Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘Rights’

Abortion, Dr. Tiller, and a Runaway Argument

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 2, 2009

Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions, was killed this past Sunday at his church by a gunman.  This lowers the number of doctors that will perform late-term abortions to two.  Yes, only two in the entire country.  Now perhaps this is partially a result of doctors objecting to abortions of this nature, but, when you combine this with the recently reported statistic that only 13% of counties in America have access to a clinic that provides abortions, it is hard to believe that the domestic terrorism being practiced by some on the anti-choice side of the argument has nothing to do with the increasing scarcity of abortion clinics.  Doctors are performing legal procedures, and there are some, most notably Bill O’Reilly, who compare these doctors to Stalin, Hitler and al-Qaeda, and then stand back and act surprised when people gun these doctors down.

Those that would work to stop abortion through the threat or actual use of force are perpetrators of domestic terrorism, and those that encourage them in words or action are encouraging terrorism.  If you do not wish for abortion to be legal then that is your right, but please refrain from referring to those that either practice, receive, or fight for a woman’s right to her own body as murderers.  For one, murders of doctors such as George Tiller show the real consequence of words.  Were those like Bill O’Reilly directly responsible for the murder?  No.  But if you wish to claim that words and messages on TV can have no consequence then please stop arguing against violent video games, violent movies, etc., and also please be willing to make the argument that advertising, where a message is repeated over and over, does not work.  The words of a man who compared Tiller to Hitler are not directly responsible, but neither are they completely free from consequence.

Also, abortions are legal, and it is in no way agreed upon that performing an abortion is a murder.  There are many philosophical arguments that can be made concerning this (and frankly there is not enough space to run them all down here), but one that I have always respected is the argument put forth by Judith Jarvis Thomson in her classic “A Defense of Abortion”.  In this essay she argues that it doesn’t even matter if we grant that a fetus is a human (which is especially applicable in the case of late-term abortions), for even this doesn’t necessarily grant the fetus rights to the woman’s body.  I will not summarize the entire argument, but suffice to say that the crux of her argument is that even if you had sex, with the knowledge that you might get pregnant, this does not mean that a fetus therefore can use your body for the next 9 months, in the same way that no person has a right to use your body, even if that person will die without the use of your body.  And that is what the case of abortion ultimately boils down to, and what the case of Roe v. Wade ultimately hinged upon, the right to privacy.  You as a person have the right to your own body, and it is not within the scope of the government to tell you what you can or cannot do to your own body, or whatever happens to be using your body to sustain its life. 

Even many on the anti-choice side of the argument subscribe to this opinion.  The big three caveats with those that oppose abortion are cases of incest, rape, or where the woman’s health is at stake.  Why allow abortion in these cases (especially rape and incest) if the fetus is a human with the right to use the mother?  If you oppose abortion because you believe the fetus is fully human with all of the rights of a human then there is no other choice than to oppose abortion in all cases.  Otherwise you are directly (albeit unknowingly) supporting the contention by those on the pro-choice side of the argument that the fetus is not in fact fully human, or at the very least that there is perhaps a difference in the rights of the fetus vs. the mother.

Abortion is a touchy subject, and one that has very little apathetic middle ground.  You might believe one way or the other about when abortions should be performed, but you still have an opinion.  When dealing with such an emotional issue it is even more important to restrain our arguments to facts, rational arguments, as opposed to slogans and words that are meant to inflame the hearts of those on either side.  When we begin to allow emotion to guide our arguments we lose the ability to hear what the other side is saying, and in some cases we lose all desire to listen to the other side, instead resorting to violence to answer the argument.

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Where Should We Put the Prisoners…Perhaps a Prison

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 21, 2009

Where will they go? That is the current political question in the air when it comes to the detainees being held at Guantanamo. Unfortunately, there are many uncertain answers to that question, but there are two things that are definiteand seem to be agreed upon. President Obama neglected to actually answer that question when he decided that Gitmo would be closed, and near every member of Congress has said there is no way that any prisoners would be held at their prisons. Obviously these two items are interrelated, and if the latter can be resolved it will fix the former.

On the surface the problem of where to put the detainees seems to be pretty simple. They are prisoners, and when prisoners are found guilty of wrongdoing they are normally held in prisons. That is why there are prisons (and America has plenty of prisons). American precedent does exist for housing terrorists who are convicted of crimes. One need look no farther back in history than cases such as Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, or the “Blind Sheik” to see that both our federal court system and Super Max prisons work perfectly fine when charged with the responsibility for trying terrorists and housing them after conviction. In addition, Super Max prisons house the most dangerous criminals in this country. People that killed for no reason. Say what you might about the legitimacy of the Gitmo detainees rational for wanting to attack this country (and I am not saying that they have reasons which are understandable), but I tend to find people that kill just because much scarier than people that at least try and find a reason for killing. Also, a prison such as Leavenworth in Kansas is actually set inside a military base. Where better to house terrorists than surrounded by military personnel?

So if we already know that prisons can hold terrorists easily, why is there still this objection to holding prisoners there? One line of argument used is that the American taxpayer should not be responsible for housing and caring for prisoners, or as Dick Cheney said in his speech today “it has even been suggested US taxpayer dollars will be used to support them”. Well, Mr. Cheney, who exactly is funding the detention facility located at Gitmo? Are those not taxpayer dollars that were used to pay Halliburton to build a new 1 billion dollar facility there? What exactly will change about tax payer money when they are housed in existing prisons in the US? Anything that is done by our government is funded by taxpayer dollars. Just because prisoners would be housed on American soil does not change that.

So now we know that line of argument doesn’t hold. What next? Another line of argument is that terrorists will simply be released back onto US soil. The only answer to this is pretty obvious. If they are released than they did not do anything wrong. This argument is akin to getting mad when someone is aquitted of murder and then released back onto the streets. If they were innocent, than they should be released. Send them back to their country and say we are sorry for illegally scooping you up and throwing you in jail for a few years. But perhaps their stay at Gitmo has hardened them to America (torture and unlawful imprisonment has a way of doing that), and they might not have done anything wrong to begin with but they will join our enemies now. The problem for conservatives when they argue this latter half is that they are admitting that we did some pretty bad things to detainees at Gitmo, and so far no conservative seems willing to admit that much. Once they do we can have a discussion on the matter, but until then we will just use their line of reasoning and assume that nothing at Gitmo would harden them towards America.

“But if we put them in prisons they will be able to network with other terrorists”. Well, unfortunately that is what happens in prisons. When bad people are around each other they tend to talk about bad things. This is not a unique characteristic that would only be fostered in prisons on American soil. The same could be said for prisoners at Gitmo. And since so many of the detainees at Gitmo have been released without charge (because they didn’t do anything wrong) the longer we keep innocent people locked up with bad people the more opportunity they will have to network with real terrorists, while at the same time being more open to anti-American terrorists because they are being held in a detention camp without cause. Anyone else see a really bad cycle here that is built upon the reasoning conservatives use for not putting terrorists in American prisons?

So we now have found out that American prisons can, and do, hold terrorists. We know that only innocent people will not be put in prison, and that has been happening for some time now. We know that terrorists network in any confinement, including Gitmo, and keeping innocent detainees locked in with real terrorists only strengthens that networking among people that would not be exposed to as strong of terrorist influence. And yet the argument persists that we should not house terrorists in American prisons. Conservatives would instead prefer to put these detainees in limbo, and just hope that everyone forgets that they are there. Human rights groups will not forget though, and neither will the American people. Bring the detainees up on charges, convict them if they are guilty, and then put them in prison. It is that simple. Let us as an American people do that, and then we can move on to trying to reclaim some of the morality that makes America great.

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Obama’s First 100 Days: A Lack of Constitutional Respect

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 29, 2009

Today is the 100th day of the Obama presidency.  What this means is that today is a meaningless day that liberals will use to say what a great job Obama has been doing, and conservatives will use it to say what a horrible job he has been doing.  So this author has decided, if you can’t beat them, join them.

It is true, in my opinion, that Obama has done a pretty decent job in his first 100 days in office, but there are some areas that his lack of progress from the Bush administration policies has been very alarming, namely in the area of rights abuse.  If the first 100 days is any sort of indication, than it looks like President Obama has decided that the Bush administration knew what it was talking about when it asserted the policy of “I’m in charge, and I will do what I want.”

One area where this has become apparent is in regards to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, which the current administration seems determined to make into a new Gitmo.  While the administration has decided to shut down Gitmo, they have decided that Bagram would make a fine new base of operations for a black hole site.  The administration wishes to be able to deny any prisoners there judicial review of the legality of their detention.  A prison in Afghanistan, an active war zone, is a little trickier than one located in Cuba, and it is understandable to deny judicial review to prisoners caught on the battlefield.  What is alarming is that the Obama team also wishes to be able to fly prisoners into Bagram from around the world, and then deny them judicial review.  This is the exact same problemthat we faced at Gitmo.  When you are able to ship in prisoners and then deny them rights because they are now in an active war zone you might as well have kept Gitmo open.  Even more worrisome is the fact that since Bagram is located in a war zone far away from America it will become even easier to restrict investigation into any human rights abuses going on there. 

The Obama administration has also moved to strike down a law here at home that requires a lawyer be present for a police to question a suspect who has retained a lawyer or asks for one.  While some might say, “Well just don’t answer anything until your lawyer gets there,” it is easy to imagine the potential for abuse of mentally challenged or uneducated suspects.  There is little conceivable downside to waiting for a lawyer, and too much potential for abuse for this to be considered a reasonable move by the Obama team.

The Obama DOJ has also supported the continuation of the “state secret” privilige invented by the Bush administration, and has added to that a “sovereign immunity” claim which says that citizens cannot sue the government for illegal activities unless the government chooses to disclose what they learned from the illegal activities.  So, even if it is known the government is acting illegally, there is nothing that can be done about it unless the government essentially decides it is okay with being sued.  This is a claim that even the Bush administration didn’t see fit to create, and truly worrisome for anyone concerned about keeping checks on the government’s ability to invade the private lives of its citizens.  Combined with the state secrets privilege the Obama administration is seeking the power to be able to do whatever it wants, and, so long as it is classified as secret, any actions will not be subject to judicial review.

President Obama is also seeking to destroy the Fourth Amendment by forcing cell phone carriers to turn over cell tower data without warrants, a move that legal scholars reject as being unconstitutional.  This would allow the government to seize private data, without cause, to track the location of anyone in the U.S. that it sees fit.  Such brazen disregard for the constitution, by a former constitutional law professor, is ludicrous.

The examples listed above point to an administration that is continuing the previous presidency’s complete disregard for constitutional protections that people in America believe they are protected by.  While there is much to celebrate in the first 100 days of the Obama presidency, unfortunately a respect for the constitution cannot, at this time, be counted to highly on the list.

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