Bush II: Human rights
US sounds alarm on human rights, But critics say US guilty of torture by its definition.
Interestingly, the report includes a number of key US allies - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia - among the list of those with a somewhat suspect approach to treating people nicely.
Could Bush's second term finally see an end to the kind of hypocricy we've grown used to of ticking off countries America doesn't like for doing things key allies brazenly get away with right under the noses of US officials? Might Bush II see an attempt to follow a more progressive, Nixon-style foreign policy rather than the belligerent, Reagan-style approach we've seen over the last four years? Is this all just for show, or is this the beginning of a definite shift in approach?
Meanwhile, in Britain, Charles Clarke makes a mockery of the concept of parliamentary procedure, and the government's majority in passing the controversial (to put it mildly) bill proposing all kinds of authoritarian measures is reduced to 14. Clarke, despite making some minor last-minute concessions (surely demonstrating that the policy hasn't exactly been properly thought through?), has said that he will give no more.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, has condemned the government's proposals as a "profound injustice and affront to human rights and the rule of law".
Will President Bush now start ticking off Tony and co for their proposed human rights abuses? Considering the report finds space to give the UK a slap on the wrist for its overcrowded prisons, perhaps house arrests and control orders will actually be seen as an improvement...
Update: Hmmm... Could this human rights report be an attempt to compile a list of dodgy nations so that the US can quickly work out where to send people for "outsourcing"?
("Right, this chap's probably been a bit naughty - where can we send him where they'll deprive him of sleep, strip and blindfold him, and keep him in prolonged solitary confinement until he tells us what we want?"
"How about Egypt, Libya or Iran, boss?"
"Egypt it is! Right, son - you're off to see the Pharohs!")
Update 2: A rather nice overview of some of the political theory behind the current concerns in the UK, courtesy of the really rather good Transatlantic Assembly, taking in bits of Habermas, Mouffe and Laclau, and demonstrating nicely that there's really no need to rely on irrelevant 800 year old manuscripts to demonstrate that what the government is proposing is wrong:
"There is nothing more persuasive and illustrative of a liberty of a particular society as the expressed liberty of the intolerant. As it was mentioned in a metaphor of a tight-rope walker, the art of good exercise of state power is the art of the toleration of the intolerant or in other words a careful balancing of the wish to protect the constitutional order of the given state and the acceptance of the risk of its destruction. A drive towards absolute security is the main enemy of the ideal of a liberal-democratic state."Good stuff.
Update 3: Via Bloggerheads, the new Observer blog has a link not only to the list of which MPs voted which way (handy reference for the upcoming election), but also a transcript of a superb account from Barbara Follett MP of why detention orders should be anathema to the British way of life:
"In 1961, the South African Government introduced the General Law Amendment Act, which allowed people to be detained for 12 days without trial. By 1963, that had been extended to 90 days. By 1965, it was 180 days. Two years later, it became indefinite. At the same time, the apartheid regime was issuing control orders that restricted the right of some citizens to congregate, to work and, in some cases, to leave the confines of their own homes...
"My first husband was put under house arrest because the apartheid state believed that he was a threat to its security. He probably was; he was campaigning to give black people the right to vote and join trade unions. Given the structure of the South African state, he probably was threatening it because it believed that only whites could vote and join trade unions. House arrest hampered him, but did not stop him, which was probably why, just before his five-year order was due to expire, he was shot dead in front of our two young daughters in their bedroom. I tried to comfort them in the days that followed by telling them that we were going to go to Britain, where people were not detained without trial or put under house arrest."