Saturday, March 05, 2005

World Opinion

The role of "World Opinion" has played prominently in two stories I've been following this week. It's a topic I've alluded to before, and one about which I find the stance of many Americans and, particularly, the Bush administration, both fascinating and horrifying.
In the Supreme Court's ruling that execution of minors constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, world opinion is cited in both Anthony Kennedy's opinion for the majority and Antonin Scalia's dissent. Kennedy says that the fact that execution of minors is banned throughout the rest of the world was a factor in the majority's holding that standards have evolved to the point where it must now be excluded from the American judicial system. Scalia, on the other hand, excoriated the majority for allowing world opinion to figure into their opinion.
Scalia may have been appointed to the court by President Reagan, but in his comments this week, he personifies the Bush administration's "Up Yours" attitude towards the world.
That attitude was expressed -- and then retracted -- by the administration's United Nations team this week when it insisted on an amendment to a document reaffirming the closing declaration of the 1995 Beijing meeting of the United Nations Commission on Women. The U.S. -- actually I want to say the Bush administration, since I certainly do not consider myself party to their views -- wanted an amendment stating that abortion was not a human right, and that no "new" human rights were being created.
In the face of uniform opposition by THE ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD, the Bushies dropped the amendment and the document was adopted unanimously yesterday. But they held up the commission's meeting for an entire week with their foolishness, a development for which The New York Times rightly says the United States should apologize.
Here's why the Bush position was both ridiculous and outrageous: The 1995 declaration was non-binding, and specifically left enormous latitude on the issue of abortion by saying only that where it is legal it should be safe.
Is that what the Bushies are opposed to? Are they now going to tackle abortion by trying to ensure that it is unsafe even where legal?
Ellen Sauerbrey, once an obnoxious right-wing candidate for governor of Maryland and now a Bush administration thug who "represents" us at the current U.N. commission meeting, argues, as reported in the Times this morning, that her mischief "succeeded, I think, in achieving the goal that was very important to the United States -- that we have clarified that we are not creating new international human rights."
That's an important goal? NOT creating new human rights??
In the Bush administration's view, I guess, the fewer human rights the world recognizes, the better.
Hmmm.... Could they have been worried that protection against torture and execution would be considered human rights?

The Reuters report on the signing (courtesy of The Left Coaster) is a bit more colorful in its description of the humiliation of the United States. An excerpt:

"Jeers and catcalls greeted the top U.S. delegate to a global
women's conference on Friday as she stressed Washington's opposition to abortion
and support for sexual abstinence and fidelity."

Bottom line on this topic: Opposition to a statement affirming that women have human rights is simply offensive. Period.
Laura Bush and those drunken twins should be making it very clear to W that his team has humiliated the United States in the eyes of the world once again (excuse the nastiness, but these people do have a way of getting under my skin).
But anyway, I started out here planning to write about world opinion, and whether it should be important to the United States. Anyone who has read any of my postings probably has no question about where I stand on this.
Like it or not, we are part of a global community, and the more we embrace that community and welcome it as part of our family, the better the chances that our species will survive for a few more generations.
From a religious stance: God gave this world to all creatures, not just those in a particular geography. To workship Him, we must respect all of his creation.
From a more earthbound perspective, here are a few things I want to say:
Nationhood is an eroding concept.
I don't mean that national borders are about to fall and the one-world government is ready to take over (sorry, Apocalypse watchers). What I mean is that technology has made such enormous changes in the way we live and work, that every issue now must be considered in terms of its global implications.
In short, technology really has turned the Earth into a global village. It may take time for the political world to catch up, but there's plenty of evidence.
Right now, for example, I am writing to a web site that is globally accessible. Regimes in some countries may be trying to block receipt of electronic communications such as this, but they are fighting a losing battle.
The Internet has changed communication in ways that even television and the telephone did not in previous generations.
It has changed business. I work for a company that produces business software, specifically designed for global deployment over the web.
It has changed society. Bloggers and e-mailers around the world now stay in touch despite time differences and political borders.
It has changed news. We've all read about -- and sometimes participated in -- Gannongate, the Dan Rather persecution, and other recent stories in which the blogosphere filled in gaps left by the MSM. Some of the blogs from military personnel in Iraq seem to be the only way we get anything close to the truth.
It has changed politics. Many people -- like me, for instance -- first heard the term "blog" in relation to Howard Dean's grassroots campaign for the presidency last year. Dr. Dean now heads the Democratic party. The ether is full of blogs left and right that compete for attention. (see the left-hand column of this blog for links to some left-minded, left-handed blogs)
Technology has opened doors of communication that will never be closed, despite the efforts of policians to put up roadblocks. Where once physical isolation was sufficient to justify a nationalistic mindset, such a mindset is now a simple denial of reality.
I've read a few times lately that right now we are in a "golden age" of Internet freedom that will shortly disappear. Yes, that may be somewhat true. What we know today as the web and the "blogosphere" may change due to short-sighted and short-term political efforts such as one going on right now to regulate political speech on the Internet, but I believe that continued innovation will stay one step ahead of the regulators.