Thursday, April 14, 2005


There's a post over from Asymmetrical Information, via Stuart Buck, that's been nagging at me. Click and read his arguments and I'll share with you my nitpicks.


Well, he does have a point that no right/position is truly and utterly unbound. Speech has prohibitions on slander and fighting words. The press cannot print libel knowingly. You can't gather willy-nilly but can be required to get permits and only gather at certain times. Polygamy is banned, as is drug taking, so some religious rituals aren't legal. Therefore, saying you are for "free speech" or the like does not equal no restrictions, but simply free "whatever" as it has commonly been defined in public and the laws. So yes, simply admitting that a "whatever" has exceptions does not mean you have become a hypocrite for holding for "whatever" before.

But how far down does it go before you do become a hypocrite? To use his example in the second paragraph, I'm for free speech but would vehemently oppose any law that allowed someone to publish my private information. Not a hypocrite. But what if I supported one that disallows certain songs to be played b/c they're felt to be obscene? Or what if I felt that during times of war there shouldn't be any critical jokes about the President? Or that a certain obscenity or racial term shouldn't be used? I think it's pretty obvious that there is a line there; and at a certain point you do become a hypocrite for accepting an exception to a belief.

So, there is a line. Simply stating there are exceptions to all positions does not make one a hypocrite, but at the same time it does not exempt them from being one either. It's the degree to which the exceptions are allowed. So now we look at the Schiavo case and federalism.

Basically, many Republicans are on records as being for state's rights, which is generally taken to mean the federal government should allow the states to run themselves as long as they follow the U.S. Constitution overall. (Yes, yes, there's more to it that that, but I don't want a 16 page long thesis before I argue the A.I. post!) The states are independent units, allowed to run themselves.

Along comes the Schiavo case. This case was tried many, many years in many, many Florida courts. It was appealed from state to appeals and from appeals to the Florida Supreme Court many times over many different areas. The case dragged on for over ten years before the federal government, at the demands of Frist and DeLay and other Republicans, got involved. What they did - insinuating the federal government into a state matter - is generally taken as a repudiation in this case of the usually held view of federalism. Stuart Buck argues that's not necessarily so. I have to disagree.

Again, simply because the usual state's rights people felt that the case was powerful enough to warrant intervention doesn't excuse the charge of hypocrisy. In this case it actually solidifies it. Ten years of hearing, many courts, many judges. This wasn't a fly-by-night, quickie, hidden case. It was in the open and in the news. It had been tried and retried. So what did DeLay and Frist and others think warranted federal intervention? It couldn't have been a suspicion that the case was tried wrongly by the law - surely someone would have noticed an error in law in lo those many trips through the system. Nothing was noticed. It seems to have solely been that they didn't like the way that the Florida courts had ruled. And that is hypocritical. It's saying, "We believe in state's rights unless and until you do something we don't agree with." Substitute "free speech" or "a free press" in there, and the hypocrisy comes out. It's free - until we feel it shouldn't be.

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