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June 09, 2005

Comments

Randy, to be fair, if I saw a colleague putting up a picture of themselves shaking hands with a convicted felon, I'd most likely, and politely, say nothing - and expect the same politeness from them, should I put up a picture of me shaking hands with, well, Nelson Mandela. (Not that I have. But if I had, I surely would want it up on my wall.)

If I were the colleague's employer and it was a space where people from outside the company might see the picture, I suppose I might feel I had to consider whether it was good for the reputation of the company to have a picture like that on the wall.

The only pictures I've ever objected to at work are those overtly sexual in content.

I don't doubt your colleague was rude to you. But I think Miss Manners would say the first discourtesy was yours...

Not that I disagree with your initial point: 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. Why yes, I think Charles does refuse to acknowledge facts when they don't suit him. His claim that AI lacks transparency when he's been told where and how to find the facts he demands is... well, ludicrous.

Charles in rereading your post I have to ask you this: do you know how many local AI groups are working on prisoner of conscience (POC) cases involving Cuba? Do you know how many are participants in the Caribbean Regional Action Network (CARRAN) and are working on issues involving Cuba? How many groups are working on POC cases in Saudi Arabia?

Do you know how manyy are working in the PIRAN Regional Action Network. How about PABRAN? Have you investigated what the groups in the town where you live are working on? Are you familiar with the fact that much of AI's work is done on a grassroots basis and your comments about issues culled from their website is an incredibly incomplete picture.

Jesusgirlac,

Well he did call the picture to my attention and played Rush Limbaugh every day on his desktop radio. He loved to bait people.

Randy: Well he did call the picture to my attention

Oh, well, in that case, no - you were within your rights to comment! Sorry, I didn't realise that: I somehow got the impression that you'd seen the picture and commented on it out of the blue, which would (IMO) be against the rules of workplace politeness.

and played Rush Limbaugh every day on his desktop radio.

Urk. Deserved everything he got, from what I've heard of Rush Limbaugh...

"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."

I won't speak for Charles, but I think AI is failing their mission by ranking and making discrete moral distinctions between countries which are the inverse of the distinctions they ought to make. Calling for the arrest of US officials for their alleged part in the torture of a small number of people while not calling for the same in the case of Mugabe (who is killing tens of thousands) or Castro (who has allowed hundreds of political prisoners to die every year in his hell-holes since before I was born) is not failing to make a distinction.

It is making a distinction and deciding that the US is worse.

"Castro (who has allowed hundreds of political prisoners to die every year in his hell-holes since before I was born)...."

Without, of course, defending Castro or his political repression: hundreds every year? Are you sure? Do you have a cite for such a figure? (I assume you do, or you wouldn't have said it.)

Sebastian, Pinochet's arrest in the UK was based on an alleged crime against Spanish citizens and an extradition request from Spain.

Has Mugabe run afoul of anyone but his own citizens? I do not mean to belittle his possible crimes against humanity, but that does not seem to be a legal basis for any other country to act.

Perhaps we might envision a world where all such leaders are held to account, but we are far from that.

They have not called for an arrest. They have called for an investigation. You have moved from impugning their motives to simply refusing to correct false statements of fact. Amnesty, for all its impugning of the political leaders you are fond of, and for its refusal to grade on a curve including Mugabe so the U.S. can pass as Charles wishes them too*--and they do go over the top, though the ratio is not as ridiculous as that of many of the conservatives on this site--does not make false statements of fact about them, and in your voluminous posts complaining about them and justifying yourself for ignoring them, I'm not sure you've ever pointed to one. When they do make factual errors they promptly correct them and they certainly don't go repeating them.

Amnesty USA called for an investigation, and an arrest only if that investigation gave sufficient proof that crimes have been committed. I agree that it was a mistake, and that while their substantive position on what should happen to people like Mugabe is in fact not all that different, their tone is different and that difference in tone is a mistake. But you know about Mugabe's crimes to some depart because members of Amnesty have risked their lives reporting them, and your descent into being outraged primarily by the outrage is really disheartening.

*hilzoy's post is the best I've seen recently on the Amnesty flap, but the best one liner is this, from slacktivist:

"But, good God, is this what America is now reduced to? Do we really have to go all the way over to Stalin or Saddam to find an example of someone whose behavior is reassuringly worse than our own? How are we supposed to maintain a shred of pride in our nation or in ourselves as a people when the best we can say for ourselves is that we're Not As Bad As the worst people we can think of? Do we really need Stalin in the class to blow the curve so we can pass this course?"

Charles' call for a rating system seem to me to be a desire to be graded on a curve with if not Stalin himself, his closest modern equivalents--Mugabe, Kim Jong Il, Karimov, Castro, etc.--so that we can pass the course. I cannot think what other useful purpose it would serve.

I suggest you try this search of AI's news for Zimbabwe if you feel they are giving insufficient attention to it.

"Amnesty USA called for an investigation, and an arrest only if that investigation gave sufficient proof that crimes have been committed. I agree that it was a mistake, and that while their substantive position on what should happen to people like Mugabe is in fact not all that different, their tone is different and that difference in tone is a mistake."

The call for investigation is a dodge. You could make the exact same call for investigation and arrest about Castro, or Mugabe, or Kim. Choosing to do so ONLY in the case of US officials is not something that was forced on anyone. It reflects a prioritization choice.

The tone is different, but the difference in tone was almost certainly not a mistake in the sense of the word which means unfortunate accidental happenstance. It is probably more a mistake in the sense of a gaffe.

Ral, I presume you are aware that I linked to this far more comprehensive AI listing of reports on Zimbabwe in my post on the subject? Or were you talking to someone else?

Sebastian, it will take me some time to formulate a response and I have to leave for now. I have too much to say for a quick answer (sorry I started without being able to finish).

It is making a distinction and deciding that the US is worse.

No, it is including the US and you are making the decision that you feel that they are saying that the US is worse.

There is a difference.

Charles' call for a rating system seem to me to be a desire to be graded on a curve with if not Stalin himself, his closest modern equivalents--Mugabe, Kim Jong Il, Karimov, Castro, etc.--so that we can pass the course. I cannot think what other useful purpose it would serve.

Katherine, apparently my reference to "reasonably objective measures" did not sink in. The purpose is not to compare one country to another but to compare each country to universal standards set forth by AI, in keeping with its own vision statement, those "enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards."

Charles claims: The purpose is not to compare one country to another but to compare each country to universal standards set forth by AI

Yet in your initial post, you said (of AI): "

So, clearly, your purpose in suggesting a ratings system is to compare one country to another. What else is a ratings system for? Why try to claim that's not what you want?

Charles claims: The purpose is not to compare one country to another but to compare each country to universal standards set forth by AI

Yet in your initial post, you said (of AI): "This is a group in dire need of some perspective, and the first thing they should do is institute a rating system for each of the 149 countries it covers, with significant ratings downgrades when denied access. If they're unable to quantify (using reasonably objective measures) which countries are the biggest to smallest human rights violators, by what basis do they allocate their resources?"

So, clearly, your purpose in suggesting a ratings system is to compare one country to another. What else is a ratings system for? Why try to claim that's not what you want? (And if you're genuinely interested in how AI allocates its resources, why not follow up the links you have been given in this thread, find out, and then - if you see fit - you can criticize from a informed position, rather than from a position of willed ignorance.)

(Sorry for the glitch in the previous comment: undeleted angles bracket.)

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.

Um. When we're talking about something as abhorrent as systemic violations of fundamental human rights, it seems to me that "discrete moral distinctions made between the countries" is a road we hardly need to travel down.

Look at it this way: Aside from, say, the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sins, and the Bible's mention of The Big One as "blaspheming the Holy Spirit," there is no ranked system of sin. Sin is sin, and all sins are equal in the eyes of god, no? The only reason for you, as an example, to suppose that Charles Starkweather, for example, is a "bigger sinner" than you is to feel better about yourself, not to say anything real about how serious your sins are.

Sebastian, in re: The call for investigation is a dodge. You could make the exact same call for investigation and arrest about Castro, or Mugabe, or Kim. Choosing to do so ONLY in the case of US officials is not something that was forced on anyone. It reflects a prioritization choice.

Does it make a difference at all that, in the case of the U.S., we are accused of violating the rights of citizens of other countries, whereas for all their horrors the crimes of Castro et al. are, as it were, self-directed? I think that's the distinction AI is making, and whether you agree with their conclusions or not, it's not a trivial difference.

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