The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Human Rights Day!

The Amherst celebration.

December is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Not familiar with it? The Wikipedia says:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a non-binding declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December of 1948, partly in response to the atrocities of World War II. Although the UDHR is a non-binding resolution, it is now considered to be a central component of international customary law which may be invoked under appropriate circumstances by national and other judiciaries. The UDHR urges member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights are part of the "foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." The declaration was the first international legal effort to limit the behavior of states and press upon them duties to their citizens.

Elenor Roosevelt and the Declaration

The Declaration is not without its critics. Conservatives dislike its socialist sensibilities while liberals complain that it says nothing about gay rights. Others accuse it of being just plain silly, as in the much ridiculed Article 24:

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Hmmm, does that mean that if my employer doesn't give me the vacation I think I deserve that I can accuse him of a human rights violation? How about welfare recepients, are they entitled to "periodic holidays with pay" as their human right? Critics claim that inclusion of this article trivializes the concept of rights.

But nevermind. If nothing else the Declaration is a triumph of good intentions, and the Declaration has actually proven valuable over the years to countries that have no history of democracy or rule of law. They use it as a general guide to building a civilized society, even if they stop short of regarding vacation pay as a basic human right.

The anniversary celebration in Amherst was held this afternoon at the Townhall. Most of the offices in Townhall were closed for the weekend.

The celebration was held on the 2nd floor.

There was lots of good food, much of it donated by downtown businesses like Starbucks and Amherst Chinese.

A much larger crowd showed up than I expected. Here's the room from two different angles.

There were various speakers, mostly "social justice" professors from area colleges. One mentioned the human rights problems in Cuba, but then felt compelled to immediately point out that "Cuba has an excellent health care system." Oh goody, then living in a poverty stricken police state isn't so bad as long as you don't have to wait too long at the health clinic after the torture session.

But like I said, good intentions were everywhere and I think it's useful to have these kinds of public discussions of major issues. Representing the town government at the event was Selectman Gerry Weiss.

Also in attendance was an emissary from Terrapin Station.

On my way out I saw that one attendee left their dog tied up to the Townhall steps, where it no doubt dreamt of the arrival of the Universal Declaration of Canine Rights.

Dave's Pet City in Northampton has these animal paintings on its wall. They're pretty good, except the rabbit looks like someone shot him.

The fashion nazis have been merciless in their attacks on Pamela Anderson for showing up at a celebrity art event without her pants.

DListed had this to say:

While not-dressing for an Art Basel event in Miami last night, Pamela Anderson must have figured that she shouldn't even bother with pants. I mean, she usually has them off by the end of the night anyway, so why not just cut to the chase? She might have the right idea. Pants really do just get in the way.

Meanwhile Brokeback Mountain star Jake Gyllenaal was caught by paparazzi staggering down the streets of London apparently stoned out of his mind. Hopefully he is not following his Brokeback co-star Heath Ledger down a stoned road to an early grave.

Valley historians will find much to note about the political career of Springfield's Charles V. Ryan, such as the fact that he was the only person in Springfield's nearly 400 year history to hold the mayoralty in two different centuries. They will also shake their heads in bewilderment that Ryan's career ended by being tossed out by ungrateful voters just as he had placed the city on a path to recovery.

However, one little known fact about Ryan will probably loom larger as time passes. That is appreciation that Ryan was the first Springfield politician to run for office using the internet. Today it is understood that no one seeking public office who wishes to be taken seriously can be without a website.

But in 1995, when Ryan put up his site during that year's mayoral election, hardly any voters were online, let alone polticians. Yet Ryan embraced the revolutionary new technology, and he included on that website a review I wrote of the short book he wrote for that campaign. It was also my first appearance on the internet.

Websites were pretty primitive in those days, and Ryan's was mostly just print without graphics. Here's a sample of what it looked like which I printed out at the time. (click to enlarge)

Not very flashy, but a pioneering prototype of a new campaign form that would soon revolutionize American politics and the way campaigns are run. Unfortunately, Ryan lost that election to the shallow charlatan Michael Albano, but voters would later correct their error in 2003.

On South Prospect Street in Amherst is this house with a flag of the state of Washington hanging outside. I hadn't realized that George himself was on the Washington State flag. Former Valley publisher Jordan Williams now resides in Washington State, and I assume the person (probably a student) that put that flag on the house does too.

I don't know who lives in that house now, but I have memories of that particular dwelling going to the late '70's. My friend Chuck Hayford used to live there as well as several members of the band Martian Highway.

Someone went crazy with a marker in this men's room in Herter Hall at UMass.

Finally everybody knows where this is.

1 comment:

ralph said...

The Declaration of Human Rights may be flawed but it is better than nothing.