September 14th, 2010

  • mijopo

Terry Jones and the First Amendment

I'm really tired of these Terry Jones and Park51 posts, but I saw an issue this morning that makes me want to revisit the Terry Jones case strictly from a First Amendment perspective.  Apparently, on Good Morning, America, Justice Stephen Breyer claimed that the Koran burning may be akin to shouting "fire" in a crowded theater and that therefore it may not have first amendment protection.

I would argue that there are important ways in which the "fire in a crowded theater" example differ from the Koran burning.  For one thing, the theater example has results that are immediate, extremely dangerous and presumably the resulting provocation is the only reasonable explanation for shouting "fire".   Furthermore, it's the case that shouting "fire" is obviously untrue and, as noted, done *only* to provoke.  The Koran burning is, presumably, a genuine expression of the participant's feeling, and while it may have predictable results in terms of provocation, the provocation is not the only or the best explanation for the action.  A reasonable case can be made that the act is being undertaken for other ends.  As importantly, the negative reaction to the book burning wouldn't be a reasonable considered response.  We can't rationally expect those in the theater to act differently in response to a fire alarm, we can reasonably expect people not to incite riots over a book burning.   (Do the Danish cartoons also lose First Amendment protection, one could argue that those were actually more deliberately provocative than the Koran burning?)

My concern here is that if we open the door to make First Amendment exceptions for any speech that could result in provocation, then we can always tell a story about why one's First Amendment rights can be ignored.  After all, we can always tell a story about nut jobs responding irrationally to some act, so on that basis almost anything out of the mainstream loses First Amendment protection.  

What are the limits on free speech in a free society?  Why do we think free speech protection doesn't extend to shouting "fire"? (If we do so think)  And how is that example analogous or dis-analogous to the Koran burning or the Danish cartoon situations?
Godzilla, default

Thoughts on a meme I see going around:

It has been my experience that the progressives seem to believe that perpetual war strengthens and undergirds the state, presumably to suppress proletarian movements. They seem truly to see what happens during a war, namely that governmental power grows during them, and appear to believe it can go on forever. In truth that is not how it ever worked, and it sure ain't the way it does in the 21st Century.

Let's look at a few example of long modern wars to see what it does to states, shall we? First, at the very first stirrings of Modernism, with the French Revolution the result was that from the 1780s into the 1810s there was ceaseless war, which in its early days was all Europe being France's bitch. Did any of this help the French state in the long run? Not at all. Wars are risky things and the fate of the armies on the battlefield prompted the return of the Girondins to power but when Napoleon took over he created a system that required perpetual battlefield expansion to work.

Then Tsar Alexander I ended that in 1812 and the French state went through what is easily considered the most rapid changes of governments possible, from the Bourbon Restoration to the 1830 Revolution, then the rise of yet another Bonaparte, then the Third Republic, then the modern chaos during and after WWII, of which the riots in 2006 were only another manifestation.

Let's look now at the longest conventional war of the 20th Century: during the 1980s the Ba'ath dictatorship of Saddam Hussein began a long war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was an eight-year conflict with neither side truly able to destroy each other but both pursuing the devastating civilian-targeting measures of WWII but with a conflict that was a trench war as in World War I and the Korean War.

Neither Iraq nor Iran benefited very much from said long war, Iraq was driven into such debt that it had to attack Kuwait to try to recoup some of it, which drew it into the mess it's in with the USA now. Iran saw the consolidtation of the Khomeini revolution which did not in the end benefit Iran very much either as this enabled that dictatorship to gain both a legitimacy and a means to quietly destroy most of its real opposition.

For one other example, what of the longest US war of the 20th Century, the Vietnam War? We were involved in that from the 1950s on into the 1970s and the result was the biggest single crisis in the United States since the 1860s. That was as close to a perpetual war as it got, bar the Korean War, which while our longest war the Kim Family is far too smart to immolate itself in the sense that some Americans seem to wish it would. Where does the idea of perpetual warfare as a means to strengthen societies and instill certain permanent features come from?

It does not appear to bear any resemblance to the fate of actual societies that went through such long and devastating conflicts.

Sex and death lie at the poisoned heart of religion

I am in total agreement with Polly Toynbee who writes in The Guardian today

* Humanity has an innate moral sense, without threats of divine wrath and reward. Good and bad works are done by both the secular and the religious. But wherever the institutions of religion wield real power, they prove a force for cruelty and hypocrisy.*

The claim that god has us in his hands and is yet absolutely powerless is the construct of the insane.

The Pope is on a state visit to the UK this week in all his pomp and glory, the head of the pedophile church, the police are protecting him instead of arresting him.

Humanities submission to this god fearing crap was ok when the world was flat, we have not moved on?
vatican, catholic

And speaking of the Pope....

A few caveats first: the conference is made of Roman Catholics, true, but that doesn't mean it's sanctioned by the official church. None of the bullet points are official tenets of the faith. While as a Catholic, I disagree with many of the social teachings concerning birth control, women priests, and homosexuality, and its handling of the child abuse crisis, the Church since Vatican 2 has certainly become more engaged with science. So why did I post this? I guess to show that there are even fundamentalists in the Roman Catholic Church (particularly within the Catholic Charismatic movement).
  • ccr1138

Is this really the tone of debate we want to have in America?

I'm subscribed to this community because I respect the intelligence of the people here (well, most of them :-), and I learn a lot from the discussions. I know most people here don't share my political views -- I like to call myself a conservative progressive libertarian. But most folks here are smart enough not to call me a racist because I loathe Obama's politics, or to characterize half the country as compassionless pigs simply because they think the constitution limits the federal government to a specified set of powers.

So I am appalled at the tone of this email I got from Democracy for America today:
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Not to mention this email I got from a few days ago.
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For the "tl;dr" crowd, a few exerpts:

- Believe it or not, some corporate Democrats in the Senate might side with lobbyists and racist Tea Party Republicans instead of you and me.

- I will choose the Democrats' campaign for "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" on Election Day over the Republicans' dream of more "Tax Gifts for Millionaires"

- ... Democrats' best shot is to expose Republicans as working only to protect millionaires and corporations.

- ... a $700 billion giveaway to the richest Americans in exchange for Obama's middle class tax cuts.

- People who are already millionaires would get about $100,000 each if the Republicans get their way.

- Racist Tea Party Republicans are more intent on beating Obama -- no matter what the cost -- than creating jobs for the American middle-class. The right wing wants to score political points by taking money from our kids' and grandkids' future, and handing out tax dollars to the wealthiest Americans.


As an independent voter, I like to get my news from a variety of sources, and MoveOn / DFA have the pulse of a pretty big segment of our society. But do they honestly believe the Tea Party as a whole is racist? That Republicans care only about the wealthy? REALLY?

Then I must conclude they are effing morons.

Also, letting people keep their own money is a "giveaway"? And they're Bush's tax cuts, not Obama's - the subject line of the first email was literally "Obama's Tax Cuts." It is SO TRANSPARENT that the Democrats finally woke up and smelled the coffee; for the first year it was nothing but "health care, health care, health care" and now suddenly their priority is jobs? Gosh, I hope the American people aren't actually stupid enough to fall for this.

Juxtapose these two statements:

- The right wing wants to score political points by taking money from our kids' and grandkids' future, and handing out tax dollars to the wealthiest Americans.
- It's now or never. The more Democrats deliver for regular Americans in September and October, the bigger our victories will be this November.

So, these leftists accuse the Republicans of wanting to keep Bush's tax cuts in order to buy a small number of votes, but they shamelessly admit they want to grab more money so they can "deliver" it to voters in exchange for victory this fall. Hypocrisy much?

I don't know about anybody else, but this sort of hyperbole and character assassination is the reason I hate both political parties at the moment. (I would present an example of an email from the DNC, but they are mercifully short on ad hominem lately -- also they are short on ideas, but that's another post.) Can we move past Junior High and discuss the issues rationally? Or has our electorate become so emotion-driven that reason and civility have been totally left behind?
  • merig00

Will Social Security still be around when I retire?

That is not a title of some pundit article, but actually section of the annual letter from Social Security that I just received.

The letter, in black on green tells me that I should trust Social Security because

"Board of Trustees now estimates that based on current laws, in 2037, the Trust Funds will be depleted." and "...there would still be enough funds in 2037 from taxes paid by workers to pay about $760 for every $1,000 in benefits scheduled"

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If laws are not changed, I will be eligible for the Social Security benefits in 2052. By their own estimate, by 2037 they will be already paying 76 cents on a dollar. Why would I want to invest into a fund like that? If this was a private pension fund that promised you such returns, would you invest with it?