A List of Female Dictators

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

One of the phenomenons of the twentieth century has been the rise of the dictator. Dictators rule countries undemocratically and usually until death, crushing the opposition. Unlike the kings or emperors of old, these men generally don’t have any family linkage with previous rulers.

Notice the gender-specific word “men.” All dictators have been male, without exception. A woman has never ordered the army to crush nascent protests against her authoritarianism. Nor has a woman ever led a coup to overthrow a democratically elected government, replacing its rule by her own.

As the above examples indicate, dictators are generally strongly linked with the army. They generally rise through the army and enjoy its support. There is no institution more heavily dominated by males in society than the army; indeed, until recently the very concept of a female soldier was unthinkable (and still is in many countries). Thus the lack of female dictators.

There are, however, a number of women who have come pretty close to being dictators. Here’s a list, and it’s quite interesting:

Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi (no relation to the most famous Gandhi) ruled as Prime Minister of India during prolonged periods from the 1960s to the 1980s. She came to power as the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru, an independence hero, governed India as the head of the Indian National Congress during his lifetime. Congress was and still is the dominant political party in India. It had and still has a nasty habit of nepotism. Since Indira was the daughter of Nehru, leadership of the party fell to her.

As leader of India, Indira Gandhi did many good things and many bad things. Economically speaking, she seemed to be more in the business of giving poor people fish than teaching them how to fish.

But Indira Gandhi is most famous for her State of Emergency. In 1975 Indira declared a state of emergency, giving her dictatorial powers. Civil liberties and democracy was suspended during The Emergency. Opposition leaders were arrested. A controversial family planning program was put in place, which led to many Indians being unwillingly sterilized.

In this sense Indira Gandhi, although elected democratically, was dictator of India for two years.

Fortunately for India, Indira Gandhi ended The Emergency in 1977. She proceeded to hold elections, lost them, and to her credit stepped down. Indira Gandhi would later return to office. She was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards after taking controversial military action against Sikh militants.

Jiang Qing

Jiang Qing was a dominant figure in Chinese politics during the Cultural Revolution and immediately after Mao Zedong’s death. She was the fourth wife of Mao Zedong, and the only one who played a political role.

At first Mao promised that Jiang Qing wouldn’t be involved in politics, and for a while he kept that promise. During the Cultural Revolution, however, Qing rose to power. She generally took a hard-line stance on policy, opposing for instance economic reforms and determinedly prosecuting her political opponents. She was widely disliked.

Shortly after Mao’s death in 1976, Qing lost power. In 1981 she was prosecuted as part of the “Gang of Four,” scapegoats for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, and spent most of the rest of her life in prison.

Elena Ceaușescu

Elena Ceaușescu was the wife of Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, who ruled Romania during the latter period of the Cold War. Like Jiang Qing, Elena Ceaușescu gained political power and political positions during this period. However, she had far less influence; unlike Qing, Elena Ceaușescu never directed attacks against political opponents.

The Romanian population widely hated her. In the 1989 revolution, Elena Ceaușescu attempted to flee the country with her husband. She was caught, subject to a show trial, and shot.

Imelda Marcos

Like the two individuals above, Imelda Marcos gained her power through being the wife of a military dictator. Imelda Marcos was the wife of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled over the Philippines from the 1960s to the 1980s. Like Elena Ceaușescu, Imelda Marcos used her position to gain power and political positions. She was quite infamous for her collection of shoes and for the fortune she gained during the dictatorship.

However, Imelda Marcos wasn’t as disliked by Filipinos as the two previous individuals listed. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1986, Imelda Marcos went into exile. She returned in 1991 and started a political career. Today Imelda Marcos is a congresswoman in the Philippines House of Representatives, where she last won 80% of the vote. It’s doubtful that Jiang Qing or Elena Ceaușescu could have won an election anywhere in their respective countries.

Conclusions

There’s a pretty obvious pattern here: all the female “dictators” listed above gained power through family connections. This is a common pattern; throughout history, many of the powerful female political leaders have gained power as wives, daughters, and sisters of male political leaders.

Interestingly, this list is dominated by the Asian continent. One would expect more African and South American countries to be represented. This might be a pattern, or it might just be chance.

Of all these people, Indira Gandhi comes closest to being a dictator. Unlike the others, Indira Gandhi was legitimately the most powerful person in the country. She was the one in control of the army, and she could and did use it to commit multiple human rights violations.

One wonders who will be the next Indira Gandhi.

 

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Former Editor Sues Philadelphia Police for Constitutional Violations in Her Arrest

 

 

 

by WALTER BRASCH 

 

A former managing editor for the online newspaper, OpEdNews, has sued the city of Philadelphia and eight of its police officers for violating her Constitutional rights.

Cheryl Biren-Wright, Pennsauken, N.J., charges the defendants with violating her 1st, 4th, and 14th amendment rights. The civil action, filed in the U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, is based upon her arrest during a peaceful protest Sept. 12, 2009, at the Army Experience Center (AEC) in the Franklin Mills Mall.

According to the complaint, Biren-Wright, who was not a part of the demonstration but at the mall as a reporter-photographer, was arrested and charged with failure to disperse and conspiracy, second degree misdemeanors. The charges were subsequently dropped by the Philadelphia district attorney.

The Philadelphia police also arrested and charged six protestors with conspiracy and failure to disperse—Elaine Brower, 55, New York, N.Y.; Richie Marini, 35, Staten Island, N.Y.; Joan Pleune, 70, Brooklyn, N.Y.(one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961); Beverly Rice, 72, New York, N.Y.; Debra Sweet, 57, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Sarah Wellington, 26, Piermont, N.Y. Two months after Biren-Wright’s case was dropped, the six protestors were found not guilty in Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Paul J. Hetznecker, who represented the six defendants in the criminal trial, and Biren-Wright in her civil suit, believes that police over-reaction to protestors, as well as their lack of knowledge or appreciation for Constitutional protections, may be “a systemic problem throughout the country.” Hetznecker says under Constitutional and state law, “There can not be an arbitrary and capricious decision to end the civil rights of the protestors.”

The civil suit complaint charges that police violated Biren-Wright’s First Amendment rights to “gather information . . . to cover a matter of public interest including the law enforcement activity in public places.” Actions by the police deprived her of 4th and 14th amendment rights that, according to the complaint, protect against “unreasonable search and seizure,” “loss of physical liberty,” and “freedom from excessive use of unreasonable and justified force.”

The suit lists six separate counts:

          ● Abridgement of her rights under the First Amendment to observe and record news in a public place.

          ● False arrest and imprisonment

          ● Use of excessive force by the police.

          ● False arrest under state law

          ● Common Law Assault under state law

          ● Failure of the City of Philadelphia to adequately train and supervise its police. The complaint charges that because of accepted practices, the defendants may have believed “that their actions would not be properly investigated by supervisory officers and that the misconduct would not be investigated or sanctioned, but would be tolerated.” The policy, according to the complaint, “demonstrates a deliberate indifference on the part of the policymakers of the City of Philadelphia, to the constitutional rights of persons within the City, and were the cause of the violations of the Plaintiff’s rights. . . .”

Named in the suit in addition to the City of Philadelphia are Lt. Dennis Konczyk, officers Tyrone Wiggins, John Logan, Robert Anderson, Donald West, William Stuski, and two unnamed John Does.

The Philadelphia Police Department refused to comment about the suit as a matter of policy regarding “issues in court,” according to Jillian Russell, Department spokesperson.

 

In August 2008, the Army opened the AEC, a 14,500 square foot “virtual educational facility” with dozens of video games. The Center, deliberately located near an indoor skateboard park, replaced five more traditional recruiting offices, and was designated as a two-year pilot program. The initial cost was $12 million.

Army recruiters could not actively recruit children under 17, but could talk with the teens and answer any of their questions about the Army. Among the virtual games was one in which children as young as 13 could ride a stationary Humvee and shoot a simulated M-16 rifle at life-like video images of Muslims and terrorists.

Because of the emphasis upon war, and a requirement that all persons had to sign in at the center, thus allowing the recruiters to follow-up as much as four or five years later, peace activists began speaking out against the AEC.

To counter what was quickly becoming a public relations problem, the Army sent out news releases, picked up by the mainstream media, and established a full social media campaign to explain the “benefits” of the AEC. The protests continued.

Elaine Brower, whose son was in Iraq on his third tour of duty, told OpEdNews a day after her arrest: “The AEC is giving guns to 13-year-olds, drawing them in with violent video games. As more and more Afghan civilians and U.S. military are being killed in the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, we’re saying ‘no’ to these wars. We’ve got to stop the flow of youth into the military, where they're being used to commit war crimes in our name.”

With a police permit, and escorted by officers from Philadelphia’s Civil Affairs Unit, about 200–250 protestors—most of them middle-aged or senior citizens, many of them veterans—had come to the AEC, believing their First Amendment rights were being protected. The protest, although noisy at times, was peaceful; the counter-demonstration wasn’t.

According to the complaint, “The counter-demonstrators [members of an organization known as The Gathering of Eagles] yelled, jeered and taunted the AEC protestors. At no time did [the police] direct, or attempt to limit the First Amendment activities of the counter-demonstrators,” nor were they ever told to disperse.

Throughout the demonstration, the protestors had not given any indication that they posed any physical threat to others. However, about 45 minutes after the demonstration began, the police, under direction of Lt. Konczyk, ordered the protestors to disperse.

At that point, Biren-Wright, according to the complaint, “placed herself outside the immediate area . . . so as not to interfere with the police activity.” She continued to photograph and report on the demonstration. The complaint charges that Lt. Konczyk, “without just cause or legal justification,” directed several officers to arrest her, walking past several protestors and counter-demonstrators. She says she told the officers she was a member of the press. At no time, she says, did she participate as a demonstrator nor verbally or physically threaten anyone. The officers, says Biren-Wright, arrested her without any warning. The arresting officer’s “degree of anger—he was clearly red-faced—was inappropriate,” she recalls. The police, says Biren-Wright, “were clearly targeting me, trying to keep me from recording the demonstration and their reactions.”

One officer, says Biren-Wright, “unnecessarily twisted my arm.” Another officer seized her camera and personal items. One of the officers put plastic cuffs on her wrists “so tight that it caused significant pain, swelling and bruising, and an injury that lasted for several weeks,” according to the complaint.

Biren-Wright’s 15-year-old daughter was shopping in the mall during the protest, but had reunited with her mother shortly before the arrests. Her daughter, says Biren-Wright, “came closer upon the arrest and I told the officer she was my daughter and a minor and would be alone.” The officer, says Biren-Wright, snapped, “You should have thought of that before.” At the processing center that police had previously set up at the mall, Biren-Wright told several officers that he r daughter was alone in the mall and was from out of state. “None of them did anything to ensure her safety,” she says. The daughter, unsupervised, eventually found Rob Kall, OpEdNews editor, who drove her to the jail to take her mother’s keys and then drove her home, where she spent the night alone.

Outside the mall, counter-protestors shouted obscenities as those arrested boarded the police bus. “They were standing at the door to the bus,” says Biren-Wright, “and posed a safety issue to us since we were in handcuffs.”

The six who were arrested and Biren-Wright were initially taken to the 15th District jail. Richie Marini, the lone male arrested, was kept at the district jail. The six women were transferred to the jail at the jail of the Philadelphia Police headquarters, known by locals as the “Roundhouse,” where a nurse took each woman’s vital signs and asked if there were any injuries. “I showed him my wrist and thumb that were already red and swollen” from the restrictive handcuffs, says Biren-Wright. His response, she says, was “That doesn’t count.”

Biren-Wright, along with the other five women, was held for 14 hours. At 5 a.m., she says, they were released from the “Roundhouse” onto a dark and barren street—there were no taxis anywhere near—and locked out of the police station. Although the women had cell phones, they had not been allowed to call for rides while in the jail area. Outside, they called friends, but waited until help arrived. Marini was released from the district jail later that morning.

The only reason Biren-Wright’s pictures of the demonstration survived is because she had secretly removed the memory chip during the arrest. When the camera was finally returned, “all of the settings were messed up and the lens was not replaced properly.”

The Army closed the AEC at the end of the pilot program. It had claimed that because of increased enlistments nationwide, the Center was no longer needed. It never acknowledged that the protestors and the public reaction may have been a reason for the closing.

In an unrelated case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in October 2010 [Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle] that recording police activity in public places is protected by Constitutional guarantees. This month, the ACLU settled a case, for $48,500, in Pittsburgh when a University of Pittsburgh police officer arrested Elijah Matheny and charged him with felony violation of the state’s Wiretap Act for using a cell phone to record police activity. Matheny spent a night in jail following his arrest. [See: Matheny v. County of Allegheny, et al.] The ACLU charged that the district attorney’s office “had engaged in a pattern of erroneously advising law enforcement that audio taping police officers in public violates Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act.” Following the Third Circuit’s decision in the Kelly case, a conviction against Matheny is expected to be overturned.

The arrests in Philadelphia, Carlisle, and Pittsburgh underscores two major problems, both prevalent throughout the country. The first problem is a lack of understanding and respect for the Constitution by a large number, although not a majority, of police officers. For that reason, all police forces and district attorneys offices, from small isolated rural communities to the largest urban departments, need to have constant education about civil rights and Constitutional guarantees—and the penalties for violating those rights.

The second major problem is inherent within the mass media. Reporters need to know how and when to challenge authority to protect their own and the public’s rights. A camera crew from the PBS “Frontline” series was at the protest, but abruptly stopped recording the demonstration after Brower was arrested and either before or during Biren-Wright’s arrest. Rob Kall later said that a member of the “Frontline” crew told him the police informed them they would be arrested if they continued to film the demonstration.

Police threats, which violate Constitutional guarantees, place a “chilling effect” upon the media to observe and record actions by public officials. Even without a direct order by a public official, reporters may do what they perceive to be what others want them to do. The media, like police and public officials, also need constant education to know when police orders are lawful and when they are not. An order to move away from a scene may be lawful. An order to stop filming a scene upon threat of arrest is not.

In federal court, in the case of Biren v. City of Philadelphia, et al., these issues, and others, will be raised. But had there been an understanding of the Constitution by the police, the case would never have gotten to the point of a federal civil suit.

 [Walter Brasch is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor. He is author of 17 books, the most recent one Before the First Snow: Tales from the Revolution, journalistic fiction about the counter-culture as seen through the eyes of a “flower child” and the reporter who covered her story for three decades.]

 

 

Soldier Fitness Tracker: How Would It Grade Pat Tillman?

DENIGRATION IS A FINE WAY TO TREAT A HERO - Many patriotic people stake a claim on Pat Tillman's heroism. However, it turns out he's an atheist (hero) in a foxhole denigrated, along with his family, by some Christians for his beliefs. Click here for more about his story >>

In joining the military, young troops give up some basic Constitutional rights given the civilian population. The vagaries of war sometimes require it. The military is not a democracy and that’s as it should be.

However, there are some rights they don’t and shouldn’t give up, including the right to worship or not worship as they see fit. A slew of recent events and complaints about the religious components of the Army’s mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) test show abuses that cannot stand.

I’m not a militant atheist. I’m not particularly troubled by most of the many Christian symbols and deeds that appear in clearly secular places. Whether you want to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or rocks and trees is none of my concern. I even say Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays on occasion.

In God Some of Us Don’t Trust

However, I strongly believe that one’s rights stop at the point where they infringe upon others’. Scribbling “In God We Trust” on a dollar doesn’t make it  worth less. It doesn’t infringe on my right to spend the dollar as I see fit. I prefer to see it as a label that identifies God’s cash when it goes into a collection plate or tithe, even though you’d think an omniscent being could figure it out on their own. No harm and no huge foul. More of a bum call actually, but nothing to get dangerously huffy over.

War is Hell, even if Hell is a religious construct. It’s a dark place that breaks bodies and minds and that’s why I’m not against SFT in principle. Everyone could use a little help on the battlefield. If God is your answer, who am I to deprive you of that comfort? If God isn’t, who are you to deprive me of that comfort?

My objection stems from non-Christians and non-theists being tested against a purely Christian scale. Not only are they deemed failures if they don’t answer questions “properly”, but they receive help clearly not right for them. In effect, they get no help at all. Worse yet, they’re compelled to see the chaplain about arrangements for being “born again” or attending Christian concerts.

The problem is less SFT than the measuring metrics used, how the Army interprets the results,  and whether or what kind of emotional support the non-Christians may need. There’s nothing in the test that can’t be remedied with more attention to the needs of all soldiers, not just the select few.

The Army is No Theocracy
As a group, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of those agreeing with such Christianization of the military are the same ones who prattle on about DADT victims being such grave dangers to “unit cohesion and morale”. Doesn’t it seem a soldier labeled a failure, told their beliefs are wrong, and deprived of support offered to Christian soldiers wouldn’t have such great morale and possibly feel alienated enough to damage unit cohesion? The Army may not be a democracy, but it’s not a theocracy either.

American Christians represent a far greater portion of the population than non-theists, polytheists, and non-christians combined. Yet, their constant hosannas are about their rights being lost to the Great Godless Hordes – even to the point that the new Alabama governor publicly suggests his relationship with Christian constituents is greater than his relationship with other Alabamans.

Christians’ insistent imposition of their beliefs on other Americans is exactly what drives the more militant Atheists to distraction. Christians have built a slippery slope not unlike the NRA‘s where many Atheists feel the need to fight every new slight as though it means the death of the Constitution and their inevitable excommunication as Americans. And we’re all – Christians and non-Christians alike – going for a long slide if it continues.

My Christian friends – this isn’t persecution of you, but by you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Soldier Fitness Tracker: How Would It Grade Pat Tillman?

DENIGRATION IS A FINE WAY TO TREAT A HERO - Many patriotic people stake a claim on Pat Tillman's heroism. However, it turns out he's an atheist (hero) in a foxhole denigrated, along with his family, by some Christians for his beliefs. Click here for more about his story >>

In joining the military, young troops give up some basic Constitutional rights given the civilian population. The vagaries of war sometimes require it. The military is not a democracy and that’s as it should be.

However, there are some rights they don’t and shouldn’t give up, including the right to worship or not worship as they see fit. A slew of recent events and complaints about the religious components of the Army’s mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) test show abuses that cannot stand.

I’m not a militant atheist. I’m not particularly troubled by most of the many Christian symbols and deeds that appear in clearly secular places. Whether you want to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or rocks and trees is none of my concern. I even say Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays on occasion.

In God Some of Us Don’t Trust

However, I strongly believe that one’s rights stop at the point where they infringe upon others’. Scribbling “In God We Trust” on a dollar doesn’t make it  worth less. It doesn’t infringe on my right to spend the dollar as I see fit. I prefer to see it as a label that identifies God’s cash when it goes into a collection plate or tithe, even though you’d think an omniscent being could figure it out on their own. No harm and no huge foul. More of a bum call actually, but nothing to get dangerously huffy over.

War is Hell, even if Hell is a religious construct. It’s a dark place that breaks bodies and minds and that’s why I’m not against SFT in principle. Everyone could use a little help on the battlefield. If God is your answer, who am I to deprive you of that comfort? If God isn’t, who are you to deprive me of that comfort?

My objection stems from non-Christians and non-theists being tested against a purely Christian scale. Not only are they deemed failures if they don’t answer questions “properly”, but they receive help clearly not right for them. In effect, they get no help at all. Worse yet, they’re compelled to see the chaplain about arrangements for being “born again” or attending Christian concerts.

The problem is less SFT than the measuring metrics used, how the Army interprets the results,  and whether or what kind of emotional support the non-Christians may need. There’s nothing in the test that can’t be remedied with more attention to the needs of all soldiers, not just the select few.

The Army is No Theocracy
As a group, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of those agreeing with such Christianization of the military are the same ones who prattle on about DADT victims being such grave dangers to “unit cohesion and morale”. Doesn’t it seem a soldier labeled a failure, told their beliefs are wrong, and deprived of support offered to Christian soldiers wouldn’t have such great morale and possibly feel alienated enough to damage unit cohesion? The Army may not be a democracy, but it’s not a theocracy either.

American Christians represent a far greater portion of the population than non-theists, polytheists, and non-christians combined. Yet, their constant hosannas are about their rights being lost to the Great Godless Hordes – even to the point that the new Alabama governor publicly suggests his relationship with Christian constituents is greater than his relationship with other Alabamans.

Christians’ insistent imposition of their beliefs on other Americans is exactly what drives the more militant Atheists to distraction. Christians have built a slippery slope not unlike the NRA‘s where many Atheists feel the need to fight every new slight as though it means the death of the Constitution and their inevitable excommunication as Americans. And we’re all – Christians and non-Christians alike – going for a long slide if it continues.

My Christian friends – this isn’t persecution of you, but by you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

The Hell With Atheists After the Foxholes

Many people say, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” As a practical matter this obviously isn’t the case, but the Army’s new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program (CSFP) implies it should.

The mandatory program measures soldier fitness in a variety of dimensions to help them cope with the rigors of combat. It’s spiritual dimension has a wealth of information for believers. However, it  implies that only believers need or can be helped in this dimension. In short, non-theists need not apply.

There’s nothing wrong with measuring and grading this dimension. It is critical to overcoming battlefield trauma. Whatever gets you through the terrors of war is great. But grading and providing solely religious-based feedback can demoralize non-believers and deprive them of helpful information in much the same way DADT chose to simply ignore the presence of gays. Non-theists are similarly marginalized.

Clean Toilets or Go to Chruch?
And, this ignoring of other than religious – more often than not non-Christian points of view – is larger than this program.

As a young airman in basic training during the 1970s everyone was offered two choices each Sunday – attend church or stay in the barracks and clean toilets.

Hmm…clean toilets or escape the tedium of 24×7 training for an hour singing and laughing with friends? Which shall I choose?

To the Air Force’s credit, the services were non-denominational and mentioned God only once or twice per service. There were two prayers, both of which were generic enough to interpret in any way, including as a non-theist statement. Services were comprised of signing vaguely religious, up tempo, and “modern” songs. To escape cleaning toilets with a toothbrush most atheists saw it as a good trade.

Nods to religion for the rest of my Air Force career were limited to my dog tags – which you could label as atheist, any religion, or not applicable. I entered “Granitellism” a faux belief that race car driver Andy Granitelli was God because he could pick up a screwdriver covered in oil. It didn’t cause an eyebrow to flutter.

It seems there has been a steady movement backward since those days.

In addition to CSFP, the Air Force Academy has suffered a long-standing bias against all but Christians and despite several Pentagon attempts to change, it continues. Individual unit commanders sometimes cross the same line and chaplains – which in my day did more social work than God’s work – have upped the ante.

Service members sometimes refuse to attend nondenominational services conducted by Islamic chaplains or vice versa. The Navy has squabbled over building mosques on large bases. National cemeteries banned atheist and multi-theist symbols on graves until recently because they “offended” the religious.

Unreasonable Demands?
Generally speaking, non-thesists haven’t made unreasonable demands for accommodation just as gays haven’t. When services build chapels and mosques there isn’t a clamor for an atheist house for contemplation. Asking for a symbol on a veteran’s grave is hardly a big thing. But, the CSFP goes a step beyond.

By refusing to include non-theists in CSFP the Army denies help to those service members, even though they remained atheists while in the foxholes…arm to arm with straight, gay, and minority soldiers.

The military is all about releasing some individuality to serve a greater purpose, a non-religious purpose. The Army used to call this, “An Army of One”. It degrades the contributions of non-believers because they didn’t give up an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution, and at least nominally by military training.

It’s simply wrong for the military to tout individual rights during training while denying those rights when the bullets fly.

After all, bullets don’t have an opinion about God.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

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