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June 01, 2009

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First!

Let the record show: Megan McArdle supports terrorism.

You impart a level of good faith to McArdle that does not exist.

Only when the target of the terrorism is an abortion provider do conservatives yawn and wander out of the room. If a radical ALF member shot a brain-injury researcher on his way out of church, do you think for a second that McArdle would whine about "doubling down on" and "bitch-slapping" groups like PETA or the ALF?

First!

Speaking of actions that justify murder.

Let the record show: Megan McArdle supports terrorism.

For real. Anti-abortion zealots at least put their cards on the table; the people I can't deal with are the ones who start off by telling you they're pro-choice and then go on to explain how bombing Planned Parenthood kinda makes sense, if you'd just stop and think instead of being such a knee-jerk partisan.

I was a bit amazed my Megan's view of the situation. There would seem to be a vast, simply vast, array of actions that those who oppose all abortions (from whatever motives, it really does not matter) could take. In addition to the witnessing that many of them do, there is an enormous amount that could be done to attempt to change minds and change laws. And so long as those other options are available, there is no excuse for violence. I simply do not understand how she can think for a moment that there might be.

Perhaps if we put things in a context that she could relate to: Many people die from malnutrition and other things that go with extreme poverty. So obviously those who are very rich, and are not spreading that wealth around to help the poor, are causing many people to die. So, Megan, would you justify murdering CEOs and CFOs, simply because they are rich, and not doing enough to end poverty? The logic would appear to be identical.

"First!" to be pointlessly stupid.

You do know that McArdle is a troll, don't you? Please don't feed them.

Let the record show: Megan McArdle supports terrorism.

not only supports it, she is conceding that it works and that we should give the domestic terrorists what they want, lest they continue to terrorize us.

Someone in the WaMo comments sections imagines Megan's reaction to people who think that "Meat is Murder" opening fire on people with barbecues ...

I mean, the idea that once you've decided that innocent life is at stake, and that you cannot bend the law to your view of things, it therefore follows that you're justified in killing someone to prevent it, is crazy. Yes, there are times (according to me) when this is OK. But they are very, very rare.

Using the political system to stomp on radicalized fringes does not seem to be very effective in getting them to eschew violence.

No, you're right, Meg; that takes police work. Because when the agenda is coercion, violence is the only tool you have, and their agenda IS 'coercion.' The are set upon coercing doctors to stop performing the procedures, coercing the staff of clinics to abandon the doctors, coercing the patients into carrying their fetuses to term. They've abandoned 'discourse.' Paul Rosenberg made the point succinctly today.

This is shameless of McCardle.

Feels like the worst place to bring it up now, but I did raise concerns that are kind of like Megan's*, on whether stricter abortion laws now would play into the terrorists' hands.

That said, Hilzoy is dead on in pointing out her gross mischaracterization.

*About Iraq, not the whole equivalency thing.

""We accept that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders--had Tiller whipped out a gun at an elementary school, we would now be applauding his murderer's actions."

For revealing a concealed weapon? Certainly not. Killing someone for revealing a concealed weapon would be, if that were all that was done, would be first degree murder.

If the person with the gun had just killed someone, or was convincingly threatening to kill someone, or both circumstances held, that would be different. But that's not what Megan is positing. (Maybe it's what she meant, and she was just being sloppy.)

"If you think that someone is committing hundreds of gruesome murders a year, and that the law cannot touch him, what is the moral action? To shrug?"

How about passing a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court? It's not like passing an admendment is impossible if most people agree with you.

...find a doctor to remove their stillborn fetuses from their bodies...

Just a nitpick, but wouldn't "stillborn" mean that the dead fetus was already out?

Using the political system to stomp on radicalized fringes does not seem to be very effective in getting them to eschew violence.

The Palmer Raids were not wholly ineffective.

CPUSA was seriously weakened by McCarthy/HUAC era measures, IIRC.

And in at least three other instances I believe the Federal Government played a hand in limiting extremist violence:Reconstruction-era occupation of the South, Eisenhower use of the National Guard in Little Rock, and the Federal Marshalls to protect voting rights in the South. Congressional authorization and funding might be necessary, but I think Eisenhower was able to at least temporarily act unilaterally.

And this is my first strong recommendation. There is apparently a Nebraska doctor going to visit Wichita to help Tiller's clinic. I suggest Obama protect that doctor, and another if we can find one, and clinic staff at their homes etc, with an armored brigade. Something less than a brigade can be used to transport patients to the clinic safely anonymously.

This will do more than actually protect people from violence, but as in the Civil Rights era, send a clear message as to the extent to which the Federal Gov't and American people are willing to go to protect the right to choose, and thereby deter and demoralize the violent and recalcitrant, especially if Obama demonstrates the will to use the full capabilities. Oh, ROE can be tight, if you insist. But accidents always happen.

An armored brigade is a lot of committment.

First of all, I am tired of hearing the word "murder" used in conjunction with abortions. AFAIK "Murder" is a legal term, and abortion with the rules of law does not equate to murder. Therefore Megan's comparison does not hold.

One can argue about the use of the term "killing" and, in fact, it is probably appropriate. But that does not extrapolate into "murder".

Secondly, hilzoy, you are right to point out that she is totally misreading the mindset of the people who she is supposedly confronting on this issue. But that is not a first for her by a long shot.

Furthermore, her use of Iraq and Afghanistan are totally irrelevant to the point she was trying to make. Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism and Afghanistan was badly bungled from the start, or it might actually have worked to achieve its publicly announced goals.

Deciding to start killing people who are doing things that are legal is deciding to go into full-scale revolt against one's government.

In fairness, if you truly believe that legalized abortion is a serious enough issue to necessitate the violent overthrow of the government of the United States, then you probably do have a moral obligation to get to work on that.

And the rest of us have a moral obligation to lock you up as a crazy terrorist.

In Which I Disagree With Megan McArdle. And, in other news, water is still wet and the sun still sets in the west.

I honestly don't understand her appeal; she seems to have not much more to offer than shallow knee-jerk contrarian libertarianism. Her posts about the automobile industry seemed not to notice that much of the economy of the midwest would immediately collapse if the government didn't provide DIP financing as an alternative to liquidation of Chrysler and GM. Her posts about California's financial situation were often just wrong. (For example, states cannot declare bankruptcy.)

In the referenced post, she gets the law wrong. She writes: In this case, the law was powerless because the law supported late-term abortions. But that's simply not true. Kansas has a late-term abortion ban. According to wiki, Tiller was tried on 19(!) counts of violating that law and aquitted.

And how many states, during the Bush admin, passed laws that stood a chance of passing constitutional muster? Like limiting the law to increasing the burden on women to establish that the procedure is medically necessary for their mental health? zero?

nah, it's all the fault of us liberal elites who deprive the poor common man of their right (to interfere with a woman's reproductive freedom).

feh.

McArdle once again demsonstrates it is possible to be both specious and spurious simultaneopusly:

By her 'logic,' if we are powerless to end, say, the murder and slaughter in Iraq, are we then permitted to assassinate those leaders who promulgate the war, finance it, lead it?

There are other aspects of the 50-70s Civil Rights Era that might bear examining for ideas. I think that should be our model.

Leaving aside the overt violence of the KKK, it seems to me that incendiary racist rhetoric and open opposition to the civil rights laws declined precipitously after Dixie understood the serious committment we had made to the project, including and especially the use of Marshalls and the military. Few argue for Jim Crow anymore, and that isn't because there isn't anybody who is attracted to the idea.

Part of the reason might be that if a Southern State started a revival of Jim Crow, there would be citizens, even if a minority, of the state who would strongly object, so strongly that the National Guard or Army would need to be sent to maintain order. Just saying.

I could be glib and suggest that Hilzoy has at least 30 points of IQ on Megan. While I suspect very strongly that this is true(Megan doesn't do numbers, in fact, treats them as obstacles to understanding rather tools), I might get better traction to suggest that above all else, Megan is lazy. Scholarship, research, etc are too tough, so to up her sitecount, she tends to throw out red meat. As someone else pointed out above, her schtick is kneejerk contrarianism . . . libertarian style.

But hey, it gets hits for The Atlantic, and that's the bottom line for her employers.

To paraphrase Samuel Johnson (? unwilling to google)

There is nothing that will clarify one's degree of committment to a cause like staring into the barrel of a tank.

It is particularly rich for Meagan to tell us, in effect, "violence is futile--see Iraq" when those of us old enough to remember 2003 will recall that she was a big time war supporter, and called for enraged patriots to beat antiwar protestors with 2X4's.

I haven't looked at Meghan's blog in quite some time, but here is a sensible post. It's one I'd like to see Brett Bellmore's response to.

There is apparently a Nebraska doctor going to visit Wichita to help Tiller's clinic. I suggest Obama protect that doctor, and another if we can find one, and clinic staff at their homes etc, with an armored brigade. Something less than a brigade can be used to transport patients to the clinic safely anonymously.

I like this idea. Perhaps an armored brigade is a bit much (aren't there legal hurdles to deploying military personnel within the US?), but a visible show of federal commitment to protecting the clinic would be entirely helpful.

McCardle's enthusiasm for brute violence in service of a right-wing domestic ideology was visible back in her Jane Galt days, when she openly fantasized about 9/11 site workers disrupting NYC anti-war protests while wielding "2x4s".

The really infuriating thing about McCardle's remark is that she gets the Iraq/Afghanistan argument wrong: bin Ladin wanted to provoke the US into invading, wanted a confrontation. Invading Iraq was giving the terrorist what he wanted. Likewise, treating the murder of a doctor as an invitation to political compromise is giving the terrorists what they want.

Screw that.

aren't there legal hurdles to deploying military personnel within the US

Posse Comitatus Act

Passed in 1878 (Part of the corrupt Rutherford Hayes deal?), amended 2008, amendment repealed 2008 and reversion to the Insurrection Act. I can't keep track, and I don't like the history, including the history of National Guard mobilizations.

The law was essentially passed to protect Jim Crow and violent acts enforcing Jim Crow.

It enabled a lot of things like Wilmington Insurrection

I was looking at the wikipedia article on Anti-abortion Violence and the violence seems to have been much worse during the Clinton administration - for instance all of the murders and attempted murders listed took place during that time, with the exception of Dr. Tiller's - than during the Bush administration.

There could be several reasons for this, e.g. that the pro-life movement was suddenly worried about being labeled terrorists post-9/11, policing had genuinely improved, etc. but I would think it's also possible to argue the case that once they had one of theirs in the oval office (i.e. Bush II) they felt like change was going to come in the political arena and so downed arms. When it became clear that the Bush administration was either unable or uninterested in overturning Roe v Wade then the violence began to re-emerge during Bush's second term. Given the level and tone of rhetoric about Obama's record on abortion during the election (I'm thinking of that cartoon that had Obama in a dumpster bludgeoning an aborted fetus with a baseball bat) they presumably feel their out in the cold again.

I think it's instructive to look at the way mainstream politics and political violence interact on these issues, particularly given that there was never a substantial shift in policy during the Bush administration, merely a perception that the powers that be were sympathetic to their cause, that seemed to calm the violent impulses of these people.

I should add that I don't agree with McArdle that applying the law and constitution as currently understood is tantamount to "stomping" on fringe group, and I don't think it becomes a serious commentator to argue that point.

Likewise, treating the murder of a doctor as an invitation to political compromise is giving the terrorists what they want.

but at least she's consistently willing to give-in to fear.

It's illuminating how hard some people are working to justify the murder of a doctor who was doing legal work. If these activists were really serious about eliminating abortion they would be working hard to make abortion rare. Show me where they are working to make birth control information and medications available/free etc. In fact, many of these groups/activists have been working to hinder access to birth control. (see Bush's "freedom of conscience" rule). It's just simpler for many of these activists to try and intimidate women and doctors from having abortions, than to do the hard work of helping mothers and mothers-to-be. Intimidating women or health care workers, vandalizing facilities and killing/wounding health care workers isn't doing anyone any good.

In my extended and large family, the un-wed moms have chosen to both keep their babies and release them for adoption. We've all worked hard to be visibly and financially supportive of their choices even though it would have been "easier" for them to have had abortions.

There are legions of wonderful people who in good faith oppose abortion who need to take the issue back from the extremists with their violence, intimidation and hate. There are lots of people like me who will be thrilled to work with them to provide help to the family that chooses to birth the child with down's syndrome, financial support during the pregnancy of a woman who wants to adopt out a child, and help for a single mom while she gets an education, etc.

The optimist in me hopes that when activists understand that the high water mark of their political clout has passed without the legal elimination of abortion, then maybe we can get to work on the humane option of making abortion rare because it's not considered a necessity.

I'll say this for McArdle, at least she has some skin in the game. Over the course of the day I'm getting to the "Flames! on the side of my face!" point, having to hear/read/talk to *so many* people who have opinions about abortion but no skin. As echidne said after the final presidential debate:

"It is always extremely distasteful to watch two men discuss what should be done about abortion. Always, never mind what they say."

*Always*, guys.

having to hear/read/talk to *so many* people who have opinions about abortion but no skin

Sullivan has a series of poignant letters today.

Well what Megan is arguing is that if you believe that abortion is murder, then Tiller is like Dr. Mengele.(Godwin's Law!)
If back in WW2, someone had assassinated Dr. Mengele, we would view such person as a hero today. But the Nazis would have decried that as a gross violation of the law and as murder. Dr. Mengele was thought of by many Germans as a nice, kindly person at the time as well. And what Dr. Mengele was doing at the time was not only perfectly legal-it was commanded by the German government.
That's the analogy. Now you may not like the analogy, since most people on the blog do not view abortion as murder. I expect that for many here, Dr. Tiller was just a nice guy removing unwanted tissue from some women by performing perfectly legal operations. But many pretty much see DR. Tiller as a latter day Mengele.They think of the constiutional right to abortion as pretty similar the German government's right to treat Jews as sub-human. and they reject that right.

huh. who would have thought it.

beneath her easy-listening prose, megan mccardle is just another reactionary right-wing violence-inciting, terrorist-supporter.

it is an enduring mystery of the evolving blogosphere why she is treated with any greater respect and courtesy than is shown to a michelle malkin or your average freeper.

she has nicer friends. she has nicer rhetoric. but there is nothing nice about her views. they are just as ugly as malkins.

that is more clearly in evidence in this case. but it is true as a general rule.

stonetools:

I expect that for many here, Dr. Tiller was just a nice guy removing unwanted tissue from some women by performing perfectly legal operations.

I dare say you expect *wrong*. As cleek suggested, read some of the personal accounts Sully has posted today. Think about the friend I wrote about in the previous thread, who had a so-called "partial birth abortion" to save the life of one twin when the other was doomed.

Both medicine and motherhood sometimes involve hard choices, and they always have. The only question is whether women and doctors will make those choices *themselves* or not.

Even the most hard core pro-lifers are OK with late term abortions to save the life of the mother or a twin. That's not where the debate is, Dr. S.
Heck if all late term abortions were limited to life-saving situations, nearly 100 % of Americans, including the Catholic Church, would be on the same page. But its not so limited, and you know its not.

Even the most hard core pro-lifers are OK with late term abortions to save the life of the mother or a twin.
I really don't see how you can write this sentence. What have the last thirty-six hours been about if not the utter falsehood of this statement? Dr. Tiller provided late-term abortions when they were a medical necessity; indeed, if this were not the case then the Holy Inquisition Grand Jury Investigation of him that was recently concluded would have crucified him - possibly literally. I think that what with the harassment, vandalism, physical attacks, and now murder of Dr. George Tiller it is fairly clear that "the most hard-core pro-lifers" are not OK with "late-term abortions to save the life of the mother or a twin".

The slight caveat that some of the women Dr. Tiller aided might in fact have survived to bear their living, crippled children to suffer for a few years, and thus under some definitions "their lives" were not quite at stake does not impress me in the slightest.

That's the analogy. Now you may not like the analogy, since most people on the blog do not view abortion as murder.

It is not just most people here, but most Americans period, including pro-lifers. After all, a large fraction of pro-lifers categorically reject treating women who seek purely elective late third-trimester abortions as murderers: they pointedly refuse to advocate for serious criminal penalties for these women. I see no reason to believe that most pro-lifers think abortion is murder until said pro-lifers advocate for a legal regime in which getting an abortion is treated like murdering a neonate.

What WT said, not to mention that I have personally read discussions on pro-life fora about whether it's moral to abort an ectopic pregnancy. Their conclusion, BTW, was "no, but it's OK to take out the fallopian tube with the implanted embryo in it -- you may be destroying the woman's fertility, but you aren't *directly* killing anyone so that's OK".

Thank goodness for Stonetools. I expect that many people here cannot grasp hard concepts like "analogy" or "like Nazis" all by ourselves, what with the way we have burned out our brains with all that dope, gay sex, and Obama worship (sometimes simultaneously!). Oh, if only he had been here before to save us from our foolish, foolish babymurdering ways!

Yes, no more performing abortions for me. From now on, I murder only doctors. Thanks, Stonetools!

stonetools, Godwin aside, the Nazi analogy is particularly stupid in a couple of respects.

1) The Nazis opposed abortion for good German women. Their philosophy on childbirth was closer to that of the quiverfulls.

2) Jewish law does not automatically treat abortion as murder, nor does it assume life begins at conception. I hope that you can see the assholery of, in essence, accusing Jewish law of being "Nazi-like".

""If you think that someone is committing hundreds of gruesome murders a year...."

If you THINK someone is doing something with which you don't agree, it's all right to kill that person. Your suspicion that someone has an opinion different from yours trumps law, ethics, and common sense.

Oops, silly me--"think" isn't a word that has any relationship to these arguments.

I agree with Hilzoy 99% of the time, nut MM has the better of this argument. McArdle is not arguing that political terrorism is right or moral. She is arguing that political terrorists are radicalized and that reducing restrictions of abortion is likely to radicalize them further.

I think the difference between Hilzoy and McArdle is that although McArdle does not share the fierce anti-abortion convictions of the radicals, she understands how they got where they are, and that they have a coherent moral standpoint. An analogy would be Palestinian terrorists. Many people understand why the Palestinian plight is breeding suicide bombers without agreeing the suicide bombers are morally justified. Hilzoy seems simply not to understand why the anti-abortion radicals are so radicalized that they justify breaking the law.

It is not too hard to understand. Roe v. Wade decided an important moral question by judicial fiat. The Supreme Court, God love 'em, is 100% constitutional, wonderful, etc, but it ain't democratic. When Row v. Wade came down no political recourse meaningfully exists within the law for an issue like abortion that roughly splits the nation in half. Neither side could get the sort of supermajorities needed for a constitutional amendment, but only the pro-life side has to try. As an alternative the pro-life side can try to get their presidents elected for decades until they have enough seats on the Court to overturn Wade, but how is that going to happen in a two party system like ours? (Although they gave it a hell of a try and almost succeeded).

In our democracy an unelected body has told a big group to lump it on an issue they really care about. That is the sort of thing that breeds radicals, and when you have radicals you will have a few unhinged radicals.

It would have been so much better to fight it out state by state. Some states would have absolute bans, others would be quite permissive. We wouldn't have the sort of nasty harassment up to and including murder that we have now, because the anti-abortion people wouldn't be powerless. They could move to states where they won. They could fight within the system in states where the issues was in play.

Roe v. Wade was a gigantic unforced error. We were on the path to working out abortion as a nation, and Roe v. Wade stopped that process cold. It manages to inspire the most obnoxious and toxic fringe in both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Or I could have advocated stomping on them more directly: for instance, by deploying on them the tactics they use on abortion providers and their staff
Oh, how I would love to see that happen...only if it's effective, though, which I'm skeptical of. Pity.

"When Row v. Wade came down no political recourse meaningfully exists within the law for an issue like abortion that roughly splits the nation in half."

It's a shame there's no way to pass a constitutional amendment to change the law. There's just no way.

I wonder where those 27 amendments came from, though.

"It's a shame there's no way to pass a constitutional amendment to change the law. There's just no way."
Which is exactly what tomtom said. Read his words again; he made sense.

The position of the RCC is still that the priority is the baptism of the unborn in question. Since (iirc) 1982 disobeying that will not lead automatically to excommunictaion of the persons involved though because the church has to tolerate "even a misguided conscience".

In our democracy an unelected body has told a big group to lump it on an issue they really care about. That is the sort of thing that breeds radicals, and when you have radicals you will have a few unhinged radicals.

Which is why there are so many unhinged radical gays out there killing those who ban gay marriage, presumably? I'm sure if it wasn't for the bias of the liberal media, we'd have heard all about them by now.

"It's a shame there's no way to pass a constitutional amendment to change the law. There's just no way."

Which is exactly what tomtom said. Read his words again; he made sense.

So, where did the 27 amendments to the constitution come from?

And, to repeat what I wrote yesterday:

[...] Seriously, if it's murder, then there's no rationale behind letting some states legalize it. And if there's a right to privacy, and the right to abortion is an extension of that, there's no rationale for letting some states remove that right.

Neither view leaves a rationale for "this is something that should be subject to the political process." That rationale's only basis would seem to be arbitrary utilitarianism.

In which case, why shouldn't we also be able to vote on whether whether murder for hire should be legal, and whether people shouldn't be allowed to own a gun, or say what they like?

You can argue that abortion is murder, but if so, you can't argue that states should vote on it. If you can't argue that it's murder, then what is your argument for banning it?

If your argument is that abortion is murder, then you're arguing for arresting and putting away on charges of first degree murder all medical and clerical and support personnel who engage in the conspiracy to commit murder, as well as the mother and anyone else she conspired with (husband, boyfriend, relatives, friends).

This isn't an argument you can split down the middle. Pick which argument you're making.

tomtom,

Who choose the anti-abortion crowd as representatives of the occupied territories of a woman’s womb?

"You can argue that abortion is murder, but if so, you can't argue that states should vote on it. If you can't argue that it's murder, then what is your argument for banning it?"

Do we ban child cruelty? Do we ban rape? Do we ban theft? Do we ban tax cheating? Do we ban animal cruelty? Do we ban cheating on one's disability claim?

All of those things are not murder. Yet all of them get banned. There are morally bad things that we ban that aren't murder. Some of them aren't even done to people. Some of them even have different rules in different states. Child molestation for example gets punished differently in different states (and in my opinion not harshly enough in practically any of them).

And of course your amendment argument applies with equal force to the discovery of novel rights...

"There are morally bad things that we ban that aren't murder."

Okay, so you're stipulating that a fetus is not, in fact, a person, and that killing it is not, in fact, murder. So what is it, and what's the crime, exactly?

The crime would be illegal abortion.

Did you find the excluded middle Gary?

"Did you find the excluded middle Gary?"

Yes, he was grumpily taking a curled up nap on the bed. He hates being excluded. But the other two of us try to make it up to him.

Gary Farber,
Your logic is good, except I am not arguing whether or not abortion is murder. All these arguments about whether abortion is or is not murder fly right by me, because I personally have no idea.

I limit myself to addressing how deeply felt and divisive questions that have moral implications should be worked out in a democracy. I am tempted to say that the Court should follow the legislative branch and state courts (in cases where the Constitutional arguments are not too clear, which tends to apply to these issues), but Brown vs. Board of Education is the famous exception where the Court was needed to break decades of legislative gridlock, so the solution cannot be so simple. A fallback position is that the Court should restrain itself on these fraught positions so long as the legislative branch and local courst are digesting them. Big social and legal change by judicial fiat (when the basis Constitutionality is debatable) should be treated as a very strong laxative. Not healthy, habit-forming, even dangerous to be reserved for when it is really needed.

Abortion legality was not stuck in this nation at the time of Roe v. Wade.

Increasingly, the difference between mainstream liberal pundits and mainstream conservative pundits is that liberal pundits believe in the fundamentals of democracy and conservatives don't. Conservatives are shockingly fast to treat violence as an acceptable part of a normal political process. Liberals don't.

Questions of fundamental human rights that have been closed off from the normal political process are very likely to produce violence.

Not much more than anything else, really. For instance, we've had 4 presidents murdered--one by an guy who was upset about a disagreement on a fundamental human right (Booth), one a guy who didn't get a job in the administration (Guiteau), one an anarchist (Czolgosz), and one we're not sure why (Oswald). Of the 15 serious failed attempts, 4 were for an unknown reason, 4 were crazy people, 1 was a Manson, 1 was for anarchy, 1 was for PR independence, 1 was a mafia guy probably aiming at the Chicago mayor sitting next to the President, 1 was the Iraqis trying to get even with George HW Bush, 1 was on 9/11, and 1 was a guy in Tblisi for Georgian political reasons.

Furthermore, I can think of this one obscure situation where a fundamental human right was closed off from the normal political process and the political action to redress it wasn't violence. It was called the freaking CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. It was probably the most spectacularly successful political movements in American history. Its closest competitor is an equally obscure non-violent political movement over a fundamental right that had been closed off from the political process--this one was to get women the vote.

The reason these movements didn't have to resort to violence, of course, was because people overwhelmingly agreed with them.

So, the problem anti-abortionists face isn't that abortion is a special challenge to the American political process, or because the issue is a particularly tough philosophical nut to crack, or that there's a fundamental human right involved. The problem they face is that MOST PEOPLE DON'T AGREE WITH THEM. So they are doing what some political movements with a group of hard-core believers but little else in the way of resources do in that situation: resort to terrorism. And justify it by the moral rightness of their position.

Likewise, it's ridiculous to suggest a historical parallel between the carnage around the fight to end slavery and the current violence of abortion rights activists. What caused the majority of the violence wasn't the actions of the extremists who wanted to get rid of slavery. It was the fact that Southern states seceded from the union in a panic when Lincoln was elected, and then OPENED FIRE ON THE UNITED STATES NAVY. It was the treason and abandonment of the political process that jacked up the body count. Trust me, if South Carolina had fired on the United States Navy over tarriffs, or taxes, or anything else, you would have seen exactly the same level of carnage. It wasn't the intractable issue of slavery that led to the war to free the slaves, it was the slave state secession from the union to ensure that the small probability the slaves could be freed was reduced to a zero probability that caused the carnage.

Any time a political movement has a position that is basically unpopular but that is deeply felt by a small group of people, they have two choices. They can take the Al Quaeda path and try to murder enough people so they get their way even if nobody agrees with them, or they can take the Martin Luther King path and convince enough people to agree with them so that they get what they want.

In everything from Iraq to the torture debate to the reaction to Dr. Tiller's murder, the distinction between liberals and conservatives is, increasingly, that the mainstream conservative punditry excuses political violence as a normal part of the political process, while the progressive/liberal punditry fundamentally rejects the notion that you can have a functional political process that treats political violence and terrorism as a legitimate option, so long as it's done in the name of a cause we like.

anon,

Ta-Nehisi Coates' effectively takes apart McArdle's slavery analogy: http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/06/i_am_a_man.php

Regarding the remainder of your post, conservative pundits may more easily excuse political violence, but liberals usually more perceptively understand it. When liberals argue that US torture helps al qaida recruit terrorists they are not excusing terrorism, but they are understanding where it comes from. Liberals generally seem more able to imagine the outlook of others, and conservatives more often judge. Or so usually seems to me. Yet in this case McArdle, who is not a liberal, is doing the hard understanding while Hilzoy seems stuck. I find Hilzoy's inability to understand a radical group's violence uncharacteristically illiberal, and in fact I am surprised by her position, as she is generally one of my favorite thinkers. MCardle typically annoys me, but this time she is the one who more successfully pierced through. Perhaps it is as simple as their politics. McArdle states that although she does not agree with the anti-abortion position, she understands its moral force and she has the humility to accept that her own position may be more a matter of her own circumstances than some connection to absolute truth. Perhaps her understanding of the contingency of truth allows her to be more balanced in this case even as she generally seems less morally rooted.

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