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False Equivalency, Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right

12:11 pm in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

photo: valleygirl_tka via Flickr

There has been a lot of false equivalence going around today. This idea that both sides of the political spectrum are engaged in speech that is designed to inflame and that there can’t possibly be any kind of correlation drawn between the eliminationist rhetoric on the Right and the actions of Jared Loughner.

I’ve already covered what I think is the good evidence for this in a previous post, so I won’t rehash that but let me take on the idea that both sides do it. Michelle Malkin has up at her site some pretty nasty things about Sarah Palin that some from the left has posted or said. Some of it is flatly disgusting. Go take a look yourself.

Let’s get the thing that needs to be said out of the way right away. The depictions of violence against Sarah Palin on not acceptable. The folks who have fire bombed animal researchers houses are criminals that deserve nothing by prison time and they discredit their movement. There is no excuse for violence ever in politics.

But here is the thing, some of the folks that Ms. Malkin has pictures of up on her site where arrested for disorderly conduct at anti-war rallies, not for acts of wanton violence with weapons or the attempt to do so. Does that excuse the fellow who threw tomatoes at Sarah Palin, nope, not a bit, but being arrested for disorderly conduct is not at all the same as heading up to the Freeway with the intent of shooting up the Tides Foundation. They are without doubt in two separate categories.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Water Cooler – Time To End Politically Violent Speech

6:58 pm in Politics by Bill Egnor

Anyone who has ever read my posts with any regularity will know that I do not in any way tolerate the language of political violence. There are many ways that democracy can die and one of the surest is when political violence becomes acceptable. Whether a person thinks that the Democrats are Socialists and Nazis or they think that there is some kind of revolution coming which will change the nature of government in this county I constantly and consistently argue with and denigrate those who make those kinds of statements.

While I am a constitutional absolutist who will not bend on anyone’s right to speak their mind, that does not mean that I think it is a good idea for everyone to spout off with whatever comes to mind.

There should be a filter. Any person should know that when you shout “Burn, Baby, Burn” that there will be some in any society that will pick up a pack of matches. We can not make laws that would prevent the speaking of such irresponsible things, that cure would be worse than the disease, but we can make it socially unacceptable.

Just as using a public platform to spout racism and say “nigger” or “spic” or “kike” or even “mic” has become unacceptable, it is time to make the rhetoric of violence if not a career ender then at the very least one that stops the advancement of that career.

It is time for all of us to police ourselves. The shooting of Representative Gifford’s may have been the work of a deranged individual, but even the Pima County Sheriff is saying at this point that she was the target of the act. The climate that we have entered where elimationist speech is not only allowed but accepted and rewarded must end.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Paramilitaries And Vigilantes What The Right Is Bringing America

6:18 am in 2010 election, banality of evil, Conservatism, Elections, Politics by Bill Egnor

One of the things that kills democracies is political violence. When outright violence and more aggressive forms of intimidation become the norm in politics there is very little chance that the will of the people, any people, can be accurately heard. While there will be those who are so in love with the idea of government by the people that they will not be cowed, larger numbers of people will think of their families, their children and their own health and well being and bow to the fear of violence.

We in the United States have been witness to a set of trends which have been edging us closer and closer to political violence. Just last night some supporters of Rand Paul knocked down a activist as she tried to give a mock employee of the month card to the radical Republican Senatorial Candidate. They then head locked her and one of their members stomped on her head and neck. At this time it is unknown exactly how injured she is, but this kind of assault could have maimed or even killed her. Being held down and kicked is no little scuffle, it is serious assault.

If this were the only instance of this kind of thing, it would still be disturbing. Sadly it is not. We have seen the “arrest” of an Alaska journalist by the security detail for Tea Party backed Republican Senatorial Candidate Joe Miller. We have seen Carl Paladino screaming in the face of a reporter and saying that he would “take him out”. We have seen Sharon Angle muse about “2nd Amendment remedies” if Republicans are not elected. We have seen Stephen Broden, a Tea Party candidate for House in Dallas say and defend the idea that armed revolution should be on the table.

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Tea Party In The Military; A New Danger To Democracy

7:00 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

One of the most important things for a successful democracy is civilian control of the military. The power of a standing army to take over a nominally democratic society can be seen in the multiple coups and handovers of power in Turkey and the more recent reign of Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Those are the best case scenarios, where the power that was seized by the military was returned to the civilian governments, that is not always the case. Burma being an example of when the military takes over and does not relinquish power.

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All this makes the recent establishment of the Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots is so troubling. Talking Points Memo is reporting that active duty marine Gary Stein has formed the group at his Camp Pendleton base.

By doing so Sgt. Stein is breaking long standing policies about active duty military members and partisan activity. Here are a couple of quotes by Sgt. Stein from the TMP article

"People in the military need to be heard," the group’s prime organizer, Gary Stein — a Marine Corps sergeant stationed at Camp Pendleton in southern California — told TPMmuckraker in an interview. "Our opinions do count."
Many people in the military "feel like they can’t speak out against Obama or Congress," said Stein. "The armed forces should have a little bit more say than we think we do," he said.


My oath was to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and that oath will be kept. I wont’ "Just follow" orders. There is at this time a debate within the ranks of the military regarding their oath. Some mistakenly believe they must follow any order the President issues. But many others do understand that their loyalty is to the Constitution and to the people…

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The Overton Window On Political Violence Has Moved

7:00 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

I have few absolutes in my life. This is by design, the fewer things that you have no bending on the greater the chance that you can find common ground and get progress on issues or even have a happy life. The two I’ll talk about today are torture and political violence.

We have seen a disturbing trend in the last few months of violence based on political views. The man who flew his plane into the IRS, the assassination of Dr. Tiller for performing legal reproductive services, the killing of police officers for the supposed plan by the Obama administration to seize the guns of private citizens, the brick throwing at Democratic political offices and the cutting of gas lines at the family home of the brother of a U.S Representative whose address was posted on the internet by mistake.

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Then there are the credible threats; just yesterday a man was arrested for making credible threats against the life of Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and a man was arrested for threatening to use deadly force to prevent the operation of an abortion clinic. Pictures of nooses have been faxed to African American Representatives, and many other have had anonymous calls to their homes and offices.

While the level of violence and threats of violence is very troubling, what is more troubling is the ho-hum attitude about it. Political violence is a particular horror of mine. I find no romance in revolution or armed struggle. When it happens it is the last and worst possible choice. When it starts in democracies it is one of the hardest things to end, with the cycle of tit-for-tat violence going on and on and on. Being Irish I have an innate ability to form and hold a grudge (you know what Irish Alzheimer’s is? You forget everything but the grudge), so perhaps I have a lower threshold for this than others.

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Republicans Have Sown The Dragons Teeth

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Let’s be clear, if a member of Congress or one of their staff is seriously assaulted, the blame will squarely lie with the Republican Party and its leadership in particular. I say seriously assaulted because Rep. Cleaver was spat upon on Sunday and that constitutes assault. But it will not be a legal culpability that the Republicans will have to bear it is the moral responsibility that they as people elected to represent and lead this nation.

We have seen some back peddling from a few Republicans, softly decrying the actions of their supporters as “nuts” or a “ few isolated incidents”. This, of course, completely ignores the years of ever growing rhetoric which paints their political opponents as traitors or baby killers or Socialists or Nazi’s.

This is the problem with maximalist rhetoric. When your opponent and or their policy is compared, without caveat, without any nuance to the worst of the worst of humanity, it takes the social limiters that a civil society depends on off line. If one group of people is really trying to destroy America, then why isn’t it okay to take up arms against them? If one political party is actually voting to kill your grandmother, isn’t that an imminent danger that demands an extreme response?

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Death Threat Over Reform

3:48 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

The Dog is never one to encourage anger or rage in political discourse. There are a couple reasons for this. First anger while an effective short term movitator is not the kind of argument which wins elections. When you have a candidate who is angry and is not putting forth a positive vision, that candidate loses. It is true as well when we are working on policy. Too much anger in our tone allows those we are trying to influence to discount what we are saying as unserious. Can there be any doubt why the Right in the form of Boss Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are trying to hang the “angry black man” label around the president?

The second reason is anger, rage are not controllable. Once you start to stoke them in a political group, for some they get out of control, they grow and grow until they become the reason in and of themselves. At this point they become dangerous to the very fabric of political discourse. This is what we are seeing in the debate about Health Care Reform.

The Right has lied to their constituents. They have told them that reform will mean the government will euthanize their grandparents. They have told them they would be forced off of their current insurance. They have told them they would be inspected in their homes in terms of healthy life style and punished if they did not change. All of these are bald-faced lies, but they have pervaded them anyway. They have also encouraged their followers to act outside the boundaries of the common behavior, to act up against the Democrats who they have been told will do such horrible things to them.

It is this combination of hysterical lies and encouragement to act outside the social rules Read the rest of this entry →