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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
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Human Rights Watch: Before the Arab Spring, the Unseen Thaw

Why didn’t we see the upheavals coming? One reason was because we overestimated the robustness of some of the authoritarian regimes, and underestimated demands for a better life, measured partly in human rights terms. Yes, we heard a lot about the hogra, an Algerian term used throughout North Africa to denote the contempt of rulers toward their people. But we failed to see how quickly it could ignite into a region-wide revolt that is, in large part, a struggle for dignity.

Long before Tunisian peddler Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze on December 17, 2010, to protest a humiliating run-in that day with local police—igniting unrest that ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali one month later and spread as far as Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen—there were countless, equally poignant protests against indignity that passed unnoticed. But they added to the pent-up frustrations that gave resonance to Bouazizi’s desperate act.

We tended to see mainly the authoritarian governments, whose grip was never in doubt, even when they tolerated a controlled pluralism, cautiously independent print media, and a fragile civil society. What we undervalued were rising expectations on the demand side, which subsequently fired the 2011 upheavals, during which thousands of peaceful demonstrators gave their lives in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain.

Even in Syria and Libya—where the governments were among the region’s most brutal—human rights contestation picked up during the past decade. In the former, the “Damascus Spring” reform movement and the Committees for the Revival of Civil Society that launched shortly after Bashar al-Asad succeeded his father as president in 2000, as well as the Damascus Declaration of 2005, displayed a new assertiveness by small groups of Syrians demanding basic rights, although many wound up serving long prison terms. And in Libya, families of victims of the 1996 mass killings in Abu Salim prison became the first group in the country to demonstrate regularly in public after a North Benghazi court in 2008 ordered the government to reveal the fate of Abu Salim prisoners who had “disappeared.”

We didn’t see the Arab Spring coming because we missed signs of the thaw. But we would do well to keep in mind what Arab peoples showed us about the power of the aspiration for dignity, a power that they are unlikely to surrender anytime soon.


Much more to the article. A good insight into what was going on in terms of human rights before the Arab Spring erupted in 2011. To many it seemed to come out of thin air. Of course, it came from the people.

Chinese take on why the TPP is bad for China and why it is talking so long to negotiate:

The negotiation of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has entered its fourth year, but there still seems nowhere to go. Several reasons have lead to the stagnation of the negotiation.

Firstly, the negotiation is troubled by the mixed mode of bilateral and multilateral negotiations adopted by TPP on the issue of market access. The usual method of a free trade agreement negotiation is that all members negotiate to reach a uniform tariff reduction arrangement and finally form a free trade zone. However, The United States proposed in the TPP negotiation to retain the existing bilateral free trade agreements and only negotiate on market access with Vietnam and other three countries which have no free trade agreements with it. In this way, the United States attempts to maintain its vested interests on sensitive products and protect its domestic market at the same time.

Secondly, interests of the United States hidden behind "high standards" undermine the negotiation. The United States, by using "high standard" as a disguise and taking advantage of its technology and market edges, tries to maximize its interests through negotiations.

Thirdly, the TPP negotiation tries to cope with appeals of different countries with the "one size fits all" approach. Among the 11 members of the TPP, there are developed as well as developing countries and they often hold different stances toward the same issue. For instance, in terms of competition policies, the United States has put forward new requirements for state-owned enterprises, including canceling their subsidies and the tilting government procurement toward them. Nevertheless, these requirements are far beyond what most developing countries can bear.

Fourthly, the negotiation is subject to the U.S. domestic politics. At the very beginning of the negotiation, the United States reminded other members that the U.S. Congress would not accept a TPP without strong labor and environmental measures. Obviously, the United States aims to lower the comparative advantages of developing countries so as to create more job opportunities for itself.


China seems to believe that the TPP will impose "strong labor and environmental measures", "high standards" along with "new requirements for state-owned enterprises" which China worries it cannot meet without fundamentally changing their political system.

China seems to hope that TPP negotiations fail.

Great find! I had never seen the 1936 Republican Party platform:

So much of it could come from of a 'modern' tea party member:

It has coerced and intimidated voters by withholding relief to those opposing its tyrannical policies.

It has destroyed the morale of our people and made them dependent upon government.

Appeals to passion and class prejudice have replaced reason and tolerance.

It has created a vast multitude of new offices, filled them with its favorites, set up a centralized bureaucracy, and sent out swarms of inspectors to harass our people.

It has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging the depression.

It secretly has made tariff agreements with our foreign competitors, flooding our markets with foreign commodities.

"...no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world..."; "We will support democracy from

Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice—not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice."

It is reminiscent of FDR's inaugural address in 1945:

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.

We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.

We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that "The only way to have a friend is to be one."

We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from conviction.


And of course it reminds one of JFK's inaugural adress in 1961:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge -- and more.

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support -- to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective, to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak, and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation," a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.


According to the study "nationalism" is the one common thread uniting far-right groups.

The study itself is here: http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ChallengersFromtheSidelines.pdf

The racist movement is comprised of white supremacy groups such as the KKK, neoNazi groups such as the National Alliance and Skinheads groups such as the Hammerskin Nation. The groups comprising this movement are interested in preserving or restoring what they perceive as the appropriate and natural racial and cultural hierarchy, by enforcing social and political control over non-Aryans/nonwhites such as African Americans, Jews, and various immigrant communities. Therefore, their ideological foundations are based mainly on ideas of racism, segregation, xenophobia, and nativism (rejection of foreign norms and practices).

The antifederalist rationale is multifaceted, and includes the beliefs that the American political system and its proxies were hijacked by external forces interested in promoting a “New World Order” (NWO) in which the United States will be absorbed into the United Nations or another version of global government.

Lastly, the fundamentalist stream, which includes mainly Christian Identity groups such as the Aryan Nations, fuse religious fundamentalism with traditional white supremacy and racial tendencies, thus promoting ideas of nativism, exclusionism, and racial superiority through a unique interpretation of religious texts that focuses on division of humanity according to primordial attributes. More specifically, these groups maintain that a correct interpretation of the holy texts reveals that it is not the people of Israel but the Anglo-Saxons who are the chosen people and therefore assert their natural superior status.

If there is one ideological doctrine about which there is almost full consensus regarding its importance for understanding the far-right worldview, it is that of nationalism. Historically, the literature on nationalism has taken diverse directions and is extremely rich, but in its varying guises it usually refers to the association between ethnic, cultural and/or linguistic identity and political expression, or more simply put, the convergence of a cultural framework with a political entity.

In the context of the far-right worldview, nationalism takes an extreme form of full convergence between one polity or territory and one ethnic or national collective. Two elements are required for the fulfillment of this version of the nationalist doctrine. The first is that of internal homogenization, i.e., the aspiration that all residents or citizens of the polity will share the same national origin and ethnic characteristics. The second is the element of external exclusiveness, the aspiration that all individuals belonging to a specific national or ethnic group will reside in the homeland.

Nationalism, racism, xenophobia and nativism all seem to be common threads with the violent far-right. Not surprising since they all play into the "US vs THEM" ideology that motivates the far-right.
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