Sunday, October 02, 2005

The State of the Left and the SCOTUS

I just learned the acronym SCOTUS. It sounds kind of dirty, like something that sweats too much when it's hot outside and you have to do yardwork. Which, is kind of what it is, I suppose - for those of you not in the know as me, SCOTUS means Supreme Court of the United States.

I mention this because last week a new Chief Justice was approved by the Senate. I don't really know what to make of Roberts, but somehow I doubt he's the assholic ideologue a lot of my leftie pals are making him out to be. He actually seems like a fairly centrist conservative. As long as he doesn't do anything extraordinarily stupid, like overturn Roe v. Wade, things should be OK. The freedom of speech/freedom of religion stuff flipflops around, and frankly it doesn't really matter all that much (taking "Under God" out of the Pledge, or leaving it in, seems like a pretty asinine and inconsequential thing to worry about - and that goes to knuckleheads on both sides of the issue).

A lot of the left started moaning and wailing and gnashing their teeth, but I just kind of shrugged: there isn't really any evidence either way to know what Roberts is going to be like. The crew on Daily Kos seemed to be the loudest voice of opposition, loud enough that Senator Obama wrote them a response. Obama specifically rebutes some of the criticism levelled against himself and other Dems for not doing more to stop Roberts' nomination (fillibuster, etc.)

But more importantly, he hits on something that has become a growing concern to me. I used to wonder why it was the Left can't mount any sort of organized resistance to the well-oiled Republican political machine (and that's what it is, you might as well refer to Rovian politicks as Tammany Hall). When I went to the O17 protests, I was amazed not at the united front the Left presented (they didn't), but at the vast amount of pet causes all fighting to be the loudest (and in their eyes, the most important) voice at the gathering.

Obama hits on that, and he strikes a hell of a blow. The response on the Kos boards is exactly what you might expect: outright denial and the same scattered, pet politicking. That kind of stuff simply doesn't play to the American public. Wring your hands about the easily misled people if you will, but guess what folks: you ain't getting anywhere by alienating them. That's what the left fails to understand. Hell, I fail to understand it myself most of the time, and anyone who's read this page for any length of time knows how I wring my hands and say "how the fuck can you be that fucking STUPID????"

Which really does no one any good.

I'm not perfect, and I doubt Obama is, but reading his response certainly gives me hope that the right kind of people are out there, and more importantly, they get it. That allows assholes like me to be assholes, because in the end, if you form your opinion based on the ramblings of a guy who works PR for a game company, then you deserve what you get.


Roger Whitson said...


I think you are largely right--I mean, so many people on the left are such fucking divas that nothing really emerges from the inordinate chatter they produce daily.

At the same time, I'm not sure I totally disagree with all of the people who are really scared with the quick confirmation of Roberts as Chief Justice. This is not because I think he's too much of a conservative (but we can look at his track record to see that he has worked against reproductive rights in the past). It's that so much of Bush's appointment process rests upon a "good ol' boy" system. This really came to a head with the FEMA chief who should have never been put into that position. The fact that Roberts was initially only supposed to be a new justice and was quickly elevated to the nomination for the chief justice is pretty scary to me. I mean, does Bush really think about anything when he's nominating people for positions? Does he care about credentials at all? This is not to say that Roberts isn't qualified, just that it doesn't seem that Bush cares all that much.

Bobby said...

"As long as he doesn't do anything extraordinarily stupid, like overturn Roe v. Wade"

I would hardly characterize overturning the single most ignorant and destructive decision in American history as stupid. Why is it that the natural progressive instinct to protect the innocent and oppressed does not extend to those who are most innocent and least capable of protecting themselves?

Roger Whitson said...

Bobby, are you really interested in a conversation here? Or simply the same tired old rehashing of worn-out platitudes (on both sides)?

The debate over abortion is a debate over the extent to which the government has control over the body. I don't care whose body, which body, what's ethical when thinking about the "unborn," blah blah blah. None of that really concerns me. What concerns me is that the government is increasingly encroaching on the bodies of its citizens while loading heaps of "we are really interested in the sanctity of life" bull-shit. The issue is who controls life, and what methods the government or the state use to control the way we live our lives. We can see it in the horrible posturing the Senate performed over the Terri Schiavo affair--making the "giving of life or of death" a state concern. Who is the state to decide when I have a right to die or live or what I do with who I am? Who is the state to decide what the "sanctity of life" means to me? And yet, government seeks to do this everyday.

Again, this doesn't mean that I would consider abortion a viable decision when facing an unplanned pregancy, just that I don't want the government taking that ETHICAL decision from me or my significant other. I don't want the government legislating or controlling the bodies of people I'm close to.

The issue is, again, not one of choosing abortion--or of not "protecting" the unborn. The issue is one of control, who controls my body, and what is taken from me or my significant other BY the government. Whether or not you want to admit it, you cannot protect the unborn without taking away control of the body from the woman, and thus assuming that you have a better idea (as a governmental apparatus, or as a man--as I am as well) of what to do with that body than the woman does. This is profoundly problematic, not to mention totalitarian and patriarchal on almost every level. Not that you are any one of these things, but I think that the prevailing propaganda surrounding "right to life" assumes all of this.

Bobby said...

I am always interested in a conversation Rog, and I have never been one to argue abortion from the position of "tried old platitudes." I have NEVER argued abortion from the position of faith, God, or religion; and have no intention of doing so here.

While I totally agree with you on the re-occurring problem of government encroachment of our individual liberties, especially the right for an individual to decide how to use their own body and when to die, the postulate that somehow abortion falls into this category is intellectually dishonest. Your statement that:

“The debate over abortion is a debate over the extent to which the government has control over the body.”

would be absolutely true if the entity that abortion was acted upon was OUR bodies. But what (exactly) is the defining characteristic that causes this entity to be our body? Biology says it is an entirely separate individual with their own chemical makeup, own blood type, and distinct DNA. As of 8-10 weeks this “entity” has its own heart-beat and active brain waves (the definition we use to identify when someone is dead.) At that same stage the “entity” meets all of the medical criteria used to define a living human being. So what make this “thing” part of OUR bodies?

Is it because its inside OUR bodies? There were a number of people who had me inside them during various parts of my adult life... yet somehow I doubt that we could say my penis was part of them. Is it because a fetus is entirely dependent on someone else to survive? A 2 month old infant is entirely dependent on someone else for its survival. Besides abortion is legal through all 9 months of pregnancy... long past the required medical limit for an fetus' survivability outside the womb.

The reality is that there is no logical argument that can be made in defense of abortion after about 2 months. None. Otherwise the same argument can be applied to killing, on demand, 20 year old mentally retarded individuals.

A free society DOES NOT have the right to tell its citizens who they can do as it applies to their own bodies. A free society DOES NOT have the right to tell its citizens what they can do with other consenting adults. But a free society most certainly has the right (I would argue the obligation) to limit what its citizens can do to others without their consent. Especially when it comes to killing someone else.

I strongly believe in the right to privacy. I strongly believe in the right to decide what is acceptable for your own body. I strongly believe that no-one has the right to KILL someone without their permission.

Jason said...

The problem is, a fetus isn't legally defined as a person. It never has been. If it did, we would issue social security numbers to them on the date of conception, and we'd count our birthdays from the day the sperm hit the egg.

As such, until a fetus gets a social security number and until we count how old we are from the moment of conception, legally it's very hard to argue that a fetus is a person.

It is a personal moral argument, and a decision someone has to face on their own. If you succeed in legally changing the status of an unborn fetus to that of a full human being, then we'll be playing in a different ballpark. Until that time, I think Roe v. Wade specficially is a sound legal decision (regardless of how you or I or anyone else actually feels about whether killing a fetus is murder or not).

Roger Whitson said...

Well, it is pretty slippery--legally speaking.

1. The Bush administration did pass a law (I think it is a federal law, but it could be a state law in Florida or some other states), that mothers who get into car accidents and their children die could be charged with manslaughter.

2. Re: Bobby's claim that abortion during the 9 month pregnancy is "alright" isn't true. Late term abortions have been illegal for quite some time.

3. Re: Bobby's claim that I am being "intellectually dishonest" to relate the government's encroaching of our bodies with abortion. I'm really not. If you would read the actual case, you would find that Roe v. Wade was originally argued as a right to privacy case. It has subsequently been labelled a "woman's issue" and, thus, been marginalized. This is why I said what I said, and why I contextualized Roe v. Wade within a larger question of privacy and control of our own bodies--because it is a larger question, one that concerns all of us.

Bobby said...

>>"2. Bobby's claim that abortion during the 9 month pregnancy is "alright" isn't true. Late term abortions have been illegal for quite some time."

No Roger, unfortunately you are not correct. The U.S. congress passed a law two years ago banning late term abortion but a judicial ruling has put a hold on that law. According to Planned Parenthood there are currently 4 clinics in three states that perform 3rd trimester abortions up to the expected due date. These clinic are Atlanta Surgicenter, Inc., Atlanta Women's Medical Center, Family Planning Associates in L.A., and Women's Health Care Services of Wichita. These 4 clinics perform around 1,500 third trimester abortion a year. Also according to Planned Parenthold less than 2 percent of the women who opted for these abortions did so for health reasons.

>>"The problem is, a fetus isn't legally defined as a person. It never has been."

There was a time in our nations history that blacks were not legally defined as a person (but as 3/5th a person.) Nazi Germany did not legally define Jews as people. 1930's Japan did not legally define Chinese as people. Yet most people today feel fairly strongly that if its genetically, chemically, and medically a person we should treat it as such. Are you REALLY trying to argue that a humans right to exists is based on the sole digression of law? Then the “extent to which the government has control over the body” is not a cause for concern, but a fundamental duty of government. Instead of the absolute rule of law, our country was founded with a belief that all “men” have “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Rights that cannot and should not be taken away.

Jason, I know that you have considered (for a long time now) the gay rights movement as the modern equivalent of the civil rights movement. Well I consider the Pro-Life movement to be the modern equivalent of the anti-slavery movement. Fighting for a group of people who under ANY definition but “the law” are human beings. A group of people that are being killed at the rate of around 1.3 million a YEAR.

>>“this is why I said what I said, and why I contextualized Roe v. Wade within a larger question of privacy and control of our own bodies--because it is a larger question, one that concerns all of us.”

I am sorry Roger, you are correct. From the standpoint of Roe v Wade as strictly a privacy issue , I would support it. Unfortunately the courts do not seem to see it that way. A number of rulings in the past 20 years have refused to separate the broader question of privacy from the definition of when life begins. This means that basically the courts themselves have begun to see Roe v Wade strictly from an abortion standpoint. I have even seen a number of “liberal” judges who do NOT support the right to privacy (as it is not strictly defined in the constitution) but have argued upholding Roe v Wade strictly for the sake of abortion.

It is unfortunate that one of our most important rights (the right to privacy) is judicially, and in the minds of most Americans, tied to one of the single largest wholesale slaughter of human beings in the history of our planet (38 million and counting.)

As far as the right to privacy is concerned, I am willing to concede that such a right is not expressly defined in the Constitution. But as the 10th Amendment states: “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. “ As such the right to privacy is something that should be assumed unless otherwise specified in the Constitution. There is NO denial of privacy in the Constitution and in fact the Third and Fourth Amendments strongly suggest such a right.

Bobby said...

As an aside, this conversation really makes me miss our lunch room debates at Drury.

Jason said...

It may very well be the modern equivelant of the anti-Slavery movement. However, overturning Roe v. Wade would not be the equivelant of emancipating the slaves, or even of upholding or striking down a Jim Crow law. As I said, in order to afford a fetus full legal protection and consider it, LEGALLY, a human being, then you need to give it the full rights of a human under the protection of the law. That means a fetus gets a social security number. And, frankly, I think you should count birthdays from the day it comes "alive," rather than the date it exits the womb, as clearly exiting the womb is an arbitrary thing under this definition.

It's not that I'm disagreeing with you as to whether a fetus is a life that should be protected - it's an area I simply don't know about - but I will argue that, under the law as it stands and as it makes sense, Roe v. Wade should probably stand until we start affording a fetus all the rights of a human.

I also find it interesting that of the women's clinics that perform third-trimester abortions, two are in Atlanta (by all rights a VERY conservative town), and one is in Wichita (even more conservative, and home of the Reverand Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps).