Human rights

Nov 172012

Merkel stands up to Putin’s human rights violations while Obama provides them aid and comfort .

Rising public disgust with Russia’s drift toward reactionary and incompetent authoritarianism, combined with business revulsion at the wholesale corruption consuming what is left of the Russian economy, have reduced the attractiveness of the “Russia pole” for German foreign policy. Today we see something no one could have imagined even a decade ago: the chancellor of Germany is using tougher language with Russia than is the president of the United States.

via The Complicated Geopolitics of Decline: Germany & Russia Edition | Via Meadia.

Jun 122010

Does this mean the FSB can prevent the murders of people like Alexander Litvenenko and Anna Politkovskaya by locking up government officials who might “cause or create the conditions” for such things to happen?

From KyivPost:

MOSCOW, June 11 (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament on Friday voted to boost the powers of the successor to the Soviet KGB, allowing it to summon people it believes are about to commit a crime and threaten jail for those who disobey its orders….

The bill, which would allow the FSB to issue a legally binding summons to anyone whose actions it considers as “causing or creating the conditions for committing a crime,” was passed in the first of three required readings in the State Duma.

Jan 162010

Google has to be feeling a lot of pressure from both sides of the issue of governmental censorship in China. Now would be an especially excellent time for Congress to pass the Global Online Freedom Act in order to support Google in its efforts not to be evil.

There are those who sneer at Google for waiting until now to act, after its business interests have been undermined by hackers. They say it’s profit more than heroism that’s motivating Google. But I argue that it’s good when the profit motive is aligned with the desire to do the right thing. We ought to have more of that.

There are those who say we should mind our own business and let China handle its affairs in its own way. Companies doing business in other countries need to obey the laws of those countries. But some laws are beyond the pale.

And it’s not a matter that concerns China alone. It creates some very bad corporate habits when American companies participate in oppression in other countries. When agents of our own government approach Google to spy on our own dissidents or to censor content, whether such approaches are made in underhanded ways or openly, it would be good for Google and all of us to recoil in horror. But if Google is already are in the bad habit of acceding to such requests in China, a lot of the moral energy to resist here in the U.S. will have been dissipated.

Pass the Global Online Freedom Act.

H/T to Kathryn Lopez

Apr 192009

The other day I got an e-mail from directing me to their “No Amnesty for Torturers” campaign. I’m not sure that these people have any official connection to the Democrat Party, but they do seem to identify with it.

On the surface, one could get the impression that they are against torture:

…Torture is utterly immoral and un-American. It produced absolutely no useful intelligence . It recruited terrorists responsible for at least half the U.S. deaths in Iraq . And it endangered every U.S. soldier who may be captured in the future.

And torture is absolutely illegal. The U.S. ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture , which prohibits torture and requires prosecution of torturers. In 1947, the U.S. prosecuted a Japanese officer for waterboarding. No lawyer can “legalize” what is illegal.

Congress must take the following actions:

1. Demand the appointment of a Special Prosecutor by Attorney General Eric Holder for torture, warrantless wiretapping, and other heinous crimes of the Bush Administration. (Thanks to Rep. Jerrold Nadler for leading the way !)

2. Prohibit the use of any taxpayer dollars to defend government officials who committed such crimes against lawsuits, or to pay for judgments against them.

3. Impeach Judge Jay Bybee, the torture memo author who serves on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California.

4. Protect human rights by restoring Habeas Corpus and the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure), including repeal of the Orwellian-named Protect America Act, U.S.A. Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments, and Military Commissions Act.

5. End secret government by prohibiting use of “State Secrets,” “Sovereign Immunity” and “Signing Statements.”

But if Democrats were really against torture, they wouldn’t have let a delegation of Democrat Congressppeople go to Cuba to fawn over the Western hemisphere’s chief torturer.

Rep. Bobby Rush even gushed, “In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor.”

Yeah, sure. Too bad not all of Fidel’s victims survived his torture chambers. Roberto López Chávez was one who was not a survivor.

And the current president, also a Democrat, recently got all friendly with Hugo Chavez, a buddy of Fidel’s who is trying to continue that man’s role in this hemisphere.

If the people at truly want to oppose torture, maybe they ought to try cleaning up their own ranks first. But lacking any action like that, I think it will be safe to conclude that they are NOT opposed to torture after all. They just hate George Bush.

BTW, I actually support most of items 4 and 5 in the list of actions that wants Congress to take. But I question whether really wants all of what it says it wants.

And the U.S. should have removed its embargo on Cuba nearly 20 years ago. Democrats who want to change U.S. policy in that direction could do so by going to Cuba and showing solidarity with those victims who have survived Fidel’s torture. But getting all chummy with the chief torturer himself is not sending the right message.

Feb 162009

SCSU Scholars explains how in exchange for financing Obama’s big “stimulus” package, China will want a quid pro quo from the U.S. in the form of monetary policy. I would also expect some other pressures to be put on the United States:

  • We will need to quit providing public support for dissidents in prison
  • We will need to allow Cisco, Google, and Yahoo to support increased efforts by China to censor internet content and identify dissidents
  • We will need to shut up about Tibet

I would expect the Obama administration and the Democrats to be more than willing to help out with item 2, because they could use the moral cover in doing a little censorship of their own, e.g. with a revived “Fairness” Doctrine.

Jul 222008

The lead story in the pulp (paper) edition of today’s WSJ is “Kazakhstan Corruption: Exile alleges new details.”

It’s an amazing story. No, the corruption itself isn’t amazing. What’s amazing is that two WSJ reporters wrote all those words without once mentioning Bill Clinton. They mention Frank Giustra the Canadian businessman who is buddy to both Bill Clinton and to President Nazarbayev. They mention Nazarbayev, of course. He is the one whom his former son-in-law ratted on for the WSJ. But nothing was said about Clinton’s controversial appearance with Nazarbayev in September 2005.

The New York Times reported on the 2005 meeting this January. Blogs such as the Roberts Report speculated on who was getting what out of the deal. One possibility is that Nazarbayev got the appearance of U.S. support for his re-election campaign. Clinton, of course, got a pile of cash for his chariitable foundation.

The WSJ article says the new allegations of corruption complicate the U.S.’s efforts to improve relations with Kazakhistan. But no mention of the complications caused by a former president lending our country’s prestige to a corrupt leader?

If we don’t care about that, what difference does the rest of it make?

And besides, Canada’s show trials have given that country a pretty poor human rights record, yet I don’t see newspaper articles saying it will complicate our relations with that country. And George W. Bush is busy selling out Taiwan to a country with a much worse human rights record than Taiwan’s.

It makes one wonder what the point of that article was, anyway.

Jul 052008

Before GWB, conservatives liked to quote Benjamin Franklin: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

More recently their tune has changed. Now, the only deciding factor on whether to enact warrantless wiretaps is whether they will make us safer. Whether they will make us freer is not discussed. Conservatives defend the right to gas-hogging SUVs for the sake of safety, never mind that they aren’t so safe for soldiers who have to go overseas to defend our oil supplies.

Once upon a time the Fourth of July was for celebrating freedom. Now it’s all about safety. The local newspaper at my parents’ place in Minnesota has a list of 18 rules for how to deal with fireworks safely. My oldest son points out that that’s 8 more rules than there are Commandments. Any list of rules that exceeds 10 is too repressive.

The same newspaper has not a single word of advice on how to make ourselves into the kind of people who will take risks to ensure freedom for all, which is what would truly honor those people who gave us the Fourth.

Maybe all is not lost, though. For the past 3 hours I’ve been listening to loud fireworks around the lake at my parents’ house. One didn’t used to hear such things here. In Minnesota it used to be that fireworks were pretty much restricted to official displays put on by the authorities. A few years ago they were democratized, I am told, with the result being the noise that I’m still listening to while people in the house are trying to sleep.



This photo, taken in fall 1956, shows where we used to live in northeast Nebraska, back in the late 50s and early 60s. (The weird tree in the foreground is mostly a fingerprint smudge.)

We kids didn’t have much money to spend, but each July 4 we’d go to town and buy some fireworks. It was generally a pitiful collection. But some friends of my parents would usually come to help spend the evening watching them, and they would come with a shopping bag or two full of them to add to our meager collection. The parents and younger kids would sit on the front steps of that house in the center of the photo, and watch the show. It was nothing like what we’ve been seeing tonight, but at the time we thought it was great.

The next morning I’d go around to collect the spent rockets and other remains, which included some wicked-looking whirly things with metal blades. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those if they went astray. We would take any duds that still had powder, cut them to expose the powder, and light them. And someone usually would have some firecrackers that one couldn’t buy legally even in Nebraska.

It wasn’t all as highly regulated as the fireworks available now, but they did help us truly honor the spirit of the day, which is a time to do something slightly illegal, unsafe, and annoying.

I don’t wish any child to lose an eye or anything else by playing with fireworks, but it is important for our children to learn how to take risks for the sake of freedom. If those who went before us had always put safety first, we wouldn’t have a Fourth to celebrate. And if we aren’t ever willing to risk anything, there will be no freedom in the future.


Apr 012008

“The Olympics will only intensify the ‘pressures for change,'” they said. Matthew Continetti at The Weekly Standard (“Gold Medal in Tyranny“) recounts this and all the other rationalizations as to why it was good that China would host the Olympics. And he points out how the results have been just the opposite of what was predicted.

I think it could have worked out the way the apologists wanted. The trouble is, there too many people are so eager to make money dealing with China that they are willing to overlook or even cooperate in repression. It’s to the point that the pressure is not so much on China, as that the the pressure is on western companies who want to get in on the China business. Under those conditions, our freedoms will become more like those of China than vice versa.

Feb 092008

Wired magazine tells about a $30 million project to piece together a billion pieces of paper records that were torn up by the East German Stasi, but which they hadn’t gotten around to destroying. And the destroyed records amount to only about five percent of its files:

the agency had generated perhaps more paper than any other bureaucracy in history — possibly a billion pages of surveillance records, informant accounting, reports on espionage, analyses of foreign press, personnel records, and useless minutiae. There’s a record for every time anyone drove across the border.

The main reason we need lower taxes is not for economic growth, though that is an important reason. The main reason is so the government cannot afford to do things remotely like this.

And it’s interesting that even in a government like that of East Germany, it almost seemed laughable at the time to think it would be harassing dissenters by letting the air out of their tires. But the records show that that is indeed what was happening to Ulrike Poppe. Is it really so far-fetched to think that Kathleen Willey was experiencing the same sort of treatment from the Clintons?

She even tracked down the Stasi officer who managed her case, and after she set up a sort of ambush for him at a bar — he thought he was there for a job interview — they continued to get together. Over the course of half a dozen meetings, they talked about what she found in her files, why the Stasi was watching her, what they thought she was doing. For months, it turned out, an agent was assigned to steal her baby stroller and covertly let the air out of her bicycle tires when she went grocery shopping with her two toddlers. “If I had told anyone at the time that the Stasi was giving me flat tires, they would have laughed at me,” she says. “It was a way to discredit people, make them seem crazy. I doubted my own sanity sometimes.” Eventually, the officer broke off contact, but continued to telephone Poppe — often drunk, often late at night, sometimes complaining about his failing marriage. He eventually committed suicide.

Feb 082008

The real problem with nationalized health care is not that it will decrease the quality of health care and raise costs, though it will do that, judging by how it has worked everywhere it has been tried. But some people are willing to accept that, in exchange for the benefits.

No, the real problem is the threat to civil liberties. Here is an example of how it makes a tempting kudgel for the government to use to keep people in line:

WHEN THE Department of Homeland Security came out with the final REAL ID regulations last month, a top official threw the department’s final Hail Mary, suggesting that REAL ID could be used to control access to cold medicine. That’s right: cold medicine. The lesson? Once a national ID system is in place, the federal government will use it for tighter and tighter control of every American.

This quote is from an article in The American Spectator by Jim Harper of the Cato Institute. Here’s another:

REAL ID isn’t about national security. It isn’t about illegal immigration. It isn’t about identity fraud, or even cold medicine. It’s about Washington politics. Federal bureaucrats want to coerce states like Virginia into building a multi-billion dollar system for identifying, tracking, and controlling law-abiding citizens.

And of course, one could make a very similar statement about nationalized health care.