Hating the haters

Friday, 16 May 2008

gay wedding

My choice has been made – I will be voting in California in November.

I don’t know that I will cast a vote in the presidential election. If I do, it will be only because I despise John McCain and not because I believe in anyone else. Sad, but true. But the reason I will bother with the whole rigmarole of absentee voting is so that those bigoted homophobic motherfuckers won’t be able to pass their bigoted homophobic proposition to ban gay marriage in California’s constitution.

Just yesterday, the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s law against same-sex marriage and declared that registered partnerships are not good enough.

“In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation,” Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority in ringing language that delighted gay rights activists.

Massachusetts in 2004 became the first, and so far only, state to legalize gay marriage; more than 9,500 couples have taken advantage of the law. But the California ruling is considered monumental by virtue of the state’s size — 38 million out of a U.S. population of 302 million — and its historical role as the vanguard of many social and cultural changes that have swept the country since World War II.

California has an estimated 108,734 same-sex households, according to 2006 census figures.

yahoo/AP

One of the precedents cited was the California Supreme Court’s 1948 ruling that overturned the ban on interracial marriages.

The decision on same-sex marriage should be a happy ending and we should all rejoice that any couple who are lucky enough to find that kind of love can enshrine it in any way they want. We should all look forward to being invited to gay weddings where the décor and flowers, etc will all be in immaculate taste.

But instead, enter the small-minded, holier-than-thou, overly religious, freedom-loathing, malignant bigots that want us all to live based on their twisted code of intolerance and hatred. I really wish it were possible to convince them that they don’t have the right to tell other people how to live and that if there were a god, s/he would not be on their side.

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President Gas 2008

Saturday, 26 April 2008

a contemporary twist on a classic by the Psychedelic Furs;

I found it on Crooks and Liars


Stateless Max

Friday, 11 April 2008

vietnam visa

I’m not stateless, I only feel stateless. My identity has been taken, my permission to travel has been confiscated, and I am now a prisoner within the Schengen zone. Granted, only for one week, but it still feels terribly wrong.

I went to the Vietnamese embassy this morning to apply for a tourist visa. I had got information off the internet and my secretary had telephoned to confirm that information so I knew – amongst other things – that to get the visa would take one week and cost CZK 1500. What I didn’t know was that the Vietnamese would be holding onto my passport for the duration of that one week.

I was only at the embassy for about 15 minutes. I asked for a visa application form, I filled it in, and I went back to the window to wait for the little man to come back. I guess he had gone off on a cigarette break. When he came back, I tried to hand him my form, a photo, my passport and a CZK 2000 note. He rudely ordered me to glue my photo onto the form, which is when I finally noticed the glue stick on the counter. He then took everything from me, gave me CZK 500 in change, and wrote out a receipt. When he handed me the receipt, he told me to come back in a week. He then turned to put my passport and application on a table behind him.

When the little man turned again to face forward, I was still standing there and now looking at him in bewilderment.

“Come back in a week,” he repeated.

“I have to leave my passport here for the entire week?” I asked.

“You want a visa?” he shot back rudely.

“Ok, ok,” I said, and backed slowly away from the window.

And now I can’t go anywhere. I’ve got no plans to go anywhere between now and next Friday, but that’s not the point. I can’t even pick up a package from the post office. Not that I’m expecting one, but that’s not the point either. I can’t do anything at the bank and I can’t go to a notary. The point is that as a foreigner here – especially as a non-EU national – I need that stupid little US State Department issued book to do absolutely everything. And those civil servant communist motherfuckers, without a second thought, have just deprived me of my freedom for 7 whole days.


Prague Graffiti

Sunday, 23 March 2008
john lennon wall prague

There are a lot of graffiti in Prague. The main reason, as I understand it, is that graffiti were mostly not tolerated before the Velvet Revolution, so once communism fell apart, no one wished to stifle this new way of free expression. Now it’s just out of hand.

I was on the tram yesterday when I saw graffiti on the side of a church on Karlovo náměstí that said in English, “Fight State”. And I thought, as I so often do – If you are going to deface private property whilst using the English language, at least get the bloody grammar right. And I thought of other examples that I have seen around Prague, like “Fuck System” and “We don’t want clean city!”

The graffiti is ugly, but as a linguist, a writer, an editor, and most of all as an absolute pedant, it’s the grammatical errors and the misspellings that really irk me.

I was on another tram later in the day when I overheard two other foreigners discussing the graffiti. One explained to the other that they were symbolic, that no one would do anything about the graffiti because under communism, graffiti had been the only means of protest.

Now I knew that was a load of crap because there is so much evidence to the contrary. For example, Plastic People of the Universe, samizdat publishing, Charter 77, the imprisoned dissidents who are today’s politicians… But like in a lot of the bullshit you hear around town, there was some truth in what the young lady had said. Specifically, the John Lennon wall.

The John Lennon wall in Malá strana became the holy wall of freedom graffiti after John Lennon was killed in December 1980. The authorities tried to keep the wall clean and graffiti-less, but not even surveillance cameras and a human guard could keep the sprayers and painters and poets away. But that wall was an exception and Prague was otherwise without graffiti.

Must have been nice.


If I were on the Supreme Court…

Tuesday, 18 March 2008
second amendment

The fundamental issue being debated in the Supreme Court today is whether the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution was actually meant to protect an individual’s right to possess guns.

There are of course all kinds of arguments and statistics and rationale that have been bandied about on both sides of the issue. Even Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership have submitted an amicus brief.

But there is no precedent for this case currently before the Supreme Court and it therefore has to come down to the sitting justicesinterpretation of what the framers actually intended.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

From the perspective of language, it seems to me that the inclusion of an “and” could have precluded any argument.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, and the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The omission of the “and”, however, does not prove anything. In fact that non essential “and” may have been left out only because the sentence flows better without it.

I either read or heard an argument the other day that had been put forward by a historical linguist. He said that to “bear Arms” clearly has to refer to a militia, as that was an idiom for being a soldier (or something like that). However in the bit that was quoted, he never mentioned what “to keep…Arms” might mean.

There are other ways in which a good editor could have clarified the 2nd Amendment. For example:

As a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The right of the people to keep and bear Arms for a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, shall not be infringed.

I am an editor and I could play with that sentence all day, but it would never tell us what the framers had intended. To get an idea of intention, we have to look elsewhere. We have to understand the politics of the time, we have to understand history, and we should look at other things that the framers said and wrote.

James Madison is considered the author of the Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution). He adapted the Bill of Rights from the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which had been drafted by George Mason in 1776. One of George Mason’s sources had been the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Even the English Bill of Rights declares that the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law”.

James Madison had initially been on the side that argued against a Bill of Rights, the danger being that if only certain rights were enshrined, then that would put all other of the natural rights of man at risk. A Bill of Rights would also assume that the government had powers that it had never in reality been granted.

I leave you now with a few quotes to help you decide what the framers really thought.

Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. – James Madison

The Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms. – Samuel Adams

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. – Thomas Jefferson

Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the People’s Libertys Teeth. – George Washington


“World Views on Free Press Mixed”

Monday, 10 December 2007

freedom of the press

 

I have to admit that I was shocked this morning when I heard the results of the BBC poll on press freedom. To be fair, the headline question in the survey had not been, “Do you believe that a free press is important?” In fact, there were two statements, both of which acknowledged that there is no question that a free press is important. The question then really was whether or not a free press is essential.

People across 14 countries were asked to choose which of two statements on the freedom of the media was closest to their own view:

· Freedom of the press to report the news truthfully is very important to ensure we live in a fair society, even if it sometimes leads to unpleasant debates or social unrest.

· While freedom of the press to report the news truthfully is important, social harmony and peace are more important which sometimes means controlling what is reported for the greater good.

Worldwide 40% of people answered that social harmony and peace are more important than a free press. Which means that worldwide, 40% of people do not understand that without an absolutely free press there can be no freedom.

The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure. – Thomas Jefferson

There is a reason that freedom of the press is canonised in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The concept of a free press was born in the US, as was the concept of real liberty. They are inseparable.

A free press is not a perfect or uniform entity and the press will sometimes agitate and cause disorder. But that is the way things need to be.

With newspapers, there is sometimes disorder; without them, there is always slavery. – Benjamin Constant

Nazi Germany did not have a free press, the Soviet Union did not have a free press. Even in today’s supposedly democratic Russia, journalists are being murdered for what they report.

Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. – Joseph Pulitzer

The results of the survey were also reported by country. 70% of people in the US realised that a free press is essential rather than just important, which was the highest percentage of any country. But 28% of people in the US thought stability and peace were more important, whilst 2% were too stupid to answer the question. That is all worrying. All people in a supposedly free society should understand the essential nature of a free press, and in the US most of all. 70% is far too low.

If the press is not free, if speech is not independent and untrammelled, if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen. – Senator William E Borah

HG Wells once said that the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was due to the fact that they didn’t have any newspapers.

The BBC story on the survey is here and the published report is here.


Pakistan today, The Amerika tomorrow

Monday, 5 November 2007

police state

 

I am not saying that it is imminent, or indeed that it is going to happen at all. I am saying, however, that we need to be aware that it is possible. And, most importantly, that the legislation that would make martial law legal in The Amerika is already in place.

I wrote about Aaron Russo’s film, America: Freedom to Fascism, in August 2006. In that post, I included the film’s sample list of executive orders. As I trust no one, I had checked to make sure Russo wasn’t full of shit. I found that his list was correct – all of the executive orders are real.

President Bush has signed executive orders giving him sole authority to impose martial law and suspend habeas corpus. This gives him dictatorial power over the people…with no checks and balances.

All of the following orders were in place long before Bush took office.

Executive Order #11921 – provides that the President can declare a state of emergency that is not defined, and Congress cannot review the action for six months – signed by Gerald R. Ford, 11 June 1976.

Executive Order #10990 – allows the government to take over all modes of transportation – signed by John F. Kennedy, 2 February 1962.

Executive Order #10995 – allows the government to seize and control the communications media – signed by John F. Kennedy, 16 February 1962.

Executive Order #10997 – allows the government to take over all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels and minerals – signed by John F. Kennedy, 16 February 1962.

Executive Order #10998 – allows the government to take over all food resources and farms – signed by John F. Kennedy, 16 February 1962.

Executive Order #11002 – Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all persons – signed by John F. Kennedy, 16 February 1962.

Executive Order #11000 – allows the government to mobilize civilians into work brigades under government supervision – signed by John F. Kennedy, 16 February 1962.

The Huffington Post yesterday published a list of some of the rights that have been suspended in Pakistan:

 

  • Protection of life and liberty.
  • The right to free movement.
  • The right of detainees to be informed of their offence and given access to lawyers.
  • Protection of property rights.
  • The right to assemble in public.
  • The right to free speech.
  • Equal rights for all citizens before law and equal legal protection.
  • Media coverage of suicide bombings and militant activity is curtailed by new rules. Broadcasters also face a three-year jail term if they “ridicule” members of the government or armed forces.

 

 

 

 

 

I would like to review all of Bush’s executive orders to see exactly what powers he has already claimed, but he has signed literally hundreds and I already have a full-time job.

 

And in addition to the executive branch usurping powers, the legislative branch has happily handed additional powers to the president. As an example, Public Law 109-364, the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007” (HR 5122), which was signed into law on 17 October 2006. The Act gives the president the power to declare a public emergency and station troops anywhere in the Amerika and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities. Does anyone remember the Posse Comitatus Act?

 

And don’t forget another consequence of Pakistan’s state of emergency – the elections that were planned for January 2008 will be postponed until there is no longer a state of emergency. General Musharraf will therefore remain in power until further notice.

 

George W Bush – president for life. Has an interesting ring to it, doesn’t it?