Posts from November 2003

Theocracy No Moore

photo: Roy Moore preaches photo: the verdict against Roy Moore is read

  1. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
  2. For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
  3. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
  4. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Isaiah ch. 14, King James Version

It’s official: on Thursday, November 13th, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary delivered Alabama from the lawless, theocratic rule of Chief Justice Roy Moore. The nine-judge panel threw Moore off his position on the state Supreme Court after he defied a federal court order to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building.

As it stands, Moore has been thrown off the bench, but is free to run for an office on the Supreme Court again in the next election. Fortunately enough, the Southern Poverty Law Center is working to remedy that situation by filing a complaint with the State Bar Association. If they are successful (and the Court of the Judiciary’s ruling makes it much more likely that they will be), Moore will be disbarred and therefore prevented from ever darkening the judicial bench again.

All of this is great. Roy Moore is a dangerous demagogue without any respect for either justice or the positive law; he has used his bench not only for banging the Bible, but also to issue homophobic tirades posing as legal opinions, and to make the chilling pronouncement that:

The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle. (p. 36 of decision, emphasis added)

(As a side note, it’s also worth celebrating the fact that Moore’s screed has lost whatever legal grounding it ever had; insofar as he engaged in legal reasoning at all in the course of the opinion, it was based on the criminality of sodomy in Alabama and elsewhere. But sodomy can no longer be recognized as a crime under Alabama’s positive law, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling for personal liberty in Lawrence v. Texas.)

Of course, all this good news hardly means that either Roy Moore or his peculiar brand of politics are going to go away. What everyone’s noticed, and talked about, is not so much the facts of the case but the underlying politics: Roy Moore’s confrontational brand of Christian fundamentalism and the rallies, vigils, sit-ins, and other efforts of fundamentalist flaks to back up Moore and his monument. Unfortunately, the national newsmedia had no particular clue about what was going on (or if they had one, they certainly didn’t print it). But I’ve already talked at length about those misunderstandings in this space. There are plenty of misunderstandings to go around on Moore’s side of the fence too, which I’d like to mention here.

Most of the arguments that get thrown out to back up Moore are barely worth considering at all. The Mooreans (as seen, for example, in numerous off-topic responses to my letter to the editor concerning one of Moore’s decisions) claim that Moore’s freedom of religion is being infringed. Of course, it’s not: Moore has every right to worship however he sees fit. The only way that Roy Moore’s rights would be trodden upon here would be if he had a right to force religious displays on people in a government venue. But there is no such right. (Christians, of all people, ought to recognize this; it’s a sad commentary on modern fundamentalism that certain Christians can no longer distinguish between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s.)

Others have deflected the issue from Roy Moore’s individual rights to questions of state’s rights against centralized federal power. Now, as I said before, these aren’t really Roy Moore’s reasons for fighting the federal judiciary. The Yankee press got it more or less entirely wrong when they read Roy Moore as an updated George Wallace; the reasons that Roy Moore gives for his defiance are religious reasons: it’s not about state’s rights for him; it’s about Jesus. Nevertheless, while these are not really Roy Moore’s reasons, some of Roy Moore’s supporters have put this forward as an argument. In particular, Alan Keyes, who openly embraces the idea of theocratic states, and spends a great deal of time and linguistic mincing trying to show that the sum of the First and Fourteenth amendements really doesn’t amount to a ban on State religion—just a ban on federal religion. Here’s how he put his conclusion at the rally in Montgomery back in August:

We have the right to live in communities–and that means the people in Alabama can live in this state. And you know how come I know that this is so, that the First Amendment didn’t intend to destroy this right, that in fact such communities could exist, such states could exist? Because at the time the First Amendment was passed, at the time they put it on the books in the first place, there were a majority of states in the United States (at the time, the former colonies) where there were religious tests and oaths of office–where there were, in fact, established churches.

The thing about Keyes’ argument here is that it is not only dead wrong—but it is also completely irrelevant whether it is wrong or right. Let’s say that Keyes is right about the meaning of the federal constitution. So what? His remarks mighth ave been apropos if delivered in another state, but the Constitution of the State of Alabama has this to say on the topic:

Section 3. Religious freedom.

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

(emphasis added)

So even if Keyes were right about the feds, he’d still be wrong about Moore. Roy Moore didn’t just defy the federal government; he acted in complete contempt of the state constitution that he swore to uphold. (It would have behooved Moore’s apologists to read more than the Preamble of the state constitution. It really isn’t a document that they can rely on for support.)

Of course, whatever the proper mincing of the positive law is, all of this leaves to one side the question of the natural law. Even if there were no protections from State-established religions in the positive law, I would still have every right to be free of Roy Moore’s theocratic displays. He has no right to use the sword of the State to compel religious beliefs or force others to pay for religious monuments. (Indeed, he has no right to use the sword of the State to do anything at all. But let’s set that aside for now.)

Roy Moore’s rights are not being squelched; he is being justly punished for violating the rights of others—by forcing them to endure, and pay for, his public comingling of God and Caesar.

It’s a happy day for Alabama; kudos to the Court of the Judiciary. Écrasez l’infâme.

Newsflash

Hallelujah! The state of Alabama has been delivered from Roy Moore’s rule; the Alabama Court of the Judiciary has ruled to remove Roy Moore from his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The Southern Poverty Law Center is preparing to file a complaint with the Alabama State Bar Association, asking for Moore to be disbarred–which would prevent him from ever returning to the bench.

I have work that I need to get to this morning, but more commentary will be forthcoming. For now, I just wanted to share the happy news.

No more Moore on the bench!

Watch this space.

Roderick Long Unblogs Veteran’s Day

Roderick Long calls his blog In a Blog’s Stead because he doesn’t want to update it daily. I don’t think this actually makes it an un-blog (but, being the dilatory updater that I am, I have a vested interest here). On the other hand, you might call what he does un-blogging in another sense. One of the negative aspects of blogging is the amount of commentary gas that it generates — a circular, self-feeding, self-congratulatory world of opinion-mongering that at times, no longer content with flying away from the facts, generates entirely new misconceptions to propound (can anyone say flypaper?). Roderick offers something that is desperately needed in the world of weblogging: rational analysis and serious critical engagement. Posts that, so to speak, deflate nonsense rather than bloating it. Consider, for example, his recent un-blog of the pap surrounding Veteran’s Day:

Is it really true that we in the United States owe what freedom we have to U.S. veterans? Certainly the Bill of Rights was made possible by veterans of the American Revolution, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were made possible by veterans of the Civil War. But none of those veterans are currently living. No American war in living memory was one in which the United States was in serious danger of being conquered by a foreign aggressor; hence no living veteran can plausibly claim to have played a role in defending our freedom.

In fact the U.S. government has used each of its wars as a pretext for increased violations of all the rights listed above. (Not that veterans should be blamed for this result; veterans and civilians alike have been victimised by the murderous militarist schemes of politicians.)

. . .

Roderick goes on to argue that The best way to honour Veteran’s Day is to ensure that we avoid having veterans in the future. Indeed, I’d like to see the whole of Veteran’s Day scrapped — or rather, replaced — or rather, reclaimed. I’d like to see the whole day restored to its old identity — Armistice Day. Rather than an exercise in jingoistic militarism, let’s make Armistice Day what it should be — a celebration of the end of a senseless and brutal war, a celebration of the coming of peace, and a solemn remembrance of those who risked and lost their lives before we laid down our arms.

For further reading:

White House Press Flack Tells All

I’ve already posted my thoughts for Veteran’s Day in this space; President Bush, meanwhile, got an early start on his Veteran’s Day festivities by refusing to use Saddam Hussein’s seized assets to compensate 17 Gulf War I P.O.W.s who were tortured by Saddam Hussein. Federal law allowed them to sue the regime and to access its seized assets, but here’s what White House Press flack Scott McClellan had to say about that:

(link courtesy of Tom Tomorrow , who got it from The Homeless Guy)

Scott, there are 17 former POWs from the first Gulf War who were tortured and filed suit against the regime of Saddam Hussein. And a judge has ordered that they are entitled to substantial financial damages. What is the administration’s position on that? Is it the view of this White House that that money would be better spent rebuilding Iraq rather than going to these former POWs?

I don’t know that I view it in those terms, David. I think that the United States — first of all, the United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal torture to which these Americans were subjected. They bravely and heroically served our nation and made sacrifices during the Gulf War in 1991, and there is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime. That’s what our view is.

But, so — but isn’t it true that this White House —

They think they’re is an —

Excuse me, Helen — that this White House is standing in the way of them getting those awards, those financial awards, because it views it that money better spent on rebuilding Iraq?

Again, there’s simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering —

Why won’t you spell out what your position is?

I’m coming to your question. Believe me, I am. Let me finish. Let me start over again, though. No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of a very brutal regime, at the hands of Saddam Hussein. It was determined earlier this year by Congress and the administration that those assets were no longer assets of Iraq, but they were resources required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq. But again, there is simply no amount of compensation that could ever truly compensate these brave men and women.

Just one more. Why would you stand in the way of at least letting them get some of that money?

I disagree with the way you characterize it.

But if the law that Congress passed entitles them to access frozen assets of the former regime, then why isn’t that money, per a judge’s order, available to these victims?

That’s why I pointed out that that was an issue that was addressed earlier this year. But make no mistake about it, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the torture that these brave individuals went through —

— you don’t think they should get money?

— at the hands of Saddam Hussein. There is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate those men and women who heroically served —

That’s not the issue —

— who heroically served our nation.

Are you opposed to them getting some of the money?

And, again, I just said that that had been addressed earlier this year.

No, but it hasn’t been addressed. They’re entitled to the money under the law. The question is, is this administration blocking their effort to access some of that money, and why?

I don’t view it that way at all. I view it the way that I stated it, that this issue was —

But you are opposed to them getting the money.

This issue was addressed earlier this year, and we believe that there’s simply no amount of money that could truly compensate these brave men and women for what they went through and for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein —

So no money.

— and that’s my answer.

Read the rest of White House Press Flack Tells All

"Winning the Peace"

I think it is high time that we took a minute to consider how history will remember the present administration and how it treated the men and women who it sent to fight and die overseas. Many people have publicized the Bush administration’s callous assaults on veterans’ benefits and pay–and it’s very important to keep that in mind. But what about the simple fact that the Bush administration has simply left hundreds of thousands of soldiers to die, one by one in terror attacks, so that he could unleash an illegal, pointless war, and a disastrous, hated occupation?

Conventional wisdom is finally starting to come around; even mainstream media and Democratic Presidential hopefuls are now daring to utter mild criticisms of the senseless bloodbath into which King George has led us. But they still don’t quite get it. The standard story that keeps being repeated from the liberal side is now: O.K., so the war was wrong and we never should have blundered into Iraq. But now that we’re there, we have to stick it out and continue the occupation until some unspecified date in the future, when we’re satisfied with how Iraq looks and can finally cut out.

John Kerry, for example, has this to say:

(from Iraq – Winning the Peace on the John Kerry Campaign Website)

We can and should protect our troops and we can and should meet our obligations in Iraq. But America can and must do better.

. . .

John Kerry’s plan will show that we understand real partnership by reaching out to our allies, rebuilding international good will, and asking the UN to do what it has done well from Kosovo to East Timor by putting Iraqi governance and reconstruction under UN authority. It’s not necessary for the U.S. to go it alone on rebuilding Iraq’s institutions and meeting humanitarian needs – and we shouldn’t have to.

And so on, and so forth. The idea is that Iraqis are basically imbeciles who cannot be trusted to establish a prosperous and free society unless the United States miliary and U.N. forces (of all people!) hang around to lecture them about how to do it. The idea is also that we have to leave our soldiers to die and leave the Iraqis under the jackboots of military occupation until we can claim that we’ve managed to win the peace. That way, we won’t ever have to admit that we made a mistake, and that it cost the lives and freedom of many, many innocent Iraqis, as well as the senseless death of hundreds (perhaps thousands, by the time this is over) of U.S. troops.

It’s a bunch of damned rubbish, of course, it’s a bunch of damned rubbish that we ought to have the wisdom and the historical memory by now to recognize. Here’s how the view was skewered by–well–John Kerry, when he was younger and wiser:

(from Modern History Sourcebook: Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement by John Kerry, 1971)

Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of Vietnamizing the Vietnamese.

Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say that we have made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be, and these are his words, the first President to lose a war.

We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Happy Veteran’s Day.