Freedom in decline worldwide: US report
declined for a fifth straight year in 2010 as authoritarian regimes dug in worldwide and crime and unrest plagued democracies like Mexico, a US watchdog said Thursday.In “Freedom in the World 2011″ the Washington-based Freedom House said it had documented the longest continuous period of decline since it began compiling the annual index nearly 40 years ago.
“A total of 25 countries showed significant declines in 2010, more than double the 11 countries exhibiting noteworthy gains,” the group said.
The report classifies countries as free, partly free or not free based on individuals’ ability to exercise political and civil rights, taking into account political systems and other factors like war and crime.
Mexico, which along with Ukraine, Djibouti and Ethiopia saw its status decline, moved from free to partly free “as a result of the government’s inability to stem the tide of violence by drug-trafficking groups,” it said.
Ukraine’s demotion, also from free to partly free, owed to “deteriorating levels of press freedom, instances of election fraud and growing politicization of the judiciary,” the Freedom House report said.
“This should be a wake-up call for all of the world’s democracies,” said Freedom House director David Kramer, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights under former president George W. Bush.
“Our adversaries are not just engaging in widespread repression, they are doing so with unprecedented aggressiveness and self-confidence, and the democratic community is not rising to the challenge.”
Elliot Abrams, who served as the point man for Bush’s high-profile efforts to promote democracy beginning in 2005, faulted the current administration for not linking human rights to bilateral relations.
“What penalty is imposed on the dictator when he closes newspapers or arrests opposition leaders? That’s really the question. Otherwise it’s just speeches and they will ultimately be ignored,” he said at a public event for the release of the report.
But Michael Posner, the current assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said such issues were a central part of the administration’s foreign policy, though not always in a public way.
“We are very much engaged in a very serious set of discussions” with several major countries criticized in the report, he said at the same event.
“Human rights issues are very much part of that agenda. We are making it explicitly clear.”
Posner admitted, however, that there were limits to what the United States could do in the way of pressuring even friendly governments like Egypt, saying: “It is very difficult to force change from outside.”
The US ally was listed as not free following 2010 legislative elections that Freedom House said were marred by “credible allegations of fraud, widespread repression and severe restrictions on opposition candidates.”
The number of countries designated as free in 2010 stands at 87, two fewer than the previous year, and represents 45 percent of the world?s 194 countries and 43 percent of its population, according to the index.
John Kerry (D-Lurch) Invokes Giffords’ Shooting to Push For “Clean Energy” Legislation… HUH?
Congresswoman ‘s Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-Ariz.) shooting in Tucson, Ariz., last weekend has brought up several questions about the partisan nature of our current political climate. But today Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a speech at the left-leaning policy think tank Center for American Progress that working in a bipartisan manner on infrastructure and clean energy could help overcome the “divisive political rhetoric” in the wake of the Tucson tragedy.
“In the weeks and months ahead, the real issue we need to confront isn’t just what role divisive political rhetoric may have played on Saturday — but it’s the violence divisive, overly simplistic dialogue does to our democracy every day,” Kerry said
“The frustrating reality is that our American political system is increasingly paralyzed and Balkanized into a patchwork of narrow interests that have driven the larger ‘national good’ far from the national dialogue altogether,” he said.
He added that while building and investing in America has always been a bi-partisan issue, currently “partisan paralysis” has kept us from rebuilding the infrastructure investment made through the years from politicians on both sides of the line.
“Reliable, modern infrastructure isn’t a luxury. It’s the lifeblood of our economy — the key to connecting our markets, moving products and people, generating and sustaining millions of jobs for American workers, to not wasting hundreds of thousands of hours and millions of gallons of gas on clogged highways,” he said.
“In the face of global competition, our growth and exports are directly tied to the modernity of our infrastructure. As we invest too little and our competitors invest more and more, the harder and harder it will be to catch up – and the more and more attractive those countries will be for future investments,” he said.
Kerry has been a huge proponent of an infrastructure bank to help pay for high-speed rail and other infrastructure projects and he plans to introduce the bill this spring, according to Greenwire.
Along with infrastructure, Kerry also asked bipartisan support for investment in clean energy, where he said the U.S. was falling behind in the $6 trillion industry.
“Now is the moment for America to reach for the brass energy ring – to go for the moon here on earth by building our new energy future– and, in doing so, create millions of steady, higher paying jobs at every level of the economy. Make no mistake – jobs that produce energy in America are jobs that stay in America. The amount of work to be done here is just stunning. It is the work of many lifetimes. And it must begin now,” he said.
“There’s a bipartisan consensus just waiting to lift our country and our future if senators are willing to sit down and forge it and make it real … in this time of crisis and mourning, in this time of challenge and opportunity, we need to commit to reaching across the aisle, as colleagues did before us, to unite to do the exceptional things that will keep America exceptional for generations to come,” he said.
Kerry is right. Infrastructure building has traditionally always been a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats have both worked for decades to build our roads and train systems — and now is not the time for politics to take over a seemingly apolitical investment. America’s infrastructure is in bad need of repair and upgrading it will be the best way to get our work force back into shape and rebuild our economy. Yes, the government will have to make the initial investment, but the pay off is well worth it in the long run.
The canceled ARC project, which was to connect New York and New Jersey by a tunnel under the Hudson, was itself slated to have created 6,000 construction jobs and add at least 40,000 new jobs after completion. Unfortunately, that project was canceled largely due to partisan reasons.
Our nation remains in an employment crisis, with thousand of people who want to work unable to find it. Infrastructure, then, could be an important solution to the problem.