The Nobeus News Report — May 13, 2010
Wrap-up of news and opinion from your not-so-humble correspondent.
When Conservatives Can Pass for Communists
Sean Hannity stylizes himself as an American conservative: a defender of individual freedom, capitalism, and American traditions.
Principles are tested by how they’re applied in the real world … and an interview Hannity did on his Fox News show yesterday puts the lie to Hannity’s claim that he’s a true American conservative.
Hannity’s guest was Noel Biderman, the attorney and former sports agent who in 2002 founded AshleyMadison.com, a dating site for married people.
Now, speaking personally, I didn’t cheat on my wife when I was married. But before I was married I was once the “other man” to a woman who was separated from her alcoholic husband — and we didn’t quit seeing each other for a while after he completed rehab and she decided to give him a second chance. Her children were grown. I was the one who urged her to return to him because she didn’t want any more children and I did want children. Make what you will of my moral compass; I’m comfortable with it.
But Sean Hannity was on the attack. He called Noel Biderman the moral equivalent of a pimp and a crack dealer. He asked him how he can sleep at night knowing that children will suffer because of the marriages his service breaks up. Hannity chided Biderman for making a profit out of breaking up marriages — no communist could have made a stronger attack on the profit motive — and the Roman Catholic inquisitor Sean Hannity wasn’t moved in the slightest when Biderman pointed out that divorce lawyers and Hollywood studios who make movies glorifying affairs also work for profit. If it had been me sitting in Biderman’s chair I would have asked Hannity how many millions he got paid last year, or whether he did his show living off alms.
Hannity was so busy imposing his personal moral standards on his guest that he abandoned all illusion that he’s a media professional and forgot what his job description requires: to interview his television network’s guest. Hannity didn’t ask a single question that elicited any information about what Ashley Madison’s service is, what screening standards they have for people who use their service, and what Noel Biderman’s ethics and principles were as a businessman. He never asked as simple a question as whether secrecy is guaranteed to Ashley Madison’s clients, whether a spouse can inquire whether the other spouse is a member, or whether a subpoena in a divorce case might produce evidence that can be brought into court as evidence of infidelity. These would have made for an actually informative news talk program.
But Hannity wasn’t interested in being a television professional. He wasn’t interested in asking questions his viewing audience might be interested in. All he was interested in doing was sneering and making accusations based on his own beliefs.
Sorry, Sean. You don’t get to spit on free enterprise and be a conservative. You don’t get to set your Catholic moral code as the standard by which to judge everyone else’s. In America the founding principles were that religion is a matter of individual conscience — and those principles protected Roman Catholics from Protestants who preached from the pulpit that your church was the “whore of Babylon.”
So knock it off or prepare for real conservatives to call you on your hypocrisy, your failure to live up to historical American principles, and your bigoted sectarian intolerance.
Glenn Beck Again
In my last Nobeus News Report I wrote about conversations I’d had with fellow author Brad Linaweaver questioning the principles of Fox News host, Glenn Beck. Since that time Beck did something that impressed me: he stood up for the Constitution at a moment that it really mattered. Sitting next to Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano on the May 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Glenn Beck unreservedly stood up for the constitutional rights of the accused Times Square attempted bomber, Faisal Shahzad.
As long as we’re talking about the Constitution …
Author of the Bill of Rights, James Madison
Recently I’ve been involved in a private email exchange with a good friend of mine with whom I’ve worked for many years in defense of the Second Amendment. I’m a strict individualist who believes in a natural moral law; my friend is more of a pragmatist and a utilitarian. But on other than the narrow defense of the right to keep and bear arms, our approaches have diverged widely since 9/11, as he regards Islam and Muslims as an historical movement to create a worldwide caliphate and I more narrowly focus on the specific threats by ideologically committed jihadis. As you can tell from my praise above for Glenn Beck, I think Muslims have exactly the same Constitutional rights as everyone else.
My friend has charged me with making arguments that are “simplistically unequivocal in an incredibly complex and equivocal world.”
My view is that moralists ranging from Moses, to Jesus, to Thomas Paine, to Henry David Thoreau, to C.S. Lewis, to Ayn Rand, to Mohandas Gandhi, to William F. Buckley, Jr., to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Tom Clancy, would have regarded this charge as a rationalization for villainy.
Here are some of the specific points I’ve been making:
You and I met because we both wanted to work for the defense of a constitutionally protected right. As far as I’m concerned every Muslim has as much of a right to keep and bear arms as you and I do. They have the same right to remain silent and not to be questioned without an attorney present as you and I do. They have the same right not to be imprisoned without being convicted of a crime in an open and fair trial by a jury of their peers as you and I do. Each Muslim is innocent until proved guilty in a court of law as much as you and I are.
I don’t consider the Constitution of the United States and the federal republic formed under it to be a perfect solution to the problem of maintaining individual human liberty, but its authors were men making an honest attempt and I think their legacy needs to be honored and preserved until we can come up with something which preserves and defends individual human liberty even better.
I’m not willing to sacrifice my liberty, your liberty, or anyone else’s liberty in the pursuit of security against foreign powers, religious zealots, terrorists, or criminals.
Will you please tell me the limits of what you advocate in pursuit of your political agenda?
1. Does it exclude torture?
2. Does it exclude arrest without charges and imprisonment without trial?
3. Does it exclude discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, or national origin?
These are not tough questions. You don’t have to be smarter than a fifth grader to answer them.
Torture means inflicting punishing distress on someone. You can tell whether you’re torturing someone because they’re writhing around trying to make it stop. If you do this as a means of questioning someone you’re violating the 8th amendment, which states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Arrest without charges and punishment without trial are forbidden by the 4th through 8th amendments:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The attempted shoe bomber, the attempted underpants bomber, the attempted Times Square bomber, were not members of any military force nor were they members of a militia. They were all civilians who were attempting to commit a crime. Their religious reasons for doing so are elements of motive, nothing more. If they were involved in a conspiracy with a foreign government they may be charged with espionage and sabotage. If they were involved in a conspiracy with overseas civilians they may be charged under organized crime or racketeering laws. But if they’re arrested on American soil they get tried by the same rules as apply to all trials in American civilian courts. If they’re American citizens and they serve sentences for the crimes — for which they were tried and convicted — that have them released from prison alive, they are returned to American soil upon their release. If they are foreigners, then following trial and conviction they can be deported, either before or after the completion of their sentences.
But the Sixth Amendment isn’t complex or equivocal about what’s to be done with them if they are captured alive either on American soil, or brought to American soil. (And Gitmo, being an American Naval base, is American soil; if you’re born there you can run for President.) They “shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
When I was writing for The Twilight Zone in the mid 1980’s, I wrote a script called “Colorblind” which was unproduced when CBS cancelled the series. Harlan Ellison — who is of the left — hated the script, calling it “knee-jerk liberal.” This surprised me since I thought my script’s approach to racism was to condemn it for not treating people as individuals, which I consider a traditional American value — even if it took a while for many Americans to apply it consistently.
I’m a stickler on this point. My friend can’t call himself a moral person — much less a conservative, an individualist, a believer in American exceptionalism, a son of the Founding Fathers, an advocate of the Declaration of Independence, or a person pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States — if he doesn’t believe rights adhere to all individuals until that individual is convicted of some criminal act by which he deprives himself of the legal protections for one or more of those rights.
Birth is not enough.
Belief is not enough.
Advocacy is not enough.
Suspicion is not enough.
Location is not enough.
Association is not enough.
You have to do something, and if that act is a crime, you have to be convicted of the crime.
Let’s also be clear that we’re not talking about what happens between belligerents during a war. That’s a discussion for another day.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the only American civilians — both of them American citizens by birth — to be convicted of espionage and executed.
If American traitors who passed Manhattan Project atom-bomb secrets to the Soviet Union didn’t need to be imprisoned at Gitmo and tried in a military tribunal, then I can’t think of any reason why a pathetic wannabe like Faisal Shahzad must be.
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