Why Human Rights Matter

The Supreme Court has struck down the Habeas Corpus rights of a detainee using the flimsiest of arguments: It didn’t happen here (Huffington Post via Jill at Feministe):

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the habeas corpus plea of a Canadian national, captured in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old, because the possible deprivation of his human rights was not conducted on “U.S. soil.”

Jill is right on in her interpretation of the Bush administration’s position on this issue:

Shouldn’t they at least be charged with something? What, exactly, is the problem with our justice system that makes the Bush administration refuse to use it in dealing with supposed terrorists?

Despite all the right-wing flag-humping, Guantanamo strikes me as pretty unpatriotic.

As an issue of human rights, it is so much more. For one thing:

Guantanamo is obviously problematic for the international standards it sets

One of the reasons liberals are so adamant about respecting human rights and international law is that our actions will come back to bite us. If we say it is ok to torture people so long as it isn’t done inside the country, other countries will use our actions to justify their own. When we flout the rules of war, we put our own soldiers in danger when they are captured. When we abuse human rights, we endanger all of our citizens abroad.

However the issue of human rights goes even deeper. The Supreme court can cite all the law they want. If human rights are violated, it doesn’t matter where you are. That is the distinction between human and civil rights.

Human vs Civil Rights via wikipedia:

Human rights refers to universal rights of human beings regardless of jurisdiction or other factors, such as ethnicity, nationality, religion, or sex.


Civil rights are the protections and privileges of personal power given to all citizens by law. Civil rights are distinguished from “human rights” or “natural rights“, also called “our God-given rights”.

To say that the location or jurisdiction of potential violations matters in the case of human rights is to bypass the nature of human rights.  Human rights cannot be granted by governments or courts.  They can only be recognized or ignored.  They cannot be recognized for some people but not others.  They are by nature universal or not at all.

The Bush administration is advancing a terrible cause, and the US Supreme Court has made a horrifying decision in validating that cause.

April 4th was the anniversary of Dr King’s assassination.  When we celebrate his life, his stance on human rights is often left out of the mix:

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation’s fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without “human rights” – including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

We can honor his legacy by continuing to fight for the universal recognition of human rights the world over.

We can start right here in the US.


McCain: Counting Sweet Jewy Jews

The thing about Jews is, well, you’ve got to count them.  They just keep getting Jewier and Jewier!


I can’t think of a more clueless hiring decision, but since when has walk in the park McCain been the most clued in cat?

the McCain campaign’s press release “left out an interesting piece of Malek’s history: when he counted Jews for President Richard Nixon.” As Corn reported, Nixon suspected that a “cabal” of Jews at the Bureau of Labor Statistics was skewing economic figures to make the administration look bad and assigned Malek to report back on how many Jews were employed at BLS.

It’s funny, because Jews are frequently seen in flocks, not cabals (unless in shadowy government organizations).

Racism is never intellectually pretty, but damn there is some choice stupid involved here:

When former President George H.W. Bush hired Malek as a top official at the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 1988, revelations in the press regarding Malek’s work for Nixon reportedly led him to resign. McCain’s hiring of Malek would seem to warrant the same disclosures from the media, but so far, only one news outlet other than The Nation has reported it.

Of course not.  This is brilliant if you think about it.  You see, McCain is already acknowledged as being utterly batshit crazy.  Him hiring Malek thus makes perfect brilliant sense.  Now if you will excuse the Senator, he has plans (plans!!!) to be seen to.

It’s like the Republicans are scrambling past Reagan to get to Nixon’s legacy.

(If there was actual media coverage of this, I’d say it was a mad attempt to push attention away from his reality issues and really crappy fundraising).  Perhaps it is part of his effort to re-launch his campaign:

Said campaign finance chairman Tom Loeffler: “This is clearly a moment in the campaign that says, ‘Hello? Wake up!’ It’s not a time to jog anymore. It’s a time to sprint in the fundraising efforts. We have learned the political fundraising realities of 2007, and we are making the proper adjustments.”

You got that people?  Less jogging!  More fundraising!  (Well, maybe a little jogging wouldn’t hurt) (emphasis mine):

And in this state where he claimed his biggest victory the last time he ran, many Republicans see him as old, tired or too willing to bow down to an unpopular president or to his onetime foils, such as Christian conservative leaders.

Even his projected image is flip-flopping.

I’m not sure why the media insists of continuing to count him as a front-runner.

Appropriating the Position of Minority

Glenn Beck says some very curious things about being White and Christian in America (hat tip Media Matters via Nezua):

I mean, I was talking about it with my family yesterday. I said, I’m tired of being the least popular person in the world. I said look at our family. We’re Americans. Nobody likes Americans. We’re Americans, so the world hates us. But then inside of America, we love America — and that’s becoming more and more unpopular. So, we’re not popular with Americans.

Then we’re Christians. That’s not popular anymore. But not only are we Christians, we’re Mormons. So, we’re not even liked by the Christians. I just — I’m white. I’m human. There are a lot of environmentalists that don’t like humans, but within the humans that accept humans, I’m white.

The majority of humans don’t like whites. I mean, I just can’t win. You can’t win. And why is it? Because if you are a white human that loves America and happens to be a Christian, forget about it, Jack. You are the only one that doesn’t have a political action committee for you.”

This post reminded me of a few other things.  Like Sharia-paranoia as noted over at Pandagon.  Or the choice bits of pure racist fearmongering that occasionally pop up here on wordpress.  (That blog is a particularly reliable source of pure racism).  What all of this nonsense has in common is a rhetorical strategy.

The basic argument being offered comes in a few basic flavors:

  1. The majority is complacent, and is being out “paced, fought, propagandized, bred” by the evil minority.
  2. The majority’s speech/action is so restricted minorities enjoy more freedom.
  3. The majority is so oppressed they are the actual minority in terms of political power.

Such arguments have two main effects.  They attack existing advocacy groups and institutions representing actual minorities:

if you are a white human that loves America and happens to be a Christian, forget about it, Jack. You are the only one that doesn’t have a political action committee for you.”

He might as well say “Where is the white congressional caucus?”.

The second effect of such arguments is something akin to the effect of a negative space drawing.  One can think of this as negative space rhetoric.  The orator creates a space for a desired argument, and then creates a frame around the argument that moves the audience towards it, rather than directly speaking his piece.  In this case Glenn Beck’s argument (and those like it) are simply another way of advocating so called “white power”.  By making it seem as though white Christian Americans are under attack, he is naturally causing his audience to more strongly identify with that particular grouping (and arguments that would go along with it’s exclusive support).

The obsessive attention the racist showers on a the “other” allows them to trump up a social grouping that is advantageous to their particular cause.  Creating fear against an other creates a defensive response people like Glenn Beck and the Daily Mail and Michelle Malkin count on.