Ruminations, March 10, 2013
The legality/morality of drone attacks
***There has been a lot of conversations lately about the use of drones by our government to kill. Let’s stipulate that President Barack Obama has acted in and continues to act in what he believes to be the best interests of the United States regarding drone executions.
Having said that, it is necessary to develop a new policy on drone executions (especially of Americans), not because Obama is doing anything wrong but because what he does sets precedent and we don’t know who will be elected president in 2016 and beyond. And giving the president the authority to act as prosecutor, jury and executioner is, in the true sense of the word, an awesome responsibility.
The president needs the ability to act against bad guys and act quickly. He should be able to direct drones to take out enemies of the United States subject to treaties and conventions of which the United States is a party. Other than his appointed advisors, he should not have to seek and obtain approval in advance. However, his actions should be reviewable by a select branch of the judiciary. If the judiciary finds that the president acted in a questionable manner, their findings should be turned over to a committee in the House of Representatives.
Why the House? Because the House has the authority to draw up articles of impeachment which can then be presented to the Senate where the president could be tried and, if necessary, removed from office.
Without a review process, there is much too much power in the executive branch of government. The suggestion above shares responsibility with all three branches.
The end of freedom of speech.
The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) has earned the enmity of virtually every other religious group in the United States, veterans groups and others. Members of the church have picketed funerals of veterans, gays, and Michael Jackson, as well as concerts, the Kansas City Chiefs football games, other churches, and courthouses, with vitriolic signs. They have even desecrated the American flag
How bad are they? The Ku Klux Klan has called them “hatemongers.” If even the Klan thinks they’re extreme, you know how bad they are.
When the WBC picketed the funeral of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, killed in Iraq in 2006, his family struck back and sued them. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled 8-1 in favor of the WBC. Freedom of speech gave them, according to Chief Justice Roberts, "the right to be where they were."
Let’s now shift attention to Canada where things are different. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission passed a law outlawing hate speech and last month, the Canadian Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law. The Canadian court decided that Saskatchewan can prohibit publications “… that expose or tend to expose to hatred, ridicule, belittle or otherwise affront dignity of persons on basis of prohibited ground …”
At issue was a publication that objected to homosexual behavior. But if one objects to the behavior (hate the sin but love the sinner), then, according to the Canadian court, one is objecting to the individual (i.e., you cannot hate the sin without hating the sinner). In its ruling, it said, “Courts have recognized a strong connection between sexual orientation and sexual conduct and where the conduct targeted by speech is a crucial aspect of the identity of a vulnerable group, attacks on this conduct stand as proxy for attacks on the group itself. If expression targeting certain sexual behaviour is framed in such a way as to expose persons of an identifiable sexual orientation to what is objectively viewed as detestation and vilification, it cannot be said that such speech only targets the behaviour. It quite clearly targets the vulnerable group.”
It should be noted that the respondent in the case, Bill Whatcott, had his freedom of speech supported by some 26 organizations; among them the Canadian Civil Liberties Union, the Catholic Civil Rights League, the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada, Canadian Unitarian Council, and Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund,
The issue is not whether homosexuals have rights; it is whether one has the right to speak out against those rights. In Canada, one can not speak out.
The next time you hear that the U.S. Constitution is outdated and should be scrapped, think of Canada.
And the Westboro Baptist church desecrates the American flag.
Bad Advice from Biden
A conversation with a firearms expert yielded a convincing perspective on Vice President Joe Biden’s explanation of defending oneself with firearms. Biden’s advice was harmful and possibly deadly for women seeking to protect themselves a gun. Biden advised women to “Get a double barreled 12-gauge shotgun” and, “Walk out on the balcony and put that double-barreled shotgun, and fire two blasts outside the house.” With all due respect, Biden’s advice is stupid.
Firstly, don’t get a gun if you’re not willing to shoot the bad guy because an armed bad guy is willing to shoot you – especially if he feels threatened. If you approach an armed perpetrator with the purpose of scaring him off with a gun, you will be shot.
Secondly, if you use a shotgun (assuming you keep a loaded shotgun handy), you are at a disadvantage. It is likely that you will confront the bad guy in your home and not on a balcony. If it is fairly close, the perp can grab the barrel of the shotgun and disarm you quickly (a small snub-nosed hand gun would be better), which means you are unarmed and facing a possibly double-armed and angry bad guy.
If you feel it is necessary to arm yourself for protection do so but remember the caveats in this column. And in the meantime, Biden should stick to advising people about things with which he is more familiar.
Quote without comment
Columnist Rex Murphy, writing on the Whatcott case in Toronto’s National Post, on March 2: “It is a remarkable shame that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are being trimmed and sliced, cut down and made secondary to transient fashions. Meanwhile, our leaders — while brave on petty things — keep long silence on matters that are at the centre of how we have governed ourselves for generations.”