Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The few of you who follow this blog will have noticed that posts have started to become few and far between. After considerable thought, I have decided to explain why.

I suffer from severe depression. Lately, my mental health has begun to deteriorate further, to the point that I have begun self-harming extensively again (please, no lectures) after years. Because mental illness is covered by the NHS here, I am getting doctor's treatment and am awaiting treatment from a professional psychiatrist (I always wondered about that expression; are there amateur psychiatrists?).

However, as a result of that, I've felt unable to update this blog as often as I should. For that, I apologise to everyone who reads it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

An Immoral Society

No, I'm not talking about abortion.

Most of the USA describe themselves as Christian. I'm not Christian but I am a man of faith and yet, I have to wonder if those calling themselves Christian have actually read the words of Jesus. Mahatma Gandhi once said something to the effect that he would love Christians if he'd ever actually met one. While the right likes to mouth pieties like a drunken televangelist, how many have actually compared their actions to the teachings of Jesus?

For example, Jesus, like many religious figures, had a lot to say about poverty. He said that the poor would always be with us but also that alleviating poverty was a noble calling. Jesus didn't have much to say about economics but what he did say is closest to a form of proto-socialism. So how come so many Americans revile the poor and resent the state making any provision for them? Poverty is a moral issue but while the right seems to interpret that to mean that the poor are poor due to some moral failing, the left tends to interpret it as being our moral duty to help the poverty stricken. So many American Christians seem to believe that the Bible condemns socialism or communism. This proves that not only do they not understand the meaning of the words, they don't understand their own Bible very well either. The Bible doesn't say word one about either (unsurprisingly) but it's very much in favour of sharing one's wealth and goods with the poor.

Or take gay rights. Yes, yes, there's a couple of clobber verses which can be read to apply to homosexuality but none of them come from Jesus, they all come from the Old Testament or Paul. Jesus hung out with moneychangers and hookers, does anyone sane really think he'd have a problem with committed same-sex couples being given some legal rights? And if so, no-one is offering to legislate my religion.

Which brings us onto another point: The frightening number of Christians who honestly believe that the USA is a Christian nation. Firstly, the Founders said pretty much the exact opposite but more to the point of this article, Jesus warned you not to do this! "Render unto Caesar" wasn't just a snappy comeback, it was an endorsement of the separation of church and state. Jesus lived (assuming he existed, naturally) in a society which had no such separation and he personally saw the mess that resulted. He told you not to pray in public as well but you ignore that.

Why do so many Christians disregard the teachings of their founder in favour of ultra-right politics? Because for many, they are not Christians. They follow a religion which may be described as the "Cultus Americanus". A religion which grew out of but is distinct from Christianity in the same way as Mormonism. A religion which exists purely to provide divine blessing to ultra-right politics. In Crazy For God, Frank Schaeffer talks candidly about the swift mutation of the Religious Right that he helped create from a religious movement to an extension of the ultra-right wing of the Republican party (Schaeffer now regrets and is trying to make amends for most of what he did during that period). The Cultus Americanus pays lip service to the teachings of Jesus but places the teachings of Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh on much the same level. They have their own high priests (Bill O'Lielly, Rush, Grover Norquist); their own devil figure (Clinton although Obama is getting there) and their own set of values. For example, the poor should be left to starve, lying is perfectly acceptable in the service of the faith, blind obedience is preferable to examined faith and it has the same cultish brainwashing tendencies as Scientology.

As a student of history and religion, the emergent faith is fascinating to observe. As someone who has to share the planet with these lunatics, it's terrifying.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Party Platform - Addendum

- Paper Ballots. This should really be a no-brainer. Paper ballots are easily checkable, the error rate is virtually non-existant and everyone knows how to use them: Put your cross in the box. At the end of the evening, dump all the ballots out on a big table and, watched by a rep from each party who can object at any time, they're all counted. This is not rocket science.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wanna have a party?

No, not that kind of party. The political kind. We could call it the Promethian Party, seizing the political dialogue back for those of us who don't have a dozen lobbyists. Here's what the platform should be:

- Economics. Raise taxes on the right, rising to 50% on amounts above one million dollars a year. Yes, I know the standard talking point that if you do that, all the millionaires will flee the country. Bite me. They didn't flee the country during the Eisenhower era when the top tax rate hovered around 90%. If you want to talk about how Reagan cut the rates and the economy boomed, you can also bite me. Reagan's tax cuts let rich people get much richer but they also caused a recession (no, it wasn't Congress, guess what you can do?) and hammered government revenues. The insane "trickle-down economics" theory is crap, it always has been crap and it's never worked.

Small tax cut for the middle class. Tax credit for the working poor. No need to mess with corporate tax rates, just close the loopholes that let the majority of US corporations avoid paying taxes and institute a law that any profit earned on goods sold in the USA is taxed at USA rates. If you don't want to pay US tax rates, you don't get to sell to US consumers.

- Law & Order. We will not torture. Nor will we quibble about whether techniques classified as torture for five hundred years are really torture. The right laughed hysterically at Clinton quibbling about the meaning of "is" so they do not get to quibble about the meaning of "torture". The UN Declaration on Torture (which the US is a signatory to) expressly state that no special circumstances will excuse torture. While we're on the subject, anyone in custody is either a criminal, a civilian or a PoW and covered by the appropriate schedule of the Geneva Conventions. Since you aren't in a rebellion or invasion, they also have habeus corpus rights and criminals will get a fair trial as soon as is practical (just as the dozens of domestic terrorists already held in Supermax jails did).

The USA PATRIOT Act to be repealed in it's entirety and no, that doesn't endanger you in the slightest, STFU. The PATRIOT Act never had anything to do with preventing terrorism, it was about granting intelligence agencies every police-state fantasy they ever had. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are the supreme law of the land and the PATRIOT Act is an unconstitutional abomination.

The system of allowing Presidents to nominate judges was intended to insulate judges from political pressure. It has done exactly the opposite, allowing the more authoritarian presidents (*coughBUSHcough*) to enshrine their personal bias to a lifetime appointment. However, allowing judges to be elected by the general public opens them to the same pressures as politicians and the general public don't understand the law anyway. Therefore, judges for the Appeals courts or SCOTUS will now be elected by the ABA (American Bar Association) for fixed terms of ten-years (from which, they may resign at any time) and no-one may stand in those elections until they have at least fifteen years experiance as a lawyer and/or lower court judge. While we're on the subject, anyone complaining about "activist judges" is to be bludgeoned with a large ripe haddock. We will pursue a Constitutional Amendment to this effect.

All "three strikes" laws to be struck down. Also, an inquiry will be convened with regard to the war crimes comitted under the Bush administration.

- Equal Rights. The ERA to be ratified at the first opportunity. Partial Birth Abortion Act repealed. FACE Act to be fully enforced. Federal hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws expanded to cover homosexuals. We will order the military to cease enforcement of DADT on our first day in office and repeal it fully at the first opportunity. DOMA is repealed as an unconstitutional challenge to the "full faith and credit" clause.

With regard to same-sex marriage, we are going to concede the word "marriage" to the collective church. However, that is [i]all[/i] we are conceding. We will enact law to ensure that the package of rights and responsibilities currently known as "marriage" will henceforth be available to any two mentally competent adults who register themselves as a Civil Union. For fairness, anyone already married when this law comes into effect will automatically gain Civil Union status in addition. In other words, if you want to have the legal rights with your partner (of either gender), you have to register as a Civil Union. If you want to take it further and have religious rites, that's fine, it's optional. The entire set of legal rights (such as but not limited to, presumptive inheritence, presumptive child custody, etc) shall now be granted to Civil Unions which shall be considered to take the place of the word "marriage" in all federal laws.

Also, cannabis is legalised for production, private consumption and sale from licensed vendors (i.e. vendors already holding a license to sell alcohol), subject to the exact same retrictions as alcohol (age-restricted and a ban on driving under the influence). If you wish to grow your own, that's the same as brewing one's own beer and none of the state's business. Also legalised federally is gambling (including sports gambling) in licensed premises.

- Religious Rights. All persons have every right to practice their faith and to freely worship as they see fit and our administration will not threaten that. However, your religious freedoms come with the responsibility to respect the religious freedoms of others. You cannot make law on a religious basis and any religious argument in law or public policy can and will be summarily ignored. If you hold an opinion for religious reasons, that's fine but you'll need to come up with a secular argument to justify it. You may not erect religious symbols on public property unless other religious/social groups (including athiests, for the purposes of this discussion) are free to do likewise. To put it another way: Erecting a cross alone on public property, not allowed. However, if a group of Christians wish to take up a collection to erect a cross on public property, they may do so, provided that Jews may put up a menorrah; Hindus may erect a statue of Shiva, Wiccans can erect a monument of the Wiccan Rede; athiests can erect a monument of, say, the "Coexist" logo and so on. The only acceptable reasons for refusing such a display shall be either that it contravenes obscenity laws or that it's physically dangerous.

- Education. No, you cannot teach creationism, cration science, intelligent design or whatever silly name you've come up with now in science class. It's not science. When you come up with a testable hypothesis that survives peer review, we'll talk. Science says that evolution, while incomplete, is the most likely explanation for humanity's current state. Creationism, if it is taught at all, shall be taught in Comparative Religions class. Nor can you have teacher-led prayer. Students may quietly pray whenever they wish so long as they do not endanger the class while doing so. Comprehensive sex education shall be taught, in an age appropriate manner, from the age of 11 onwards. Some children (mainly girls) may have already begun puberty by this point but the law must deal in averages. Machines vending condoms shall also be added to the bathrooms of male and female students (bite me, conservatives, no-one has a shag purely because there are rubbers available). All education shall be based on available evidence and teachers shall get a pay rise to the same level as a civil servant of comparable seniority. In exchange, teachers shall take a short test each year to ensure that they remain up to date on recent developments/discoveries in their field. teachers shall also be exempt from having to repay student loans after completing five years as a public school teacher. Any soft drinks vending machines installed on school grounds shall attract a 5% tax, to be funnelled straight back into education. Pay to play, guys.

- Healthcare. Our administration shall enact, as soon as possible, a system of universal healthcare, funded fom taxes. This shall include prescription drugs although we will ask citizens to pay a $15 charge as a contribution (inflation linked) for each prescription filled. Those below 18, over 60, in full time education, military service or receiving welfare payments shall be exempt fom this charge. Private insurance shall continue to be available for those who wish to pay for it. Medical students shall have their student loans written off after serving five years in the USHS (for lack of a better name). The USHS shall also absorb Medicare and Medicaid in the process of being rolled out. The combination of Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance costs you around $2.3 trillion a year. A USHS run along the same lines as the French system (generally accepted as the world's best) would cost less than half of that. Contraception (including, but not limited to, birth control pills, condoms, IUDs, etc) shall be provided free of charge and exempt from prescription charges.

- Defence. A 20% cut in defence spending. America spends more on it's military than the rest of the world combined. Last year's budget increase alone was larger than the entire budgets of your nearest four competitors. This isn't a "strong military", this is a mental illness. In terms of value for money, the Pentagon makes Enron look like a paragon of scrupulous accounting. Any person with some knowledge in this area could cut 10% off the budget just by eliminating the programs which are admitted to be obsolete.

Iraq is handed over the the Iraqi government. However, 50,000 troops shall remain there under the command of the Iraqi government. They shall be rotated out every six months and should the Iraqi government ever ask us to leave, they shall be brought home as quickly as logistically feasable with the exception of the American Embassy's security detail.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Rules

Never Trust A Politician - That's Rule 1. There might once have been a time when politicians were honest, noble creatures who laboured for the good of their constituents but that time has long passed, especially in the USA (with the legal bribery you refer to as "campaign contributions"). All politicians, with the possible exceptions of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul (who I think is batshit but at least honest), will lie to you. They will do so shamelessly, convincingly and whenever it is convienient. The only difference is what they lie about. Currently, Democrats tend to lie about personal matters like extramarital affairs while Republicans tend to lie about policy things like reasons for starting wars, torture and the economy. Note that this can change and often does.

When George W Bush lied, it was easy to tell: His lips moved. Dick Cheney didn't bother lying, he just said "What the fuck are you going to do about it?" and then shot people. Their entire administration lied to torture people, essentially because they wanted to; shred the Constitution, essentially because they wanted to; avoid responsibility, essentially because they could and invade Iraq, essentially for the loot. Obama will lie to you if he's not doing so already. His lies will probably be smaller because Democrats tend to lack the same bully-boy bravado.

Rule 2 - Democracy Is Wasted On The People. There's this wonderful idea among political scientists that voters calmly take stock of the party positions before rationally casting a vote for the candidate who most closely reflects their own views. It's complete horseshit. People, as a mass, are dumb, stupid, panicky, not very intelligent, distrustful of intelligence, spiteful, greedy and vicious. As proof, I present Prop 8. A ballot initiative that might as well have been subtitled "let's stick it to the queers" and yet, the whim of the mob made it law and the California Supreme Court, in a decision I think is legally dubious and morally repugnant, said they could vote away people's rights by simple majority.

I'm not a big believer in democracy. During the 2008 campaign, much hay was made of the "elitist" label. The charge being that an elitist thought they were better than you and they knew how to run your life better than you did. Now, firstly, that's a misuse of the term and secondly, they probably could run your life better than you do. A fifth of Americans believe the sun orbits the earth, most than half don't accept evolution, a frightening number think your Founders were all Christians intending to create a Christian nation, Fox News is "fair and balanced" and more people follow American Idol than the nightly news. This is a people too stupid to be governed. And I'm not suggesting the British are much better. If there is a difference at all, it's only of tiny degrees. The national IQ of any nation is the IQ of it's dumbest resident divided by the number of people in the country.

I actually am an elitist. I believe nations should be run by their best and brightest citizens (which, I hasten to add, doesn't include me), not simply by their most typical. Democracy is, when applied as literally as the California Supreme Court did, simply a more organised system of mob rule and the mob are too damn stupid to rule themselves. They want government services but don't want to pay taxes, they want to smoke dope but don't want gay people to get hitched, they think global warmings a hoax and evolution never happened. If the British public can be represented by a braces and bowler hat commuter, the USA can be represented by an armed soccer hooligan.

So, I don't believe in democracy. It's a bad, fundementally flawed system but, as Sir Winston said, it's the best one we've yet come up with. Actually, one that works, at least for a while, is benevolent dictatorship. But the problem with that is that the dictator eventually dies and his successor may turn out to be Caligula.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Words Mean Things

In my other life, I am a wrestling fan. Joey Styles, the former "Voice of ECW" managed to make himsel look incredibly silly a few days ago by describing Obama as a Marxist (Jim Cornette then gloriously pwned him on Jimbo's podcast). So, in the interest of advancing the education of (mostly) Americans, let's talk about what a few words mean:

Socialism - Socialism is a left-wing theory of economics, probably rating about a 6 on a ten-point political scale (with the centre at 0). It's main feature is that it proposes state ownership of the means of production and distribution and it is explicitely a class-based theory. The idea is that the ownership class uses and abuses it's ownership to surpress the working class. Therefore, if the state owns the means of production and distrbution, it can ensure fair recompence for labour and purchase, thereby creating a fairer society. You may or may not agree with the theory but there it is.

Here is what socialism is NOT: Spending on social programs, raising taxes on the rich, universal healthcare. None of those things are part of socialism. The right are simply lying about that. Attempting to create a fairer society is not, in and of itself, socialism. Nor is socialism some kind of virus where, if you allow the tiniest hint of socialism, you wake up in 1959 Moscow. It doesn't work like that. Here in Britain, we have had Socialist governments (Labour was an outright socialist party for most of it's existance). Some were good, some were bad, one was a disaster but none turned the nation into the UKSR, came anywhere near or even tried to do so. Universal healthcare is socialised, not socialist. Clear?

Marxism/Communism - Marxism is another left-wing ideaology, rating probably about an 8 or 9. Marxism is an extension of the pre-existing theory of socialism into the political arena which socialism has little to say about. Essentially, the idea can be summed up as "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs" i.e. that the state would take control of any produce beyond that required by the producer for their needs and redistribute that according to the needs of others. Over time, the state would become less and less involved in this movement of produce and eventually wither away entirely, creating a form of communalist anarchist utopia. So there's the theory.

It's worth noting that not one country which has ever attempted Marxism has ended up with Communism as Marx envisioned it. In the opinion of many (including myself), that's because Marx's vision, while noble, was unworkable. Communism as Marx envisioned it requires humans to be a great deal nicer than humans actually are. It doesn't account for the greed endemic in human nature. Nor does it provide any incentive for producers to produce beyond their needs other than the vagaries of human nature. If you have the same opinion of human nature as myself, that would explain why it's unworkable.

What enforced Communism actually produces in the real world is Soviet Communism (note that, despite the name, this is used to cover Cuba, Yugoslavia, China and so on, despite the forms being slightly different and China having this really weird hybrid). You all know about Soviet Communism so there's no need to examine it in great detail except to point out that it was a million miles from Marx's intentions but probably the closest anyone could come in the real world. So, Marx took the already existing theory of socialism, expanded it into Communism, Russia (and other nations) aimed for Communism and ended up with Soviet Communism. Clear?

Fascism - Fascism is probably the most abused word in political history. The name comes from the fasces, a bundle of rods carried by the Roman Lictors, bodyguards to the elected leaders of Rome, the Consuls (note, this does NOT make the fasces the symbol of fascism). Fascism is an extreme-right theory, around a 9 or 10 which presupposes the pre-eminence of the state, that all individual interests should be sublimated to the interests of the state. In the early 20th century, it was a fashionable theory and several countries adopted it to various degrees, most notoriously Nazi Germany.

Now, fascism has various features, some of which are disputed but the ones which are generally agreed are prominent and continuing nationalism; near-worship of the military; some degree of fusion between the state and corporate worlds; retreat from pre-existing democratic ideals and the designation of certain groups (often, but not necessarily, racial groups) as semi-official scapegoats. "Fascism" is NOT a synonym for "authoritarian" although fascist nations almost always are authoritarian in practice in the same way that racism is not necessarily a requirement of fascism but fascist regimes are almost always racist. "Authoritarian" simply indicates any state which abuses human rights, "fascism" is a specific set of reasons for doing so.
All clear? Good (and you should now know why "Islamofascism" is a nonsense word).

Having read this far, you can probably see why the Obama Administration is none of these things. Raising taxes on the richest by 3-4% is not socialism or communism and the idea that a Marxist would want to expand government is laughable. During the Eisenhower era, the top tax rate hovered between 85% and 91%. Was he a socialist or a communist?

"Tax-and-Spend" - One of the great myths of politics is that only liberals tax and spend. Taxing and spending is kinda what all governments require; in a very real sense, it's the definition of what governments do: Taking money from some (in the form of taxes) and then spending it on, say, an army. All governments do this. The reason the right hurls the insult at liberals is the difference in what the taxes are being spent on. Conservatives (or people who call themselves conservative anyway) spend them on the military (and the US has a massively bloated military budget for that reason) and on tax cuts for the very richest. Liberals spend them on trying to provide for the poorest and can therefore be demonised for it (the entire US political arena having swallowed Ayn Rand's batshit theories whole). Both sides spend money on earmark projects, most (but not all) of which are unnecessary.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Hampshire Spits In God's face

Yes, that's sarcasm.

It's going to be interesting to see what kind of lies the right will come up with to scream about this one. Their usual complaint is about "activist judges overruling the will of the people". Of course, that ignores the fact that the job of the courts is not to enforce the popular whim (part of the reason I think the Cali decision was wrongly decided), it is to decide the law. Not to follow popular idiocy, not to respect the voters, not even to "protect teh nation". Simply to decide the law.

Right about now, some moron is about to tell me that courts interpret law and shouldn't decide it. Like the canard about "legislating from the bench", this is a distinction without a difference. Court decisions establish precedent which all lower courts are obliged to follow, that's the normal operation of precedent, it's what courts are supposed to do. And that decision establishes a policy (which is what Justice Sotomayor was talking about) on how that point of law is interpreted in the future. That's not "activism", that's the normal operation of a legal system. All courts establish law all the time, it's what they do. And thank goodness for that.

But that doesn't apply on this occasion because NH legalised same-sex marriage through it's legislature. Perhaps they'll try and get up a voter referendum again. I don't know if that can happen in NH, it depends on their state law. Perhaps there will be another smear campaign lying to the public through the mass media but this is NH, so I doubt it.

One of the favourite arguments for idiots, especially when confronted with the Loving decision which defines marriage as one of the fundemental rights is the pathetic observation that the Constitution contains no mention of gay marriage. There are two problem here. The first is the basic assumption in law that anything not expressely forbidden is presumed to be legal. The second is their presumption that there is something so peculier about same-sex marriage that all other statements made about marriage do not apply to it. It's like they think laws have to include the phrase "This means the queers too".

In the end, it doesn't matter what they say, they're still wrong. We have same-sex marriage here in all but name. For political expediancy, the word "marriage" was dropped from the law in exchange for getting all of the legal rights of marriage (and the law is phrased so that it is considered equal in absolutely all respects but the very, very technical like what exactly defines "consumation"). Presumptive inheritence, presumptive power of attorney, visitation rights, child access rights, the whole ball of wax. In time, I suspect that the law will be quietly amended to include the word "marriage" as well. We also allow gay people to serve openly in our armed forces and gay people in the armed forces can marry (or be "unionised" anyway) as well. Gay people here have equal adoption rights as well (subject to the usual checks and tests).

What has this done to our nation? What vengence has the divine visited upon us? Absolutely nothing. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. There was a good-spirited contest between Brighton and Soho (both areas with big gay communities) for who could have the more spectacular celebrations. By general agreement, Brighton had a very slight edge. Our armed forces need to build a few more married couples quarters; a few more children are adopted into loving families and the tax revenues took a miniscule hit (the tax system is structured here so that married couples pay less tax than two single people) but that's more than offset by the tertiary income from marriage services (coach and horses, catering, etc). Beyond that, no difference at all. Straight couples still fall in love and get married, still have kids; churches still marry whomever they see fit, life goes on much as it did before. A few thugs still try playing "Smear the Queer" but the police do their best to catch them. The police force in most major cities have a community liason to the gay community just as they do to most ethnic or religious communities. The world still whirls around. No difference.

Except... Gay couples have the option of permanency, of legal protections, of adoption, of all the rights and responsibilities that straight couples take for granted. The very first same-sex marriage performed here was between a couple who received a waiver of the normal 15-day waiting period because one partner was dying and wasn't expected to live through that period (such waivers are routinely granted to straight couples in the same situation). They were married (Unionised) by the hospital bed by the local registrar. The ill partner died that night and as he died, his husband held him and comforted him and told him he was loved. Call me crazy, call me a romantic but I always thought that was what marriage was about.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Abortion. Dr Tiller and the price of free speech

Terrorism is the use or threat of violence in an attempt to change political policy. It's not civil disobedience. Sit-ins, protests and the like aren't terrorism. For an act to be terrorism, it must be violent and it must be done in an attempt to change political policy. The acts of the Weather Underground during the seventies were domestic terrorism (although Bill Ayers wasn't a terrorist since his incompetence meant he never managed to bomb anyone except himself). McVeigh was a domestic terrorist.

Most anti-abortion groups confine their activities to civil disobedience; protests, letter writing campaigns, pickets and that sort of thing. That's not terrorism. A few of the anti-abortion groups commit minor acts of property damage as part of their activities, such as using Crazy Glue on the locks of clinics. That's a crime but not terrorism.

There is, however, a faction of the anti-abortion movement which does qualify as terrorists. You've probably heard of them. They go by names like "Army of God" and they kill people to save fetuses. They exist relatively openly, in small but determined numbers and you can find them with a quick Google search. They are exactly the kind of people who were warned about in that report on potential domestic terrorists which the right went nuts over earlier this year (conveniently forgetting that firstly, Bush ordered the report and secondly, there was one on left-wing groups as well). Operation Rescue, while not criminal in itself, frequently acts as an apologist for the terrorist activities of such extremists, in much the same way as Sinn Fein used to do with the IRA. The statement of Randall Terry with regard to the murder of Dr Tiller was largely about how terrible Tiller was. Effectively saying "Yes, it was murder but he needed killing".

Bill O'Lielly on his nightly rant at the world, did several segments on Dr Tiller, publicizing (he claims he didn't invent it) the nickname "Tiller the Baby Killer" and described Tiller's clinic as a "death mill". Other Fox lunatics have said similar things. Their speech is covered under the First Amendment. No-one's disputing that but the First isn't an absolute cover. It doesn't cover you for shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater and it's doesn't cover you for encouraging violence. So, how far is too far? Do O'Lielly's comments and those like his cross the line into encouraging violence? I honestly don't know. I couldn't say and the law is unclear.

What I can say is this: O'Lielly and those like him have repeatedly described Tiller and his colleagues as committing murder. They are categorically wrong for several reasons. The definition of murder is "an unlawful killing during time of peace" [my emphasis]. Abortion is legal in the circumstances Dr Tiller acted in, therefore his actions were not unlawful and, by definition, not murder. The Bible might have a different meaning but since the Bible isn't the basis of US law or society (and if you think it is, you are a moron), that's irrelevant. Furthermore, even in those times and places where abortion has been illegal, it has never been classified as murder. A friend of mine (also in the law) and I once deduced that even if abortion was illegal, the only possible legal classification would be "Homicide, sub-class: Illegal abortion".

Personally, I am broadly pro-choice. That's not an absolute position but it is, in general, what I believe. I don't think a fetus qualifies as a person with rights sufficient to overrule those of the woman. As the pregnancy progresses, abortion law becomes more restrictive and rightly so (anyone who describes Roe as "abortion on demand" is either a cretin or a liar). That's my personal view. I have heard all kinds of ridiculous arguments for why I'm wrong, my favorite of which is the gory pictures of late-term abortions (guys, if you can't convince me with a logical argument, you're not going to win with an illogical one) but it's a position that, with only minor modifications, I have held consistently for years now. I know some people who are anti-abortion. A few are the knuckle-dragging misogynists that people imagine but the majority are genuinely well-meaning people who believe abortion is morally wrong. A few are also anti-death penalty and, if nothing else, I have to applaud their moral consistency. I don't agree with them on either point (I am pro-death penalty in the correct circumstances) but their position is clear and morally consistent: They believe that all life is sacred, I respect that.

The difference between pro-choice and pro-life is, for the most part, not a difference of facts but a difference of opinions. Specifically, a difference of opinion about at what point, a fetus becomes a person with the rights thereof. Discounting the lunatic fringe, most people disagreeing over this issue are genuine people with good intentions. Yes, there are knuckle-dragging misogynists in the pro-life camp. I've never met one but I'm sure that there are gleeful baby killers in the pro-choice camp but neither represent the majority. A difference of opinions.

Domestic terrorism isn't a matter of opinion. It's a matter of law and facts. In the US, there is a small but dedicated fringe who are domestic terrorists and they hide within the anti-abortion movement. And they're winning.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cheney: "US should murder suspects"

I'm paraphrasing. But only just.

From the Washington Times ( http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jun/01/cheney-death-option-detainees-guantanamo-closed/ ):

"If you're going to be engaged in a world conflict such as we are, such as
the global war on terrorism, if you don't have a place where you can hold
these people, your only other option is to kill them," Mr. Cheney said.
So that's Dickey's solution: No trial, no jury, straight to execution. How did people fail to notice for eight years that this man is a textbook raving psychopath? As far as Cheney is concerned, there's no law, international or domestic, which can prevent him killing people whenever he wants. Did it just escape everyone's attention that Lex Luthor was essentially running the country for nearly a decade?

I'm not sure about terrorists but I'm rapidly becoming terrified of Dick Cheney.