Historians will record that the 1993 Clinton inauguration actually began the year before in early November. Scarcely had the votes been counted when lobbyists, pitchmen, political groupies, and Democratic hopefuls began to flood Washington, D.C. Suddenly the capital's fashionable hotel lounges and watering holes were crammed with overweight, backslapping, pinkie-ringed redneck hustlers from Southern and border states and some of the more remote backwaters of the Midwest, all with something to buy from or sell to the incoming administration.
In the dystopian blockbuster movie The Hunger Games, a restless and resentful population in the nation of Panem is controlled by the wealthy and powerful who reside in the fortress city of Capitol.
Is that all that different from today’s United States, where wealth and power seem increasingly to gravitate toward the Beltway and its suburbs? Money magazine recently looked at the 3,033 counties in the U.S. based on income and found that the top one-half of 1 percent is dominated by Washington, D.C. Of the 15 counties with the highest median household incomes, an astonishing 10 are in the Washington area and have an average income almost double that of the nation as a whole. Four of the remaining five surround New York City, and are populated by many Wall Streeters who benefited from TARP and other federal bailouts.
Too often the term "human rights" has been misused or cheapened. Take the UN Human Rights Council, which has become a standing joke because so many of its 47 member countries kill or torture their opponents. Indeed, the latest candidate for membership put up by Latin America is Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, which in February refused to vote for a UN resolution criticizing Syria's brutal killing of civilians and continues to ship oil to the Assad regime.
The Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual event organized by the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, is rehabilitating the concept that people of good will can promote basic rights in all nations at all times without an overlay of ideology or hypocrisy. Indeed, at the meeting I attended last May, there was no desire to blame racism or gender discrimination on the U.S. or other Western nations.