Friday, August 08, 2008

Quick notes from the road

- Boy am I ever cheesed off at John Edwards. IMHO, not much could straight-up give McCain the election right now, but if Edwards had been the nominee, him having to admit that he cheated on his cancer-stricken wife would have done it. Yet he was running anyway. I feel justified in every bit of my prior snark about him. His seeming willingness to risk handing the election to the Rs seriously pisses me off. Did he REALLY think he could get away with it? Was he REALLY willing to risk four years of the presidency over it? Did the poor folks he claimed to care about, who will surely suffer under McCain REALLY actually mean that little to him? His entitled asshattedness appalls me.

You want to fuck someone who isn't your cancer-stricken wife? Fine. But don't fuck over the people who believe in you.

- Clarifications of the previous post.

1. I am a firm believer in Gary Larson's image of God having jars of people labeled "black people," "white people," "brown people," "Jerks," though the sort of person who shoots up a church certainly deserves a harsher term than "jerk."
IMHO, it's not an accident that school shootings have gone up as lynchings have gone down. I'd say that there are always violent fuckups in the world and when it is societally acceptable to some degree to call their actions part of some sort of ideologically-based war, they are happy to do so, but they would have been just as happy to claim another purpose as long as they got their evil little rocks off.

2. If Hannity et al are calling for actual violence against specific people, give me a torch and I will join the mob and/or you can save us all some lighter fluid and call the cops. Barring actual threats of violence, I don't see the "fire in a crowded theatre" connection. Could someone provide me with some specifics on what exactly these folks have said that could theoretically have moved somebody to violence? I don't think calling liberals evil or comparing them to despots qualifies, or if it does, we need to take a hard look at ourselves.

OK, back to vacation.

Noting that she writes a lot of things in a sort of modified outline form these days. It'e like she's a law student or something...


ejgejg said...

I have switched to reading blogs on the google reader so I comment less, but I clicked over here to say amen to this:

You want to fuck someone who isn't your cancer-stricken wife? Fine. But don't fuck over the people who believe in you.

Exactly. To risk being the nominee knowing this (and I am not convinced that it is not his child) is so fucking irresponsible and selfish. I tend not to get too hopeful or positive about any politician, but the level of selfishness and lack of forethought on JE's part seems particularly stupid and selfish. At least for a politician that I had every so slight hopes for not 100% loser. Guess he is.

Anonymous said...

He's wrong for lying to everyone when asked about it - and I think this is what he's in hot water for, yes?,

At the same time, maybe we should start taking count of married male politicians who haven't cheated on their wives. Maybe the trick is to pull a McCain or a Giuliani and divorce the wife FOR the mistress.

PG said...

Cheating by itself is so common that it ought to be forgivable; the problem is the lying. It is bad to have cheated on your spouse, but it is much worse to cover up and lie about it. By cheating you have made your spouse a cuckold, but by hiding it you've made a fool of your spouse. You have abused someone's trust, and that is a flaw of character that bodes ill for holding a position of authority.

However, I don't think extra-marital sex is wrong if your spouse is genuinely OK with it (when I say genuinely, I mean your spouse is sincerely saying, "I would prefer that you have sex with other people," not just "Well, if you are so desperate to fuck other people, fine, go ahead"). And because it's not inherently immoral, it's not really a character issue. It's not the business of people outside your marriage.

The chance of getting an honest polyamorist elected to political office outside San Francisco, however, is probably slim to none.

PG said...

Regarding Hannity, you are correct that absent advocacy of violence against named individuals, he is not getting into "fire in a crowded theater" territory; he is very much within his 1st Amendment rights. I'm not saying he can or should be sued or prosecuted. I am saying that he should feel some twinge of moral responsibility for encouraging hatred of liberals.

Your lynching point fits well in here. It is entirely legal for someone to verbally trash black people as a group; we don't recognize "group libel" under American law. But are you saying that someone in 1922 Mississippi who said on his radio show that black men posed a constant danger to his listeners' white daughters didn't bear any moral responsibility for lynchings?

Also, the inverse relationship between number of lynchings and number of school shootings isn't very close. Lynchings dropped to almost zero after 1951, but there were a few intervening decades before school shootings began to increase.

Moreover, the two are extremely different psychologically. Lynching was a social activity; people sold goddamn souvenir postcards. Tuskegee University defined it as requiring three or more people. It generally was done by a mob, which increased the difficult of prosecuting any individual for the crime. It was extra-judicial punishment for actions that wouldn't stand up as crimes in a real court of law. People who acted outside local social rules -- including white people of the wrong ethnicity, religion or political preference -- were lynched for their transgressions.

Shootings in schools, churches, malls etc. tend to be carried out by at most a couple of individuals at a time, but more often a single shooter. They are disaffected, and while they want to fault the large group of potential victims they attack (the classmates who made fun of them, the Jews at the El-Al airline counter), they also are aware that their actions are not approved by the majority. That's part of the reason many try to kill themselves after completing their "mission." It's the opposite relationship. Where the lynching is many against one victim, the mass shooting is one against many victims.

But the guy who shot up the El-Al counter, July 4th 2002? He was motivated by what he had been told about the evils of Jews and especially of Israel. Notably, the U.S. government initially tried to dismiss the shooting as just a random crime -- understandably, after a rush of violence against American Muslims in the wake of 9/11, the government didn't want to create fear of more terrorism by Muslims. But eventually the FBI et al concluded that the act was done to influence U.S. policy regarding Israel/ Palestine and that it qualified as terrorism.

The targets are not random, which indicates that those who spout hatred help shape a sense of self-justification. I think this sense is particularly important for adults who commit these crimes, because they've generally grown past the fantastic selfishness that allows school shooters to feel justified in getting back at people who were mean to them. Adults feel the need to justify a mass murder with some bigger cause, and the hate mongers give it to them.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Hannity, you are correct that absent advocacy of violence against named individuals, he is not getting into "fire in a crowded theater" territory; he is very much within his 1st Amendment rights.

Why must an individual be named?

Anonymous said...

I don't listen to the Right Wing guys, but here is a post that quotes them, and they do seem to indicate naming names:

PG said...


Technically, the "crying 'fire' in a crowded theater" exception to the First Amendment has more to do with creating extra danger in an already difficult situation. For example, if at a rally of angry farmers upset about getting evicted, someone yells, "Let's go burn down the bankers' houses!" he has cried 'fire' even though he hasn't named names. He has created a 'clear and present danger' to the local bankers. So you're right that it isn't necessary to name names, but in the U.S. you generally have to advocate violence against specific individuals to be held responsible for violence against them. On the other hand, if someone just yells, "We oughta crucify those Jewish bankers," and there are no Jewish bankers in proximity, then he's being anti-Semitic but he can't be held responsible for someone taking a trip to the nearest big city to find a Jewish banker to kill.

(This is all in contrast to the law in other parts of the world; in Canada and much of Europe, someone can be held liable -- even go to jail -- for group libel, hate speech, Holocaust denial, etc. Despite my respect for Waldron and especially Anthony Lewis, I am with the absolutists on this one: we cannot back down from our guarantees of free expression simply because people may misuse the freedom.)

As for Ann Coulter, the post you linked had her advocating that someone in her audience kill a specified person or group only with regard to Justice Stevens, and she immediately stated that she was joking. (Also, "rat poison in his creme brulee" seems obviously the sort of thing Coulter and her conservative audience consider funny -- oh, these liberals and their fancy furrin foods!) In every other instance, she was saying that the state ought to kill people or that someone's death ought to be getting debated.

Coulter has a law degree, and despite appearances, is not stupid. She knows what she's doing.

Joe The Math Guy said...

I read up on a few 1st amendment cases on which the Supreme Court has ruled, and I thought I would comment on this free speech thread. I am getting some of the information on these cases from Wikipedia, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.

The "clear and present danger" language that PG uses apparently comes from the case that fausto referred to: Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919). During World War I, Schenck had distributed literature opposing the military draft to men eligible for the draft. The Federal Government held that this violated the Espionage Act of 1917. The Supreme Court upheld Schenck's criminal conviction unanimously, with Holmes writing the opinion. Holmes' "clear and present danger" standard reads as follows:

"The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

The "substantive evil" in this case is obstruction of the recruiting or enlistment service during a time of war. I read through the opinion and could not find a general criterion for determining which things these "substantive evils" are. I may be being somewhat unfair to Holmes and the other justices, but to me the content of this seems to be: your freedom of speech can be curtailed whenever, in the view of the government, your speech would lead to bad results.

I am very sorry for the innocent people who were killed, but in my view the 1st amendment must have more force than that.

Joe The Math Guy said...

The Supreme Court's interpretation of the 1st amendment has been considerably liberalized since the Schenck ruling. As far as I can tell, PG's interpretation is indeed the interpretation currently in force, but that is a fairly recent thing. The key here is "imminent lawless action," not "clear and present danger." The key case was Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).

Clarence Brandenberg was an Ohio KKK leader who had been convicted of advocating violence under an Ohio Criminal Syndicalism statute.
During a KKK rally, Brandenburg had called for "revengeance" against "niggers," "Jews," and those who support them. The Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, reversed the conviction. Justices Black and Douglas wrote concurring opinions. The view here was that inflammatory speech could not be punished unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action. I think that the "imminent" aspect gets at what PG was referring to when she indicated that the victims have to be concretely specified and available at the time the speech is occurring.

This is just about the most absolutist interpretation of the 1st Amendment I could imagine. I am delighted at the thought that this is not some fantasy of the way our country might be run, or should be run, or maybe somehow someday could be run, but rather simply the rules down on paper for how it is to be run right this minute. Most certainly we should not give this up for a security that surely would be temporary and illusory.

If it is saddening to think that the 1st Amendment protects the likes of Hannity and Coulter, please keep in mind that it might well be the single most substantial piece of legislation protecting you--from them.

Comrade Kevin said...

About Edwards...

That's just it. People in high positions of authority don't believe they can get caught. Used to toeing the line between half-truth and plain fact in their careers, they think the same kind of logic applies to their personal lives.

And, part of me has always questioned the concept of celebrity, with a bit of a sympathetic eye to the "afflicted". If the camera eye was on you constantly, what sort of coping techniques would YOU develop to keep yourself from turning into a total wreck of a human being? Narcissism and self-obsession to a detrimental degree seems like a way of coping with the stress involved.

If so many people idolize you, denote you as someone special, and cowtow to you on a constant basis, I think you have one or two options: either embrace it, or run from it. And unfortunately in this situation, Edwards believed that he was bulletproof.

I don't feel informed enough at this juncture to throw my ire at Edwards for engaging in the affair itself. Until I know more about Edwards, the woman involved, and the context of the relationship, I don't feel as though I've got a right to judge. Clearly there is more to the story here that may never see the light of day.