Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jim DeMint has some ideas about signing treaties

Jim DeMint delivered a speech the other day opposing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  At least, I think that's what it's about, because that's what he says it's about, although he certainly has trouble staying on point if that's the case.  For those who may not be aware, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is basically an treaty that emulates the Americans with Disabilities Act on an international level.  John McCain has lended his support to the treaty, saying that it is an example of American leadership on rights for the disabled.  Bob Dole has also spoken extensively in support on it, and was present to give some testimony in support of a treaty that would have been a major victory in his lifelong campaign for disability rights.  In fairness, there are some valid reasons to be concerned about signing U.N. treaties, but I have a feeling Jim DeMint isn't going to be paying much attention to those (because secretly, I read the whole speech ahead of time.  Shh.).

As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have participated in the hearings and debates on this treaty, and I understand the aspirations of the groups who support it. But I have serious concerns about reaching those goals through a legally binding United Nations treaty.

Other U.N. organizations have failed to achieve their stated purposes and actively work against the interests of the United States.

I'm sure he has some examples in mind, but he doesn't even say what I should look up to see if he's right.  If you're going to be paranoid about a U.N. takeover at least tell me what part you're paranoid about.

Not even a week ago, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to “non-member observer state” over the objections of the United States and Israel. This is a breach of the Oslo accords and will hurt the Middle East peace process. Secretary Clinton called it “unfortunate and counterproductive.”

Whoa, shit!  Now the Palestinian representative can come watch silently next time Israel tries to make sure they get no representatives at U.N. meetings.  What does this have to do with the topic?  What was the topic again?  Oh, right, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Onward!

The U.N. Human Rights Council includes notable human rights violators such as Cuba, China, and Russia.

I think you left somebody off that list.

These countries have made little progress improving the rights of their citizens, and nearly 40 percent of the council’s country-specific human-rights condemnations are against Israel.

That's fair, maybe--that said, the fact that 40 percent of the "country-specific" condemnations are against Israel isn't really evidence for anything.  "Country-specific" is a pretty strange limiting factor there, so that could just mean that Israel is frequently condemned for actions that they undertake alone, whereas other countries violate human rights in groups.  It's a somewhat interesting fact, but it means virtually nothing in isolation.

More worrisome, convention committees–such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women–have a track record of overstepping their authority and advocating positions contrary to American laws and values.

People disagree with me on anything, ever? 
/regains consciousness
Good heavens!  People sometimes advocate positions that the U.S. disagrees with?  What on Earth are they asking us to do, throw all the white males out of office?

In the past, these committees have supported giving voting rights to felons, 

A thing that several U.S. states already do, including two states where felons can vote from prison.  Next?

the decriminalization of prostitution, 

A thing that is already legal in Nevada.

gender quotas,

This is vague.  I'm assuming this refers to either a political representation quota or a hiring quota for minorities, given the context.  Neither is being mandated by any U.N. treaty that I could find, and also we are talking about the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or at least I thought we were.  I guess we'll go with:

If DeMint gets to re-use his anti-UN talking points, I get to re-use my pictures.
and increased access to abortion.

He's saying that these are things that treaties have "supported" in the past.  Are we seriously this scared of people supporting things we don't?
Overly broad language included in this treaty would likely allow the U.N. to meddle in many of our domestic matters.  International bureaucrats working with the U.N. should not be able to influence how the United States creates and implements laws for the disabled, especially when members come from countries with lower human rights standards than our own.

This is basically the opposite of what this treaty isIt's based on legislation (the Americans with Disabilities Act) that already exists in the U.S., and really is designed to get those countries with low human rights standards to improve them.  This is a case where the U.S. influenced the U.N., not vice versa.

The purpose of any treaty should be to advance specific security or economic interests that make us a stronger and safer nation. This treaty does neither.

This seems to be an argument that we should not sign a treaty we do not "win".  That said, it's one of DeMint's more logical points, if you believe that the U.S. should not be responsible for advancing human rights on an international level.

Last week on the floor, Leader Reid argued that we must ratify this treaty to “take the high ground” on these issues with the rest of the world. But the United States does not have to join a U.N. convention or any other organization to give ourselves legitimacy and moral authority in the world.

Because America.  Fuck yeah.
This convention will do nothing to improve the rights of Americans in the United States. We have little evidence to suggest that joining this convention and its committee will ensure that other countries improve their protection of disabled people. Of the 126 member countries, this convention’s committee has only issued recommendations to a handful.

Let's summarize the main points DeMint is making.  First of all, this treaty is dangerous because it might force the U.S. to adopt all kinds of binding legislation that would take away our sovereignty and prevent us from making our own laws regarding the disabled.  Secondly, there's little evidence that other countries would have to do anything to improve their protection of disabled people, because apparently those terrifying binding clauses only apply to us (I'm not posting the citation needed image again).  I guess we're worried that they might issue us some very sternly worded recommendations?

Portions of this convention also concern reproductive health, 

Oh!  That's code for something, I bet.  Noted leftist John McCain, do you have anything to say about whether we should reject this treaty because of sections related to abortion?

"With respect to abortion, this is a disabilities treaty and has nothing to do with abortion. Trying to turn this into an abortion debate is bad politics and just wrong."

the rights of families,

Here, DeMint is insinuating that this treaty will take control of disabled children away from families and give it to the government.  It will not.

and the use of the treaty in our courts.

We should never cede the authority of these matters to an international organization. President Washington’s warning in his farewell address bears repeating here. He said:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Not surprisingly, DeMint's best argument is made using someone else's words.  There's a case to be made that we shouldn't enter into treaties that we don't need, but we should recall that Washington was president in the 18th century, when the U.S. didn't have to debate whether we should be involved in human rights issues in foreign countries.  It's not a wholly illegitimate point today, but it's a bit outdated.  Outside of a general philosophy opposing treaties that makes a modicum of sense from a certain worldview, all of DeMint's arguments here are essentially without evidence.  He's saying that X might hypothetically cause Y because he thinks it might, and he doesn't like Y, so we can't even consider X.  It's like if I was considering getting a cat, but then I had a dream where a cat scratched me, so I instead led a campaign to outlaw all cats ever. 

Don't look so worried!  I'd never do that.  I'm sorry I even brought it up.

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