Posts tagged ‘Human Rights’

Real Rights vs. Fake Rights

Good stuff from Roger Pilon at Cato:

It’s true that our Framers, unlike many others, especially more recently, did not focus their attention on rights. Instead, they focused on powers— and for good reason. Because we have an infinite number of rights, depending on how they’re defined, the Framers knew that they couldn’t possibly enumerate all of them. But they could enumerate the government’s powers, which they did. Thus, given that they wanted to create a limitedgovernment, leaving most of life to be lived freely in the private sector rather than through public programs of the kind we have today, the theory of the Constitution was simple and straightforward: where there is no power there is a right, belonging either to the states or to the people. The Tenth Amendment makes that crystal clear. Rights were thus implicit in the very idea of a government of limited powers. That’s the idea that’s altogether absent from the modern approach to constitutionalism—with its push for far reaching “active” government—about which more in a moment.

During the ratification debates in the states, however, opponents of the new Constitution, fearing that it gave the national government too much power, insisted that, as a condition of ratification, a bill of rights be added—for extra caution. But that raised a problem: by ordinary principles of legal reasoning, the failure to enumerate all of our rights, which again was impossible to do, would be construed as meaning that only those that were enumerated were meant to be protected. To address that problem, therefore, the Ninth Amendment was written, which reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Over the years, unfortunately, that amendment has been misunderstood  and largely ignored; but it was meant to make clear that the people “retained” a vast number of rights beyond those expressly enumerated in the document....

The idea, then, that our Constitution is terse and old and guarantees relatively few rights—a point Liptak draws from the authors of the article and the people he interviews—does not explain the decline in the document’s heuristic power abroad. Nor does “the commitment of some members of the Supreme Court to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning in the 18th century” explain its fall from favor. Rather, it’s the kindof rights our Constitution protects, and its strategy for protecting them, that distinguishes it from the constitutional trends of recent years. First, as Liptak notes, “we are an outlier in prohibiting government establishment of religion,” and we recognize the right to a speedy and public trial and the right to keep and bear arms. But second, and far more fundamentally, our Constitution is out of step in its failure to protect “entitlements” to governmentally “guaranteed” goods and services like education, housing, health care, and “periodic holidays with pay” (Article 24 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights). And right there, of course, is the great divide, and the heart of the matter.

UN Human Rights Council Calls for Restricting Free Speech

Oh, those wacky guys on the UN "Human Rights" Council.  They are now looking to Saudi Arabia as a model for protection of individual rights:

The top U.N. rights body on Thursday passed a resolution proposed by
Islamic countries saying it is deeply concerned about the defamation of
religions and urging governments to prohibit it.

The European Union said the text was one-sided because it primarily focused on Islam.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, which is dominated by Arab and other
Muslim countries, adopted the resolution on a 21-10 vote over the
opposition of Europe and Canada....

The resolution "urges states to take actions to prohibit the
dissemination ... of racist and xenophobic ideas" and material that
would incite to religious hatred. It also urges states to adopt laws
that would protect against hatred and discrimination stemming from
religious defamation.

Saudi Arabia said, "Maybe Islam is one of the most obvious victims of aggressions under the pretext of freedom of expression."

"It is regrettable that there are false translations and
interpretations of the freedom of expression," the Saudi delegation
told the council, adding that no culture should incite to religious
hatred by attacking sacred teachings.

Hat tip:  Yet another Weird SF Fan

Update:  I am kind of amazed the irony is lost on some folks, so I guess I need to be more explicit:  I found it depressing that the UN Human Rights Council is calling for limits on speech.

Support Canadian Free Speech (Because These Same Tactics Are Being Tested in the US)

Via Five Feet of Fury:

Richard "The Boy Named Sue" Warman has finally filed his statement of claim.

Canada's busiest litigant, serial "human rights" complainant and -- the guy Mark Steyn has called "Canada's most sensitive
man" -- Richard Warman is now suing his most vocal critics -- including me.

The suit names:

"¢    Ezra Levant (famous for his stirring YouTube video of his confrontation with the Canadian Human Rights
tribunal after he published the "Mohammed Cartoons")

"¢    FreeDominion.ca (Canada's answer to FreeRepublic.com)

"¢    Kate McMillan of SmallDeadAnimals.com

"¢    Jonathan Kay of the National Post daily newspaper and its in-house blog

"¢    and me, Kathy Shaidle of FiveFeetOfFury.com

Richard Warman used to work for the notorious Human Rights Commission, which runs the "kangaroo courts" who've charged Mark
Steyn with "flagrant Islamophobia."

Richard Warman has brought almost half these cases single-handledly, getting websites he doesn't like shut down, and making
tens of thousands of tax free dollars in "compensation" out of web site owners who can't afford to fight back or don't
even realize they can.

The province of British Columbia had to pass a special law to stop Richard Warman from suing libraries because they
carried books he didn't approve of.

Richard Warman also wants to ban international websites he doesn't like from being seen by Canadians.

The folks named in his new law suit are the very bloggers who have been most outspoken in their criticism of Warman's
methods.

She includes a paypal link to accept donations for their legal defense  (or is it defence in Canadian?)

The UN Joke Just Continues

The UN remains a caricature of itself.  I hadn't known this, but am not surprised:

In the 17 months since [the UN Human Rights Council's] inception, the body has passed 13 condemnations, 12 of them against Israel.

LOL.  I'm not a huge Israel fan (its socialist to a stupid degree and maintains what are effectively two-tiers of individual rights, for its Jewish and Arab residents) but this is absurd.  Apparently the Council has the same problems as the human rights commission it replaced:

The problems begin with the council's composition. Only 25 of its 47
members are classified as "free democracies," according to Freedom
House's ranking of civil liberties. Nine are classified as "not free."
Four -- China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia -- are ranked as the
"worst of the worst." These nations are responsible for repeated
violations of the U.N.'s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet
it is they who dominate the council, leading a powerful bloc of
predominantly Arab and African nations that consistently vote as a unit.

Its predecessor human rights commission played a central role in my guide to "how to spot a dictatorship."

Update: More here

A Statist View of Rights

In the statist's world, your rights are whatever the state says they are.  You can really see this concept at work in this breathtakingly bad Canadian decision reported by Eugene Volokh:

Richard Warman, a lawyer who worked as an investigatory for the
Canadian Human Rights Commission, often filed complaints against "hate
speech" sites "” complaints that were generally upheld under Canadian
speech restrictions. Fromm, a defender of various anti-Semites and
Holocaust denials, has been publicly condemning Warman for, among other
things, being "an enemy of free speech." Warman sued, claiming that
these condemnations are defamatory.

Friday, the Ontario Superior Court held for Warman
"” chiefly on the grounds that because Warman's claims were accepted by
the legal system, they couldn't accurately be called an attack on free
speech.

This case leaves one's head just spinning with ironies, not the least because it is a great example of how libel law as practiced in many western countries outside the US is itself a great enemy of free speech.  The logic chain used by the judge in this case should make every American appreciative of our Constitutional system and our view of rights as independent of (and if fact requiring protection from) the state:

[25] The implication, as well as the clear of meaning of the words
["an enemy of free speech" and "escalated the war on free speech"], is
that the plaintiff is doing something wrong. The comment "Well, see
your tax dollars at work" also implies that Mr. Warman misused public
funds for this "war on free speech".

[26]  The plaintiff was using legal means to complain of speech that he alleged was "hate" speech.

[27]  The evidence was that Mr. Warman was successful in both the complaint and a libel action which he instituted.

[28] Freedom of expression is not a right that has no boundaries.
These parameters are outlined in various legislative directives and
jurisprudence. I find Mr. Fromm has exceeded these. This posting is
defamatory.

The implication is that there are no fundamental individual rights.  Rights are defined instead by the state and are whatever is reflected in current law.  In this decision, but fortunately not in the US, the law by definition can't be wrong, so taking advantage of a law, in this case to silence various groups, is by definition not only OK, but beyond the ability of anyone to legally criticize.  There is much more, all depressing.  Here is one example of a statement that was ruled defamatory:

Thank you very much, Jason. So, for posting an opinion, the same sort
of opinion that might have appeared in editorial pages in newspapers
across this country, Jason and the Northern Alliance, his site has come
under attack and people who are just ordinary Canadians find themselves
in front of the courts for nothing more serious than expressing their
opinion. This is being done with taxpayers' money. I find that
reprehensible.

OK, so here is my opinion:  Not only is Richard Warman an enemy of free speech, but the Canadian legislature that passed this hate-speech law is an enemy of free speech and the Canadian Supreme Court is an enemy of free speech.  Good enough for you hosers?

I guess I will now have to skip my ski trip to Whistler this year, to avoid arrest at the border.

More on the UN

Awesome article in the Observer via the Guardian Online on the UN by a former UN Human Rights lawyer:

Having worked as a UN
human rights observer in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti and Liberia, there are
two savage paradoxes for me here. The first is that, while the media
and conservative politicians and pundits have suddenly discovered that
the UN has been catastrophically incompetent, this is very old news to
anyone with the mud (or blood) of a UN peacekeeping mission on his
boots...

The
second searing irony for me is that the American neoconservative right
has occupied the moral high ground in critique of Annan, outflanking
the left, which sits on indefensible territory in his support. But if
prevention of genocide and protection of the vulnerable are not core
priorities on the left, then what is? If anyone's values have been
betrayed, it is those of us on the left who believe most deeply in the
organisation's ideals. I am mystified by the reluctance of the left
both in the US and the UK (the Guardian 's coverage, for example) to
criticise Annan's leadership. The bodies burn today in Darfur - and the
women are raped - amid the sound of silence from Annan. How many
genocides, the prevention of which is the UN's very raison d'être, will
we endure before the left is moved to criticise Annan? Shouldn't we be
hearing the left screaming bloody murder about the UN's failure to
protect vulnerable Africans? Has it lost its compass so badly that it
purports to excuse the rape of Congolese women by UN peacekeepers under
Annan's watch? Is stealing money intended for widows and orphans in
Iraq merely a forgivable bureaucratic snafu?

The article includes many detailed anecdotes of failure and corruption. 

It is time to fix the UN, or better yet, replace it.  Many UN defenders want to blunt attacks on the UN by somehow implying that UN critics are against international cooperation.  This is silly.  Attacking Enron for being corrupt does not mean that I am against the concept of gas pipelines, just as attacking Bernard Ebbers as corrupt does not put me in opposition to long distance telephony.  In fact, just the opposite.  It is clear that Kofi Annan is trying to protect the UN as an institution, even if it means that the UN is so passive it gets nothing done.  Just check out this quote from the above article:

Next to these tributes [in the Rwanda genocide museum]
is another installation - a reproduction of the infamous fax by the UN
Force Commander, General Romeo Dallaire, imploring the then head of UN
peacekeeping, Kofi Annan, for authority to defend Rwandan civilians -
many of whom had taken refuge in UN compounds under implicit and
sometimes explicit promises of protection.

Here,
too, is Annan's faxed response - ordering Dallaire to defend only the
UN's image of impartiality, forbidding him to protect desperate
civilians waiting to die. Next, it details the withdrawal of UN troops,
even while blood flowed and the assassins reigned, leaving 800,000
Rwandans to their fate.

 

How to Spot a Dictatorship

Unfortunately, the libertarian "bloc" in the country tends to be a bit too small for either of the two major parties to fight over - kind of like expending energy on wooing left handed Eskimo pipe-welders.  However, last year, with many libertarians opposing key parts of the Patriot Act, the growth in government spending, and the war in Iraq, the left and the Democratic Party made a bid to woo libertarians over to the Kerry camp. 

I would have found this argument more compelling had the left proven themselves to be a bit more consistent supporters of democracy and individual rights around the world.  Many on the left bent themselves into pretzels supporting blatant totalitarians in hopes of seeing George Bush fail.  Other leftists continue to be strong Marxists, supporting socialist regimes with a blind eye towards their human rights records.

While the socialists are probably a loss, there is still hope for much of the left to craft a freedom- and individual-rights-based foreign policy that libertarians could find compelling -- I handed out some free advice here.  However, before they left can really make progress here, the need to learn how to recognize a dictatorship:

You Know its a Dictatorship When:

  1. Michael Moore portrays the country as a kite-flying paradise
  2. Jimmy Carter sanctioned their last election
  3. The UN certifies that there is no genocide
  4. They sign friendship pacts with other dictatorships (also here and here and here too)
  5. They are a member of the UN Human Rights commission (not 100% foolproof but getting closer every year)
  6. They were once a French colony, and/or France is opposing sanctions against it (also here too)
  7. Their people are impoverished and they lag the world in economic growth

Update:  Welcome Powerline and Instapundit readers.