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bartl
10-04-2006, 06:29 AM
The Military Commissions Act only allows the executive branch the power to recognize NON-CITIZENS as enemy combatants (a power which, before George Bush, the executive branch was always considered to have, by the way).

I am a bit more leery of the growing idea that a vaguely defined "international law" has precedence over U.S. jurisprudence. While it may sound like a good idea, remember that, in most of the world, unlike the United States, the idea of rights inherent in the people does not exist; rights are granted by the government. There has been a disturbing trend in the United States over the last couple of decades to create a de facto shift towards that philosophical backing here (such as the "hate crime" laws). Both left and right are gravitating towards this. In the 2000 debates between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio, they were asked a question about the Constitution GRANTING rights, and neither of them corrected it to RECOGNIZING rights. A friend of mine was studying to take the U.S. citizenship test. One of the questions in the practice test (published by the U.S. government, and Clinton WAS president at the time) was to name 3 rights "granted" by the first Amendment. I thought it was a trick question, but no. It was yet another subtle effort to change the United States from a social contract republic to a divine right one.

Rhydaman
10-05-2006, 06:12 AM
If those rights hadn't been set out in Constitutional Amendments - drawn up and promoted by those in power before their popular approval by the tiny franchise of the day, how would their "inherent" nature manifest itself? And how exactly do "inherent" rights mesh with the amendment process your constitution has? Was there an inherent right not to be a slave before 1865 or did it become inherent afterwards? What about the four years between the signing of the constitution and the passing of the first amendment? How about the right to sell alcohol - did this cease to become inherent, then reinhere?

All rights are granted through a political process, no matter what the rhetoric.

And I'm not exactly sure what this has to do with the US's obligations under treaties that it negotiated, signed and ratified. Nothing "vaguely defined" about them.

bartl
10-05-2006, 04:21 PM
If those rights hadn't been set out in Constitutional Amendments - drawn up and promoted by those in power before their popular approval by the tiny franchise of the day, how would their "inherent" nature manifest itself? And how exactly do "inherent" rights mesh with the amendment process your constitution has? Was there an inherent right not to be a slave before 1865 or did it become inherent afterwards? What about the four years between the signing of the constitution and the passing of the first amendment? How about the right to sell alcohol - did this cease to become inherent, then reinhere?
There may not appear to be a difference in practice, but there is a major difference in theory.


And I'm not exactly sure what this has to do with the US's obligations under treaties that it negotiated, signed and ratified. Nothing "vaguely defined" about them.
The obligations are contractual in nature, and enforced by the international community through diplomacy and warfare.

FunkyGreenJerusalem
10-14-2006, 04:57 PM
While it may sound like a good idea, remember that, in most of the world, unlike the United States, the idea of rights inherent in the people does not exist; rights are granted by the government.

As they are in the US.

The government grants it, and then it becomes a right.
Once it's out there, it can't be taken back, but it does have to be put out there.
Your romanticising your own countries history/policies with that sort of thinking bart - looking down on the rest of the world, for doing exactly what your country does.
African-Americans were granted equal rights by the government in your country bart - they now have an inherent right to it, which can't be taken back.

bartl
10-14-2006, 09:29 PM
The government grants it, and then it becomes a right. Once it's out there, it can't be taken back, but it does have to be put out there. Your romanticising your own countries history/policies with that sort of thinking bart - looking down on the rest of the world, for doing exactly what your country does.
African-Americans were granted equal rights by the government in your country bart - they now have an inherent right to it, which can't be taken back.
No, it was recognized that they always should have had equal rights. Read THE FEDERALIST PAPERS, or, if they're too long, the Declaration of Independence.

FunkyGreenJerusalem
10-14-2006, 09:37 PM
No, it was recognized that they always should have had equal rights. Read THE FEDERALIST PAPERS, or, if they're too long, the Declaration of Independence.

So they were inherent rights that they always had, but they only got them when the government decided to recognise them.

That's a big difference.

Iangould
10-14-2006, 09:44 PM
There may not appear to be a difference in practice, but there is a major difference in theory.


Only if you have some bizarre ideological need to convince yourself of the innate superiority of the United States.

bartl
10-15-2006, 07:51 AM
So they were inherent rights that they always had, but they only got them when the government decided to recognise them.

Rights in the United States are based on limitations on government. And yes, sometimes it takes time before rights are recognized. However, it's better than having a government that can take away "rights" by simple majority vote. Specifically, there's no such thing as thoughtcrime (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/manchester/6047514.stm) here.

NatGertler
10-15-2006, 08:50 AM
No, it was recognized that they always should have had equal rights. Read THE FEDERALIST PAPERS, or, if they're too long, the Declaration of Independence.???? The Declaration is not the document of the forming of a government, but the dissolution of a bond. It is not what our government is based on. In fact, I think folks would be horrified if the Declaration were to start being enforced; when we release all of our prisoners based on the right to liberty being inalienable, you'll hear calls for the Declaration to be rescinded.

Paul McEnery
10-15-2006, 10:08 AM
Rights in the United States are based on limitations on government. And yes, sometimes it takes time before rights are recognized. However, it's better than having a government that can take away "rights" by simple majority vote. Specifically, there's no such thing as thoughtcrime (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/manchester/6047514.stm) here.
That's simply untrue. Rights are not simply a limitation on government, but also a limitation on civil behaviour, which are enforced by the government.

Your argument depends upon the American view of government (or the state) as being alienated from the people. And last I looked, America is still pretending to be a democracy.

Ultimately, when a democratic government grants rights, it is the people asserting rights for themselves. Exactly the same goes for international law, which is the people of the entire planet asserting rights for themselves. You know, like the Geneva Convention, another piece of international law for which this administration has contempt.

The purpose of international law is to rein in the excesses and flaws of national governments on behalf of all people, to the extent that that is feasible. There are many cases when the European Court of Human Rights has overruled British law, and quite right too. I'd go so far as to say that that's the main reason the British left is so keen on Europe.

Of course the major American objection to international law is that the American Constitution begins with an ugly flaw that is unlikely to be addresed domestically, to wit, the primacy of property rights over civil rights. While such things as slavery, or needing to own property to get a vote, or women and children being considered as property, have been dissolved, the essential principle remains.

Of course, it's a principle that underlies American foreign policy, from the genocide of the Native Americans to the Monroe Doctrine to our current military adventurism; not to mention such financial instruments of power as the FTAA, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. Money matters more than people's civil liberties, or their democratic right to restrain the excesses of capital, or their right to live life the way they want to.

As international law becomes stronger, and a global consensus on the rights of labour and the shared interest in the environment become more prevalent, the US is going to find itself on the side of defending the rights of property over and above the rights of man.

That's what you're defending Bart (and Rick).

Paul McEnery
10-15-2006, 10:30 AM
Specifically, there's no such thing as thoughtcrime (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/manchester/6047514.stm) here.
Oh, and to just briefly address this: of course there is. Just ask Howard Stern or EC Comics. Just look at the blandness of American culture enforced not only by ridiculous obscenity laws but also by the American culture machine. Look at the kids in the Paradise Lost case, on death row for daring to like heavy metal.

Again, American philosophy defends free speech, but not freedom of expression. It asserts property rights over free speech. However, the 1948 Supreme Court ruling on Fighting Words does at least enshrine the principle (and the linguistic fact) that there's a difference between constative and performative speech acts; and that performative speech acts intended to incite violence are deserving of violence.

America, with it's bias towards individualism, draws the line at specific incitements to violence, but doesn't recognize the illegality of incitement to violence or discrimination (which is social violence) against groups.

Not that you'd know it from the way you carry on against those you consider anti-semites.

leonaozaki
10-15-2006, 12:29 PM
Specifically, there's no such thing as thoughtcrime (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/manchester/6047514.stm) here.

I think maybe Japanese Americans in 1942 would disagree with you.

rob

bartl
10-15-2006, 05:54 PM
???? The Declaration is not the document of the forming of a government, but the dissolution of a bond. It is not what our government is based on. In fact, I think folks would be horrified if the Declaration were to start being enforced; when we release all of our prisoners based on the right to liberty being inalienable, you'll hear calls for the Declaration to be rescinded.
The Declaration of Independence was superceded by the Articles of Confederation, which, in turn, was superceded by the Constitution. But it does set forward the basic philosophy behind the new government.

bartl
10-15-2006, 06:05 PM
Of course the major American objection to international law is that the American Constitution begins with an ugly flaw that is unlikely to be addresed domestically, to wit, the primacy of property rights over civil rights. While such things as slavery, or needing to own property to get a vote, or women and children being considered as property, have been dissolved, the essential principle remains.
Where in the U.S. Constitution does it mention needing property to get a vote, women and children being considered property, or, for that matter, allowing slavery (the last except by implication)? And where in the Constitution does it state that property rights were greater than personal rights?

Of course, it's a principle that underlies American foreign policy, from the genocide of the Native Americans
Can you show me where there was a policy of genocide on the part of the United States against the Native Americans? Or how the major factor in wiping out their populations was anything other than disease?

Not to mention such financial instruments of power as the FTAA, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. Money matters more than people's civil liberties, or their democratic right to restrain the excesses of capital, or their right to live life the way they want to.
Most Americans would be more than happy if all those instruments disappear tomorrow, but I do not see how their existence backs up your statements.

As international law becomes stronger, and a global consensus on the rights of labour and the shared interest in the environment become more prevalent, the US is going to find itself on the side of defending the rights of property over and above the rights of man.
When these bodies become interested in human rights, and less interested in reducing the power of the United States, the United States may pay attention.

bartl
10-15-2006, 06:14 PM
Oh, and to just briefly address this: of course there is. Just ask Howard Stern or EC Comics. Just look at the blandness of American culture enforced not only by ridiculous obscenity laws but also by the American culture machine. Look at the kids in the Paradise Lost case, on death row for daring to like heavy metal.
While there were problems with the fines levied based on the Howard Stern show, it was not those of thoughtcrime. The right to free speech does not include the right to have one's speech transmitted. There are limitations on the airwaves, and the current solution is for the federal government to regulate them, theoretically for the interest of all. Even Bill Clinton used the IRS rather than the FCC to silence his opponents on the air. And note that there are unregulated airwaves, like satellite radio, on which Howard Stern can broadcast anything he wants. EC Comics was closed down by voluntary efforts by the comics industry in fear of the possibility of government involvement, based on what would have been a misappropriation of the "clear and present danger" exception to the 1st amendment (to which you refer by example). There is evidence that the government was not going to act, but that it was more an effort by the larger comics companies to shut out the smaller ones from the market. Of course, if the government was more interested in property rights than human rights.

Again, American philosophy defends free speech, but not freedom of expression.
I really and truly do not understand this statement.

America, with it's bias towards individualism, draws the line at specific incitements to violence, but doesn't recognize the illegality of incitement to violence or discrimination (which is social violence) against groups.
Yes it does, in both cases, when violence actually occurs.

bartl
10-15-2006, 06:15 PM
I think maybe Japanese Americans in 1942 would disagree with you.
That has nothing to do with thoughtcrime, and was recognized as a violation of their rights even at the time; it was based on martial law. And they and their heirs DID receive compensation, later. Just because something is illegal doesn't mean that nobody breaks the law.

Steven Grant
10-15-2006, 07:30 PM
I'd agree with Bart that America is arguably the first nation that recognized that the rights of men were inalienable, which doesn't mean that they do not exist until a government chooses to recognize them but that any government that does not recognize them is illegitimate, though the concept certainly didn't originate in America, it simply found receptive ground here for a number of historical and cultural reasons. That said, America has certainly found it convenient during its history to ignore its principle concept.

And if the rights of men are inalienable, they are the rights of all men (and women, of course) and not simply Americans. Which means that Americans have no more right or inherent power to limit or remove those rights than any other government or person does.

But no thought crime in America? Tell that to Mike Diana... Of course, it depends on exactly how you define thought crime...

- Grant

- Grant

leonaozaki
10-15-2006, 08:10 PM
That has nothing to do with thoughtcrime, and was recognized as a violation of their rights even at the time; it was based on martial law. And they and their heirs DID receive compensation, later. Just because something is illegal doesn't mean that nobody breaks the law.

They and their heirs received some compensation. And it wasn't until Reagan that the government officially apologized.

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/japanese_internment/1948.htm

rob

Drew Van T.
10-18-2006, 03:31 AM
And if the rights of men are inalienable, they are the rights of all men (and women, of course) and not simply Americans. Which means that Americans have no more right or inherent power to limit or remove those rights than any other government or person does.

Right, that was the theory.

But if I understand all this correctly, the Military Commissions pretty much represents an implicit rejection of the Geneva Conventions and the Declaration on Human Rights. Not that these two have ever ranked very highly in the actual conduct of this government - or that of many other national governments for that matter, it is true - but it is highly significant that the rejection is signed into law now, especially considering the historical aspects of the "Inalienable Rights" thing...

Always nice to know that a certain government officially ranks yours truly somewhere on the level of amoebae. Peachy. Seems like the entire concept of Universalism and shared humanity is being lost in America.

The Mirrorball Man
10-18-2006, 04:25 AM
No, it was recognized that they always should have had equal rights.
So what you're saying is that in the United States, rights are not so much recognized as they are retconned into existence?

mjm1231
10-18-2006, 07:31 AM
Where in the U.S. Constitution does it mention needing property to get a vote, women and children being considered property, or, for that matter, allowing slavery (the last except by implication)? And where in the Constitution does it state that property rights were greater than personal rights?
Original drafts of the Declaration of Independence had "life, liberty, and private property" instead of "pursuit of happiness". Yes, that's not the Constitution, but you opened this thread questioning the underlying philosophy behind the formation of the US republic, so it's certainly relevant.

There've been a lot of questions in this thread on what's the difference between an inalienable right and a government granted one. Wikipedia has a couple of decent introductory articles on the subject: Natural Rights (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_right),Inalienable rights (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inalienable_rights), and Social Contract (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract). I'm no expert on any of these philosophies, but it seems to me that the conversion Bart's seeing is from Inalienable rights toward a modern conception of Social Contract, not away from it.

mjm1231
10-18-2006, 07:48 AM
Additionally, the Wikipedia article on the US Bill of Rights (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights) discusses the influence of John Locke on the US Constitution,
who argued in his 1689 work, Two Treatises of Government, that civil society was created for the protection of property (Latin proprius, or that which is one's own, meaning "life, liberty, and estate.")

Steven Grant
10-18-2006, 05:31 PM
The whole concept of the social contract always struck me as a bit hinky. Nobody ever asked me if I was interested in signing the contract, they just told me birth made me a signatory. And it's not like if you don't want to sign you're given other options...

Just another coerced contract, from my POV...

- Grant

bartl
10-18-2006, 05:38 PM
But if I understand all this correctly, the Military Commissions pretty much represents an implicit rejection of the Geneva Conventions and the Declaration on Human Rights.
Not the Geneva Conventions; the people being tried are not covered by those (being combatants who disguised themselves as civilians). On the other hand, there are still a large number of people who consider the current conflict to be a matter of criminal justice, and not a matter of military. If you hold that point of view, the Geneva Convention DEFINITELY is not involved, but the Declaration of Human Rights is.

bartl
10-18-2006, 05:40 PM
Original drafts of the Declaration of Independence had "life, liberty, and private property" instead of "pursuit of happiness".
And that version was rejected.

FunkyGreenJerusalem
10-18-2006, 08:50 PM
Can you show me where there was a policy of genocide on the part of the United States against the Native Americans? Or how the major factor in wiping out their populations was anything other than disease?

Yeah, the loved the Indians, what with their beads in exchange for land and such,
They gave them blankets and everything.

Odd that they died after getting the blankets though.



When these bodies become interested in human rights, and less interested in reducing the power of the United States, the United States may pay attention.

They have no intrest in reducing the power of the states.
Get it out of your head - no really, it's a stupid notion invented so that you don't have to think of real to not like International Law.

Of course, restricitng Americas actions in foregin countries would help boost Human Rights, as well as the spread of democracy.
I mean, with good strong international law, America wouldn't have been able to cause the damage it did in Central America and South America, for instance.
Or were the Contra's good for Human rights?
The dicators placed in Panama helping the people by massacraing them?
And how did one of the biggest attacks on democracy ever, 9/11 - the 9/11 in Chile that is, where the US overturned an elected leader and placed a dictator in his stead - help human rights?

Please bart, if you can find a good reason for the US not to get into International Law, argue it.
But stop with the stupid and the hypocritical.

rick
10-18-2006, 10:21 PM
Please bart, if you can find a good reason for the US not to get into International Law, argue it.
But stop with the stupid and the hypocritical.

One good reason?

Here's one good reason, power.

Because of power, there is simply no logical reason at all for the US to sign on to the authority of the International Court.

The US is certainly powerful enough to more or less do anything it wants without having to care one whit what the rest of the world thinks and all of you know it.

As rough as it sounds it is really as simple as that. And the sooner you accept this cold, hard reality, the better off you will all be.

The talk about fairness and truth and justice and accountability is just so much cover for saying that all of you in the rest of the world would be much happier if the US wasnít such a bully and actually did what the rest of you wanted every once in awhile. And hey, there is nothing wrong with that. I know that if I were Swiss I would feel the very same way.

The truth though is the only way any of you are going to see truth or justice, let alone accountability from the United States is if the people of the United States demand it. What the rest of you want, or hope for or even demand, just doesnít really make a bit of difference to what the US is going to do. The only chance of change in the US is from within. It is simply not in our national character to embrace change from without and no amount of conversation about fairness and accountability is going to change that.

And from a practical perspective any American politician who ever handed over legal authority to an international body, be they liberal or conservative, would not only not win reelection, they would be very lucky to actually not be removed from office for being a fool.

Because only a fool relinquishes power when they donít have to.

Paul McEnery
10-19-2006, 12:41 AM
One good reason?

Here's one good reason, power.

Because of power, there is simply no logical reason at all for the US to sign on to the authority of the International Court.

The US is certainly powerful enough to more or less do anything it wants without having to care one whit what the rest of the world thinks and all of you know it.

As rough as it sounds it is really as simple as that. And the sooner you accept this cold, hard reality, the better off you will all be.

The talk about fairness and truth and justice and accountability is just so much cover for saying that all of you in the rest of the world would be much happier if the US wasnít such a bully and actually did what the rest of you wanted every once in awhile. And hey, there is nothing wrong with that. I know that if I were Swiss I would feel the very same way.

The truth though is the only way any of you are going to see truth or justice, let alone accountability from the United States is if the people of the United States demand it. What the rest of you want, or hope for or even demand, just doesnít really make a bit of difference to what the US is going to do. The only chance of change in the US is from within. It is simply not in our national character to embrace change from without and no amount of conversation about fairness and accountability is going to change that.

And from a practical perspective any American politician who ever handed over legal authority to an international body, be they liberal or conservative, would not only not win reelection, they would be very lucky to actually not be removed from office for being a fool.

Because only a fool relinquishes power when they donít have to.
Rick, you're sounding like an incredible dumbass.

China owns America's balls. It's over. America has no power any more. It's done.

bartl
10-19-2006, 04:20 AM
Yeah, the loved the Indians, what with their beads in exchange for land and such,
They gave them blankets and everything.

Odd that they died after getting the blankets though.
I said the United States. Not Great Britain. Try again.

They have no intrest in reducing the power of the states.
Get it out of your head - no really, it's a stupid notion invented so that you don't have to think of real to not like International Law.
Can you define International Law?

Of course, restricitng Americas actions in foregin countries would help boost Human Rights, as well as the spread of democracy.
I mean, with good strong international law, America wouldn't have been able to cause the damage it did in Central America and South America, for instance.
Or were the Contra's good for Human rights?
The dicators placed in Panama helping the people by massacraing them?
And the alternatives there were what?

mjm1231
10-19-2006, 07:14 AM
The whole concept of the social contract always struck me as a bit hinky. Nobody ever asked me if I was interested in signing the contract, they just told me birth made me a signatory. And it's not like if you don't want to sign you're given other options...

Just another coerced contract, from my POV...

- GrantI agree, though the Wikipedia article addresses this criticism, ending with "However, the philosophical concept of social contract does not address the same issues as the juridical contract theory, making the name "social contract" potentially misleading". So without digging deeper into how "social contract" differs from "legal contract", I can't say how hinky the concept really is.

The concepts of Inalienable rights and natural rights have even worse problems though. If the rights are inalienable, then theres nothing to discuss, theres no possibility of them ever being violated, is there? As for natural rights, isn't the very concept of rights a human invention? So how can any rights be natural? Consider the second amendment. How can the right to bear arms be a natural right, when the arms themselves aren't natural?

There are people who think they have a natural right to marry their 13 year old neice. I think of social contract as a way of agreeing on which rights, whatever their source, are going to be defended.

rick
10-19-2006, 07:15 AM
Rick, you're sounding like an incredible dumbass.

China owns America's balls. It's over. America has no power any more. It's done.


Paul, I'm not even sure how to respond to that.

China might, hell, probably will become the next great world power, but in the here and now, the US is still the only superpower.

Our balls might get viced in the end, but it hasn't happened yet.

Rhydaman
10-19-2006, 08:18 AM
Paul, I'm not even sure how to respond to that.

China might, hell, probably will become the next great world power, but in the here and now, the US is still the only superpower.

Our balls might get viced in the end, but it hasn't happened yet.
I think he means your massive trade deficit and the huge US debt that China holds. If that were called in, the US would likely be plunged into another 30s-style depression.

Although so would China, so it seems unlikely to happen.