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The ‘Tolerant’ Millennials Who Hate Free Speech

commencement protest

 

When is it okay to invite a controversial current or former public office holder to speak at a college commencement (graduation) ceremony, and when does issuing such an invitation imply acceptance and endorsement of that person’s every action and decision whilst in office?

This question is coming up a lot, primarily in the United States, as the ‘old guard’ of politicians and appointed officials who held the reigns of power during the post 9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who were at the helm during the financial crisis and great recession, approach retirement and seek to secure an income in retirement while simultaneously shaping their legacies.

Earlier this month it was former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the headlines, pressured to withdraw from her engagement giving the commencement speech at the Rutgers University commencement ceremony after extensive student pushback at her selection, culminating in a sit-in protest. Her offence was to have been a member of the second Bush administration, and her public advocacy for the Iraq war. But now the forces of retroactive censorship have claimed a new victim – Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF.

Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast reports:

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, has decided not to serve as commencement speaker for Smith College’s May 18, 2014 graduation, after students started a petition protesting her selection.

The petition—which boasts 483 signatures (less than half of their goal of 1,000)—states that although they “do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments” and they “recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system” they do not want to “encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters.” 

While falling over themselves to add caveats and backhanded praise for Lagarde, the activists make clear that her particular views had become unpopular and were not to be heard at their institution. Never mind the prestige of hosting a high-profile guest and never mind those students who were perfectly happy to hear from her – the vocal, outraged activists successfully manage to parry away a threatened intrusion from the nasty world of realpolitik.

These developments – and the two mentioned here are only the most recent – raise some important questions about the polarising of America along political and cultural lines, academic censorship and the ability of the current generation to listen to alternative viewpoints.

In the case of Condoleezza Rice, her viewpoint – in favour of war, supportive of the Bush administration – was commonplace in America for the majority of the Bush presidency. Are all those who once thought as Rice thought now persona non grata at Rutgers University? Or perhaps it is just those who could be considered ‘thought leaders’, those who influenced and shaped the public debate at the time who are to be singled out. In which case, how far removed does one have to be from the centre of decision-making to avoid being rendered untouchable by America’s universities?

The case of Christine Lagarde is even more perplexing. As head of the International Monetary Fund, she clearly represents the ideals and goals of that organisation. But so do a solid majority of mainstream politicians from both parties, including some very popular ones in academic circles – such as Bill Clinton or Barack Obama – who would be welcomed with open arms and festooned with honorary degrees.

MassLive adds some detail about the petition-signers:

“Utterly disgusted that Smith has chosen to host someone from the IMF, an organization that has proven itself to be nothing but imperialistic, ineffective, and oppressive,” wrote one woman who signed the online petition.

Another woman who identified herself as a graduating senior wrote: “It was in a Smith classroom that I first learned about the problems that the IMF has wrought on the Global South, and how those problems have affected women’s lives for the worse.”

And here’s the problem. The activists disagree – strongly and sincerely – with the policies and worldview of the speaker. Fair enough. But somewhere along the way they have been led to believe that they have the right to filter out any views or opinions that they find objectionable, causing them to turn their displeasure into calls for the speakers to be banished.

At one time, student activists would have relished the opportunity to see their nemeses take the stage at a high profile event on their campus, perhaps taking the opportunity to hold an inventive protest or at least to offer up a choice heckle or two. Are today’s millennials really so precious and coddled that they cannot even tolerate the presence of dissenting opinion, devoid of the ability or drive to engage with contradictory viewpoints when they appear?

This attitude – and the howls of the “how dare you invite someone who disagrees with me politically to speak at my graduation” – resembles nothing less than the Facebook-isation of academia and the real world, where people with different or troublesome views can simply be blocked, defriended or “disliked” until they fall off the collective radar and cease being a nuisance on our newsfeeds.

But what is possible in the world of social media is not necessarily desirable in the real world of bricks-and-mortar educational establishments. Academia requires debate and argument in order to thrive, and by so publicly banning many of the past decade’s movers and shakers, the student bodies and faculties concerned are cutting themselves off from the possibility of benefiting from the insight of these recent historical figures. Simultaneously, they are doing nothing to help counter accusations from the American right that elite universities are inherently hostile to conservatives and conservative thinking.

Sometimes the arguments against hearing from the big beasts of the past are more persuasive and complex. Take the case of former Vice President Dick Cheney, desperate to cement his hawkish neo-conservative legacy in a positive light and willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. The always-astute Andrew Sullivan keeps a close watch on Cheney’s continued public and media briefings since leaving office and is convinced that the likes of Cheney are engaged in a deliberate effort to recast their horrific actions and decisions in a positive light. In such cases, an argument could be made that it is best to invite such people to speak only in the context of debates (where other participants with opposing views could question and challenge the speaker, and vice versa) rather than bestowing the prestige and carte blanche of a commencement address invitation.

Ultimately, when considering whether to invite a controversial figure from the past – whether it’s a peddler of discredited economic theories, a proud and unapologetic torturer and warmonger or anything else in between – a balance has to be struck between ensuring that the purpose of the event will not be disrupted, that something of interest will be said, and that issuing the invitation will not play into the hands of any ulterior motive that the invitee may have. This type of sober and reasoned discussion does not lend itself to an emotionally manipulative e-petition or Facebook campaign.

No one is asking Condoleezza Rice or Christine Lagarde to hand out the best picture statuette at the next Academy Awards. If, through their own actions, politicians and public figures make themselves pariahs at the hip parties of Hollywood or the parlours of Washington D.C., that is their unfortunate lot and they can take it up with George Clooney.

But it is worrying that many of our students and academic institutions are so eager to impose their own layer of self-administered moral censorship on top.

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ObamaCare, Four Years After Signing

obamacare

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as the ACA or ObamaCare – was signed into law four years ago this week after tortuous rounds of planning, posturing, arm-twisting and televised negotiating in Washington.

And while many of the features (to say either ‘benefits’ or ‘drawbacks’ immediately displays one’s political bias) of ObamaCare are only now taking effect, this is a good moment to take stock, step back from the thrust and parry of partisan bickering and reflect on what has actually happened since America decided – with the GOP kicking and screaming defiance to the bitter end – that as a country they would no longer tolerate the spectacle of millions of people without health insurance or reliable access to preventive medicine.

Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas – who fancies himself an intellectual heavyweight and a man of deep principle – took the opportunity to reflect by posing a question to the public on his Facebook page:

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Perhaps surprisingly, given the likely political leanings of a Ted Cruz facebook follower, the majority – the real, undeniable, vast majority – of responses to Cruz’s question are unabashedly, overwhelmingly in favour of ObamaCare.

The following responses are the most recent as of the time of writing, and are entirely representative of the rest:

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The warmth of these responses to the effect of ObamaCare – some from staunch Republicans – is quite arresting, and really reveals the gap between the GOP rhetoric on healthcare reform and the way it is perceived by many of those directly impacted.

This is not to say that there are not dissenters among those who answered Ted Cruz’s question on facebook – there are plenty. But the fact that they are in such a minority (and that they often failed to directly answer the question in terms of impact on their finances or lives) again exposes a fundamental weakness in the Republican party’s full-throated opposition to the bill.

While there are certainly – as with any major legislation – those who have lost out as a result of ObamaCare, either through having to change their healthcare plan, pay a higher premium or lose some other benefit – for every one of these cases, there seem to be other people being rescued from catastrophic personal and financial ruin or uninsurability. It is quite telling that when Ted Cruz opened the floor to the public to make their voices heard – without the controlling hand of opinion pollsters or leading questions in focus groups – the message painted was overwhelmingly positive.

The GOP has long tried to paint the passing of ObamaCare as the sudden imposition of socialism on America (conveniently forgetting huge programs such as MediCare for seniors, which are real, tangible socialism in action) against the will of the people and the founding values of the nation. In GOP-world, everyone is a small business owner or unspecified “wealth creator” being taxed to death in order to fund this extravagant giveaway by the “takers”. The real world, as glimpsed through the windows of Ted Cruz’s Facebook page, appears to contradict this worldview.

With ObamaCare, as with most big policies, there is merit in the arguments of both supporters and detractors. President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement is not without multiple flaws, but those who oppose it undermine themselves by the fact that they made no effort to tackle the glaring problems in America’s healthcare system – sometimes laughably called the “greatest in the world” by ignorant people who have never set foot outside the United States – before Obama took office, and then decided to adopt a position of total, unwavering obstruction once reform efforts got underway – even denying and repudiating policies and ideas once favoured by their own side as conservative reforms.

The Republicans could very well win total control of Congress at the midterms this November, and then go on to win back the presidency in 2016. If they do so, they will have to decide – and admit to the world – how much of their opposition to ObamaCare is real and principled, and how much was political posturing and pandering to the base. And the measure of this will be the provisions that they seek to repeal and those which they keep.

If the Republicans want to be a serious party of government again – and sadly, there is currently very little sign that they do, even though America sorely needs a sane right-wing voice as part of her political discourse again – they will have to confront people like those who shared their positive stories of ObamaCare on Ted Cruz’s Facebook wall, and tell them precisely which of their newfound securities will be ripped away, and why.

Over 7 million Americans have now signed up for health insurance through the various ObamaCare exchanges. If the Republican Party is to regain power, it must face a political day of reckoning with each and every one of them.

Who Is To Blame For The Left’s Stalled Agenda?

The masterminds

The masterminds

 

If you were wondering exactly how deep goes the rot in the American conservative commentariat in the Age of Obama, you need look no further than the editorial and letters pages of the Wall Street Journal.

When these pages are not screeching warnings of an imagined upcoming Kristalnacht for wealthy Americans to be carried out by the seething, envious masses, they have taken to publishing seemingly highbrow retrospectives on the Obama presidency, paying particular attention to America’s failures and shortcomings under President Obama, whilst brazenly whitewashing the conservative or Republican part in those failures.

Danniel Henninger has the honour of writing the latest of these historically revisionist editorials on the WSJ’s aptly named “Wonder Land” blog – apt because what is written there bears so little resemblance to fact, or reality. In this piece, Henninger asks “The left can win elections. Why can’t it run a government?”

The editorial gets off to a bad start, attempting to link three quite ideologically disparate politicians and use their waning fortunes as evidence of a socialist malaise:

Surveying the fall in support for the governments of Barack Obama, New York City’s progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio and France’s Socialist President François Hollande, a diagnosis of the current crisis begins to emerge: The political left can win elections but it’s unable to govern.

It may have become what now passes for a fact by some on the American right, but in truth – if you look up the dictionary definition or compare his policies to those of previous Democratic presidents – Barack Obama is not a socialist. Therefore, Obama’s troubles have little to do with the travails and setbacks experienced by President Hollande of France, a legitimate socialist whose actual, socialist policies continue to do damage to that country.

Henninger then spends the rest of the article expanding on his cheeky proposition that the political left can win elections, but are unable to govern once in power. He fastidiously examines every possible reason for Obama’s failure to advance his agenda, save the most glaring one – the fact that the Republican opposition have consistently been more interested in token opposition, nihilism, public posturing and pandering to their base than they have bothered to engage in the processes of government while in opposition.

But Henninger is less interested in any kind of introspective analysis of the rights own complicity in America’s current difficulties than in spewing misleading half-truths:

Once in office, the left stumbles from fiasco to fiasco. ObamaCare, enacted without a single vote from the opposition party, is an impossible labyrinth of endless complexity.

The merits and drawbacks of ObamaCare aside, the blanket Republican opposition was more a strategic move to damage the Obama presidency than a principled stance (Republicans having long been content to leave “the best healthcare system in the world” and all it’s flaws untouched and unaddressed), and Henninger conveniently forgets that Anh Joseph Cao of Louisiana provided a solitary GOP vote for the draft version of the health bill.

Henninger’s next exhibit is the world’s response to climate change, an issue which he says has more political support than any other in our time:

No idea in our time has had deeper political support. Al Gore and John Kerry have described disbelievers in global warming as basically idiots—”shoddy scientists” in Mr. Kerry’s words. But somehow, an idea with which “no serious scientist disagrees” has gone nowhere as policy. The collapse of the U.N.’s 2009 Copenhagen climate summit was a meltdown for the ages.

It may or may not be correct to state that global warming is the greatest area of consensus in world politics at the moment, but what is truly laughable is Henninger’s neglect to admit that all of the opposition to taking any action on climate change comes from his own side. In doing so, he really answers his own question, except that it is not so much the left who are terrible at governing, but more that the ideologically inflexible American right are brilliant when it comes to using whatever political power they still wield to throw a spanner in the works and thwart the majority.

Sometimes it may be right to use opposition power in this way, in order to prevent abuse of power by that majority – but using that same tactic over and over in response to every initiative from the governing party is overkill, and the opposite of good governance.

Henninger sums up:

Making the unworkable work by executive decree or court-ordered obedience is one way to rule, and maybe they like it that way. But it isn’t governing.

True – and Henninger can rightly point to numerous cases where the left has taken these shortcuts to governance, especially recently. But he fails to take the next step and ask why President Obama and the Democratic party are behaving as they are, showing a complete unwillingness or inability to examine the GOP’s own role in creating the acrimonious partisan deadlock for which executive orders and court judgements have been the only pressure release valve.

Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the Republican Party had a tight grip on the reigns of power, holding the executive branch and both houses of Congress for a time. And in this time meaningful legislation was passed, sometimes in the face of vociferous opposition from the left and from libertarians. Significant legislation such as the PATRIOT Act, Sarbanes-Oxley and the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act were all shepherded through Congress without Democratic Party histrionics or threat of filibuster.

One can argue that the Republicans’ willingness to remain united as a single block in order to successfully oppose legislation is a sign of strength, and that the Democrats’ tendency to fracture and allow members of their caucus to be picked off in order to garner support for conservative proposals is a sign of weakness. But in that weakness is also the flexibility and willingness to compromise – hell, to acknowledge that some people in America hold a different point of view – that is so utterly lacking in today’s GOP and in much modern conservative thinking.

The American left may sometimes be catastrophically bad at advancing their agenda, framing the debate and winning the now all-important war of words (death panels, death taxes, job-creators) when courting public opinion, but the American right plays a daily role in the left’s emasculation. In many ways, even in opposition the Republicans have seemed like the playground bully who grabs hold of his prey’s wrist and turns his fist against him, all the while asking why the hapless victim likes punching himself so much.

Blanket, unthinking opposition to everything that the governing party tries to do has been effective for the GOP of late. They have successfully stopped President Obama’s legislative agenda in its tracks. The conservative strategy has been proven to work very well, but good responsible governance it is most certainly not.

Ron Paul, The New Russian Apologist

RonPaul

 

Former US congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is nothing if not consistent – an admirable and all too rare quality in a politician. But just sometimes, the unflinching adherence to a particular principle or policy can be a bad thing – witness the Tea Party’s stance on taxation, the National Security Cheerleader Caucus’ enthusiasm for government surveillance, or the legislate-by-Bible-verse preference of the religious right.

Ron Paul has now sadly joined this group of ideologues, not because many of the points that he makes have suddenly stopped being timely, persuasive and correct, but because he now makes them in such a way that they no longer inform or educate, but merely generate material to be used by enemies of the United States and the West as ready-made propaganda pieces.

Indeed, some of Paul’s recent pronouncements on the Ukraine crisis and the Russian usurpation of Crimea are so one-sided and so determined to examine only the faults of the West while negating or ignoring the faults of Russia, that one wonders what his motivation could possibly be. Paul seems to be adopting a one-man Fox News Strategy, whereby he single-handedly attempts to redress what he sees as an inherent bias or gross imbalance by coming down incredibly hard on one side of an argument – whilst proclaiming all the while to be fair and balanced.

The latest fodder for Kremlin-apologists came on Sunday, when Paul penned an op-ed for his own Ron Paul Institute website, the subtitle of which could easily have been ‘I told you so.’ In this piece, he lashes out at the monetary and other forms of assistance given to Ukraine over the past ten years by US-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs):

But what do the US taxpayers get, who were forced to pay for this interventionism? Nothing good. Ukraine is a bankrupt country that will need tens of billions of dollars to survive the year. Already the US-selected prime minister has made a trip to Washington to ask for more money.

And what will the Ukrainians get? Their democracy has been undermined by the US-backed coup in Kiev. In democracies, power is transferred peacefully through elections, not seized by rebels in the streets. At least it used to be.

As with most effective attempts to mislead, there is just enough truth contained in this statement to suggest respectability and provide a stepping stone to reality, but not too much that it might get in the way of the misinformation being delivered.

It is certainly the case that the National Endowment of Democracy, a private and non-profit organisation, is active in Ukraine. But the NED is not secretive about this fact. Indeed, they detail all of their activities and funded initiatives across all of the countries where they work on their own website. Details of their funded work in Ukraine can be read here.

It is certainly possible that organisations such as the Human Rights Training Center or the Ukrainian Catholic University are nothing but shadowy US puppet organisations, greedily taking in American taxpayer money and using it to subvert the will of the Ukrainian people, just as it is possible that Barack Obama became president of the United States for the sole purpose of gathering material to aid in his upcoming romantic comedy about living and working in the White House. Possible, in other words, but eyebrow-raisingly unlikely.

But the narrative sounds very good to anyone predisposed to view any American or Western activity with suspicion, and so by floating unsubstantiated assertions that western-funded NGOs are doing anything other than trying to promote and build the strong institutions required for democracy to flourish, Paul is playing into a harmful narrative which misconstrues the intentions of his own country and those of the West.

In a separate intervention last week, Paul rhetorically asked:

Why does the US care which flag will be hoisted on a small piece of land thousands of miles away?”

The thought does not seem to occur to Paul that perhaps the United States does not care about the flag – that perhaps it is not the small piece of land that is at stake, but rather the way that it changed hands so rapidly under threat of force that is the problem. And, regrettably, he seems all too willing to recall previous bad actions and mistakes made by the United States to excuse current crimes committed by Russia:

“Where were these people when an election held in an Iraq occupied by US troops was called a ‘triumph of democracy’?

Iraq was certainly very recent, but to make a blasé statement such as this without giving a thought to the many differences between the invasion of Iraq (non-permanent and not for acquisition of land) – however terrible and wrong it may have been – and the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, is propagandist point-scoring at its worst.

No strangers to propagandist point-scoring themselves, the Kremlin-funded Russia Today network predictably seized on Ron Paul’s latest op-ed, and folded it into their continuing efforts to spin the Russian invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s sovereign territory as something entirely consistent with international law, recent precedent and human decency.

RT.com wasted no time putting their own helpful gloss on Ron Paul’s words:

According to Paul, high-funded intervention doesn’t equate to spreading democracy. Instead, he wrote, the US has invested in a country where power has been passed along not by the way of a democratic election, but rather the ousting of the country’s presidents by his opponents.

Of course, the regime of Viktor Yanukovych ousted by the supposedly undemocratic popular uprising in Kiev was itself busily trying to subvert the Ukrainian democracy by cracking down on freedom of speech, silencing dissent and dramatically increasing the powers of the president, which rather muddies the waters and exposing the Ron Paul / Russia Today line as the one-sided propaganda that it is.

Ron Paul accuses President Obama of doing many of the things in America that Viktor Yanukovych did in Ukraine, albeit on a slightly smaller scale – certainly, Obama’s war on whistleblowers and the surveillance state that he has tolerated and expanded can be said to chip away at the foundation of democracy. And yet this outrage at the illiberal policies being enacted in America is nowhere to be found when he looks at the former Yanukovych government, who, for all Paul seems to know or care, were benign arbiters of justice and democracy, unjustly pushed from office by a baying mob of anti-democracy fanatics.

If the recent Edward Snowden / NSA / surveillance debate have taught us nothing else, we have at least been reminded that democracy and its institutions are fragile and never more than one generation away from serious damage, subversion or destruction. When countries such as Britain and America – who have traditionally held aloft the flame of liberty and democracy – now suffer under governments that think nothing of secret surveillance of their own citizens, detain people or subject them to indefinite curtailments on their freedom without trial or allow those who permitted torture to take place to avoid justice, how much more fragile and in need of support must be those nations with a much shorter history of democratic government?

And in this context, is NGO money spent to strengthen democratic institutions in countries around the world not one of the best investments that the West could make?

The suggestion is not that Ron Paul has no right to speak out against past US failings – he has a longstanding and admirable track record of doing so. But the problem comes when his zeal to remind people of past US and Western failings leads him not to condemn those same actions by other countries, but rather almost to praise them as a perverse means of restoring parity within the global order.

In his recent speech to the Russian parliament, Vladimir Putin ranted, raved and gave the world a stark insight into his paranoia, his sense of inadequacy and the huge chip on his shoulder concerning how his country is perceived by the rest of the world. Railing against the West, he said:

Our Western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.

They did it before, so now we can do it, too.

Ron Paul is in many ways a visionary, and is certainly a real American patriot. Which is why it is concerning that he and the dictator from Russia find themselves singing from the same hymn sheet.

Texas Spares No Expense To Kill

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In Texas today,  there is apparently no expense too great when it comes to efficiently killing people, and no expense too small to be called unaffordable and cancelled if it preserves or improves quality of existence for the living.

This has nothing to do with the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, or the ongoing and contentious argument over abortion; those battles are raging on their own elsewhere.

Rather, this is about the eagerness of the state of Texas to go to any expense and any length to continue dispatching prisoners on death row with clockwork efficiency and regularity, under a veil of secrecy and unknown cost, while any other state expenditures are castigated as a sign of ‘big government’ and pared back – even as those who have (rightly or wrongly) come to depend on that government support suffer grievously as a consequence.

The Guardian reports on the extraordinary lengths to which the Texas state government – which takes every opportunity to position itself as staunchly pro-life and legislate based on the ‘sanctity of human life’ – is willing to go in order to continue performing lethal injections once its current supply of lethal injection drugs runs out at the end of March:

Texas has obtained a new batch of the drugs it uses to execute death row inmates, allowing the state to continue carrying out death sentences once its existing supply expires at the end of the month.

But correction officials will not say where they bought the drugs, arguing that information must be kept secret to protect the safety of its new supplier. In interviews with the Associated Press, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also refused to say whether providing anonymity to its new supplier of the sedative pentobarbital was a condition of its purchase.

It should be noted that Texas is not the only state to go above and beyond in its zeal to continue killing inmates – Ohio also recently switched to a new cocktail of lethal injection drugs after it found itself unable to obtain new supplies of the original formula.

The fact that no international pharmaceutical company is willing any longer to supply drugs to be used for barbaric executions was a mere obstacle to be overcome for Ohio, who found a new drug and a new supplier, and subsequently botched their first execution using the new method. One eyewitness, a priest, reported:

I was aghast. Over those 11 minutes or more he was fighting for breath, and I could see both of his fists were clenched the entire time. His gasps could be heard through the glass wall that separated us. Towards the end, the gasping faded into small puffs of his mouth. It was much like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air that would allow it to breathe. Time dragged on and I was helpless to do anything, sitting helplessly by as he struggled for breath. I desperately wanted out of that room.

For the next four minutes or so a medical tech listened for a heart beat on both sides of his chest. That seemed to drag on too, like some final cruel ritual, preventing us from leaving. Then, at 10.53am, the warden called the time of death, they closed the curtains, and that was it.

I came out of that room feeling that I had witnessed something ghastly. I was relieved to be out in the fresh air. There is no question in my mind that Dennis McGuire suffered greatly over many minutes. I’d been told that a “normal” execution lasted five minutes – this experimental two-drug concoction had taken 26 minutes. I consider that inhumane.

But let us return to Texas, so often the protagonist in these stories. The reason given by Texas state officials for not releasing details of where their shiny new supply of lethal injection drugs came from – in response to an entirely justified request by the AP – sets a new standard for cognitive dissonance and Orwellian doublethink:

The decision to keep details about the drugs and their source secret puts the agency at odds with past rulings of the state attorney general’s office, which has said the state’s open records law requires the agency to disclose specifics about the drugs it uses to carry out lethal injections.

“We are not disclosing the identity of the pharmacy because of previous, specific threats of serious physical harm made against businesses and their employees that have provided drugs used in the lethal injection process,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.

It is already well known that Texas’ supposed devotion to the sanctity of life does not apply to those on death row, just as the state that held a prayer event to ask God to intercede and end a long-running drought is also quite happy to ignore Jesus’ teachings about mercy and forgiveness.

But now it also appears that the state of Texas is acting in this opaque and clearly antidemocratic manner because of fears for the safety of those people who are involved in producing the deadly drugs.

Imagine, for a moment, that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had instead released their statement with the following revision (amendments in brackets):

“We are not disclosing the identity of the [people and organisations involved] because of previous, specific threats of serious physical harm made against businesses and their employees that have provided [services] used in the [abortion] process.”

Pigs would fly and snow fall in hell before the state of Texas would ever consider withholding the names and details of people involved in providing abortion services out of a desire to protect their safety, even though there are many real, tangible examples of such people being subjected to harassment, intimidation, physical harm and assassination. By contrast, anti-death penalty campaigners have shown no signs of wanting to intimidate or harm those with whom they disagree.

The key difference (and reason for the massive divergence in treatment of the two groups) is that as far as those in power in Texas are concerned, anyone ever involved in facilitating an abortion is inherently evil and deserves whatever comes their way, but anyone who facilitates an execution is doing their God-fearing, patriotic duty.

And this dichotomy exists because the governing majority in Texas, from Rick “Oops” Perry on downwards, do not see the execution of an incarcerated inmate by the all-powerful government as a violation of the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill.

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One of the indispensable functions of government?

 

At this point, two disclaimers:

1. The purpose of this article is not to elicit sympathy for murderers, or even to debate the merits of the death penalty – though this blog will go on record as being resolutely against the death penalty, viewing it as a barbaric practice from a bygone age best relegated to the past.

2. Nor is the purpose of this article to debate the issue of abortion – though this blog will go on record as believing that life begins at conception, but that there are various times and circumstances (rape, incest, catastrophic developmental anomalies, risk to the life of the mother) when two equally terrible choices must be weighed and the resultant answer may come down on the side of terminating the pregnancy at the earliest opportunity; and that in these terrible, heart-wrenching circumstances, no one is better placed to make the awful decision than the mother, least of all government.

The purpose of this blog is to ask a very simple question of the Texas government: where the hell are your priorities?

Why, when Texas struggles with shameful rates of illiteracy, teen pregnancy, teen births, adults in correctional facilities, adults under probation, citizens without health insurance and food insecure children, is the state government rummaging for spare change and wasting precious time and resources in order to continue funding executions, of all things?

Why, when life is so difficult and wretched for so many Texans, is their state government more interested in preserving its ability to smite the guilty (or not guilty) than help the needy?

When conservative Texans are not threatening to secede from the United States in protest of the Tyrannical Kenyan Socialist Marxist Fascist Community-Organising Gun-Confiscating Traitor unlawfully occupying the White House, they often like to pledge their love and respect for the Constitution. Section 13 of Article 1 (Bill of Rights) of their own Texas State Constitution has this to say on the matter of punishing the guilty:

Sec.13. EXCESSIVE BAIL OR FINES; CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT; REMEDY BY DUE COURSE OF LAW. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishment inflicted. All courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him, in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law.

“Nor cruel or unusual punishment inflicted.”

In Texas, it appears that selective reading is not limited to the Bible.