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Tag: "human rights"

The Problem With Online Petitions

[ 8 ] March 29, 2010 |

I recently suggested LGM readers support a Department of Justice Rule-making process on prison reform. I probably should have added that it’s not enough – not nearly enough – to simply log into the site and click “send” on the form letter they offer.

In fact, if you did that already, you pretty much wasted your time. That’s because DoJ doesn’t care how many individual constituents support or oppose prison reform per se. They couldn’t care less, in fact. All they care about is how to create the best possible set of rules, so what they want most are informed, carefully thought out, unique comments.

Congress cares about numbers, of course. Congress’s job is to pass laws, and because we elect our congressional leaders they care a great deal about the popularity of those laws.

Federal agencies are pretty much the reverse. They are tasked with implementing laws, and they are staffed by civil servants. Their job is not to get re-elected, it is to figure out how to produce collective goods.

Citizen input in federal rule-makings is not about the popularity of a particular rule. Rather, it’s about more heads being better than few – it’s about tapping the experiential, procedural, scientific and everyday expertise of the American people. The federal rule-making process is one of the truly deliberative mechanisms in our country. What the public comment process is supposed to produce is useful substantive citizen input on what the rule should look like.

What does this have to do with online petitions? Read more…


Unsubstantiated Human Security Headline of the Month

[ 2 ] March 24, 2010 |

I see even Huffington Post picked up this ridiculous headline mucking around on the Internets. At Spiked, Brendan O’Neill offered a helpful hysteriagraphy historiography of the meme a few days back. A report last year debunked the idea that there is a link between mega-sporting-events and sex slavery.

John Nolte is outraged on behalf of topless women everywhere.

[ 44 ] March 23, 2010 |

It goes without saying that John Nolte will write something like this:

Annually we are showered with Leftist films created by morally superior beings who lecture us on human rights, civil rights, feminism, lookism, racism and any other “ism” they can conceive, when in real life they’re the very worst in all of these departments.

He honestly believes that because some people on the left are sexist or racist, everyone on the right is morally superior despite, you know, supporting policies designed to protect the interests of white males. In this case, his ire is raised by a New York Post article about the casting call for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie:

The filmmakers sent out a casting call last week seeking “beautiful female fit models. Must be 5ft7in-5ft8in, size 4 or 6, no bigger or smaller. Age 18-25. Must have a lean dancer body. Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants.” And they warn that there’ll be a “show and tell” day. To make sure LA talent scouts don’t get caught in a “booby trap,” potential lassies will have to undergo a Hollywood-style jiggle-your-jugs test and jog for judges.

Nolte is outraged on behalf of surgically-enhanced women everywhere:

This isn’t some sleazy porn peddler in the valley doing this, this is…Disney. DISNEY is going to subject and exploit young women desperate to be stars to the indignity of a booby ”show and tell.” DISNEY is going to have them jog in place for producers and casting agents in order to keep score of the bounciness of their breasts.

Not only is this a case of discrimination against women whose only crime was undergoing a dangerous surgical procedure in order to enhance their appeal to sexists like Nolte, it involves a particularly dehumanizing “booby ‘show and tell'” in which woman will be asked to “jog in place for producers and casting agents in order to keep score of the bounciness of their breasts.” How does he know this? It says so right in the actual, unexpurgated casting call:

Must be 5’7-5’8, Size four or six – no bigger or smaller. Age 18 to 25. Must have a lean dancer body. Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants. This is a show and tell of costumes with the director and the producers. Plan on an entire day of trying on clothes and being photographed.

Sticklers might insist that the prepositional phrase “of costumes” modifies “show and tell,” and that there’s nothing in the casting call about actresses being asked to “jog in place” so producers and casting agents can “keep score of the bounciness of their breasts.” Since it’s not in the casting call, where did this idea of a “booby ‘show and tell'” in which a parade of topless women jiggle only what the good Lord gave them come from? Where else?

The imagination of John Nolte.

The man can’t even defend hypothetical women without undressing them in his mind. This isn’t to say the casting call isn’t sexist, because like most items relating to Hollywood and the female form, it clearly is. The point here, as usual, is that conservatives who like to think of themselves as morally superior to liberals when it comes to racial or gender equality always reveal themselves to be purveyors of the very ills they decry. In this respect, Nolte is no different than affirmative action opponents who offer, as proof that we live in a post-racial society, the fact that there’s a nigger in the White House.

DoJ Opens Rulemaking on Prison Rape

[ 23 ] March 22, 2010 |


On March 10, 2010, the Department of Justice opened a 60-day public comment period on national standards addressing sexual abuse in detention. Released last June by a bipartisan federal commission, these common-sense measures have the potential to help end sexual abuse in detention. But the standards are opposed by some powerful corrections leaders. These officials argue that it is too expensive to stop prisoner rape, and they seem to have a great deal of influaence over the Department of Justice.

As I’ve argued before, this is an important one for progressives to weigh in on.
A 2001 Human Rights Watch report showed an epidemic of prison rape in the US; and the final report of Congress’s Congressional National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, released last June, found that nearly 60,000 inmates have suffered sexual abuse in US prisons. It also showed that more prisoners are abused by staff than by other inmates, and that gender minorities are at the greatest risk.

NPREC’s original recommendations were that 5% of federal funding for prisons be contingent on states’ reduction in incidence rates in accordance with standards now being drafted by the Attorney General. I haven’t yet read which provisions made it into the proposed rule, but I would argue that 5% may be much too low a penalty to check such well-entrenched abuse; and at any rate the federal government will also need to consider providing resources for states to implement the standards, which would involve a significant overhauling of prison culture.

When you contact Attorney General Holder with your thoughts, refer to Docket No. OAG-131.

You can try out our latest 70-272 and 70-693 training courses to get flying success in final 70-573 & 70-690 exams; F50-531 is also very useful tool.

60 Minutes Expose on Haiti’s Children

[ 2 ] March 21, 2010 |

Watch CBS News Videos Online

I knew about some of the issues of unaccompanied children in Haiti (like other disaster areas) but I did not know about Haiti’s hidden slave population and the way the earthquake may have exacerbated the problem.

How to Run a Maritime Militia

[ 14 ] March 18, 2010 |

The UNSC-mandated Monitoring Group on Somalia presented its report to the Security Council Tuesday. The part of the report detailing corruption in the distribution of humanitarian aid is getting all the press, but for my money the most interesting part of the report is the discussion of piracy, which has morphed into a multi-million dollar business replete with investors and an informal business model. It’s all outlined on p. 99 of the report, but I’ve reproduced it below the fold for inquiring minds.

Read more…

Force Protection, Civilian Protection or Both?

[ 1 ] March 18, 2010 |

The DoD’s updated rules of engagement in Afghanistan beg the question. These rules – such as holding your fire unless you are certain a target is an actual combatant, withdrawing from fire-fights in civilian-populated areas, more reliance on ground troops and less on air raids – are meant to reduce collateral damage from military operations. But critics have claimed it leaves US troops to fight with one hand tied behind their backs, increasing the risk to soldiers in order to protect civilians.

Sarah Holewinski and James Morin have an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor arguing that it’s not necessarily a zero-sum arrangement:

Safeguarding civilians and taking care of soldiers are not mutually exclusive. Killing civilians fuels distrust and hatred among the population. That increases the risks for troops and their mission. Protecting the population isn’t political correctness; it’s a vital military objective and a distinct advantage over an enemy that uses civilians as shields.

They’re on track in a strategic sense: winning the support of the civilian population is crucial in COIN wars, and it’s only possible if you can protect civilians. But I’m not sure that a confluence of strategic-humanitarian gains mean net gains or absence of net losses in force protection. I can see plenty of cases in Afghanistan and elsewhere where the more precautions one takes to avoid collateral damage, the more troops will be put at risk. In Kosovo, it was the difference between using air power vs. putting boots on the ground; and between flying at 15,000 feet where pilots were safe from ground-to-air fire v. flying lower where they could actually see their targets. In Gaza more recently, it was the difference between accepting military casualties from sniper fire and using white phosphorous smoke bombs for troop cover, albeit in areas where collateral damage from was likely to be high. So there may indeed be trade-offs between force protection and civilian protection, and we might as well admit it.

But so what? Read more…

Current “Current Intelligence”

[ 0 ] March 13, 2010 |

It’s been a busy week for me adjusting to new blog formats in multiple spaces. So while LGM readers wait for their heads to stop spinning at this site’s facelift, I encourage them to hop on over and check out the new Current Intelligence site, also just renovated this week.

Current Intelligence
, where I post from time to time about the laws of war, used to be an off-shoot of Complex Terrain Lab but is now an online journal with a blog, a set of more formal foreign policy columnists including my Duck of Minerva co-blogger Jon Western, and a “Letters from Abroad” series in which the site’s bloggers report from places they visit, like Durban, South Africa and Varanasi, India. Our illustrious editor actually convinced me to contribute a piece on New Orleans as a “letter from abroad” – something you can actually do at an online journal where political community is understood to be delimited by something other than sovereign territorial boundaries. Snippet:

“It was corporate hotel culture I and my colleagues visited, not New Orleans per se.The gap between physical and social place-ness struck me all week, just as it does when I “pass through” sovereign territorial-legal spaces while never leaving the neo-medieval corridors of international airports – each of which aims to present a caricature of national culture but all of which function as carriers instead of a global culture, one characterized by spaces of liminality and heterogeneity. And yet one’s experience in such spaces borders on strictly homogeneous from a class perspective. We find ourselves compartmentalized from others around us not by geography or language but by norms, rules, uniforms and political economies… Transnational conference sites are like this too. They are hyped up as opportunities to visit a locale, interface with a population, affect local understandings, but they are actually transnational sites in which cleavages are based on capital.”

Anyway. Current Intelligence covers foreign affairs, asymmetric conflict, war law and post-Westphalian political geography. It’s a fabulous community that includes a number of excellent bloggers such as Chris Albon (ConflictHealth is one of the finest human security sites I know of), Tim Stevens who also blogs at Ubiwar, and of course Mike Innes who blogs at Monkwire and is behind the whole thing.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

Equal Opportunity Water-boarding

[ 8 ] March 12, 2010 |

Karl Rove defends mock drowning once again in his new memoir. After all, we do it to our own troops during training to help them learn to withstand torture. Not that it is.

A more forgiving assessment from Peter Feaver. Helpful roundup of responses from The Atlantic Wire.

Human Security Stuff I’m Too Busy To Blog About

[ 1 ] March 11, 2010 |

JEM fighters will put down their arms for the opportunity to join the Sudanese army at 500 euros a head. Perhaps this will slow conflict-related violence in the region, perhaps not. Human Security Report data from earlier this year reminded us that most of the deaths in Darfur since 2005 are from diarrhea, not violence, so question is will this new deal make it easier or harder to get aid to civilians?

Julian Ku reports that the HRC is weighing in on military commissions… and being ignored by the Obama Administration.

India has passed a law requiring 33% of parliamentary seats to be reserved for women. But why only 30%? (Finland’s quota requires parity.) Recent research on the proliferation of gender quota norms worldwide asks us to consider variation in the percentage of quotas enshrined in election laws and also the conditions under which they’re effective.

An interesting debate is happening at DoDBuzz about the US refusal to join the Cluster Munitions Treaty, about to come into force. Jason Sigger comments here.

Nigeria is conducting arrests and investigating suspects involved in last week’s ethnic violence.

On top of the notorious problem of pirate attacks on aid shipments, looks like half of the aid that reaches Somali shores gets diverted before it reaches the hungry. Don’t forget this is often the price humanitarians pay in conflict zones for access to civilians. Still, one would think the UN should at least be able to prevent its local staff from stealing it for themselves.

Brian Greenhill has a new paper in International Studies Quarterly analyzing the relationship between international organization membership and the human rights performance of states.

Sweden has approved a parliamentary resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians by Turkey as genocide.
Last week a Congressional Committee in the US approved a similar resolution; Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador from the US in response.

Finally, Christopher Albon reviews the advance version of DoD’s new handbook on what GIs should do when faced with – wait for it! – civvie NGO workers in complex emergencies. You can download the pre-release draft here.

The Political Economy of Human Rights Advocacy

[ 1 ] March 10, 2010 |

James Ron has a guest post at Steve Walt’s blog about the problems of NGO dependence on Western funding. His argument is a logical extension of his earlier work with Alex Cooley on the negative externalities associated with the political economy of the NGO sector, and it also builds on newer scholarship critically assessing the relationship between domestic NGOs, targets of influence, third-party governments and private donors.

Ron offers an answer to the question in the title of his post: no, foreign funders should not stop donating to local human rights NGOs, but they should donate more wisely: Read more…

Happy International Women’s Day. Unless You’re Born Female in China.

[ 0 ] March 8, 2010 |

The Economist has a damning article about son preference and female infanticide in East Asia, and the negative impacts on societies and regional stability as well as on girls. Heartening to see an important global gender issue make the front page of such an influential weekly (though why it took them so long escapes me – Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer’s influential article, appeared in International Security almost ten years ago; now the Economist is writing as if it has “discovered” high sex-ratio societies just in time for International Women’s Day.)

Well, so be it. But while the Economist has global elites’ attention fleetingly focused on gender and “gendercide,” because of how it affects the state-system, let me update the framework on offer slightly:

a) In the past decade since Hudson and den Boer first called attention to Asia’s “Bare Branches” problem, they have also been working on developing a dataset of gender empowerment indicators that among other things has allowed them to test the hypothesis that gender equality, not democracy, is actually the best predictor of pacifist relations between sovereign governments. And gender equality means a whole lot more than keeping little girls alive. Let Obama think about that as he revamps Bush’s democracy promotion agenda in the service of global stability.

b) Ultimately, let’s not confuse global stability with human rights. “Securitizing” a problem like this can be useful, as I’ve often argued, but it can backfire. Natalie Hudson’s new book argues that the advocacy language that got women’s rights on the agenda at the UN Security Council has also hobbled it at the policy implementation stage. I can see the point of making policymakers care about female infanticide because the knock-on effects are bad for whole societies. But I’d like to think that we’d want it to end even if that weren’t the case: killing anyone because of the genitals they were born with is simply wrong.

c) This brings me to a final comment. As an advocacy trope it works… sort of. But as a concept “gendercide” ala Mary Warren has been usefully picked apart and expanded to include a whole range of mass killing practices in the last two decades – including those targeting men. It would be a shame to see it become synonymous now primarily with the issue of sex-selective abortion as a security problem.

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