“Diplomatic immunity” must be abolished everywhere

Read this story:

Equatorial Guinea argues luxury Paris mansion was part of embassy when raided

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Equatorial Guinea argued on Monday that a luxury mansion in central Paris used by the son of the country’s president was protected by diplomatic immunity when it was raided by French authorities in 2012.

The case at the International Court of Justice is seen as a test for the limits of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity, which shields government officials from prosecution abroad.

Equatorial Guinea launched the case in 2016 after the residence of Teodorin Obiang on the grand Avenue Foch was raided as part of a corruption investigation that resulted in a conviction for embezzlement, confirmed last week.

The conviction came after a collection of 25 supercars he owned, including a Ferrari Enzo and a Bugatti Veyron, were confiscated by the Geneva prosecutor’s office under a deal ending a money-laundering inquiry. The cars fetched nearly 27 million Swiss francs ($27 million) at auction in September.

Obiang, 50, is the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, for more than three decades.

A representative for Equatorial Guinea told the court’s judges on Monday that the luxury apartment, in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world, had been bought by the African nation in 2011 and was part of its embassy.

“France has refused to recognize the diplomatic pretext of the building under the false pretence it belongs to the private domain”, ambassador Carmelo Nvono Nca, Equatorial Guinea’s agent, told the judges.

In coming days France will present its side before the United Nation’s highest court for disputes between states. A ruling is expected later this year.

In earlier hearings the French argued Equatorial Guinea was attempting to shield Obiang, known for posting pictures of his glamorous lifestyle on Instagram, by retroactively adding his opulent 101-room home to its diplomatic mission.

Police raided Obiang’s residence as part of a corruption investigation, eventually seizing 100 million euros worth of assets including paintings by Renoir and Degas and another fleet of luxury vehicles.

Obiang was convicted last week by a French court of embezzlement of public funds and ordered to pay a 30 million euro ($33 million) fine.

Diplomatic immunity in any case is a concept by which officials representing a country are allowed to openly violate the laws of another country while living there.  It is a form of disrespect for the second country’s government and the people there that are subject to those laws. A basic standard of ethics and justice is that NO ONE should be above the law.

And this is not about some young idiot that didn’t know that he was doing wrong.

Obiang, 50, is the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, for more than three decades.

Being 50 myself, I know damn well if I were not the son of a ruler who has been in power for far too long, there would be no question of me being imprisoned for my crimes. This case angers me too!

I hope the International Court of Justice rejects this appeal and ultimately abolishes the concept of diplomatic immunity completely. And also that the people of Equatorial Guinea themselves rise up and force their corrupt leader into retirement, and also prevent his son from ever ruling. Sheesh!

 

Kobe Bryant, rape allegations, and a Disney heiress

Here’s a story that emerged in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash last month. Among those killed with him was his 13 year old daughter.

https://www.businessinsider.com/kobe-bryant-abigail-disney-rape-allegations-not-a-god

Disney heiress says Kobe Bryant ‘was not a god’ in lengthy Twitter thread about rape allegations

abigail disney

Abigail Disney spoke out about Bryant’s rape allegations Saturday.

Disney heiress Abigail Disney addressed the rape allegations against late NBA star Kobe Bryant in a 24-tweet thread on Saturday that urged people to avoid turning Bryant into a god.

The 60-year-old, who is the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney — a cofounder of the Walt Disney Company — had in a tweet January 29 shared an op-ed from the Washington Post about allegations Bryant faced some 17 years ago, writing “The man was a rapist. Deal with it.”

On February 1, the Disney heiress, who has a net worth of over $120 million, doubled down on her previous statement, offering new commentary on Bryant, who died January 26 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.  

“OK, time to bite the bullet and say something,” Disney said when she began her Twitter thread early Saturday morning. “If you don’t like it, just stop following. First of all, yes, it IS my business because I’m a woman who has herself been assaulted and spent my life knowing, loving and feeling for women for whom it’s been so much worse.” 

At the onset of the thread, Disney offered praise for Bryant amid her discussion of the rape allegations, noting that a person can do both good and bad things in their lifetime. “I mourn Kobe too,” she wrote. “He went on to be a man who seemed genuinely to want to do good. The face[sic] that he raped someone does not change any of these other facts.”

As The New York Times reported, the allegations stem from Bryant’s 2003 a trip to Colorado for an operation on his knee. Byrant reportedly asked a concierge at the spa where he was staying for a private tour. Following the tour, he invited her to his room where they began kissing. Bryant had said what followed was consensual sex, though his accuser said she was raped. 

Court documents revealed the woman had bruises on her neck and tears on her vaginal wall, The New York Times reported. While the case never went to trial, reportedly over the accusers’ refusal to testify, a lawsuit between Bryant and the accuser resulted in an undisclosed settlement.  

Bryant later apologized to his accuser. 

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual,” he said in a statement, “I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”

Disney went on to compare the allegations against Bryant to a drunk driver killing a person. “Does his lack of intention absolve him of responsibility for the death?,” Disney asked. “If he said he wasn’t that drunk or didn’t know he was drunk, or didn’t mean to kill the person, or is really really really sorry, does any of this absolve him?”

“Of course not,” she added in the next tweet. 

Disney’s final takeaway: don’t worship the NBA star. 

“So yes, we should mourn him,” Disney said. “We should mourn his daughter and his family and all the other lives lost on the helicopter. It was horrible. But don’t deify him because he was not a god. That’s all. Just don’t deify him”.

There has been a flood of discourse since Bryant’s death over whether his 2003 rape allegations should be revisited as the world mourns the basketball star’s tragic death. The Washington Post received backlash when it suspended a reporter for sharing an article about the 2003 case on Twitter after Bryant’s death. The DC newspaper would later walk back its decision to suspend the reporter, saying her tweets did not violate WaPo policy. Still, it said her tweets were “ill-timed.” 

The reactions to Disney’s two-dozen tweets were largely negative. 

“Breaking: bored heiress of a multimedia empire has nothing better to do on a Wednesday because her life is completely empty & meaningless,” one Twitter user said in a tweet that was retweeted more than 120 times. 

Not all of the reactions to Disney’s thread were negative, however.

“What a thoughtful thread,” one person tweeted. “Thank you for writing it. I have seen the way that fierce emotional identification and defense of abusive behavior can happen with sports figures.”

Abigail Disney did not return Business Insider’s request for comment.

Here are my responses to that story:

  1. Kobe Bryant was ACCUSED of rape, but he was never brought to trial, let alone convicted. From a strictly legal standpoint, he is NOT a rapist, so calling him one, especially when he is dead and cannot defend himself from that charge, might as well be called SLANDER.
  2. It is entirely possible that the supposed victim was an opportunist who after having sex with Bryant proceeded to sue him in an effort to get money out of him. This is why, even if the sex was indeed consensual, KOBE BRYANT WAS AN IDIOT TO HAVE AN AFFAIR.
  3. Bryant had four daughters at the time of his death and I’m sure they would have been shocked at the idea of their father raping anyone. That’s a bigger issue to me than his celebrity sports status. Sometimes it is better to let dead dogs decay.
  4. Abigail Disney’s personal wealth was completely irrelevant to the issue, so why mention it? If she had been homeless and not even related to Walt Disney at all, the issue would have been the same.
  5. Sports figures ARE glorified and thus are largely shielded by their own fans from their reputation being damaged by accusations of wrongdoing. We saw that to some extent with O J Simpson, who was a football star early in his life. To this day, I think Simpson got away with murder because he was a rich celebrity; a poor man would have been convicted and sent to prison for life.
  6. Yes, point 5 does seem to contradict point 1. Maybe someday I will have a more consistent ethical position, but for now I have to keep thinking about the matters more. I just feel that one mistake made by a man shouldn’t destroy his life…..unless that mistake destroys other lives. Murder is far worse than rape or adultery. And all people make mistakes.

 

An Open Letter to the New President of the Unitarian Universalist Association

The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray

UUA General Assembly - Plenary V

To the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray,

Congratulations on your election to the leadership of the most liberal religious group in the world descended from Christianity. After the embarrassing end to the last Presidency several months ago, the slate has been wiped clean for you to add your own accomplishments, and perhaps mistakes, to it.

The most important thing I think you need to do in order to revitalize the UUA as a religious organization is to confront and completely dismantle deeply entrenched anti-Christian bigotry in it. As long as people outside the UUA see it as a place for atheists, pagans, and left-wing extremists, but not for Christians, the UUA will never be seen as a viable choice for those of Christian background who want to abandon and reject fundamentalist bigotry but still feel a spiritual orientation to the religion they knew as children and still have love for. Not everyone benefits from having their faith destroyed. As long as it is modified to be more realistic and inclusive for others, that should be enough.

Even though you are white, your being a woman should give you some idea of how you and others around the world may be discriminated against. Keep in mind that while black men got the right to vote in the USA after the Civil War, it was not until 1920 that women of all colors were also granted the right to vote as well. We must always strive to LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND including transgender people! I was deeply disappointed to learn that white men were still treated with favoritism in the UUA and am more than happy to see that the process of confronting unthinking racial biases among us is happening at last. It was indeed long overdue!

We must work harder over the next several decades to make Unitarian Universalism the next great world religion and that can happen when we speak out loudly about it. No longer must we think of ourselves as an “American” religion, but we must try to build up Unitarian bodies in other areas, including places where it was popular before. You should certainly endorse as much as possible the Church of the Larger Fellowship, using it a a vehicle for global UU evangelism, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, which actually does good works in the world. The UUSC is the closest thing we have to missionary work and we need more of that!

As I see it, the version of the Baha’i Faith led by the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel is the UUA’s most direct rival, having some values in common, but also some critical differences that make it necessary to draw clear distinctions between the two religions. Baha’i values were similar to those of the Unitarians and Universalists about a century ago, but since then it has degenerated into a cult of extreme dogmatism that makes it a threat to unsuspecting souls looking for a new spiritual home after leaving one they no longer feel comfortable in. The best way to counter the Haifan Baha’is is to establish or at least officially endorse a sub-division within the UUA for Baha’is who wish to think for themselves instead of being mentally enslaved to a body consisting literally of nine old men. There is already such a small community that the internet has made possible, it just needs some support. For more details, see:    http://unitarianbahai.angelfire.com/   and also:

http://unitarianbahais.blogspot.com/

With the election last year of the worst President the USA has ever had, we as UUs have a moral obligation to revive the spirit of civil disobedience pioneered by civil rights protesters in the past. Unless and until we are willing to be imprisoned for our ideals, they mean nothing. Together, we can change things for the better and in the process gain many new converts who want a refuge from the madness of right-wing politics. Even in “red” states like Oklahoma and Texas, UU churches thrive.

Please consider creating a cable TV channel devoted to Unitarian Universalist programming. We already have a strong presence on YouTube, so such a channel is the next logical step. For ideas on what content we can make for it, look at the example of Democracy Now. Of course, that is liberal politics, but where is a channel for liberal RELIGION?

The UUA must look into forming strong alliances with other liberal religious groups, and not just the United Church of Christ, the UUA’s closest spiritual relative. Also join with non-religious groups like the American Humanist Association that are not so infested with anti-religious extremism and other forms of bigotry that they are a disgrace to humanity. Many feminists and non-white people that may be attracted to atheism find themselves repulsed by bigots who are also well-known atheists in social media. We can provide them an alternative.

I wish you the best of luck over the next six years.

Dale Husband, the Honorable Skeptic

The costs of slavery

Until the American Civil War ended, slavery was a common institution in the United States. Often portrayed as cheap, it still had costs associated with it. These included:

1. Obtaining the slaves: They were often kidnapped from Africa and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean under cramped conditions. That cost money. The slave trade was eventually abolished long before slavery ended, but that had the effect of making the slaves already in America more valuable.

2. Buying the slaves.

3. Giving the slaves food, water, clothing and shelter.

4. Treating the slaves of illnesses and injuries.

4. Guarding the slaves to prevent them from revolting or escaping.

5. Burying or cremating the slaves after they died.

Now compare that with people who work today at minimum wage. If you can only afford food to feed yourself and your children, a place to live at, medical expenses, and to pay for your funeral when you die, how are you any better off, materially speaking, than slaves 200 years ago?

And if you wonder why some want the minimum wage increased, that is why!

How NOT to rape someone

Here are some rules for men who do not want to be accused of raping a woman:

1. ALWAYS ask the women directly during a date in a private setting, “Do you want to have sex with me?”   If her response is anything other than, “Yes,” drop the issue and do not bring it up again until she does.

2. Never talk about the experience of having sex with anyone other than a licensed therapist, your parents or other guardians (if you are underaged), or a clergyperson in a counseling session. PRIVATE MATTERS MUST REMAIN PRIVATE. Other men do not need to know how you “banged that hot chick last night”.

3. The claim that women claim to be raped because they regret having sex with a man long after the fact is simply self-serving bullshit. Do not repeat that claim, ever.

4. Even if you use protection or any form of birth control, PROMISE the woman that if she gets pregnant, you will either support the child or pay for an abortion, whichever she decides.

5. Do not merely be a woman’s sex partner…..be her LOVER. Be willing to share in anything she does or is involved in or ask her to share in things you enjoy. If you do not want a complete relationship with a woman, you can always masturbate by yourself.

6. Unless your partner is a porn star, you do not need to take or possess nude pics of her. And NEVER post them online!

That is all for now.  If I think of more, or if you have your own suggestions for rules, this list will be added to.

Is this Justice?

Consider the following scenario:

An African-American restaurant owner in New York City learns that one of his white employees was born in Alabama.  He calls that employee to his office.

Owner: “Is it true you came from Alabama, a southern state?”

Employee:  “Yes. But I moved to New York four years ago.”

Owner:  “Then you are FIRED!  I won’t have racists working for me. More than half of our customers are African-American and I won’t risk you offending them with racist remarks.”

Employee: “What?! But have I done anything wrong?  If I was a racist, I would not be here!”

Owner:  “I used to live in the south. And virtually every white person I dealt with there was racist, constantly looking down on me and other black kids. I finally got out of that situation, and I’ll be damned if the bigotry follows me up here.”

Employee: “Well, don’t you think I am also sick of the bigotry of my fellow whites? I also left the south to live here because of the culture. YOU are the one being racist against ME because of both my skin color and where I was born.  I’m not responsible for either of those things!”

Owner: “You still benefited from the racism you grew up in, just as I suffered from it. Now you are going to learn how it feels to be discriminated against!  GET OUT!”