Sunday, January 16, 2011

I've been knitting...

I've been busy knitting recently. This is one of the projects I completed earlier this month. Just thought I'd share something colorful on this gray Sunday morning.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Violent political rhetoric and the First Amendment

I keep thinking that I need to write something about what happened in Tuscon yesterday, but I'm not sure exactly what to say, except that this sort of thing has to stop.

I think it was interesting that during a news conference late yesterday afternoon, the Sheriff of the county Tuscon is in (sorry, I'm winging this and I don't know the name of the county and I want to get this out before I forget what I want to say, so I'm not going to stop to look it up) called out the "vitriolic rhetoric" of some radio and television broadcasters as contributing to a climate which can inflame those with "mental issues" (which is how he described the young man in custody for the shootings), that they are "more susceptible" to the influence of such things Nevada candidate Sharron Angle's statements about "Second Amendment solutions" and a map posted around the Internet that marked with firearm crosshairs the districts of congressmen and women that some on the right want to see defeated.

Well, this morning on some of the Sunday morning political talk shows, some were taking issue with the Sheriff's comments and suggetion that the nation needs to do some soul-searching about the character of some recent political rhetoric. There were complaints that since we don't know the shooting suspect's motivations, the comments by the Sheriff were premature and inappropriate. They also seemed to be trying to say that to complain about what some candidates and pundits have said that could be construed as promoting violence against some other candidates is tantamount to violating the First Amendment.

First of all, I don't think that what ends up being identified as the shooter's motive has anything to do with the question. Even if he was just a "lone nut" (something the Sheriff said yesterday afternoon that his department was not at all convinced was the case) whose motivation was not so much political as pathological, his obvious target was a member of Congress, one who had been threatened by those on the right before and who had been targeted on the list that accompanied that map with the crosshairs on it. That alone, regardless of motivation, makes the discussion of recent political rhetoric appropriate.

Second, but no less important, I beleive it is settled law that the First Amendment does not cover speech and actions that can be interpreted as incitements to riot or violence. You can't get up in front of a crowd and urge them to run amok. And you can't say things about using "Second Amendment remedies" with a wink and a nod. In saying that, you might well be speaking metaphorically (although sometimes, I don't think those who say those things are being metaphorical at all). The problem is, some of the people who are hearing you say it might believe you mean what you say literally, and take it upon themselves to act on it. What you say might not even be actionable, in terms of being charged as an accomplice in an act like the shootings in Tuscon. But my position is that those who say such things don't have entirely clean hands when such events do occur.

This does not mean that I'm advocating that there should not be discussions in which political differences are aired. Not at all. Those disucssions are fully covered by the First Amendment. You can't stop someone saying that they don't agree with another person or with a government policy. You can't stop someone speculating about events, even about dire conspiracies that are mostly in the minds of those who believe in them. They are protected by the First Amendment. But threatening harm to someone who does not agree with you, or who you think is doing something politically nefarious, is most assuredly not covered by the amendment, just like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater is not covered by free speech guarantees.

I think the bottom line in all of this is that our society (and I mean that globally) needs to get over the idea of some people that just because they are angry about something, they have the right to go out and kill who they are angry at and maybe a bunch more people, just because they are angry. Because it isn't just political. We see it all the time these days, sadly, in workplace shootings, in school rampages, and in personal relationships gone bad.

It's madness (but not, in most cases, clinical insanity). And it has to stop.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Resolutions, anyone?

I don't usually do New Year's Resolutions.

Having said that, however, here are my resolutions for 2011:

1. Read more. I have always been a reader, ever since I learned to read right about the time I turned three years old. Yes. That's very early. But I was an only child and there were no nearby neighbors to play with, so I had to do something with my time. Anyway, for the past few years, first with taking care of my mother, and then after she died, trying to keep my head above water both emotionally and economically, I just didn't have the time or feel the inclination to read as much. Part of it was that I often just couldn't find books I wanted to read that badly. I probably picked up ten or fifteen books and then didn't finish them for every book I read all the way through. Well, my intention with this resolution is to read more, to finish more of what I start to read, and to tell everyone all about it over on my new reading blog, Reading With (an) Attitude.

2. Write more. I write for a living. I like my job a lot, but I want to do much more with my talent, such as it is, than write about the financial markets. Last year, I got a good start on a novel, but then between running into some issues with how I wanted to frame the story and just plain getting too busy with other things so that writing the novel got lost in the shuffle of daily events, my work on it dwindled down to practically nothing. The goal here is to resume work on the novel, with a more specific goal of having a decent first draft finished by the end of the year. That goal should really probably be to have the draft done by the middle of the year, but I do have other obligations, so I'm attempting to not burn myself out by pushing too hard.

3. Walk more. I've got arthritis. It hurts to walk sometimes. But, since I'm now without car, I've got to get over it and get moving. This is not an effort to lose weight, although that would be good too. It is simply an effort to be able to get around and get the things I need to do, done.

4. Knit more. And learn to crochet. I already knit quite a bit. I should actually be working on finishing a project now, since it needs to be done in the next couple of days. But, it's New Year's Day, it's raining outside and I feel lazy. And, it will get done. But, I need to advance in my knitting this year, so that I can make more, and more complicated projects. Specifically, I need to master enough lace knitting to make a shawl this year, and I need to make a sweater this year, just to prove that I can do it. As for the crochet...I can crochet enough to edge a blanket. I need to be able to do more than that, well, just because I need to.

5. Spend more time on the internet forum where I am a moderator. I've been woefully inadequate in that recently, and I need to get back there for that reason, and just because I miss my friends there. If this involves setting up a time management schedule and specifically scheduling time to be there during the week, I'll do that.

And now, my question to you is, what are your resolutions for the New Year? Or, if you didn't make any, why do you choose not to make resolutions?

Happy New Year!