Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama DID NOT Rip the Supreme Court or the Constitution

The latest distortion of Barack Obama’s positions can be found on World Net Daily. The headline says it all: “Obama rips U.S. Constitution, Faults Supreme Court for not mandating 'redistribution of wealth.'” Also jumping on board is The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg:
A just-unearthed 2001 interview with Obama on Chicago public radio reveals as much. Then a law school instructor and state legislator, Obama offered an eloquent indictment of the Warren Court for not being radical enough. While the court rightly gave blacks traditional rights, argued Obama, "the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth." Unfortunately, according to Obama, "it didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution."
The only problem is it JUST AIN’T SO!

Obama criticized neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court in the aforementioned interview. If anything, he criticized the civil rights movement for focusing on litigation to the exclusion of political action that might have achieved more of the movement’s goals. Here are Obama’s comments as quoted on World Net Daily:
If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK.
But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.
And that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.
At this point the YouTube video of the interview carries this dishonest caption: “Yes he just said it’s a tragedy the Constitution wasn’t radically interpreted to force redistribution of wealth for African Americans.” NO HE DID NOT! There is no criticism of the Supreme Court or the Constitution there. The tragedy, according to Obama, was the failure of the civil rights movement to pursue change through the political process. He is acknowledging that the courts were not the answer to all the problems.

Obama made this point again when asked whether legislation or litigation was the appropriate way to bring about change:
The court's not very good at it. I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn’t structured that way. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, the court … engaging in a process that essentially is administrative.
Once again, no call for changing the courts or the Constitution.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Can't We Cut the "Redistributionist" Crap?

The United States of America has had a progressive income tax for almost a century. Social Security is almost three quarters of a century old.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reasons to Hope and Reasons to Despair

Riding up to Janesville, Wisconsin on Saturday, one of the women related a story about a canvasser in western Pennsylvania who was told by a woman who came to the door that she would have to ask her husband who she was voting for. When she called to her husband, the answer came back, “We’re voting for the n****r.” The woman turned to the canvasser and said without any embarrassment, “We’re voting for the n****r.” (The story is all over the blogosphere, but I have no idea whether it is apochryphal.)

The three women in the car thought that the story was shocking, but I found it very encouraging. I have no illusions about the existence of racism, but it is nice to think that people can overcome it sufficiently to see where their economic interests lie. My father was fond of saying that Ronald Reagan’s genius was in convincing a lot of members of the middle class that they could afford to be Republicans.

Speaking of the crazy things that people believe, I just started reading Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire. His take on Pastor John Hagee's support for Christian Zionism is brilliant:

[I]t was unmistakably an ingenious solution to the problem of how to rally
southern conservative Christians a few generations removed from their
cross-burning Klan days to the cause of Israel. If it turns out that it was
dreamed up by the same guy who figured out how to get laid-off Midwestern
factory workers to whoop for free-trade Republicanism by plastering the airwaves
with French-kissing men, I have to say, that guy deserves some kind of special
medal—a Triple Order of Satan, or something like that.
Part of Taibbi's research involved joining Hagee's Cornerstone Church and learning how to vomit demons into a paper bag at a weekend retreat.

I could not help but think of Sarah Palin as I read Taibbi's assessment of the possibility of rational political discourse with such people:

By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that
Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your
religion” about such things as the Iraq war or other policy matters. Once
you’ve made a journey like this—once you’ve gone this far—you are beyond
suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the
constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc.,
that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place you have left
behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent
opinion about such things.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Canvassing for Obama

2008 will mark the ninth presidential election that I have voted in. Prior to this year, I had never contributed to a presidential campaign, worked on a presidential campaign, displayed a political sign in my yard, worn a button for a candidate, or put a bumper sticker on my car. This year, I have done all these things on behalf of Barack Obama. Yesterday, I went canvassing in Janesville, Wisconsin on behalf of Obama. Two weeks ago, I canvassed in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

The McCain supporters I encountered were much friendlier this week than they were two weeks ago. In Hales Corners, the Republicans seemed angrier. One elderly lady asked "How can you vote for him?" A middle aged man said "We're not fans of that guy." This week, one guy came to the door swearing at his dogs, but smiled warmly when he saw my Obama button and said, "We're voting for McCain, but good luck with that socialism." His neighbor two doors down said he was voting Republican, but he thanked me for my "enthusiasm."

I can't help but think that the warmer attitude I encountered this week reflected a sense of resignation. Over the last two weeks, the bad economic news had not slacked, the McCain campaign has careened from issue to issue in the hopes of finding a message, and high profile Republicans have been abandoning their party's nominee with unprecedented frequency. With the McCain campaign giving up on a state that the Democrats barely carried in 2004, the Republicans I encountered in Janesville may just be demonstrating the good sportsmanship of people who know they have been beaten fair and square.

Next weekend I am heading down to Indiana to see whether the Hoosiers will vote Democratic for the first time since 1964.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Greenspan Was Wrong About Deregulation

If you don't watch CNBC, you may only know Vince Farrell as the financial analyst who got Whammied out of the decabox on the Daily Show.

However, today Farrell absolutely nailed the hole in Alan Greenspan's deregulatory philosophy:
The problem with the models is that it does assume rational behavior. As
far as an institution protecting its equity, which is what [Greenspan] said,
institutions don’t protect equity, people protect equity. The people in
those institutions saw huge bonuses by pumping this stuff out. So if you
want to call that irrational behavior, it’s irrational as far as the economy
wound up going, but it is very rational for their self-interest. There is
no institutional self-interest. . . . [Greenspan] still just doesn’t get

As I noted in my recent post on Corporations and the Free Market, corporations are imaginary people. They are creatures of law. They do not have instincts like fear and self-preservation. If the regulatory scheme is not designed to tie the compensation of the executives to the long term health of the company and the risk of loss, there is nothing in the nature of the corporation to deter those executives from risking catastrophic losses that will fall on society as a whole in order to earn returns that they will enjoy.

Is Sarah a Socialist?

Who is the governor of the state that practices the purest form of wealth redistribution?

Here is a hint: Which state taxes the oil companies in order to write checks directly to each one of its citizens?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Republicans' Dirty Little Secret

No matter how high the rate is in the highest tax bracket, that is the tax bracket that every Republican (and Democrat for that matter) wants to be in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Granfaloons

[T]he doctrinal differences among Hinduism and Buddhism and Taoism are not anywhere near as important as doctrinal differences among Christianity and Islam and Judaism. Holy wars are not fought over them because verbalized statements about reality are never presumed to be reality itself. Robert Pirsig

That quote struck me deeply when I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance thirty years ago and I have been pondering it again recently. The McCain campaign is stirring up its base by identifying them as “real Americans” from “the real America” or “the real Virginia.” Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachman wants a new McCarthy style witch hunt to smoke out members of Congress who might harbor “anti-American” sentiments. While part of the GOP playbook since 1968, the “us-vs-them” strategy seems to be the entire GOP game plan this time around.
In a parallel vein, I had an amusing experience with some deleted comments on the blog of evangelical Christian Roger Bearse. Roger had written a post arguing that it was reasonable for conservative Christians to view liberal scholars like Bart Ehrman and members of the Jesus Seminar as “attacking Christianity.” What particularly struck me was the following question: “Can anyone really believe that Christians are not entitled to self-definition, of who is or is not a believer, which beliefs do and do not form part of the apostolic teaching?” I could not help but think that he was might be less concerned about defining himself than he was about defining others.

So last night I posed what seemed to me to be an obvious and civil question:
How do you sufficiently define “Christian” in order to decide who gets to
participate in the self-definition?

This morning I found an e-mail notice of the following response from Roger:

I don't think that there is any genuine doubt as to who the Christians are!

When I went to Roger’s blog to post a comment, however, I found that Roger had deleted both my comment and his own. I was a little surprised because, but I still left a response:

If there were no “genuine doubt as to who the Christians are,” there would
be no need for self-definition.

My response was deleted within an hour.

I am usually not surprised when my comments are deleted because I know when I have intentionally been a smart ass or when I have raised issues that the blogger does not want to deal with. However, this time I was a little taken aback. If you are going to assert the necessity of separating the wheat from the chaff, I don’t think you should be surprised if someone asks you about your criteria.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Those Sneaky Bastards in the Liberal Elite Media

Talk about devious! For 160 years, the Chicago Tribune hid its lefty America-hating tendencies in order to deceive its readers into believing that it is a conservative newspaper. Obviously it was just waiting for the chance to endorse a Democrat who would completely destroy the very fiber of our nation.

Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.We
can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a
dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he
rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the
Democratic Party's nominee for president.

Talk about your commie pinko claptrap!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Speaking of Unrepentant Radicals

In 1995, Illinois State Senator Alice Palmer announced to a group of her supporters that she was stepping down to run for the United States Congress. She gathered these supporters at the home of Bill Ayers, an unrepentant radical from the Vietnam War era. One of the invitees was Barack Obama, the man that Palmer was endorsing for the seat she was vacating. This gathering has given rise to the assertion that Obama launched his career in Ayers living room.

In November 2007 John McCain appeared on the radio show of unrepentant Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. McCain has appeared on that show many times before and since. While Obama has repudiated Ayers radical activities, McCain says of Liddy, "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family. It's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

As Stephen Chapman of the Chicago Tribune asked:
Which principles would those be? The ones that told Liddy it was fine to break
into the office of the Democratic National Committee to plant bugs and
photograph documents? The ones that made him propose to kidnap anti-war
activists so they couldn't disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention? The
ones that inspired him to plan the murder (never carried out) of an unfriendly
newspaper columnist?
Talk about palling around with terrorists.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Guy in the Neighborhood

Listening to Sarah Palin, you might think that William Ayers walked around wearing an "I Hate America" tee shirt. However, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn provides some perspective on Ayers standing in Chicago during the years that Barack Obama encountered him:
He was publishing books on education, helping lead a charge to get grant money for school reform and being honored as Chicago's Citizen of the Year in 1997.
Today, some say this was an outrage. Ayers should have been shunned and marginalized, loudly criticized, not embraced, by the city's political and academic establishment.
But the record shows he just wasn't a very controversial figure. Aside from Royko's "I still think he's a jerk" column in 1990, I found only two objections to Ayers' civic rehabilitation in the decade's news archives: a 1993 letter to the Tribune and a 1999 guest commentary.
If there were protests or organized efforts opposing Ayers, the papers didn't cover them.
If any of Mayor Richard M. Daley's feckless opponents tried to use his approval of Ayers as an issue in the 1990s, I can find no evidence of it.
And if any of the pillars of society who helped oversee the Chicago Annenberg Challenge education grants ever resigned or otherwise tried to distance themselves from Ayers, who played a key role in securing those grants, the available historical record is silent on the matter.
It appears that during the period that Obama encountered him, Ayers literally was "just a guy in the neighborhood."

On the other hand, during the years that Todd Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party when Sarah Palin attended one convention and addressed another, the AIP openly advocated giving Alaskans the opportunity to vote themselves out of the United States. I suspect that the Palins encountered a lot more open hostility to America than Obama ever encountered with William Ayers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Krauthammer Opposes Free Speech

He doesn't share Rev. Wright's poisonous views of race nor Ayers' views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. . . . [F]or the years in which he sat in Wright's pews and shared common purpose on boards with Ayers, Obama considered them a legitimate, indeed unremarkable, part of social discourse.
Charles Krauthammer, October 10, 2008

58,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam. More than 150,000 were wounded. The South Vietnamese army may have lost more than 250,000 soldiers while 1,100,000 died fighting for North Vietnam. Civilian deaths might have been as high as 2,000,000.

Surely a discussion of whether the United States’ actions in Vietnam were justified is a legitimate part of social discourse. Certainly this discourse can include consideration of the immorality of different methods of opposing that war, but consideration of the morality of the war itself cannot be “beyond the pale” in a country that claims to embrace freedom of speech.

In 1953, the CIA overthrew the legitimate government of Iran and installed the Shah in its place. This led to the 1979 Islamic revolution and the taking of American hostages. During the 1980’s, the Reagan Administration provided support to both sides in the Iran-Iraq war depending on its perception of the United States' interests at the moment. After the first Gulf War, the Bush 41 administration urged the Kurds and Shia to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein and then turned a blind eye as Saddam viciously suppressed them. Over the years, the United States has supplied the arms that kept the Saudi monarchy in power while that same monarchy funded the Wahabbist sect from which Osama bin Laden sprang.

Is it really beyond the pale to consider the connection between the foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East and the 9/11 attacks? Is the very suggestion that “America’s chickens came home to roost” on 9/11 so outrageous that anyone who dares to articulate that possibility must be shunned from all polite society?

Why is Krauthammer so eager to paint these issues as illegitimate subjects of discussion. Could it be because he was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the War in Iraq? Could it be that he simply wants to quash all discussions of the consequences of America’s military adventures in order to avoid discussing the morality of his own positions?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On the Need to Threaten Violence

According to Bill Dyers:
[T]he defining moment of the debate was when a young governor from a remote, sparsely populated state strode confidently across the national stage, stuck out her hand for a firm handshake, looked a silver-haired senator of 36 years' tenure squarely in the eye, and said: "Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?"

At that moment, the champagne bubble of the elites popped. For millions of viewers (but almost no national pundits), the juxtaposition telegraphed a clear message: "She's not one of them, she's one of us. But she isn't awed by him. She's not afraid."
I cannot help but think that this goes a long way towards explaining the threats of violence directed towards Kathleen Parker after she suggested that Sarah Palin should step down as John McCain’s running mate. After all, if the defining moment for you has nothing to do with experience, intelligence, knowledge of the issues, ability, or qualifications, what possible response can you have to someone who points out Palin's shortcomings in those areas other than vitriol and threats.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kathleen Parker Never Saw It Coming

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker was surprised by the vicious and threatening e-mail she got after suggesting that Sarah Palin should do John McCain a favor by quitting the ticket.

First Draft offers some terrific insights into Parker's predicament:

Honestly, what did you think?
These are the people who called 9/11 widows grief pimps . . .

These are the people who laughed at the idea of Timothy McVeigh making a detour to the New York Times Building. . . .

These are the people who said Pat Tillman's family should shut up and go away. That Cindy Sheehan was a whore. That Valerie Plame was a criminal. That Richard Clarke was a monster.

Did you think it would be different because you've written favorably of their pet causes in the past? The past doesn't exist to these people. There is no yesterday. There is no last week. There is no last year. There's only today, and you're with them or you're not. . . .