October 2012

What to do about Facebook sites like “soldiers deserve to die”

Petitions are circulating to have Facebook shut down a site called “soldiers deserve to die”. They have garnered thousands of signatures.

There is no doubt that the site’s message is deeply offensive and its creator a man with no compassion. But having Facebook shut down a site because the massage is uncaring and offensive is not only contrary to the First Amendment, but a step towards censorship by whim.

Speech is not unrestrained. There are things you cannot say on TV, or in front of minors. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. outlined the most famous restrain on speech, when he wrote in Schenck v the US that,

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic”

Holmes felt that the First Amendment did not protect words, “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”.

(A later court held in Brandenburg v. Ohio that the exception to the First Amendment should be limited to speech directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action [e.g. a riot]).

Unless the site “soldiers deserve to die” is likely to incite a riot, ignore it. Attention is oxygen to the haters. If it were not for these petitions nobody would have heard of it.

Note – Although much of the backlash against “soldiers deserve to die” is from Americans defending our troops, the site is clearly identified by the Union Jack as referring to the British Army “Regular and Territorial”. So let’s look at  free speech in the UK.

The British take on hate speech

Despite being historically the most democratic of the European powers, the British have no written constitution, no equivalent of the First Amendment. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, says that a person is guilty of an offense if he uses “threatening, abusive or insulting words” – a phrase that the British authorities have interpreted broadly.

British citizens have been arrested for offences such as asking a mounted policeman if he knew his horse was gay. A senior citizen was warned to take down a sign in his window saying that “religion is fairy stories for adults”. A teenage boy handed a summons for a protest sign saying “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult”.

A street preacher was arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin. A drunken lout was given 56 days for some vile tweets made about a 24 year-old African soccer player, while the player lay on the pitch, after a heart attack, with his life in the balance. And Azhar Ahmed was sentenced to 240 hours of community service for posting “all soldiers should die and go to hell”.

Ask yourself – do you prefer that all these sentiments be aired, or none of them? In the UK they all might be against the law, but thankfully we are free to say all of them here.

Donald Trump and Ann Coulter 

Both Trump and Coulter have benefited from freedom of speech – especially, as long as you stay away from actual libel, you do not have to prove that what you say is true.

Both have made millions from outrageous remarks, but perhaps they are coming close to “jumping the shark”.

Trump claimed this week that he would make an announcement that would decisively change the trajectory of the presidential race. Then he announced some more birther blather about donating $5 million to Obama’s favorite charity if he would release his college transcripts and passport applications. (Yawn)

Ann Coulter, who has yet to find a claim too outrageous to make – even writing a book trying to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy, of all things – told Piers Morgan that it was a mistake to give the vote to women and the young. She would be fine if women were completely stripped of the right and the young denied the right until they were 26.

Coulter is upset that women and the young are more Democratic than older men – so she is fine with discarding the 19th and 26th Amendments. I wonder why she didn’t also recommend reversing the 15th and 23rd Amendments – after all, they extended the vote to blacks and gave electoral college representation to DC. Those two groups certainly favor Democrats.

Coulter would like to restrict the vote to old white men – preferable fundamentalist Christians. Fortunately for her, she lives in a country that let’s her say so.

Madonna and Pussy Riot

Madonna asked the audience at a concert in New Orleans to vote for Obama. She was booed and changed her remarks to urge the audience to vote for anyone – just vote.

In Russia the all-girl punk band “Pussy Riot” was arrested after posting a video of themselves criticizing a leading cleric for supporting Vladimir Putin. They were playing in a church. They were arrested, convicted, and jailed for blasphemy.

I know I would rather live in a country where you can criticize your politicians and ignore Facebook sites you don’t like, rather than a country where you can be arrested for calling Scientology a sect or imprisoned for questioning your leaders.

Soviet freedoms

An old joke made the rounds during the Soviet era – although it may still be relevant today.

Back in 1970 an American was trying to explain to a Russian why America was a better country to live in than the USSR. “In America,” he said, “the law says we are free to stand in front of the White House and criticize President Nixon”.

The Russian replied, “The law is exactly the same in the USSR. Russians are also allowed to stand in front the White House and criticize  President Nixon.”



Election 2012 – Colin Powell endorses the President; Republicans act petulantly; Who is actually committing voter fraud?

October 27, 2012

Colin Powell endorses the President Colin Powell has endorsed Obama for a second term. He said, “I think we ought to keep on the track we are on”. He singled out the President’s handling of the economy and the withdrawal from Iraq. He said he had the “utmost respect” for Romney – which in politispeak […]

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The Republican Party Rape Advisory Chart

October 25, 2012

In case you were having trouble keeping track of the various flavors of rape that the Republicans have been trotting out I have found this handy chart. (Note: It was posted on the Daily Kos, I normally do not use hyper-partisan sites for information, but in this case it is only a compilation of quotes that can […]

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Really? – 10/25/12 – Election 2012. The President’s Grand Bargain; Republicans and Rape; Is God an Abortionist? Citizens United and the Law of Unintended Consequences.

October 25, 2012

The Grand Bargain In an interview with the Des Moines Register, the President said he would pursue a “grand bargain” with the Republicans over the budget and immigration policy. If, reading this, your first reaction is that the President is insane – the Republicans will never bargain – you would be half right. The Republicans cannot compromise and stay in office. […]

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Whence morality? Does God give us our sense of good and bad, or did it come from somewhere else?

October 23, 2012

  Morality is debated by priests and philosophers  To the religious it is obvious that it is a God-given gift and codified in the great texts – such as the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran. But that presumes that in the absence of religion there can be no morality; that before man discovered God, there […]

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A food fight in California

October 20, 2012

  Capitalism is on the ropes – but don’t blame the Democrats. It is business itself that finds capitalism inconvenient. Why? Capitalism works when the consumer makes rational choices, based on the free flow of information. But business has decided that it is not in its best interest for the consumer to have too much information. Consider […]

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The Catholic Church needs to put Christ back in Catholicism. (The Irish edition)

October 18, 2012

  Just when you think you have heard it all, another black act by the Catholic Church bubbles up. This time its victims are women, not children. In most of the world a pregnant woman facing a difficult delivery gives birth by cesarean section. But in Ireland, between 1944 and 2005, 1,500 women were given a symphysiotomy – an operation in which the […]

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Really 10/14/15 – Election 2012. What disturbs Dick Cheney? Scott DesJarlais, hypocrite; a lesson in lying.

October 15, 2012

Joe Biden makes Dick Cheney nervous Cheney, former VP, and the man who makes Darth Vader seem warm and fuzzy, told Fox News that Joe Biden is unprepared to be VP. “I was disturbed by it, frankly [Biden’s debate performance]. I have got a pretty specific federal requirements I am interested in when I look at […]

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Who is better for the economy – Republican or Democratic Presidents? (Hint – it’s not the big talkers)

October 12, 2012

This just in from the Economist magazine – under Democratic Presidents the real rate of increase in the stock market is 300%, under Republican Presidents it is 0%. Consider that, if you feel like voting for the “businessman”. Maybe there are more important things than the stock market? Republicans are always warning of raging inflation, right around […]

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