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June 09, 2005

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» Taking Over Amnesty from The American Mind
Charles Bird has an interesting idea: If Amnesty International is truly a democratic organization, then what this group needs is... [Read More]

» There's a Sensible Reason For It from Beautiful Horizons
One of the silliest criticisms of Amnesty International in the numerous screeds written by Charles Bird at Obsidian Wings is the notion that AI should have a ratings system to rate the human rights abuses of different countries. If Charles [Read More]

» There's a Sensible Reason For It from Beautiful Horizons
One of the silliest criticisms of Amnesty International in the numerous screeds written by Charles Bird at Obsidian Wings is the notion that AI should have a ratings system to rate the human rights abuses of different countries. If Charles [Read More]

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Well, the little one is doing fine. She put on two ounces during her first week instead of losing weight while growing an inch and put on an additional two ounces yesterday. She's still learning the whole suck, swallow, breath... [Read More]

Comments

This is a group in dire need of some perspective
Lord almighty! The irony of that statement. This from someone who is solidly behind an administration that really does run a series of secret prisons (or whatever you want to call them), delivers persons to governments for torture, and is the most secretive administration this country has ever seen.

As they say, take the frickin' board out of your own eye before you start complaining about the dust mote in AI's.

Charles: take it from me: working from within to bring a group, let's say your own country which you love, back to its core principles is difficult and time-consuming work.

Good grief, that's the biggest load of rubbish since...well, since CB's last big load of rubbish. I'm all for discussing issues with people on the other side of the aisle, but this isn't discussion, it's just ugly, dumb, and pointless.

Charles, you really don't get it do you?

The USA, you country, the last great hope of mankind, that city on a hill, is imprisonning people without any due process of law, is torturing these people and in the process of doing so has killed a bunch of probably innocent people, that is when it is not disapearing people or sending to Syria to be tortured by the Syrian secret police.

So get off your high horse and get used to the fact that our country is no better than any of the other rightwing dictatorships that we have setup and supported for the last fifty plus years.

Um, Charles, some of your links are broken, in particular the one to the long quote of "Human" ("this view") and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

By all means, join AI, but you can hardly expect respect from me if you hold up "Human" as an exemplar.

It's far more important that AI show the proper respect and civility - not to mention the politically correct use of metaphor - than such pesky issues such as extraordinary rendition to Syria.

Why don't you start a conservative group that has the guts of AI to critique the administration's abuse policy? That way you can get the words right while actually doing something constructive.

Your last torture post, acknowledging that a problem existed with US policy, somehow seemed to avoid one word about the cause of the problem. I was polite in pointing this out, although others were not so polite.

Fussing about AI's alleged inadequacies is more avoidance of the fact that conservatives remain silent about the Bush's administrations abuse policies. Why not devote the energy it apparently took to write this to critique what the Bush administration should be doing to remove its abuse problem?

And most of your analysis is completely off base for a private organization (particularly the criticism of AI because some of its prominent members are liberals who support other liberal causes). AI's credibility rests on its work product -- not its internal method of operation or the other activities of its members.

wrt transparency, Bird is playing the apples and oranges game. Transparency in government and transparency in member lists of a private organization are quite different. But leave it to Bird to conflate the two.

Did it occur to Bird that there may be darn good reasons for this privacy? After all, AI has a lot of enemies and some of those members may actually be at serious risk if they became known by their countries of residence.

"It cannot be confirmed whether "Human" is an employee or member of AI, but he talks as if he is one, and if he is...whew."

Uhh, Charles: I really hate to break up your nice screed & all, and I do know that you are just a blogger, and not, you know, a journalist or anything, but before you inserted this near-parodic piece of dreck into what is otherwise a good post on AI, shouldn't maybe you have tried to confirm "Human"'s bona fides? As it is, as is unfortunately common in your frontpage posts, a good, well-articulated point is disfigured by the addition of a lame, hackneyed, cliche-ridden anti-American rant ("Amerikkka"?? Puh-leeze! That chestnut was stale back in the Nixon Administration!) - and putting it forward as some sort of representation of Amnesty Intl.'s "members" viewpoint - as opposed, maybe, to being just some assclown with a keyboard and a modem.
Sorry, CB: you did a good enough bashing job in the first parts of your post: adding "Human"s gibberish to the mix doesn't really do much.
Just a suggestion.
Oh, and PS: props for joining up.

Charles, my good man (as one who's defended you on occasion):

are you, like, jealous that Von got flamed all day about AI, and you didn't?

Okay, honest question time here, because I am utterly confused. Given the extreme reactions of all the conservative posters here, what should Amnesty International have called secret prisons where we detain people without evidence, without trials, and without access to the Red Cross, and then torture them? Seriously. What could AI have called them to not get you to declare them "anti-American" and "losing all perspective" and so on? Is there anything?

And please, please, please, PLEASE tell me how Amnesty International calling these prisons "gulags" is so much more important than the fact that they EXIST, and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is abducting people without trials, and torturing them? Seriously.

Charles, why in the name of all that is holy aren't you putting one-tenth this much fervid energy into opposing the torture done in our name?

Why aren't you mounting your soapbox at GOP meetups and demanding an end to torture and extraordinary rendition?

Why aren't you calling on your fellow Republicans to move the GOP away from the fringe?

Why aren't you denouncing Republicans who endorse torture? And I don't mean in a blog post or two; I mean using the same tactics and energy you're using to oppose AI.

Why aren't you coordinating a letter-writing campaign against Bush's torture and extraordinary rendition policies?

Why, in other words, don't you try forcing the GOP and the Bush Admin to live up to the same standards you're demanding of AI?

Charles,

This organization is probably not worth the attempt at redeeming. For example, just at this site people were talking about a British memo like it was a fact written in stone, when it is really at best a second hand account or even third. AI is filled with people of a similar mentality. People willing to believe anything that validates their own beliefs regardless of the facts.

How can you help a people or organization get back to its "core principles" when the core is rotten?

It's better to throw it away with the trash.

CB, you cite, with approval, the following Applebaum statement: "The United States, as the world's largest and most powerful democracy, remains, for all its flaws, the world's best hope for the promotion of human rights."

sez who? first of all, last I checked both India and Indonesia are democracies far larger than the US.

but more to the point, why is it the case that the US is the world's best hope? after all, on this blog alone tremendous effort has been spent attacking AI for accurate criticism, with hardly a drop spent on looking at the administration's response. this allocation of effort does not exactly infuse me with hope that the US electorate actually cares about human rights.

who knows, maybe the EU is now the "best hope" (whatever that means) for the promotion of human rights. Since (a) having ghost detainees is a war crime and (b) the US admin has admitted to having ghost detainees, simple logic would suggest that the US is now being lead by war criminals.

perhaps the rest of the world now believes that the US's commitment to human rights is a farce, since war criminals are our leaders. perhaps the Milosevic trial will finally someday end. perhaps over the next ten years the ICC will be seen as the true best hope for human rights. i wouldn't bet on it, but i wouldn't categorically reject the idea either.

best of luck on working within the AI system. keep us informed on how it goes.

Is the United States really a fifteen-times-worse human rights violator than Cuba? Apparently yes in Amnesty International's cocooned world

Um, except you're just arbitrarily attributing that view to them. How do you know that Amnesty believes the US is fifteen times worse (and what would that mean, exactly - that it's an official position of the org)? Maybe they focus more on the US because it has undergone more dramatic changes in recent years than Cuba and other countries with worse practices. Maybe they focus more on the US because its practices have the widest ripples across the globe. In fact I'd bet on those two explanations, since the report actually states as much. (E.g., from the foreword: "The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide.")

Sadly, Amnesty International has lost its claim to impartiality because of the hostile statements made by its leaders.

Does this mean that only groups that investigate human rights issues with impartiality toward actual human rights deserve access? Do Amnesty and the Red Cross have different stances on the US's torture prisons? I believe they both oppose them, not just Amnesty. Amnesty used an overheated word about the issue, and the Red Cross did not; are you actually suggesting this disqualifies Amnesty from access? What exactly is the standard?

they should be allies with us. Instead of antagonism, AI should be working with us on that Bushian vision thing for worldwide freedom and democracy. But instead of comity, we get emnity.

From your quote from the AI faq: "Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system."

Thanks, Charles. Best belly laugh I've had since, well... Francis's Magic 8-Ball comment.

So let's take stock, ladies and gentlemen. In response to Amnesty International and the renewed scrutiny on the Bush administration's record of human rights abuses, Charles has produced:

- One silly post neatly sidestepping the outrage of the administration reviving the ignominious practice of concentration/internment camps--in favor of the much greater outrage of Amnesty International's one single overblown metaphor. Said post, naturally enough, makes a number of charges of hypocrisy and double standards towards AI's treatment of the US vis-a-vis North Korea and similar regimes--charges which Charles would know were false if he'd actually read the AI report in question.

- One joke of a post over at Redstate acknowledging that goshdarnit, maybe we /do/ have a problem with human rights abuses and prison camps--it's making us look bad, giving those darn libruls stuff to use against our righteous president, and is going to cost us politically! Oh yeah, um, I guess it's wrong, too. A handful of what must have been painful (and noble) concessions are masked by a deluge of verbal diarrhea towards liberals, and nullified by his conclusion: we must investigate! That's right, the administration that's done so much to turn back the clock on human rights, the administration that produced the twisted logic and priorities that led us to this point, the administration that created the internment camps of our day--this administration must appoint a commission to investigate why all these things happened!

- And finally, just to maintain his Bush Republican bona fides, Charles has produced for our snickering pleasure the coda to his trilogy, a fitting conclusion to this symphony of bullsh*t: yet another (no really, it's the last one!) post bashing Amnesty International for having skewed priorities and no transparency. That's right, for those of you watching in our studio audience and wondering why the atmosphere seems so hostile towards conservatives here, it's because the standard bearer for the right end of the spectrum is acting like a caricature of the most common things liberals bash about conservatives. In this case, he's providing a textbook demonstration of projection. Amnesty International criticizes the US for a lack of transparency? Criticize them for the same! It doesn't matter how asinine the comparison is, just throw in an anecdotal example of a loon and tar the organization with him, that'll distract them from the bankruptcy of your argument.

See, a principled conservative might've looked at the mounting evidence that the Bush administration is perfectly willing to play fast and loose with human rights, and when reading a report like that of Amnesty International, get outraged at the shame that Bush is bringing upon our country. Someone who loves his country as much as Charles does might, I conjecture, be outraged that in a time where the moral leadership of the United States is needed most, the president is freely squandering that moral high ground at a frightening rate.

Instead, we can take the measure of Charles's priorities by noting where he focuses his energies. Out of the three posts he's bothered to write on the matter, one was a half-assed admission that maybe we do have a problem, in which he expends ten times as many words talking about how bad torture makes us look as he does about how wrong it is. The other two were classic Bush administration defenses in the time honored fashion: shooting the messenger who dared speak the truth, and attacking them for something irrelevant to that uncomfortable truth. He gets bonus points for continuing to accuse AI of double standards and hypocrisy long after it was pointed out to him that he'd know better if he actually bothered to read the report he's criticizing.

Too funny.


Um, Charles?

Why would Amnesty International want to suck up to a thuggish regime that imprisons an innocent man, beats his legs to a pulp, and lets him die?

That's us, Charles. Take a good look in the mirror. That's what George Bush has made the United States. Thanks to him, we're the kind of country that does that.

Clinton could have filmed gangbangs with pornstars, midgets, and livestock in the Oval Office without disgracing our country this bad.

See, a principled conservative might've looked at the mounting evidence that the Bush administration is perfectly willing to play fast and loose with human rights

Or maybe simply a principled person?

Why don't you start a conservative group that has the guts of AI to critique the administration's abuse policy?

In both cases, dm, I'm working within the respective organizations, using the most effective tools that I have. What's so wrong about that?

Several folks have said there are differences in reporting between governmental and private organizations. AI isn't exactly private but it has tax exempt status and its IRS Form 990 is publicly available. BTW, I've been critical of George Soros' Open Society Institute in a past post, but give him credit because he walks the walk. His tax forms list in detail the major donors and donees to his organization. The OSI is what a transparent organization should look like. AI doesn't need to go quite so far, especially for donors who would be put in peril if their contributions were known.

Charles, why in the name of all that is holy aren't you putting one-tenth this much fervid energy into opposing the torture done in our name?

In my first two Amnesty posts, Casey, I used plenty of words critical of the Bush administration, way more than your lowballing one-tenth.

are you, like, jealous that Von got flamed all day about AI, and you didn't?

I spent so much time writing this, Anderson, that I didn't see von's post until after I hit the "save" button. Not that it would have mattered.

what should Amnesty International have called secret prisons where we detain people without evidence, without trials, and without access to the Red Cross, and then torture them?

von used "internment camps", which I'm OK with. "Prisons" or "detainee prisons" are fine, Nate. BTW, for me, it wasn't just Khan's words that sparked this tempest, at least for me. Schulz's statements were every bit as inflammatory and counterproductive.

first of all, last I checked both India and Indonesia are democracies far larger than the US.

If they want to pursue a vision of freedom and democracy, that's fine by me, Francis. Indonesia may call itself a democracy, but it's not very free, and it is not larger than the US.

who knows, maybe the EU is now the "best hope"

After the French and Dutch referendums, not anymore.

Charles,

This is all just so much semanics. Poor choice of wording of whatever. Look the fact remains that people have dies in gitmo. We were paying warlords for whoever they turned over and paying them for it (234 releases). I can't say this loud enought, there are innoscent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time in these places.

We are now holding 10K now in Iraq. We are uniquly positioned (unlike Syria, China, NK and those others) to stop this right now, right here. Unlike those countries, Charles, here our voices matter. I would really like to think that all that life talk from President Bush were the real thing. Here is his chance to prove it, but we have to ask him to. This is not a trying to score political points kind of thing.

I wonder whether Charles Bird will have the cojones to come back in a few months' time and admit that he was utterly ignorant of Amnesty International's work, as opposed to the way in which it is regularly filtered through the soiled pantyhose of the American meda?


Amnesty Travesty Part III: Should conservatives beat 'em by joining 'em?

The man is oblivious to irony.

Also, as has been noted elsewhere, 'Republicans for Human Rights' would be a good name for a group that doesn't currently exist.

Also, as has been noted elsewhere, 'Republicans for Human Rights' would be a good name for a group that doesn't currently exist.

But we can have the Conservative American Wing of Amnesty International! Kowalski's with me.

"we can have the Conservative American Wing of Amnesty International!"

Yes, the wing where Human Rights are relative to political gains while preserving the manufactured memory of fearless leadership that talked about freedom. a. whole. lot. Plus what Catsy said.

You know, Amnesty International was once a great and respectable organization, but now they've completely lost their moral compass. After they revealed themselves to be naked partisans by accusing my government of "flagrant disregard for the rule of law, international obligations and human rights", I just couldn't take them seriously anymore. What a shame.

Let's see if this logic scales. Charles has dedicated quite a bit more space to condemning Amnesty International for their use of the word "Gulag" than condemning soldiers for torturing and killing potentially innocent prisoners being held with no trial.

Shall we count the ratio of lines, ans ask Charles why gentlemantly use of the word 'gulag' is more important to him than human life?

Shall we count the ratio of lines, ans ask Charles why gentlemantly use of the word 'gulag' is more important to him than human life?

No, we should simply conclude that in Charles' depraved world, the only thing that matters is political advantage. And having concluded that, we should wonder what a person like him is doing posting on a site that starts from the assumption that most of us have shared values, that our political views are derived from our values, and that there is, therefore, hope for finding common ground. Because to Charles, that's apparently not what it's all about. It's about winning, and if you need to lie, cheat, and steal to make that happen, them's the breaks. It's the same mindset that somehow managed to run a wartime election campaign so far off the rails that we were reduced to arguing about where a particular boat was on a particular day 35 years ago. And in these times, it's simply despicable.


Charles Bird,

-“Sadly, Amnesty International has lost its claim to impartiality because of the hostile statements made by its leaders.”

“Hostile” says you. My guess is that AI’s impartiality has to do with their contempt for human rights abuses, not the Administration.

-“AI provides no information on who its major contributors are”

The argument is in keeping with the Schulz interview on Fox News to which Von linked in his last post on this topic where the attempt was made to discredit the validity of AI’s assessment by virtue of Schulz’s contributions to the Kerry and Kennedy campaigns. While the political leanings of an institution’s director/s and contributor’s money can influence what an institution produces, you have not established that such is the case with AI on this issue other than the very weak Schulz-Kerry-Kennedy bit. It is your contention that those who hate America have influenced AI to the point of bashing the US?

I can’t imagine what institution could possibly measure up to the standard of perfection you have set for AI. If AI had employed the recommendations you offer and still used the word “gulag” would you have a beef with them then?

-“when they do not have objective bases to judge in the first place?”

This is an assumption on your part. Because you cannot determine their ranking system does not mean that they are not operating from “objective bases.”

-“Judging by the 2005 news releases, Amnesty International spends much more effort on the United States than Cuba, by a factor of 15 (75 articles on the USA, 5 on Cuba).”

Why doesn’t the power and international influence of a nation figure into your argument?

“Instead of anti-Americanism, they should be allies with us.”

Please provide one quote from Schulz or any other AI leader where they state such an attitude or that such is part of their agenda; one quote where THEY believe that they don’t have the best interests of the US in mind and/or are working specifically to discredit the US.

-“AI should be working with us on that Bushian vision thing for worldwide freedom and democracy.”

How does this not directly contradict your call for AI’s “impartiality” as well as its mission statement?

One is either for the US or against it. There is no middle ground. Indeed.

Good grief, that's the biggest load of rubbish since...well, since CB's last big load of rubbish. I'm all for discussing issues with people on the other side of the aisle, but this isn't discussion, it's just ugly, dumb, and pointless.

Yep. Fortunately, I read this after I read Hilzoy's post, and Hilzoy's post reminded me what Charles thinks he's being arrogant about.

I'm reminded of G. K. Chesteron's comment on patriotism: "My country, right or wrong" is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying "My mother, drunk or sober."

Dropping by Phil Carter, I got this link to a LATimes naomi Klein op-ed with this

The U.S. military may indeed be cracking down on prisoner abuse, but torture in Iraq is not in decline — it has simply been outsourced. In January, Human Rights Watch found that torture within Iraqi-run (and U.S.-supervised) jails and detention facilities was "systematic," including the use of electroshock.

An internal report from the 1st Cavalry Division, obtained by the Washington Post, states that "electrical shock and choking" are "consistently used to achieve confessions" by Iraqi police and soldiers. So open is the use of torture that it has given rise to a hit television show: Every night on the TV station Al Iraqiya — run by a U.S. contractor — prisoners with swollen faces and black eyes "confess" to their crimes.

Hmmmm

Krestinsky: Yesterday, under the influence of a momentary keen feeling of false shame, evoked by the atmosphere of the dock and the painful impression created by the public reading of the indictment, which was aggravated by my poor health, I could not bring myself to tell the truth, I could not bring myself to say that I was guilty. And instead of saying, "Yes, I am guilty," I almost mechanically answered, "No, I am not guilty."

Vyshinsky: Mechanically?

Krestinsky: In the face of world public opinion, I had not the strength to admit the truth that I had been conducting a Trotskyite struggle all along. I request the Court to register my statement that I fully and completely admit that I am guilty of all the gravest charges brought against me personally, and that I admit my complete responsibility for the treason and treachery I have committed.

Source: Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet Block of Rights and Trotskyites, Moscow, 1938, p. 36.

Nate:

"Okay, honest question time here, because I am utterly confused. Given the extreme reactions of all the conservative posters here, what should Amnesty International have called secret prisons where we detain people without evidence, without trials, and without access to the Red Cross, and then torture them? Seriously. What could AI have called them to not get you to declare them "anti-American" and "losing all perspective" and so on? Is there anything?"

They shouldn't have called them anything. They shouldn't have talked about them . There are schools which have been painted!!!

"And please, please, please, PLEASE tell me how Amnesty International calling these prisons "gulags" is so much more important than the fact that they EXIST, and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is abducting people without trials, and torturing them? Seriously."

Because the Administration's conduct offends all decent people who know about it and think about it. The knowledge is out, so the only thing that can be done now is to prevent people from having to think.

Screaming and ranting loud and long helps with this immensely.

Nate:

"Okay, honest question time here, because I am utterly confused. Given the extreme reactions of all the conservative posters here, what should Amnesty International have called secret prisons where we detain people without evidence, without trials, and without access to the Red Cross, and then torture them? Seriously. What could AI have called them to not get you to declare them "anti-American" and "losing all perspective" and so on? Is there anything?"

They shouldn't have called them anything. They shouldn't have talked about them . There are schools which have been painted!!!

"And please, please, please, PLEASE tell me how Amnesty International calling these prisons "gulags" is so much more important than the fact that they EXIST, and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is abducting people without trials, and torturing them? Seriously."

Because the Administration's conduct offends all decent people who know about it and think about it. The knowledge is out, so the only thing that can be done now is to prevent people from having to think.

Screaming and ranting loud and long helps with this immensely.

It's been interesting, in a nauseating way, to watch this thread and the thread before. It's also been reassuring; my opinions about several people here have been more than confirmed.

Charles: take it from me: working from within to bring a group, let's say your own country which you love, back to its core principles is difficult and time-consuming work.

**snort** This presumes that Charles actually intends to do anything but shed crocodile tears over how far Amnesty International, that organization which he once loved as if it were his own offspring despite never being a member, has fallen from its beloved pedestal. That and look for traitors and anti-Americans under the bed,

I'm just now reading Catch 22 and CB reminds me of this (p. 405 in my copy):

General Peckem thought of himself as aesthetic and intellectual. When people disagreed with him, he urged them to be objective.

Charles, your response to the question of why you're not opposing Administration torture policies with anywhere near the same energy and resolve as you're opposing AI is so lame it approaches parody.

To oppose AI, you're mounting the barricades! calling on your ideological brethren to become moles within the organization! demanding full disclosure of all financial and membership records! entreating your ideological brethren to suggest action, take action, lead action!

To oppose the Bush Admin torture policies, you're... posting "more in sorrow than anger" opinion pieces on blogs.

Your moral compass is seriously out of whack.

Phil, I think it's indicative where Bird's aims lie that he thinks it's worthwhile to finish off with an appeal to conservatives to change this organization from within - and he means Amnesty International, not the Bush administration. It's important to Bird to change the organization that criticizes torture and unjust imprisonment - not to change the organization that promotes torture and unjust imprisonment as policy.

I can't believe the AI bashing is still going on. How many weeks, and how many posts, will be sufficient? I guess it continues until the administration announces a new target for neutralization (CBS News, Newsweek, AI, ...). Perhaps it's being prolonged by the brief digression into Deep Throat bashing, which also falls into the pattern of "ignore the issue the source is talking about (in fact, suggest that the story is completely untrue), but concentrate instead on the (clearly more important) moral failings of the source". I'm not surprised by Charles's participation, but I continue to be surprised about Von.

That batting average of yours just dropped from .150 to .136. You're 0 for your last 4.

jes, that last comment is so good it bears repeating.

it is more important to CB to change the organization that REPORTS on torture than to change the organization which CONDUCTS the torture.

i've heard of blaming the messenger, but this is ridiculous.

Because to Charles, that's apparently not what it's all about. It's about winning, and if you need to lie, cheat, and steal to make that happen, them's the breaks.

That would be a Karnak Award, Dave. Regarding our responsibility re detainees, I'm in complete agreement with von and have said so repeatedly. But the larger context here is there is a misguided focus on the US mote at the expense of the beams in so many other places. That's why AI desperately needs a rating system.

This presumes that Charles actually intends to do anything but shed crocodile tears over how far Amnesty International, that organization which he once loved as if it were his own offspring despite never being a member, has fallen from its beloved pedestal. That and look for traitors and anti-Americans under the bed,

That would be another Karnak Award, Phil. Better build some more shelf space, 'cause your trophy case is looking pretty full.

This is an assumption on your part. Because you cannot determine their ranking system does not mean that they are not operating from "objective bases"

Then we're getting right back to transparency, otto. Why won't they disclose their "objective bases" (if they have them)? Why all the secrecy? In the absence of a stated agenda and priorities, how are we to know?

Why doesn’t the power and international influence of a nation figure into your argument?

Then AI should change its mission to "AI’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards, but the United States should be singled out because it's really, really powerful." Yes, we've done some or many wrong things but your focus (and AI's) is too US-centric. Our actions pale before even a fraction of the inequities caused by the unfree governments. This is mote and beam stuff. Does this mean I approve of how we've handled detainees? Absolutely not.

Just a general comment. Because AI is criticized does not mean the Bush administration is absolved from its responsibility, and I've written so over and over again. To glean some sort of hypocrisy from this is simply absurd. The "aha, how come you didn't write about this" type of commentary is a straw man. Every blogger writes on whatever topic that animates him or her. To hold me a different standard is really a double standard.

Is the United States really a fifteen-times-worse human rights violator than Cuba?

Perhaps not, but it is 27 times bigger than Cuba. Which, if human rights violations scale linearly -- a remarkably stupid assumption, but nevertheless still more accurate than the pseudo-statistical tripe above -- means that Amnesty thinks Cuba is 1.8 times the human rights violator that the United States is.

Because AI is criticized does not mean the Bush administration is absolved from its responsibility, and I've written so over and over again. To glean some sort of hypocrisy from this is simply absurd.

And yet that is exactly the same strawman you employ against Amnesty. Funny, huh?

"Because AI is criticized does not mean the Bush administration is absolved from its responsibility, and I've written so over and over again. To glean some sort of hypocrisy from this is simply absurd."

And just as Charles is objecting to AI's inflammatory language and untoward focus on the US at the expense of the rest of the world's wrongful actions, the rest of us are focusing on Charles' inflammatory language and untoward focus on AI at the expense of criticism of the US government.

Charles: Because AI is criticized does not mean the Bush administration is absolved from its responsibility, and I've written so over and over again.

So you have: in virtually the same self-exculpatory framework. The actions you have proposed have been to change Amnesty International (from an even-handed organization into one which ignores the US, it appears) rather than to change the Bush administration.

One question, Charles: Which is more important to you? To stop the torture and unjust imprisonment being carried out by the US in your name: or to stop AI from talking about it?

By the same yardstick you propose for judging Amnesty, your first and vastly strongest priority is to stop Amnesty International from talking about the US's human rights crimes. Very much secondary, as far as you're concerned, is actually stopping the human rights crimes.

Sorry, Charles, I refuse to compare my country with the worst countries in the world. If you have no respect for this country and think that it's okay that at least we are better than China or Saudi Arabia, that's your choice, but I expect my country to be as good as the best countries in the world, not merely better than the worst.

So what if Amnesty was a bit overwrought in its writings? This administration is presiding over a collection of illegal prisons that contain people who have been kidnapped, not arrested, not taken in combat, kidnapped. Those are the crimes that are done by my government in my name and I hate it.

I find it disgusting that anyone would try to excuse these crimes being done by this administration. We rightly blamed Stalin for his Gulag. We never excused the Germans, neither those who ordered the crimes nor those who were just following orders, for their crimes. We must blame Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld for their crimes as well and they need to be punished, though I don't expect it to happen, except in the history books. As far as I am concerned, the people who were murdered in this prisons were murdered as much by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld as they would have been if Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld had pushed the dagger into them.

If we accept the actions of this administration, we merely prove that we are truly morally bankrupt, after all, it took a direct attack on the United States for us to finally get us to act against the Nazis. Yes, we did it right when we had to, but we must remember that we have a sordid history and make an attempt to do better rather than merely excuse our own behavior.

This presumes that Charles actually intends to do anything but shed crocodile tears over how far Amnesty International, that organization which he once loved as if it were his own offspring despite never being a member, has fallen from its beloved pedestal. That and look for traitors and anti-Americans under the bed,

That would be another Karnak Award, Phil. Better build some more shelf space, 'cause your trophy case is looking pretty full

Read it again, Charles. Real closely. Do I accuse you of thinking something, or do I state that you intend only to do those two things? No. I said that hilzoy's comments about you encountering difficulty returning a group to what you believe are its core values rest on several presumptions about your intentions. Do you, in fact, intend to do something other than the two things I stated? Well, good for you if you do. Bad on you if you don't.

If you invested a tenth of the time in actually reading and understanding as you do in attempting to be either offended, clever or both . . .

This is mote and beam stuff. Does this mean I approve of how we've handled detainees? Absolutely not.

If we go by your own "word count" criterion, which you've whipped out not only against AI, but other writers, on many occasions, we can certainly judge which topic holds more important relative value to you.

In any case, I'm sure AI will be a much more focused and effective organization thanks to your membership and intense participation. I look forward to reading more about the changes you bring about. Really.

Did anyone note that some American security contractors shot up Fallujah for 3 hours, shooting at Iraqi civilians and U.S. Marines alike.

And that said same contractors are claiming to have been physically abused by Marines after being detained (and released) for aforementioned incident.

So many issues raised in one story. Fallujah, mercenaries, prisoner abuse.

So, my question to Charles Bird is: How would you write the AI report on this incident and how would you insert Hillary in?

The whole point of the AI article is that the US and other civilized, modern countries are expected to hold the highest standards when it comes to human rights, because they are the richest and most advanced. And because the preach the gospel of human rights so loudly.

Of course it's more shocking when the US runs a mini-gulag than when North Korea does it. Of course the red flags fly faster when the US is caught abusing human rights than when Cuba is?

Further, of course AI writes more reports about countries it has access to.

I would have thought anybody putting the slightest bit of thought into this would understand these facts. This business of counting up how many AI reports have been written about the US vs. Cuba is petulant thumb-sucking. Grow up and use your head.

As an American, as a patriot, I am absolutely sickened by the thought that we're now known as a country that practices torture. We're still a great, wonderful country in many ways, but we're a torturing country now as well. That fact sits like a lump of granite in the pit of my stomach. Our moral authority has been pissed away. Abu Ghraib was the biggest gift we could have possibly given to every tinpot dictator the world over. It was the biggest PR disaster of the past 50 years as well.

Back in WWII we used to give a shit about PR. We were proud of the fact that we treated our Japanese POWs according to the Geneva Conventions, and this (in our eyes, and the world's) made us morally superior to the Japanese savages of that time. We were more civilized. We were more humane. We played by the rules. And we won.

Under this adminstration, we can say none of those things with confidence. Our reputation for decency has been devastated. And instead of grappling with these facts, Charles saves his righteous indignation for AI because they overstated the case a little bit. That's very sad.

freelunch,

We rightly blamed Stalin for his Gulag. We never excused the Germans, neither those who ordered the crimes nor those who were just following orders, for their crimes. We must blame Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld for their crimes

Heh... Gitmo = gulag, Bush = Hitler.

2shoes,

So, my question to Charles Bird is: How would you write the AI report on this incident and how would you insert Hillary in?

Fascinating what some choose to believe. Let's see. Marines claimed that the contractors shot at them and the civilians for 3 hours, while the contractors claim a case of mistaken identity. Whom do you choose to believe? The Marines.

Contractors claim that they were beaten, Marines deny this. Whom do you choose to believe? The contractors.

A tendency to believe those whose story shows US in a negative light, no?

Dave Neiwert has some articles on the subversion of the Sierra Club by means of a membership flood of conservatives.

Wow Stan LS

How did you get that from what I wrote?

Really. It would be fascinating.

-2shoes

"My country, right or wrong" is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying "My mother, drunk or sober."
People actually only rarely rarely recall what Stephen Decatur actually said.

Francis / Brother Rail Gun of Reasoned Discourse writes: "...first of all, last I checked both India and Indonesia are democracies far larger than the US."

Charles responds: "If they want to pursue a vision of freedom and democracy, that's fine by me, Francis. Indonesia may call itself a democracy, but it's not very free, and it is not larger than the US."

This is an interesting style of response, Charles. (Italics for emphasis mine.) You blatantly switch terms from your previous statement, adding "vision of freedom" and "free" to your previous characterization. That would be perfectly fair if those were the terms you started with, but switching them in as if they weren't radical changes in your proposition is not. As any fule kno, "freedom" and "democracy" aren't remotely idential to each other; not one bit. One can live in a highly oppressive democracy with a tyranny of the majority and one can live under a highly benign, relatively free, other form of government (say, Bahrain). We can discuss all day the possible connections and disconnections between "freedom" and "democracy," but we assuredly can't correctly assert that one is synonymous and interchangable with the other.

The other interesting thing you did was to ignore "India" in favor of "Indonesia." This allows you to correctly point out that Indonesia is (both by population and area, though neither was specified) smaller than the United States. Possibly you were assuming that everyone reading this exchange would go completely blind when their eyeballs got to "India" or amnesia would strike, or something. Maybe pointing out where your critic was incorrect is clearly worth doing, but admitting where you were incorrect (population of India: 1,080,264,388 (July 2005 est.); population of US: 295,734,134 (July 2005 est.) isn't. I don't know. I don't want to pile on otherwise about the topic of this thread, but this little interchange seems to me to be an interesting microcosm of your frequent approach to political debate.

freelunch: "We rightly blamed Stalin for his Gulag." Yes, though we also rightfully blame Lenin, the Czars, and the holders of the seats of the later Politburos. It's altogether too convenient to blame the sins of the Soviet system solely on Stalin.

The Gulag had antecedents in Czarist Russia, in the forced-labor brigades that operated in Siberia from the seventeenth century to the beginning of the twentieth. It then took on its modern and more familiar form almost immediately after the Russian Revolution, becoming an integral part of the Soviet system. Mass terror against real and alleged opponents was a part of the Revolution from the very beginning—and by the summer of 1918, Lenin, the Revolution's leader, had already demanded that "unreliable elements" be locked up in concentration camps outside major towns. A string of aristocrats, merchants, and other people defined as potential "enemies" were duly imprisoned. By 1921, there were already eighty-four camps in forty-three provinces, mostly designed to "rehabilitate" these first enemies of the people.

[...]

Nevertheless, the camps did not disappear altogether. Instead, they evolved. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, a few of them were redesigned and put to use as prisons for a new generation of democratic activists, anti-Soviet nationalists—and criminals. Thanks to the Soviet dissident network and the international human rights movement, news of these post-Stalinist camps appeared regularly in the West. Gradually, they came to play a role in Cold War diplomacy. Even in the 1980s, the American President, Ronald Reagan, and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, were still discussing the Soviet camps. Only in 1987 did Gorbachev—himself the grandson of Gulag prisoners—begin to dissolve the Soviet Union's political camps altogether.

"We never excused the Germans, neither those who ordered the crimes nor those who were just following orders, for their crimes." Except for all the Germans we either let off within Germany within months or a couple of years or those thousands we directly imported to the U.S. because of their value to the U.S. military, to scientific research, or as intelligence assets. Except for them. "deNazification" is something of a horrifically cruel joke, and we deserve no broken arm patting ourself on the back over it.

The actions you have proposed have been to change Amnesty International (from an even-handed organization into one which ignores the US, it appears) rather than to change the Bush administration.

You read me falsely, Jes. I ever suggested that AI ignore the US.

One question, Charles: Which is more important to you? To stop the torture and unjust imprisonment being carried out by the US in your name: or to stop AI from talking about it?

The former.

liberal japonicus,

In regard to the confessions on the Al Iraqiya TV station, do you (or others) happen to know where/how to get access to the show. I went to Al Iraqiya's website (you would never know a war is going on based on anything on the site - "Iraqi programs that make you laugh, cry, and learn, made by Iraqis for Iraqis" or "Good Morning Iraq": "A morning program with information about cooking, exercise, consumer reports, health, etc. Start your day right with Muna and Rasha Mohammed every Monday and Friday!") but could find nothing that looked like such a show.

If you have no respect for this country and think that it's okay that at least we are better than China or Saudi Arabia, that's your choice, but I expect my country to be as good as the best countries in the world, not merely better than the worst.

Don't presume that I don't respect our country. As Americans, I have the expectation that we should be as good as (or better than) anyone else in upholding human rights. If Amnesty International also agrees to that standard, then they should change their core values and change their mission.

As any fule kno, "freedom" and "democracy" aren't remotely idential to each other; not one bit.

I agree, Gary. Forgive my short and sloppy response. The goal is freedom. BTW, I didn't ignore India, since I wrote that if India chooses to adopt the Bushian vision, they're welcome to it. The point I was trying to make is that Indonesia should not be a leader since it is not free enough to credibly take the mantle. India could.

Charles Bird: I ever suggested that AI ignore the US.

Indeed.

The former.

Then why are you focussing so heartily and so intensely and so enthusiastically on the latter, while utterly ignoring the former?

Then why are you focussing so heartily and so intensely and so enthusiastically on the latter, while utterly ignoring the former?

Another mischaracterization, Jes. This post did not "utterly ignore" the former. Nor did this one. Is this post critical of AI? Partly, but I also offer at least five solutions to make it better. One other thing. Since Abu Ghraib (and even earlier), our detainee system has been investigated by a slew of different authorities. Many responsible have been held to account and some changes have been made. Is it enough? No. That's why I proposed a bipartisan presidential commission. Has AI made changes in response to intense criticism and scrutiny? So far, the answer is no.

otto
No idea how to find it, but you may wish to write to Naomi Klein and ask. You could also check with Abu Aadrvark. Hope that helps.

Call me unreasonable, but I'd just as soon see an organization whose US executive director is on record as advocating the kidnapping and unilateral abrogation of diplomatic immunity of US officials by foreign nations meet an end that would be expected in a universe where natural selection applies, and perhaps replace it with one run by people who *aren't* raving lunatics.

M. Scott, you are talking about President Bush, aren't you?

though the term "executive director" is unusual; most people use "president".

oh, wait, I misread your post. I had read "abrogation of diplomatic immunity of foreign officials". my bad.

btw, how is Manuel Noriega doing these days?

So M.Scott, on what grounds is the United States holding Saddam Hussein?

liberal japonicus,

Thanks for the link!

Charles Bird: Another mischaracterization, Jes.

No - a mild exaggeration. You didn't "utterly ignore" the crimes of the Bush administration rather than complaining about Amnesty International: but your focus was undeniably on criticizing AI. At length and enthusiastically - something you've never done with regard to the Bush administration's crimes.

No - a mild exaggeration.

No. Not mild, and not an exaggeration. "Utterly ignore" is a false statement, plain and simple.

Charles,

I just find it amazing that you have vented more rage at a metaphor than at the acts that inspired the metaphor.

Ask yourself why is less than one fourth of the Republican house are members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus (and none of the leadership IIRC) while 56% of the Democrat house members are CHRC members in a number that is double (57 to 114) the Republican membership. Ask yourself why HRW, HRF, Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU are all regarded by the right as lefty organizations. Ask yourself why the man you supported for president has torpedoed the Darfur Accountability Act - which was developed by Sam Brownback and Jim Corzine and why the president regards prosecuting genocidaires in Sudan "a radical solution", ask why the high-ranking figures in the torture scandals are largely being given a bye while the non-coms are going to jail, ask yourself why Alberto Gonzales got promoted after writing the torture memos, ask why the president refused Rumsfeld's resignation.

Maybe then you'll realize why so many of us on my side of the aisle find your sense of outrage misplaced.

Frankly, Human's comments seem far more balanced than yours, Charles.

"...and why the president regards prosecuting genocidaires in Sudan "a radical solution...."

Randy? Given that the structure there is a tad ambiguous, I can't tell for sure, but in context, I'd pretty well say that you're quoting President Mbeki, not President Bush.

If the word "genocide" was on Mr. Bush's mind, it may be because he had dinner on Tuesday at Mr. Powell's home in Virginia. But Mr. Mbeki sat in silence when Mr. Bush used the term, refusing to declare that the Sudanese government was responsible for the killings in the region.

"It might be fine for some in the United States to make all kinds of statements," he said later. "If you denounce Sudan as genocidal, what next? Don't you have to arrest the president? The solution doesn't lie in making radical solutions - not for us in Africa."

I don't, offhand, see another reference to this statement other than a version of the Times story, but looking again, wouldn't you agree that this was a response from Mbeki as to why he wouldn't use the word "genocide" about Darfur even though President Bush just had?
We talked about several situations that are of concern to our government, most notably Darfur. I want to thank you for your leadership there. The President has got troops there. Deputy Secretary Zoellick is on the way to Darfur. This is a serious situation. As you know, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, with my concurrence, declared the situation a genocide.

I should have emphasized one other point:

"It might be fine for some in the United States to make all kinds of statements," he said later. "If you denounce Sudan as genocidal, what next? Don't you have to arrest the president? The solution doesn't lie in making radical solutions - not for us in Africa."
I don't think this is a Bushism saying he's moved to Africa.

You're right, my bad.

It doesn't make the efforts to kill the Darfur Accountability Act go away.

Except for them. "deNazification" is something of a horrifically cruel joke, and we deserve no broken arm patting ourself on the back over it.

One of my friends gave an excellent lecture on deNazification recently, and I was struck by how well it went given the appalling indoctrination of the Germans prior to VE Day -- and am even more struck having just finished Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945. It's more astonishing still when contrasted with Japan's, uh, reluctance to acknowledge their wrong-doings in WWII (sorry LJ).

Since Abu Ghraib (and even earlier), our detainee system has been investigated by a slew of different authorities. Many responsible have been held to account and some changes have been made. Is it enough? No. That's why I proposed a bipartisan presidential commission. Has AI made changes in response to intense criticism and scrutiny? So far, the answer is no.

Ladies and gentlemen, the archetypal Moral Equivalency argument so beloved of conservatives everywhere. Watch and learn; we're in the presence of a master here.

What Anarch said. Who has AI tortured, Charles?

I'm saddened by the amount of unwarranted attention a stupid word has attracted on this site.

I'm also dismayed by the continual partisan point-scoring of Charles Bird. What he contributes to this site, besides stirring up left/right animosity, is a mystery to me.

The discourse in the comment threads continues to deteriorate. What originally attracted me (and, I assume, others) to this site was the idea of a space where childish partisan bickering was trumped by a collective desire for meaningful dialogue between those who don't necessarily share the same viewpoints.

Now we have Mr. Bird posting numerous flame-baiting screeds in which he's allowed to push the boundries of reasonable discussion.

I'm sure in real life Mr. Bird is a nice enough guy, but his blatant provocation seems unsuited for a site such as this. Deliberately pushing people's buttons understandably garners defensiveness. It's impossible to build bridges when a member of the construction crew keeps tossing dynamite.

There must be other more insightful conservative bloggers out there who could actually make a substantial contribution to this grand experiment, as opposed to shilling the latest RNC talking points.

I'm not going to pull some hissy fit and walk away from ObWi forever (not that I'd be missed, since most of my time here is spent anonymously lurking;)); but I fear if Charles Bird is allowed to continue posting on the main page the exodus of other reasonable and erudite commentors will continue to increase.

It would be a shame for ObWi to burn out/fade away because of one man's unhealthy obsession with semantics and partisanship.

If I may add to my preceding comments:

I think DaveC would make an excellent addition to the ObWi collective. Even though I find myself disagreeing with him a lot of the time, he makes me think about my beliefs/preconceptions and in turn displays a willingness to question his own convictions (and occasionally take the piss of himself ;)).

Perhaps that's what most disturbs me about Charles Bird: his absolute, rigid certainty in the rightness of his views. Far too often he reminds me of ideologically unyielding bloggers such as kos and Atrios.

Without middle ground there can be no progress.

Seconded on all counts, Matt. Most notably on DaveC, whom I think would make a fine addition to the front-pagers. But, belaboring the obvious, that's their ball of wax--and I'm not convinced it's something he'd want to shoulder anyway.

Hey, a lurker can dream, right?

;)

matt: Perhaps that's what most disturbs me about Charles Bird: his absolute, rigid certainty in the rightness of his views.

Yes.

Charles, you want to convince me that I was wrong to say you're ignoring the Bush administration's crimes in favor of screaming abuse at Amnesty International, or Newsweek, for talking about them?

Write a post for RedState in which you ferociously criticize the Bush administration for committing abuses against human rights, and against Bush and Cheney for lying about those abuses. And do so without blaming Clinton or any other Democratic politician, Amnesty International, Newsweek, etc. Focus on what your party, and the administration you supported, is doing - don't try to lay the blame off on all these outside organizations for talking about what the Bush administration is doing.

A challenge, which I frankly do not expect you to take up. But if you do - if you can bring yourself to admit that the Bush administration deserved everything Amnesty International said about them, that Newsweek was right and you were wrong to slander them, I will very gladly apologize for saying you were "utterly ignoring" the Bush administration in favor of attacking their critics: I'll even do so on my livejournal.

But I don't expect to have to do it. Even if you wanted to write a piece attacking the Bush administration for its various crimes, you simply wouldn't have the nerve, or the will, or whatever it is you lack, to write it without at the same time attacking their critics - and attacking their critics more heartily and enthusiastically than you ever even mildly the Bush administration. That's just what you do, Charles, and I can't see you ever changing.

Me: you simply wouldn't have the nerve, or the will, or whatever it is you lack,

Ack. the right phrase I'm looking for: "moral courage". (Or "political courage".) Sebastian Holsclaw has it in spades.

I just find it amazing that you have vented more rage at a metaphor than at the acts that inspired the metaphor.

Not a metaphor, Randy, an idea. Ideas are powerful and sometimes dangerous things, as this War on Terror has amply demonstrated. I care deeply about how we've treated detainees, and we should adhere ourselves to the highest standards. I've written that very thing multiple times. But all the hyperfocus on our misdeeds has taken out of focus the orders-of-magnitude greater misdeeds in too many other places. AI--the word "international" is in its very name--has lost that vital perspective. Instead of arguing with me, you should be asking where AI is spending its monies, how much for each of the 149 countries does it allocate? How much has it expended on genocide in Darfur and democide in Zimbabwe. We have a system of checks and balances, and there are at least a dozen investigations taking place, and I hope that we can get these problems fixed. I hope we can get a bipartisan presidential commission started to truly address this problem. Note that, just because I voted for Bush, does not mean I approve of how he's handled the detainee problem or Darfur or multiple other issues. The larger questions of AI remain: where is the transparency, what are the objective measures, what are their real priorities?

Frankly, Human's comments seem far more balanced than yours, Charles.

Wow, Nick. I mean, wow. Holy smokes. Words fail me.

Charles, you want to convince me that I was wrong to say you're ignoring the Bush administration's crimes in favor of screaming abuse at Amnesty International, or Newsweek, for talking about them?

This isn't about convincing, Jes, this is about you deliberately mischaracterizing my expressly written views with utterly false statements. You would be more honest if you just said "I don't believe what Charles says about it" rather than disengenuously stating a position that I never claimed. But if you don't believe what I write anyway, what's the point of conversing? Your call.

e have a system of checks and balances, and there are at least a dozen investigations taking place, and I hope that we can get these problems fixed. I hope we can get a bipartisan presidential commission started to truly address this problem.

The hell with that. If detainee abuse is a problem -- and you have long since conceded that it is -- then screw some bullshit "bipartisan commission" to "address" something. That's the kind of government solution you would mock if a Democrat came up with it.

President Bush can end the abuse problem right now with a memo and a couple of phone calls. His number is 202-456-1111, and you can hit him up at president@whitehouse.gov . Call him, Charles. Contact the man who can change it. I dare you.

"Sadly, Amnesty International has lost its claim to impartiality because of the hostile statements made by its leaders."

So you think that they can't be impartial because they had the temerity to point out that the USA has decided that they have the right to dissapear people who are not US citizens from wherever they want whenever they want, holding them without trial or charges, and torturing people and/or shipping them out to other regimes for further torture. Is this the sort of thing thsy should just overlook in your opinion?

What were you expecting? Should the Amnesty International report have consisted of a happy face sticker and "Well Done! America is the bestest place in the world and can do no wrong by definition." written in red ink beside it? Wake the hell up and smell the fascism.

Cheers,

Naked Ape

Charles; This isn't about convincing, Jes, this is about you deliberately mischaracterizing my expressly written views with utterly false statements.

Hardly. This is about you not liking being judged by what and how you write. Too bad.

This is about you not liking being judged by what and how you write. Too bad.

Judging I can handle. What I do not accept are deliberate mischaracterizations that directly conflict with the actual words I've written. I find it disappointing that you are descending to this, and if you do not stop these disengenuous attacks, I suggest an arrangement similar to the one you have with Gary.

Charles: What I do not accept are deliberate mischaracterizations that directly conflict with the actual words I've written

That's okay then: I've done no such thing. I have judged you by what you wrote.

I suggest an arrangement similar to the one you have with Gary.

I have no "arrangement" with Gary.

"I suggest an arrangement similar to the one you have with Gary."

You mean the arrangment where Jes declares that I'm dishonest and incompetent, and then directly follows by asking that I never again bring that up, or ever expect an withdrawal or apology, which I see no reason to acquiese to? That arrangement?

"Now we have Mr. Bird posting numerous flame-baiting screeds in which he's allowed to push the boundries of reasonable discussion."

I'm not one of Charles' biggest fans here, and while I'm not in any camp calling for him to leave or stop posting here, I expect he'll survive the emotional shock if I allow that he's not my very favorite poster here.

But while I have my own critiques and strong disagreements with Charles, I'd like to note that he's also assaulted with equal or greater vigor here in comments, some of which are arguably entirely justified, but others of which range to fairly substance-free vitriol, with many merely in the mid-range. He also has to suffer the pile-on of many of the same points being reiterated to him in extremely harsh terms. It's worth noting that he's likely not at the actual "boundries of reasonable discussion" here as set by some and tolerated by managment. (Albeit there's an argument to be made for possibly holding posters to a higher standard than commenters; possibly.)

"Most notably on DaveC, whom I think would make a fine addition to the front-pagers. But, belaboring the obvious, that's their ball of wax--and I'm not convinced it's something he'd want to shoulder anyway."

I'm immensely uncomfortable making any comment that verges on, near, or actually engages in, personal characterizations in this context. But while I also enjoy many of DaveC's comments, and agree that he tends to come across as relatively low-key, low-confrontational, responsive, and reasonable, I'm also not sure he'd wish to shoulder the burden of striving to write so carefully and precisely as, and with the considerable attention to making appropriate and well-researched cites, I would suggest might be a goal of anyone who inevitably must defend their posts to a higher standard than that of a commenter. But, naturally, I don't mean to imply I have any role in any such decisions, and I, for one, would welcome my new alien overlord, DaveC. (Although I still contemplate my previously-unmentioned theory that "DaveC" and "DaveL" are one guy who flips a coin and then following the results, writes a "conserative" or "liberal" "Dave" comment.)

Although I still contemplate my previously-unmentioned theory that "DaveC" and "DaveL" are one guy who flips a coin and then following the results, writes a "conserative" or "liberal" "Dave" comment.

Somebody spends way too much time thinking about this stuff. ;-)

Or, more briefly, no.

You mean the arrangment where Jes declares that I'm dishonest and incompetent, and then directly follows by asking that I never again bring that up, or ever expect an withdrawal or apology, which I see no reason to acquiese to? That arrangement?

I can see it going there, Gary.

I have judged you by what you wrote.

No you haven't. You have made statements about my positions that are completely and utterly false. I expect a full retraction. If you repeat those false statements as if they are fact, you will be purposefully lying about my positions.

Charles: No you haven't.

Yes, I have.

Life's tough, Charles. When you write what you do, the way you do it, about the topics you choose to write about, you can expect to be judged on that basis. And so you have been. You can't expect me to reverse that judgement just for your asking: you would need to get me to change my mind about you, and the only way for you to do that would be to change your behavior, long-term. Until you do that, you can hardly expect me to change my mind about you.

How much has it expended on genocide in Darfur and democide in Zimbabwe.

Asked and answered numerous times . I have written in response to this argument by you, Von and Sebastian Holsclaw so many times it makes me wonder, frankly, if you just refuse to acknowledge. There is no zero-sum rule in discussion of human rights abuses here and absent any proof (which has clearly been absent) that the mentioning abuses by the US means that abuses by Sudan and Zimbabwe are being ignored, perhaps you should choose a more valid argument.

Your argument, frankly, has as much validity as the following exchange that took place between me and a right-winger I used to work with as he put up a picture of himself shaking hands with G. Gordon Liddy:

Me: "Why are you putting up a picture of yourself with that man? He's a convicted felon."

Right-winger ex-colleague: "So is Nelson Mandela."

Never mind the fact that there was not a picture of Nelson Mandela in my cubicle. It was a way to shift the argument from his embrace of a convicted felon just as your argument has been to shift the focus of your embrace of an administration that has sought ways to bend the laws contravening torture to an organization that has sought to hold them to account for having bent those laws to the point of breakage.

"I have written in response to this argument by you, Von and Sebastian Holsclaw so many times it makes me wonder, frankly, if you just refuse to acknowledge."

My observation is that it's likely that none of the three read every comment here; they often seem to even be unaware of posts by the others. This can be frustrating, to be sure.

"It was a way to shift the argument from his embrace of a convicted felon ...."

Sure, but, obviously, his point that simply because someone is a convicted felon doesn't mean they can't be an admirable and good person is valid, no matter that you and I would both agree it doesn't follow that, therefore, all convicted felons, or G. Gordon Liddy, are/is admirable and good. The number of lefty icons who are/were convicted felons is rather long ("why are you putting up a picture of Eugene Debs? He's a convicted felon!"). In other words, you were making a bad argument in favor of a reasonable point.

Noting that your point (admiring G. Gordon Liddy is dubious) remains reasonable is fair; objecting to a valid argument being made against your apparent invalid attempt to go to the short-hand that "convicted felon" means something like "automatically can't be admired" isn't fair.

There is no zero-sum rule in discussion of human rights abuses here and absent any proof (which has clearly been absent) that the mentioning abuses by the US means that abuses by Sudan and Zimbabwe are being ignored, perhaps you should choose a more valid argument.

Randy, I never said there was a "zero sum rule". In fact, the body of my post gives examples from eight other countries where there are discussions of human rights abuses, including Sudan. You cannot answer these very simple questions of Amnesty International: what are their top priorites, to which countries do they allocate their resources and how much, who are their major contributors, what are their objective measures, do they have a system for ranking the 149 countries they cover. You can't answer these questions because either they won't tell you or they do not objective measures in place. Without a ranking system, their reports are a cataloguing of shortcomings, but without any discrete moral distinctions made between the countries.

Actually Charles, since I used to do new member orientations from 1987 to 1996 for AI in the AIUSA national headquarters I know exactly what their mission is. They have a three part mandate:

1.) Immediate release of all prisoners of conscience. A prisoner of conscience is defined as someone who has been imprisoned solely on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, political beliefs provided that they have not used nor advocated violence.

2.) Fair and prompt trials for all prisoners. These people may have used or advocated violence. AI would not call for their immediate release, but would insist that they be tried fairly and promptly in accordance with internationally recognized judicial standards.

3.) The abolition of torture and the death penalty in all cases.

As for the rest of your question regarding money, why not request a copy of their annual report and enlighten yourself. Is that so hard?

One thing I was always taught in training was that AI did not rank countries on a scale of worst to least worst abuser. Amnesty reported as much information as could be obtained tried to verify as much as possible and when wrong (e.g. the false accusations of Kuwaiti babies being pulled out of incubators and thrown to the floor) acknowledged it.

If you think that they are failing their mission by not ranking and "making discrete moral distinctions between the countries," I have to humbly disagree. Your high dudgeon is largely reserved for the use of language, not the acts which led to that use. What you call a catalogue of shortcomings has been one of the most reliable comprehensive reports on human rights and one that the US Department of State routinely found reliable for its annual human rights. Apparently no one was bothered until the US started getting criticized.

Again, asked and answered to the best of my ability.

Gary,

It might have been fair if I actually had a picture of Nelson Mandela in my cubicle. You weren't there and simply writing his response doesn't do it justice more than ten years later. He screamed at em "So was Nelson Mandela!" (AI, by the way would not have considered and did not consider Mandela a prisoner of conscience) In any event, comparing a man who was imprisoned for treason in a country that denied him the right to vote and countless other rights solely on the basis of his race and one who unrepentantly sought to aid a president in what may have been the greatest abuse of power in our nation's history is truly risible.

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Whatnot


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