one estimate, total consumer debt stands at $11.7 trillion, including $8.2 trillion in home mortgages, $1.1 trillion in student loans and $854.2 billion in credit card debt. While the banks were made whole from the Great Recession, ordinary people, especially homeowners who lost their houses, got screwed. And the faltering recovery has only left ordinary Americans worse off. Wages are flat and consumer spending is sluggish; home foreclosures are declining but there were still 1,361,795 foreclosures in 2013; consumers are shifting to a cash-and-carry system, adopting bank debit payments, and cutting back on the use of credit cards. More and more Americans are fighting to stay out of the debt hole, though the average U.S. household is already carrying $203,000 in debt. 

Keep reading... Show less

The Other Police State -- The Private Intel Industry Grows

On November 20th, the Center for Corporate Policy, a Washington, DC, good-government group, issued a revealing study, “Spooky Business: A New Report on Corporate Espionage Against Non-profits.”  Written by Gary Ruskin, it confirms one’s worst suspicions about the ever-expanding two-headed U.S. security state.

Keep reading... Show less

The Flesh Trade: Sex Work in America

Three centuries before Las Vegas was founded, New York was known as sin city. It was home to drinking, gambling, and most especially, illicit sexual pleasures. One of New Amsterdam’s first sex workers was Grietje “Little Pearl” Reynies, a lively bawd or "doxie." Taunted by seamen on a departing sloop with the cry, “Whore! Whore! Two pound butter’s whore!” she allegedly lifted her petticoat and pointed to her naked backside, replying, "Blaes my daer achterin."

Keep reading... Show less

Does Anthony Weiner's Comeback Mean that the Laws of Scandal Politics Have Changed?

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is back.  Having given up his House seat following being exposed in a 2011 sexting scandal, Weiner bowed out of politics for the last two years.

Keep reading... Show less

Arresting a Teen Girl for Dozing Off in Class? Why Normal Kid Behavior Is Treated As a Crime or Psychiatric Disorder

Brianna Pena, a 5-year-old, was told she could not return to her kindergarten classroom at her Bronx, NY, charter school until she was “psychiatrically cleared” to return by a medical professional.  It was her first day at a new school.  She didn’t know anyone and repeatedly cried, “Nobody cares about me!” School officials insist that Brianna kept “yelling and throwing chairs” during the incident.  Administrators placed her on a list of so-called “psychiatric suspensions.”

Keep reading... Show less

Customer Beware: You Are Being Tracked

Are you planning to visit Disneyland anytime soon? If so, watch out when you are offered its latest marketing innovation, the MagicBand. When it's introduced later this year, this oh-so-cuddly wristband will be embedded with a radio frequency identification (RFID) microchip and be part of a system dubbed MyMagic+.  It will enable the company to monitor, track and analyze your every activity. 

A recent New York Times exposé reveals how the giant entertainment conglomerate plans to employ some of the latest spy technologies to “customize” its operations. According to the Times, “Did you buy a balloon? What attractions did you ride and when? Did you shake Goofy’s hand, but snub Snow White? If you fully use MyMagic+, databases will be watching, allowing Disney to refine its offerings and customize its marketing messages." Sound innocent?

Keep reading... Show less

The Spy State Tightens its Grip

Ever hear of Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 20? Bet not. The more you’ve never heard of something, the more worried you should be.

Keep reading... Show less

Police Have the Scary Capability to Track Wherever You're Driving

A building at 55 Broadway, in lower Manhattan, is home to the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center, the locus of the New York Police Department's massive, intelligence-gathering activities. According to a 2011 estimate, the facility integrates not only some 1,000 NYPD cameras located in lower Manhattan and some 700 cameras in midtown, but an additional 2,000 private surveillance cameras owned by Wall Street firms. These cameras are principally focused on capturing license plate data. The center cost an estimated $150 million to set up.

Keep reading... Show less

How Telecoms Sell Your Private Info to the Highest Bidder

Have you ever lost your mobile phone and been able to find it through your wireless company’s GPS tracking service? Or have you signed up for a family locator program to check on where your kids are through their phones? If so, you’ve voluntarily entered the world of telco tracking. Unfortunately, these are but the most innocent tracking programs that wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon are engaged in.

Keep reading... Show less

Kids Tagged With RFID Chips? The Creepy New Technology Schools Use to Track Everything Kids Do -- And the Profit Motive Behind It

The digital tracking and surveillance of school-aged kids has been growing. 

Keep reading... Show less

Is Privacy Dead? 4 Government and Private Entities Conspiring to Track Everything You Do Online and Off

Americans' personal privacy is being crushed by the rise of a four-headed corporate-state surveillance system.  The four “heads” are: federal government agencies; state and local law enforcement entities; telecoms, web sites & Internet “apps” companies; and private data aggregators (sometimes referred to as commercial data warehouses).

Keep reading... Show less

How Privacy in America Went Virtually Extinct in Just a Decade

We’ve come a long way since the 1880s when Sir Francis Galton, a British anthropologist and a cousin of Charles Darwin, first undertook the scientific study of fingerprints as a means of identification. Now, two centuries later, all information is digital, created, distributed and displayed as a series of 1s and Os. 

Keep reading... Show less

Why Our Phones and Internet Are Being Threatened by a Big Telecom Privatization Scheme

Regulatory capture is when private corporate interests take over an agency and instead of serving the “public” good, it serves the interests of private corporations. Such capture is playing out at both the state and federal levels throughout America, eroding the basic ethical standards in government. 

Keep reading... Show less

What Secrets Is Your Cell Phone Company Telling the Government About You?

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has had enough of the nation’s law enforcement establishment and its utter disregard for privacy protections. On Monday, July 9, he released the first set of findings from the House’s Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus and a summary of it was published in the New York Times. "Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack?" he asked. 

Keep reading... Show less

6 Government Surveillance Programs Designed to Watch What You Do Online

President Eisenhower was right on point about the military-industrial complex, but he could not have predicted the emergence of the massive surveillance state -- combining the government and private sector -- that bolsters it.

Keep reading... Show less

The Terrifying Ways Google Is Destroying Your Privacy

In 1999, Scott McNealy, the former head of Sun MicroSystems, reportedly declared, "You have zero privacy anyway....Get over it." He unintentionally let the proverbial cat out of the bag of the digital age. 

Keep reading... Show less

Are You Being Tracked? 8 Ways Your Privacy Is Being Eroded Online and Off

In a recent hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Al Franken reminded his fellow Americans, “People have a fundamental right to control their private information.” At the hearing, Franken raised an alarm about Carrier IQ’s software, CIQ.

Keep reading... Show less

How Politicians Are Using 911 Emergency Services to Scam Millions of Consumers

The Great Blizzard of 2010 dumped record levels of snow throughout the Northeast. On day one of the snowstorm, New York's 911 service got nearly 50,000 calls and, at its peak, had a backlog of 1,300 calls that almost brought the service to its knees. Sadly, the combination of 911 failures and the inability of EMS ambulances to get through the snowdrifts likely contributed to a number of needless deaths.

Keep reading... Show less

How Does the Drug Industry Get Away with Broadcasting Those Deceptive Ads?

We’ve all seen them in newspapers and magazines, on TV and the Internet -- cheerful people in glossy, picturesque ads claiming that by taking a little magic prescription pill their lives were immeasurably improved.  

Keep reading... Show less

The Outrageous Ways Your Phone Company May Be Stealing from You

Cramming, slamming and ramming are three of a growing number of scams being perpetrated on unaware telephone, wireless and Internet customers.

Keep reading... Show less

Will Only Another Great Depression Save America?

Americans are increasingly aware that the Great American Century is over. A November 2010 Rasmussen poll found that just over one-third (37 percent) of respondents believe America's best days are still ahead. Sadly, nearly half (47 percent) say the nation's best days are in the past. They wonder what will come next.

Keep reading... Show less

Rape as an Instrument of Total War

Louise Arbour, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, recently announced her decision to resign her position and not seek a second term. Reading behind the formal language of a well-respected diplomat, its clean the Arbour quit out of disgust with the UN's failure to seriously address the international moral crises precipitated by the Bush administration's "war on terror."

Arbour had a now-famous dust-up with the U.S.'s former UN representative, John Bolton, in 2006 over Israel's invasion of Lebanon. She suggested that Israeli leaders could be charged with war crimes. "You know, in America," Bolton retorted, "prosecutors are not supposed to threaten people in public based on press reports." Contemptuously, he added, "I would just say as one lawyer to another, that to Mrs. Arbour, that she should consider her professional ethics and responsibilities very carefully here before threatening criminal charges based on press accounts."

Arbour, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (responsible for the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic) and former Justice on Canada's Supreme Court, knows war crimes when she sees them. Clearly, she had enough of the double-speak masquerading as justice. Traditional prohibitions against war crimes, torture and, most scandalously, sexual terror against girls and women have seriously eroded over the last seven years. She had enough.

* * *

The rape of female (and occasionally male) non-combatants by male soldiers during a war is a feature of human social relations since the earliest times. The Old Testament is replete with stories of the rape of women by conquering tribes. They have long been raped and kidnapped as "spoils of war" and often forced to marry their captors to survive. The abduction of Helen of Troy remains, after two-and-a-half centuries, a testament to the consequences of male conquest.

Reported rapes of female non-combatants by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq appear to be limited. However, given the U.S. military's inherent secrecy and repeated cover-ups, the true story of war rape will likely not be revealed until well-after the occupation ends.

Charges of rapes of Vietnamese women by U.S. soldiers were made by Susan Brownmiller and others during the war (e.g., "Against Our Will," 1975). It wasn't until only quite recently that the full scale of confirmed atrocities by American forces in Vietnam was revealed to be more extensive than previously known. Reports in the Toledo Blade [October 19, 2003] and the Los Angeles Times [August 6, 2006] discuss more than three hundred atrocities (including rapes) that were finally substantiated by Army investigators, and this does not include the most notorious U.S. war crime, the 1968 My Lai massacre.

While incidents of rape by today's U.S. male soldiers appear relatively few in number, one cannot say the same for other military forces operating throughout the world. Conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Darfur, like earlier ones in Rwanda as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Myanmar and Somalia, were scarred by innumerable documented incidents of rape. Rape as an instrument of war was also reported in recent conflicts in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, East Timor, Haiti, Liberia, Peru and Uganda.

Rape is the most traumatic invasion one person can inflict on another. It has long been misconceived as a sex act. Although one of the most forceful physical engagements, often involving the genitals and other body parts, rape is not erotic, not sensual, not pleasurable. It is violence and terror masquerading as passion.

The inherent violence and terror of rape finds its most barbaric realization during war, especially under conditions of modern total war. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, pioneered total war during his infamous "march to the sea" in 1864. His campaign effectively destroyed his enemy in both physical and spiritual senses; it ended America's most consequential military engagement.

Sherman believed that war should be total, that it should be extended from a conflict between recognized combatants to a conflict involving an enemy's entire society, including its natural resources, farming and food supply, utilities and other aspects of civilian life.

This shift in military strategy only got worse during the 20th century. The first and second World Wars added airplanes and toxic gases and then gas chambers, fire bombings and nuclear weapons to the arsenal of total war. This enhanced weaponry extended Sherman's model of military engagement from the destruction of the civilian infrastructure to the terrorization of the civilian population. And, in the euphemistic language the so distinguished last century's bureaucratic denial, the targeted civilian casualties of total war came to be known as "collateral damage."

A new era of warfare is underway. It differs significantly in terms of a number of the defining features of 20th century military strategy. First, warfare today seems constrained in the deployment of vast military forces, mass armies; the first Gulf War was a glorified police action in which a mass-mobilized "coalition" slapped down a wayward, second-rate state. Second, warfare appears restricted in the employment of the most powerful weapons available through the military-industrial complex; victory in World War I and II was predicated on the maximum deployment of the most advanced technologies of mass slaughter.

Our new era of warfare seems to be defined by contained conflicts, battles restricted to collapsed nation-states, limited in the use of advanced weaponry and rarely involving multiple-state alliances mercilessly contesting one another. In this new ear of total war, collateral damage has become a legitimate target of free-fire conflict.

One consequence of this new era of military conflict is the changing role of rape. First, there has been an increase in the number of reported rapes; this increase in reflected in (a) the number of reported rapes taking place during a specific conflict and in (b) an overall number of conflicts taking place throughout the world. Second, more militaries have adopted rape as an (unofficial) operational technique in their total war campaign. While the enemy male combatant is beaten or shot, sometimes tortured, raped or even murdered in detention, the systematic rape of girls and women appears to be an innovative and accepted technique of today's total war culture.

Fulfilling Sherman's gruesome vision, the line between the warrior and the noncombatant, the soldier and the civilian, has been formally obliterated. As this happened, warfare had but one unexploited territory to systematically plunder, the enemy's physical being, it's living body.

Adult males are plunders through torture; some boys and females of all ages are plundered through rape. For females, plunder, invasion, rape both harms and stigmatizes. Some believe that rape signifies pollution, of both the woman and the "fruits" of her conquest. Rape has become a defining feature of total war in these early years of the 21st century.

* * *

Last summer, the third U.S. soldier from Company B, First Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, was sentenced for his part in the rape and murder of an Iraqi family in Mahmudiya, a Sunni town 20 miles south of Baghdad. As some might recall, these soldiers broke into a family home, raped the teenage Abeer Qassim al-Janabi while her parents and a 7-year-old sister were locked in a back room, and then killed her and her family. For their crimes, the soldiers received a combined total prison sentence of over three hundred years.

This third soldier is Jesse Spielman, a 23-year-old U.S. Army private; he was sentenced to 110 years. Earlier this year, Sergeant Paul Cortez was sentenced to 90 years and, in November 2006, Specialist James Barker got a 100 year sentence. Each was found guilty of four counts of murder, rape, conspiracy to commit rape, housebreaking with the intent to commit rape and conspiracy to commit rape. In March 2007, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, 19-years-old, pleaded guilty to monitoring radio communications and received 27 months confinement.

Steven Green, described as the ringleader, was discharged in May 2006 on psychiatric grounds apparently before the army learned of the Mahmudiya episode and is awaiting trial. Court testimony indicates the following sequence of horror: Cortez and Barker raped the girl; Green shot the parents and younger sister; he then raped the older girl, killed her and they poured kerosene on her body and set it on fire. Earlier this year, Federal prosecutors in Louisville announced their intention to seek the death penalty in Green's case.

The teenage rape victim was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi; Abeer means "fragrance of flowers." Pictures of the perpetrators show very young men who seem not only inexperienced with the ways of the world, but profoundly unprepared for the horrors of war that awaited them in Iraq. Green told a journalist: "This war is different from all the ones that our fathers and grandfathers fought. Those wars were for something. This war is for nothing."

The soldiers seem as much victims of Bush's total war as Abeer and her poor family.

* * *

On July 29, 2007, a particularly gruesome case of human slaughter took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to a UN report, a soldier in North Kivu province allegedly raped and then chopped to death a Hutu woman and her three-month-old baby.

A UN press release says the rape was emblematic of "violations by the Congolese national police and by armed rebel groups, including the murder and rape of villagers and the extortion and robbing of civilians." Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, denounced the sexual violence in the DRC as the worst she has ever seen.

According to the UN, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu province and this is understood as just a fraction of the total number of rape casualties across the country. "The sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world," said John Holmes, the UN's under secretary general for humanitarian affairs. "The sheer numbers, the wholesale brutality, the culture of impunity--it's appalling."

Other Western observers are equally shocked by what appears to be an unprecedented level of sexual violence. Malteser International, a relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta and working in the eastern Congo, reports that in one town, Shabunda, 70 percent of the women admitted being sexually brutalized. André Bourque, a Canadian consultant who works with aid groups in eastern Congo, warned that "sexual violence in Congo reaches a level never reached anywhere else. It is even worse than in Rwanda during the genocide."

Perpetrators of sexual violence include Congolese government troops, who are judged among the worst offenders. They also include the so-called Rastas, paramilitary groups who terrorize the rural countryside by kidnapping and raping women, burning babies and slaughtering anyone who challenges them. They are mostly former Hutu militias that fled Rwanda after the genocide wars of 1994 and survive deep in the forest, recognized by their dreadlocked, shiny tracksuits and Los Angeles Lakers jerseys. In addition, there are the local militias called the Mai-Mai who invoke a far older military mythology: they slick themselves with oil before marching into battle. [New York Times, October 7, 2007]

Since 2003, the Darfur region of western Sudan has been the site systematic terror. According to Amnesty International, "In these attacks, men are killed, women are raped and villagers are forcibly displaced from their homes which are burnt; their crops and cattle, their main means of subsistence, are burnt or looted." [AI, "Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences," 19 July 2004]

To date, in Darfur an estimated 2.5 million people have been displaced, more than 400,000 have died and an untold number of women and girls have been raped and sexually terrorized. A 2007 report by Refugees International found that "the raping of Darfuri women is not sporadic or random, but is inexorably linked to the systematic destruction of their communities." It claims that the government-backed janjawid militiamen, the "armed men on horses or "Arab militia," practice rape as a weapon of ethnic cleansing. [RI, "Laws Without Justice: An Assessment of Sudanese Laws Affecting Survivors of Rape"]

Most recently, a March 2008 report by Louise Arbour found that there were "strong indications" that members of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) committed rapes of women and girls in Sirba, north of West Darfur's capital, El Geneina. The report stated that one eyewitness saw "four girls being escorted to an abandoned hut and raped at gunpoint by a group of soldiers belonging to the SAF."

Two additional examples document the growing use of sexual terror on women and girls since the end of the Cold War. In Rwanda, the UN estimated that as many as 500,000 women and girls suffered brutal forms of sexual violence, including gang-rape and sexual mutilation, of which many were infected with HIV/Aids. In Bosnia, more than 40,000 Muslim women were estimated to have been raped and some impregnated girls were forced to bear "the enemy's" child. These examples suggest the increased use of rape as a technique of total warfare.

* * *

In his elegant meditation, "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning," Chris Hedges grasps the dehumanizing role of war:

Keep reading... Show less