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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Unveils New U.S. Human Rights Policy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Georgetown University

That Hillary Clinton–she just keep on truckin’–doing her best to make the world a better place. In a speech at Georgetown University this morning, Clinton announced a new human rights agenda for the U.S., putting the emphasis on “principled pragmatism.”putting the emphasis on what she called “principled pragmatism.”

Just days after President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize while defending the concept of a just war, Clinton outlined a human rights policy calling for people to be free from tyranny but also free to “seize the opportunities of a full life.”

Human rights experts said the speech was important, coming at a time when the Obama administration’s message on human rights had become increasingly muddied but they said the proof would be in the administration’s actions.

[….]

Clinton said a commitment to human rights started with universal principles. She noted that Obama wanted Guantanamo prison closed and had issued an executive order his second day in office prohibiting the use of torture by any U.S. official.

She said the United States would report next year on human trafficking both at home and abroad, and would participate in a U.N. review of “our own human rights record, just as we encourage other nations to do.”

Human rights advocate “Sarah Mendelson, head of the Human Rights and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies” said that Clinton’s speech signaled a change from the policies of the Bush administration, but only if the Obama administration follows through.

Unfortunately, at this point we are all a little skeptical about Obama’s motives and goals, but at least he apparently approved of Clinton’s *words.* Here is a little more from the speech:

“Now, the champions of human potential have never had it easy. We may call rights inalienable, but making them so has always been hard work. And no matter how clearly we see our ideals, taking action to make them real requires tough choices. Even if everyone agrees that we should do whatever is most likely to improve the lives of people on the ground, we won’t agree on what course of action fits that description in every case. That is the nature of governing. We all know examples of good intentions that did not produce results. And we can learn from instances in which we have fallen short. Past failures are proof of how difficult progress is, but we do not accept claims that progress is impossible.”

At Vox Populi, the Georgetown blog, there was a little more detail about Clinton’s appearance. It sounds like it was a popular event even though it’s finals week:

They were reading textbooks intently in the stairwell of Gaston Hall before the event, and proofreading their essays as they waited to be let out of the Hall afterwards, but despite being in the heat of finals season, Georgetown students had packed Gaston Hall by 11:15 a.m. to hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak about the Obama Administration’s Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century at noon.

At the end of Clinton’s speech, students were allowed three questions, and they were good ones:

Students asked about how the U.S. can protect LGBT rights in Uganda, where there is pending legislation to make homosexuality an offense punishable by death, and to balance support for Iranian protesters while pursuing a security strategy.

Clinton said the U.S. had expressed its concerns about the anti-LGBT legislation directly and indirectly, and that Iran was “a good example of a hard call.”

In that case, they “didn’t want attention to be shifted from the legitimate concerns to the United States” by speaking out too vehemently she said.

Finally, a student asked about the role of artists in the campaign for human rights, to which Clinton said, “artists are one of the most effective tools we have” for promoting human rights.

You can watch the video of the speech here.

I’m so happy that Clinton talked about both the Uganda situation and human trafficking. If only she can hold Obama’s feet to the fire and get him to go beyond “just words.” If anyone can do that, it’s Hillary!

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Is it the Y chromosome?

Honestly, I know enough biology to know that it can’t be. It just can’t. And yet how else to explain the sudden ignorance of a guy as sharp as Bob Somerby? He’s talking about Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow beating up on Stupak for tribalistic, Village reasons.
Somerby finds that inappropriate.

For ourselves, we think pro-choice groups have every right to bail on the bill if they decide it ends up affecting choice in unacceptable ways. But then, we also think that anti-abortion groups have the right to make the same sort of decision. That is, to jump ahead just a bit: We assume that different people, acting in good faith, may judge the morality of a measure in different ways.

Leaving Olbermann and Maddow aside, this is the first time I’ve seen Somerby completely miss a question of right and wrong.

What if the amendment read, “Hair straightening is unnatural and immoral. No medical costs associated with complications can be paid for using any Federal tax dollars.” Would he be as tolerant of that viewpoint? Male circumcision is an unnecessary procedure whose only health benefit comes from compensating for poor hygiene (or, in the case of AIDS, from the unnaturally thickened skin of the glans). Would he be as quick to understand people with moral objections to the deformation of men? (Note to the humor-challenged: I’m paralleling anti-abortion attitudes, not actually arguing for a specific kind of anatomy.) If I felt it was immoral and harmful to everyone to overpopulate the planet, and attached an amendment saying that no Federal money should ever be spent on pregnancy, childbirth, or infants after the second child, would he sagely say my morality could become law if I had the votes?

I could have all the morals I want about these things. As soon as I tried to make anyone else live according to them, I would be wrong.

Stupak and Pitts deserve disgrace for trying to take away our rights. It has nothing to do with morals, Stupak’s, mine, or the man in the moon’s. Rights. The right to control our own medical procedures. The right to control our bodies. Rights. Get it?

So, no, “different people, acting in good faith” may not judge a law about rights in different ways. Not even when it’s a law about women’s medical rights.

What is so hard to understand about this? Even with the handicap of a Y chromosome?

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Can Honour Killing In Muslim Communities Be Ended Through Islam?

Recent events in the United States and Canada, in which fathers and families treat their daughters in an inexcusable manner, compel me to release this draft of an incompletely distilled paper. I apologize for its length, but the topic is not amenable to a series of posts, and it may offer some understanding as to why these practise exist and what might be done to change them.

Aqsa Parvez was strangled to death in her Mississauga home, Peel police said today.
An autopsy revealed the cause of death as “neck compression.” The 16-year-old was taken to hospital Monday morning after a man called police and said he killed his daughter. She died later that night. Friends told reporters that Aqsa fought with her Muslim family over whether or not to wear the hijab. She often stayed overnight with friends, afraid to go home, they said. Her father, Muhammad Parvez, 57, appeared in court today and will face either a first- or second-degree murder charge. He was denied bail and remanded into custody until a hearing via video link on Jan. 29.

Why did Aqsa Parvez’s father strangle her to death? Why is the honour killing of women, over perceived or actual improprietous conduct, a feature of practice among some Muslim communities? Why do these communities enforce such rigourous and strict regulation of women’s conduct? Given that many of these killings violate both the word and the spirit of the Koran and the prophet, why does the practice persist? In this brief essay, I sketch the physical and social conditions that lead to the emergence of the structures that control women’s conduct within the Muslim communities that practice honour killing. I show that the more stringent control structures are artifacts from pre-Islamic Bedouin communities. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the gender-based honour killings that are features of these structures violate Islamic principles and law. In fact, much of the structure of social control goes against the principle that the practice of Islam is a matter of internal conviction. Continue reading