Saturday, March 13, 2010

You Have the Right...?

The US State Department's annual report on human rights is taking flak from Russia and China. Both nations are not only objecting to the US judging them. China and Russia fire back with their own accusations: Guantanamo, Bagram, Afghanistan and even in The Homeland.
The Chinese response touched on America's gun crime and prison population and alleged rising problems with crime, poverty, homelessness and "chronic" racial discrimination. It called U.S. college campuses unsafe and said spying on U.S. citizens by their government had reached unprecedented levels.

Russia offered remarks about "domestic violence leading to the murder of children, including those adopted in Russia," as well as "racism and xenophobia toward migrants, and Islamophobia,"

Of course, these countries will object, you say. No one likes to be criticized. You would be correct but simple defensiveness and pride do not gainsay the truth of the Russian and Chinese observations. Both countries make valid points about the US, noting the very real shortcomings of America's social, political and economic systems and highly militarized foreign policies. These days America's credibility on human rights is pretty thin.

Of course, neither Russia's nor China's correct assessment of America in the early 21st century necessarily disputes US reports on human rights in those countries. Safe to say, all three societies ignore and curtail human rights when necessary, with necessary subject to various expedient definitions.

The biggest shortcoming is the absence of any report on the United States in the very long list of nation reports. I mean, if the State Department can report on Canada, it shouldn't be that much harder to look south of our shared border. But that report would be even less credible. Self-reporting is notoriously suspect.

None of this means the State Department reports have no value. They provide a good starting point for understanding human rights. Just have some salt handy.


Another good starting point for understanding human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Supposedly Democratic Process

Reading about the legislative machinations necessary to move the health care finance bill through congress on a simple majority vote, I'm disappointed to think that a Democratic congress and president cannot get even a simple majority for any sort of public option.

Most Americans support a public option.

The public option has worked remarkably well for seniors covered by Medicare.

A public option is one of a number of effective policies for achieving universal health coverage at reasonable cost in other industrialized nations.

And an overwhelmingly Democratic congress cannot muster a majority for a stripped-down version of one of its most longstanding goals?

Pretty. Damn. Poor.