Thoughts on Political Speech in the wake of Arizona

There are just a few thoughts I have about all of this that I wanted to share.

First, Sarah Palin. As Xeni Jardin says, “I try to avoid blogging about Sarah Palin, for the same reasons I’ve tried to avoid blogging about Snooki and Paris Hilton, and feeding any number of garden variety internet trolls.1 ” That hasn’t been my policy, but increasingly, I think it ought to be.

I don’t think that her bullseye map was particularly egregious … that sort of thing has become part of the political discourse in our country, for good or ill, and as much as I do tend to think it’s for ill, I also think it’s unfair to hold a half-term governor, failed politician, and trainwreck of a reality TV star personally responsible for the problems in our discourse. Those problems began long before she stumbled, incoherently mumbling, onto the American stage.

I do think that her use of the phrase ‘blood libel’ was particularly unfortunate and ill-thought-out, but come on … it’s Sarah Palin. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. Ezra Klein takes essentially the same tack, saying that while it’s reasonable of her to feel aggrieved at being blamed for a shooting that was almost certainly the fault of untreated mental illness, she squandered almost all of that goodwill trying to make herself the victim, both of the shootings, and, weirdly, of centuries of antisemitic prejudice. Poor Sarah.

As far as discussing angry, violent, political speech in particular, I’ve found myself nodding along with almost everything (the conservative/libertarian) Conor Friedersdorf has written about this. Two of his posts in particular are worth checking out.

First, in Tone Versus Substance, Connor distinguishes between the problems of tone in political speech (the crosshairs, talk of ‘attacking’ the Democrats, that kind of thing) and problems of substance. His argument is essentially that thought much of the focus has been on the tone, we ought to be discussing substance more, particularly overblown and untrue substance.

… remarks about death panels communicated an untruth: the notion that Barack Obama’s health care reform effort sought to empower a panel of bureaucrats who’d sit in judgment about whether an old person’s life would be saved or not. That is the sort of thing we ought to find objectionable, even if the substance is communicated in the most dry language imaginable, because were it true, radicalism would be an appropriate response. “They’re going to start killing old people? We’ve got to stop this!”

I’d add that the same thing is true about those who talk about Barack Obama instituting a socialist dictatorship, about him being Kenyan and not eligible to hold the presidency, and about him ‘hating America.’ All of these are untrue, and what’s more obviously untrue. I have a hard time believing that any more than a tiny percentage of those who repeat these claims actually literally believe them to be true. And yet, if they were true, as Connor says, radical response would be appropriate! If we’re talking about an nascent dictator, a foreigner who’s infiltrated the government, seized the reigns of power and is trying to deliberately destroy America … hell, sign me up! I’ll fight in that war! Sic Semper Tyrannis!2

But I don’t believe that. And neither do the people who say this shit. And neither, unless you’re extraordinarily gullible, do you. Sadly, at any given moment, there are a number of extraordinarily gullible people listening, and if they do believe this, then picking up a gun isn’t entirely wrong. The people who said it were, “just funnin’.” They, “didn’t mean nothin’ by it.” And that’s true. But maybe from now on out we could try to not fabricate blatantly untrue (and scary) shit about our opponents, even if it’s fun.

His second post discusses the charges that both sides of the political spectrum make about the other, accusing them of being worse when it comes to extreme rhetoric. I believe that the Right is much worse than the Left when it comes to this, but then, I’m a leftist. Of course I believe that. Connor’s point is that that kind of accusation and analysis goes on all the time, and he suggests a solution:

Folks on the right think leftists don’t confront the indefensible speech uttered by their side. And vice-versa.

So why don’t the folks at The Corner enter into a bargain with a prominent blogger on the left. What do you say, Matt Yglesias or Kevin Drum or Jonathan Chait? Here’s how it would work. Every day for a week, Monday through Friday, The Corner’s designated blogger could draft one post for publication on the left-leaning blog. The catch? They’d be limited to offering five direct quotations per day of lefties engaged in indefensible rhetoric, however they define it (in context, of course).

In return, the liberal interlocutor could publish the equivalent post at The Corner. And every day for a week, the participants would have to read one another’s five examples for that day, and decide whether to acknowledge that they’re indefensible and assert that the source should apologize if he or she hasn’t done so… or else defend the remark(s).

Maybe I’m wrong. But I suspect that Yglesias, Drum, and Chait would all be game for this sort of exchange. And that it wouldn’t be approved at The Corner in a million years.

Why do you think that is?

My instinct on this matches his. Does yours? Every time this sort of thing gets brought up, the left trots out a list of objectionable quotes from prominent conservatives, nationally syndicated pundits, and elected officials, and the right responds with quotes from a number of actors and some academics I’ve never heard of. Rather than playing that game over and over and over, I’d like to see this tried. I’ve got no problem publicly upbraiding Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore … I wonder if Jonah Goldberg will publicly upbraid Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

The final quote comes from The Onion’s American Voices Article, “Tucson Keeps Church Protesters Away,” about the efforts to keep the Westboro Baptist Church people away from the funerals of those killed at the shootings.

“I’m a big fan of the First Amendment and the rule of law and everything, but what if, just this once, the FBI and the Tucson police went to the movies for a couple hours while we tuned these bastards up with pipes?”

You know, guys when we discuss avoiding violent rhetoric … well … you might want to look at that.

EDIT: Please do not comment unless you accept the basic dignity, equality, and inherent worth of all people.

  1. That quote bugged me a little bit just because it reinforces the idea that the most frivolous, silly people in our culture are all women, which is all kinds of misogynist. Thus, rather than focusing on Snooki, I would include the entire cast of Jersey Shore, Ashton Kutcher, and former President George W. Bush. []
  2. Similarly, if there really is a holocaust of the unborn going on in America, then picking up a gun to end it makes a kind of sense. That was basically Scott Roeder‘s train of thought. But overwhelmingly, the people who keep saying that they believe in the holocaust of the unborn don’t actually believe in violent solutions. There’s a reason. []
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41 Responses to Thoughts on Political Speech in the wake of Arizona

  1. 1
    Willow says:

    The interview from last night’s Daily Show is also worth watching. Stewart tried to force Tim Pawlenty (ex-MN governor) to answer the question of whether the reality of America under Obama was more “tyrannical” than under Bush, and if so, why–in other words, roughly making the same point of Friersdorf’s first post (tone/substance).

  2. 2
    Mandolin says:

    One interesting thing about my husband being a geologist is that him just mentioning his career will often start an argument about either A) young earth creationism, or B) global warming, if the person he mentions it to is a hardcore denialist. Mike’s pretty shy, so he usually sort of tries to duck the other people’s anger, and just kind of recites facts. The other people can get very monologuey or het up on their own, though, especially if alcohol is involved.

    Anyway, a friend’s father (drunk)who brought up and then worked himself up about global warming, with Mike as his target, ended the conversation by saying his side would win the argument because they had guns.

    And that was the first time I’ve ever felt like there was violence embedded in a particular debate. That he was, in effect, threatening us that if we didn’t agree, didn’t capitulate, we’d be shot. He was drunk, and I’m sure he wouldn’t personally shoot us. But ever since, the “second amendment remedies” argument gives me a chill.

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    I do think that her use of the phrase ‘blood libel’ was particularly unfortunate and ill-thought-out,

    Was it more unfortunate and ill-thought-out than when Andrew Sullivan and others on the left and the right used it? Once again hypocrisy on the part of leftist partisans shows through. It’s in fact been used many times in American political discourse quite disconnected from any religious context. There’s nothing unique about how Sarah Palin used it compared to these other examples. Unless you count the fact that the attacks on her have coincided with a great increase in death threats she’s been receiving, which might lead to the spilling of her blood.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    Yeah, mandolin – I’m a strong proponent of the 2nd Amendment, but loose talk about “Second Amendment remedies” rubs me the wrong way as well. I firmly believe that the main purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to provide American citizens with the ability to resist an attempt by the Federal government to abrogate their liberties. But that’s a last resort and we are not that far down any such path that people should think that this a solution we need to have recourse to at this time.

    I must say I’m surprised that there is so much resistance out there towards evolution and natural history as it is currently scientifically understood. Even my own mother, who is hardly an extremist regarding religion or public school systems, once told me that she doubted the truth of the theory of evolution. Obviously knowing full well that I’ve got a B.S. in Biology. It’s not just the “religious Right”.

  5. 5
    MarinaS says:

    I think if the terms of the experiment were expanded to call for five examples of scary or threatening quote from the left and the right about each other, you would indeed see a lof of examples from the right of deeply objectionable language to do with “wingnuts” “teabaggers” “redneck gun-toting scum”, “ignorant” and “racist” republicans and so on. And that’s not very nice.

    But it’s not an out and out call for violence – it’s what your highschool teacher might have called verbal violence, or a verbal attack. Not, you know, sticks and stones.

    What chills my blood is that it seems that right wing Americans have deeply internalised a false equivalence between these two phenomena that helps them feel justified, like Sarah Palin does, in rejecting any accusations of wrongdoing or calls to reconsider their rhetoric.

    As far as they’re concerned, criticism of or insult to them is violence; violence by them is free speech.

  6. 6
    Myca says:

    Once again hypocrisy on the part of leftist partisans shows through.

    In a thread in which I said that Sarah Palin was certainly not responsible for the shootings and it was reasonable for her to be upset about being blamed for them, I think this sentence is fairly unreasonable.

    I can understand being upset because I took a potshot at those who believe goofy conspiracy theories about Obama’s birth, which, at least at one point, included you, but seriously, moderate yourself.

    I think that there are reasonable and unreasonable uses of the term ‘blood libel’, and that both conservatives (like Andrew Sullivan and Conor Friedersdorf) and liberals have used the term in both reasonable and unreasonable ways. In any case, I spent two paragraphs discussing how Ms. Palin was right to object to being blamed for this, and one sentence mentioning that her appropriation of ‘blood libel’ wasn’t a great idea, so yeah, I sure am a hypocritical leftist partisan jerk.

    —Myca

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, 90% of those examples of uses of “blood libel” were from right-wingers.

    Since you ask, I think Palin’s use was more ill-thought then any of those other examples, because this was a sensitive occasion, and an especially poor time for over-the-top, incendiary rhetoric from the second-most-famous politician in the country. So although nearly all those other uses of “blood libel” were pretty stupid, for Palin to use the term this week is even more ill-thought than all those other examples.

    By the way, the quotes from left-wingers aren’t very impressive. If you count Sullivan as a lefty (I guess he’s a conservative Democrat nowadays?), at least two of the statements from the left were from someone who said something was similar to the “blood libel against Jews.” (In the third lefty example, the quote is too chopped up to be sure of the original context it was used in). I don’t think this is the same as Palin’s usage, which brought up the question of if Palin even knew what the term means.

    But yes, if Obama had come out this week and whined about how he’s a victim of “blood libel,” I would have thought that was asinine.

    That said, I don’t think that it’s a big deal that Palin used the term. (I think it’s clear from his post that Myca agrees with me about that). News about Palin tends to be overblown; she’s not the candidate yet, and that she said something a little stupid in a speech shouldn’t be a big news story. There are a zillion more important things happening in the world, and all politicians say stupid things now and again (it’s the inevitable result of speaking so much in public).

    Finally, I don’t think it’s fair to imply that Myca’s saying that Palin’s use of a term was “ill-thought-out” is an “attack” on Palin; not all criticism is an attack. (But maybe that’s not how you meant it.)

  8. 9
    Squatlo says:

    Great post.
    Here’s my take, for what it’s worth… you can dig back through my ten month archive of blog posts and probably find a thousand quotes where I’ve called certain conservative righties “wingnuts” or “racists” or “assholes”, and I may have (not sure about this one) suggested it would do the Republic good if we gathered up some of the noisier ones of note into the same sack and tossed them off of a bridge somewhere.
    So I guess, if you’re looking hard enough and taking every questionable quotation (in or out of context) literally, I’m a guilty progressive. On the other hand (and it’s a much larger hand, trust me) there are a lot of differences between the left’s rhetoric and the right’s.
    I can’t remember anyone on the left since the sixties or early seventies using violent threats or metaphors in their language about the ‘establishment’. That was quite a while ago, and you’d be hard pressed to find references from established politicians or leftie pundits doing that in the past thirty years, in my opinion.
    Yet those violent metaphors are as much a part of the Republican/tea party/”take our country back” rhetoric as any “family values” line they come up with, in speech after speech, article after article, email after email. It’s fashionable to bash the left with references to guns, and you’d be hard pressed to out-patriot the next guy if you didn’t toss in a few lines here and there about 2nd Amendment remedies.
    That’s my problem with the equivalency thing. One side consistently tries to find calm, rational solutions to problems, and the other sends astroturf geriatrics with misspelled signs to interrupt town hall meetings, or suggests that carrying automatic weapons to presidential events is an affirmation of 2nd Amendment rights. No one on this planet detested George W. Bush more than I, but I would have been one of the first to condemn ANYONE who tried to attend one of his events with a weapon. I would have publicly condemned anyone who suggested secession as a solution to his disastrous policies. I would have condemned anyone who even made a lame joke about assassinating the man.
    Compare that to the silence from responsible, reasonable people on the right. When a math teacher uses assassination trajectory factors to teach trigonometry, where was the outrage on Faux News? When the Gov of Texas suggested that secession (armed revolt against the Union) was an option to escape the oppression of Federal regulations, where were the conservatives who should have been condemning him and telling him to find a larger cowboy hat ’cause that one seemed to be cutting off blood to his cranium?
    Screw Palin. She’s as relevant as a boil on my butt to any of this… The ones who have things to answer for are the talk radio hosts, the commentators on Faux News, the elected Reps who continue to foment this kind of fear and irrational hatred for the other side, regardless of the consequences, intended or otherwise.
    I may be wrong, but I don’t think you’ll ever see anyone from that wing of the Republican Party willing to nod and accept even a shred of self-incrimination for their rhetoric. They profit too much from its continued presence in American politics, and frankly, I doubt they could function without it.

  9. 10
    Squatlo says:

    PS… sorry that comment response was so long-winded. Guess I need to find another beta-blocker ‘script and chill…

    Mea culpa…

  10. 11
    Michael Cash says:

    There will always be extremes to any argument. Even though our society has shed the term “tribal”, it is still applicable. People love to have an enemy. They love to rally behind something, no matter how ridiculous (religion, sports, state/country) and be both verbally and sometimes violently in opposition. That’s just our tribal nature.

  11. 12
    Lilian Nattel says:

    I agree that I’ve heard exhortations for violence from the right and not from the left, but I think that it’s time to drop the epithets all around. I admire Fannie’s Room (feminist and LGBT blog) because she is lucid, clear, strong, and always civil in her responses to the Right. There is no equivocation in her discourse, but there is analysis and illumination.

  12. 13
    RonF says:

    Hm. On re-reading my comment I can see where you might have construed it to mean you, personally, Myca. Sorry about that. I meant a broader reference to the large cohort on the left that’s trying (and interestingly enough failing) to make a big controversy about Sarah Palin’s having use the phrase “blood libel” as if it was unique or novel while having said nothing about it’s use previously by a number of commentators over a number of years.

    I’m starting to see a “Chicken Little” effect here. The more that the left comes out with another “OMG SHE’S DOING IT AGAIN” the more that the rest of the country says “Ah, they’re just after Palin again”. It’s losing steam. It’s actually helping her. Mind you, I hope she doesn’t run. For one thing it’s not at all clear to me that she’d be up to the job. For another, she’s the right’s equivalent of Hillary Clinton – lots of people thinks she’s great and lots of people intensely dislike her. I think that Gov. Daniels of Indiana or Gov. Christie of N.J. would be much more competitive.

    Now THAT would be an interesting campaign. Palin vs. Clinton. You’d see the rhetoric fly then!

    Now, then, Myca:

    I can understand being upset because I took a potshot at those who believe goofy conspiracy theories about Obama’s birth, which, at least at one point, included you, but seriously, moderate yourself.

    What? I have never said that I thought that Obama was not a natural-born citizen. Never. Never mind claiming that there was a conspiracy to cover it up. I have always said that I believed that he was born in the U.S. I have pointed out that when my kid was 6 years old I had to provide more proof to the local soccer league that he was eligible to play for it than Obama did to prove he was Constitutionally eligible for the Presidency, but that was commentary on the process. I always noted that I didn’t doubt it myself. You need to back your statement up about me believing in goofy conspiracy theories.

    … conservatives (like Andrew Sullivan

    I know that he identifies himself as a conservative, but I don’t know any conservatives that accept that. Yes, he favors some positions that conservatives like. But he also favors re-defining marriage to include gay unions, he thinks abortion should be legal for the 1st trimester and he endorsed then-Sen. Obama for the Presidency. As far as conservatives are concerned he’s a liberal.

    Amp:

    Ron, 90% of those examples of uses of “blood libel” were from right-wingers.

    Perhaps. But my point is not liberal vs. conservative on this. My point is that the term has been in common use for some time in the political arena and often in a context disconnected from it’s religious origins, so to pretend that what Palin did was a new thing or something especially offensive with the fervor that many leftist commentators have (which have been well beyond your comments) is to my mind hypocritical.

    Squatlo:

    I don’t find “take our country back” a violent metaphor. If you call for the use of violent means to effect a political change, then yes, it would be. But except for a very few people the phrase is clearly meant by the speaker and clearly understood by the listeners to refer to the use of ballots, not bullets. As, in fact, the Tea Party movement got a good start on in this recent election.

  13. 14
    RonF says:

    Squatlo:

    or suggests that carrying automatic weapons to presidential events is an affirmation of 2nd Amendment rights.

    Probably because as far as I know nobody either suggested or did that. Can you provide a citation?

    I would have publicly condemned anyone who suggested secession as a solution to his disastrous policies.

    Because everyone knew he wasn’t serious. If you take the time to condemn everyone politician who comes up with a crackpot idea you won’t even have time to eat.

    I would have condemned anyone who even made a lame joke about assassinating the man.

    Really? How many of these did you condemn? Here is a better view of some examples – with commentary, BTW, from a conservative condemning threats against Obama.

    People keep saying that the right’s rhetoric is more violent than that of the right. Please support that with a comparable display of open threats against our current President.

    Compare that to the silence from responsible, reasonable people on the right.

    I’ll compare it to the silence from the left regarding the above. Unless, of course, you can show me where there were any particular protests from leftist commentators regarding them.

    When a math teacher uses assassination trajectory factors to teach trigonometry, where was the outrage on Faux News?

    I never heard about this. What was there about this that would put any obligation on the right to do so?

  14. 15
    Elusis says:

    Ron, there’s plenty to mine here: http://www.csgv.org/issues-and-campaigns/guns-democracy-and-freedom/insurrection-timeline

    And personally, I’ve never seen that Kill Bush image anywhere before today, yet I hang out in a lot of “leftie” places. If I’d seen it, I’d have said “uncool.” I’ll say it now: uncool. Never OK.

  15. 16
    chingona says:

    re: blood libel

    This guy did a Google News search with some relevant results:

    I checked Google News, with its mammoth historical archive of news articles. The phrase “blood libel” gets 1,280 hits for articles between 1950 and 2009. But when I search for articles in this range that don’t contain the words “Jew,” “Jewish,” or “Israel,” the hits shrink to 76. In other words, as I suspected, it’s uncommon for the phrase “blood libel” to be used outside a Jewish (or Israeli) context.

    In the last year or two, I’ve started to see it more in non-Jewish contexts. I find it jarring each time, but I don’t recall people complaining about the other uses. I think it’s on the cusp of migrating into general usage, unmoored from its historical context.

  16. 17
    chingona says:

    Ack! Can a mod fix my tags? What happened to the edit function?

  17. 18
    Robert says:

    Yep. We’re two-plus generations past the Holocaust; a temporary cultural reticence among decent people about appropriating heavily Jewish disaster references is fading out. (Not that the people are becoming less decent, just that it no longer seems indecent to appropriate.)

    It’ll be a little bit more before “holocaust” gets genericized, but “denialism” already has been. I’m a global warming denialist; my Jewish friend Ampersand would be the first one to tell you that. The pro-warming crowd may have intended at first for something of the “denialist” taint to adhere to skeptics, but I think it worked the other way; denialism just means dissent from orthodoxy now.

    “Blood libel” has a longer history, of course, but it also has less emotional resonance for non-Jews.

  18. 19
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t recall “denialist” being a common term for holocaust deniers until quite recently, Robert. Searching google news supports my memory.

    Prior to the 2000s, there are relatively few uses of the word “denialist” in combination with the word “holocaust”; the term generally used was “holocaust deniers,” which as you can see has many more hits.

    As far as I can make out (and I’m no expert, obviously), the word “denialist” didn’t get big until the 1980s, when it was primarily used to refer to conspiracy theorists denying that AIDS was caused by HIV. From there it seems to have spread to refer to global warming denialists and to holocaust deniers. But the word was never a popular term for holocaust deniers until after it had been popularized by AIDS activists, which is probably where environmentalists picked the term up.

    By the way, I’m not “pro-warming.” I’m pro-science. There’s a difference.

    You could, I suppose, be described as in effect “pro-warming,” but only in the same way Cornelius Fudge was in effect pro-Lord Voldemort.

  19. 20
    chingona says:

    Thanks for doing the research, Amp. I only recently became aware that global warming “skeptics” were saying that “denialist” was a slur meant to link them to Holocaust deniers, and it sounded wrong to me, but I couldn’t provide any evidence one way or the other.

    While we’re on the topic of the Holocaust, it’s been appropriated for years (abortion, PETA) in ways I find pretty indecent. But Robert is surely right that this will only become more common.

    I didn’t mean to post so much on the blood libel thing, which is, as far as I’m concerned, a side note to this whole debate, but saw this at Shakesville, and it’s really just too much.

    From a Washington Times editorial defending Palin:

    Mrs. Palin is well within her rights to feel persecuted. Since the Saturday bloodbath, members of the liberal commentariat have spoken in a unified voice, charging her and other conservatives with being indirectly or somehow directly responsible for the lunatic actions of accused gunman Jared Loughner. Typical of blood libel, the attack against Mrs. Palin is a false charge intended to generate anger made by people with a political agenda. They have made these claims boldly without evidence and without censure or consequence.

    This is simply the latest round of an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers. The last two years have seen a proliferation of similar baseless charges of racism, sexism, bigotry, Islamophobia and inciting violence against those on the right who have presented ideas at odds with the establishment’s liberal orthodoxy. Columnist Paul Krugman took advantage of the murders to tar conservative icon Rush Limbaugh and Fox News superstar Glenn Beck as “hate-mongers.” It’s this sort of reflexive and dastardly mudslinging that drowns out reasoned discussion of public-policy alternatives and poisons the well of political debate in America.

    I’m guessing they’re being deliberately provocative, but come on!

  20. 21
    Robert says:

    Thanks for the info, Amp. I wasn’t going on the strength of Google, just on my own perception of the etymology. (Pesky data, undermining a perfectly good theory.)

  21. 22
    RonF says:

    Don’t forget that the use of the word “holocaust” to describe the genocide of Jews during WW II was itself a borrowing. While capitalizing it (“Holocaust”) has generally come to have specific application to the above, the lower-case version was and AFAIK has continued to be a generic term.

  22. 23
    RonF says:

    Elusis, that’s an interesting compilation. It’s a mixed bag. Obviously there’s some real nutballs in there. I’m a little curious about how they lead it off, though.

    June 26, 2008—The case of District of Columbia v. Heller is decided by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling. The opinion not only endorses the National Rifle Association’s “individual right” interpretation of the Second Amendment; it also affirms that one of the purposes of the right is to “assure the existence of a “citizens’ militia” as a safeguard against tyranny.” The NRA’s amicus brief in the case had argued that “the Second Amendment refers to the utility of an armed population in preventing government tyranny.”

    The concept that the provision in the Constitution for the citizenry of the various states to be organized into militias in part to provide a safeguard against Federal tyranny is well documented. I don’t know why they’d view this as “insurrectionist”. This is from Federalist Paper 29:

    The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed to the formation of a select corps of moderate extent, upon such principles as will really fit them for service in case of need. By thus circumscribing the plan, it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”

    In 18th Century English, “well-trained” = “well regulated”. Under Federal law, and under Colonial law before it, the entire citizenry able to bear arms is the militia. Under current Federal law the militia is divided up into two parts – the organized militia and the unorganized militia. The organized militia is the National Guard. The unorganized militia is all males between the ages of 17 to 45 who are not members of the organized militia. And yes, they can be called out into service. So even if you are not a member of the National Guard, those of you who qualify are still viewed as a resource for the citizenry to call upon to resist Federal tyranny. If such people are to be prepared for such service, they need to be able to keep and bear arms.

    Of course, the law is sexist. I await feminist protests and demonstrations that will lead to the submission of a bill in Congress to change that. Surely if you want equal rights you also want the equal responsibility to join the unorganized militia and take their part in being prepared to secure those rights by being able to resist Federal tyranny, enforce the law in the case of emergency and otherwise fully participate in the duties of citizenship.

    The language in that excerpt also shoots down a view I’ve heard expressed a few times, most recently on SNL two nights ago, that somehow the 2nd Amendment should be interpreted as permitting private ownership only of those kinds of guns in existence at the time it was passed.

  23. 24
    Jake Squid says:

    The unorganized militia is all males between the ages of 17 to 45 who are not members of the organized militia. And yes, they can be called out into service.

    I would love to see this attempted. I’m guessing the call up would be viewed as something less than a success. Since it’s never going to be attempted, can we get an amendment canceling the 2nd?

    The language in that excerpt also shoots down a view I’ve heard expressed a few times, most recently on SNL two nights ago, that somehow the 2nd Amendment should be interpreted as permitting private ownership only of those kinds of guns in existence at the time it was passed.

    Yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous. OTOH, the subtext was a brilliant takedown of constitutional “originalists.” I’d like to see the SCOTUS take a case involving private ownership of advanced military weaponry, though. That would be interesting.

  24. 25
    RonF says:

    Actually, Jake, I’ve heard the argument that the 2nd Amendment really only permits private ownership of guns that were known at the time it was written advanced seriously – most recently by a defense attorney to a bunch of Scouts he was talking to at a Troop meeting.

    You’d love to see it attempted? It’s called “the draft”, and I’ve seen it done. Forget calling them up into a militia, they were called up into the regular army. If the Feds can do that I don’t see why you should presume that the Feds can’t or won’t call people up into service in a militia.

    The ultimate responsibility for our protection against tyranny either by our own government or by criminals rests with ourselves. We can and do give governmental bodies the authority to act on our behalf in this regard, but we cannot give them the final responsibility. That remains with us. And only by accepting that responsibility and the obligations that go with it will be be sure to remain free.

  25. 26
    RonF says:

    Sure, we can get rid of the 2nd Amendment. Just convince the rest of the country to pass an amendment cancelling it.

    There’s a bunch of issues that will at one point or another land in the lap of the Supremes. That one will be interesting. Another one that will probably get to them earlier will be a similar recognition that the 2nd Amendment calls for inhibitions on governmental ability to forbid people from bearing arms as well as owning/keeping them. Chicago may well the the epicenter of that case. In response to Miller vs. Chicago the City Council passed (at Daley II’s command) a gun control ordinance that according to Daley II forbids you from carrying your legally registered handgun from your house into your attached garage or out onto your own front steps. We’ll see how long before someone gets arrested for that and how long it lasts.

  26. 27
    Jake Squid says:

    You’d love to see it attempted? It’s called “the draft”, and I’ve seen it done.

    Illinois has drafted men into its militia? Are you sure? You were talking about state militias, no? Or did I totally misunderstand and “State” just meant Federal Government. I’m going to guess it was the latter.

    I don’t think we’ll see a draft in our lifetimes, Ron. The elite have noticed that there are more than enough of the poor and undesirable to fill the military without having to risk themselves or their kids.

  27. 28
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I agree, we won’t see a draft. But I bet we’ll see more “pressured volunteerism,” i.e., making it harder to obtain student aid without military service. Notably, that tends to only affect those who can’t afford to avoid it.

  28. 29
    Jake Squid says:

    That already exists, in its current, milder state, g&w. I didn’t have to worry about not getting financial aid when I didn’t register for the draft.

  29. 30
    Robert says:

    If you want the state’s money you have to follow the state’s rules. They were lax in our day, and it’s only just that they’ve stopped handing out that privilege.

  30. 31
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    feh–draft registration is a red herring, unless there’s a real fear of the draft. All it does is make a handy soap box.

    What’s preventing us from passing a law that says “all men and women between 18 and 65 must register for the draft in the next 3 months or be subject to severe punishment?” Nothing, that’s what.

    Arguing over draft registration is pointless. There isn’t a draft. There won’t be a draft in the future, either: the purpose of a draft is to pick up lots of poorly trained people to fight for cheap, and we don’t fight wars like that any more.

  31. 32
    Jake Squid says:

    You misunderstand me, Robert. By not registering for the draft, I was ineligible to receive federal financial aid. It’s just that my family was rich enough that it didn’t matter to me. That’s what I meant by, “That already exists, in its current, milder state, g&w.” It affects only those who can’t afford to avoid it.

  32. 33
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Well, I’m talking about things like mandatory national service (in the military or otherwise.)

    Those are a far sight different from “mandatory registration for a currently-nonexistent draft program which is extraordinarily unlikely to be put into effect and which, if it were put into effect, could easily be drafted in a manner that overrode any prior registration or lack thereof.” Draft registration these days isn’t a “milder” version of what I’m talking about, it’s not even in the same class.

    What, you think the government wouldn’t/couldn’t draft you if it felt like it, irrespective of your lack registration? Sure it could. Welcome to the joys of citizenship. All that registration does is to make it, shall I say, “mildly” easier to do.

  33. 34
    Jake Squid says:

    I think registration is just a trap. Look, there’s no reason for the SS not to automatically register you when you turn 18. They know your name, your socsec number, your birthdate already. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t get the dried blood colored postcard on your 17th birthday and on your 18th birthday telling you that you can register once you turn 17 and you must register within 30 days of turning 18. It’s just a trap for those who are against registration and the draft.

    I was privileged enough that I could make my stand without fear of consequences. Most people don’t have that privilege. Whether you’re worried about there actually being a draft or not, it’s still something that makes the consequences of non-compliance much worse for the poor than for the rich.

  34. 35
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    My point is that the “no registration” stance has no effect, and is therefore a relatively worthless one. I’m not concerned about the consequences of inability to pursue a stance I perceive as worthless.

    I’ll go farther: the “no registration” stance is actually a stupid one. It has no effect on you in real life; it has no practical effect on your eligibility for the draft; it has no underlying effect on the likelihood that the draft will be enacted; and it has no real benefit. Why incur costs without benefit, other than to feel happy about yourself? It’s pointless.

    So no, the non-rich can’t refuse to register and also get tuition help. O well; join the rest of us. But they are free to register, accept tuition, and use that tuition to change military policy, run for congress, sue the government for grievances, or defend draft dodgers. They can be judges, congresspeople, senators, or activists. They’re welcome to use that help to major in feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, or other areas. Hell, they’re even welcome to accept the tuition help and give money to draft dodgers, if that is what floats their boat. They’re equally free to skip town if and when the draft actually comes up (just as you’d have to do to avoid being drafted, principled refusal or not.)

    So what’s the problem?g

  35. 36
    Robert says:

    Mmm, I disagree that the stance has no effect. It sends a message of civil disobedience.

  36. 37
    Jake Squid says:

    So what’s the problem?g

    The problem is that draft registration is useless, a waste of resources and a trap.

    Also, in my day, oh so many years ago when the draft wasn’t a relic of past generations, draft registration was logically viewed as something that would be used when the draft was reinstated. Reimplementing the draft was not, at the time, unthinkable. To the contrary, it was considered probable.

    I agree that the draft is very unlikely to be implemented in the foreseeable future. That, however was not the case before the mid-80′s or later. At that point in time, the draft was widely viewed as a very real possibility.

    FWIW, there are those who feel that draft registration resistance is a major factor in the lack of a draft. I have no idea whether they are right or wrong about that.

    A different opinion on draft registration resistance.

  37. 38
    RonF says:

    The elite have noticed that there are more than enough of the poor and undesirable to fill the military without having to risk themselves or their kids.

    Can you cite any evidence for this? Every analysis that I’ve seen shows that while there’s a geographical imbalance in the membership of the armed forces (the South and West tend to be disproportionately represented), there is no specific evidence that there is an economic imbalance. On a racial basis the numbers I have seen state that blacks are under-represented – there are fewer blacks in the service by percentage than there are in the U.S. population as a whole. Given that at least on the left it’s presumed that blacks fall in the “poor and undesirable” classification it would seem at odds with your statement above. So, if you could cite some support for your statement it would help.

  38. 39
    RonF says:

    I should say that the South, West and Northeast are all disproportionately represented; South and West greater than their population would presume and the Northeast less represented. IIRC the Midwest is close to equivalent.

  39. 40
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, the numbers from this right-wing think tank suggest that (give or take a percentage or two) Blacks are neither over nor under represented in the service.

  40. 41
    Myca says:

    What? I have never said that I thought that Obama was not a natural-born citizen. Never. Never mind claiming that there was a conspiracy to cover it up.

    This may well be true. If it is, I apologize sincerely, I was remembering an earlier thread wrongly.

    I have always said that I believed that he was born in the U.S.

    This is not true.

    I know that he [Andrew Sullivan] identifies himself as a conservative, but I don’t know any conservatives that accept that. Yes, he favors some positions that conservatives like. But he also favors re-defining marriage to include gay unions, he thinks abortion should be legal for the 1st trimester and he endorsed then-Sen. Obama for the Presidency. As far as conservatives are concerned he’s a liberal.

    And he supported the invasion of Iraq, broadly opposes the welfare state, supports free(ish) market capitalism, and endorsed then-governor Bush for the Presidency.

    That he’s not considered conservative by the American Right says far more about their infiltration by a cabal of goofy bible-humpers than it does about him.

    —Myca