Monthly Archives: February 2008

Quote Of The Day: Sending Shivers Down My Spine Edition

Michelle Obama at UCLA:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

(…)

You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

H/T: The Crossed Pond

Are Americans Tired Of Individual Liberty ?

David Strom asks the question at Town Hall:

Liberty has always been a tougher sell than many of us assume. We all want the freedom to do as we like, but few of us are as committed to allowing others to act contrary to our notion of right and wrong. Majorities have always sought and often found ways to impose their views upon minorities. The most vocal minorities have often been successful in imposing their will on the majority, at least for a time.

So there is nothing new about threats to Individual liberty being a daily part of our lives. What is new is that the institutional barriers to regulating our daily lives have effectively broken down. It took a Constitutional Amendment to pass prohibition of alcohol (and repeal it). Who today expects a Constitutional fight over smoking, obesity, trans-fats, or any of the myriad personal issues now under the purview of government control?

America was founded on the belief that government power should be strictly limited, because the alternative to limited power was unlimited power. The framers of the Constitution were rightly concerned that without strict institutional barriers to the expansion of government powers there would eventually be no barriers at all. Power, in any form, longs to be absolute.

Unfortunately, the concept of limited government is becoming an anachronism in today’s America.

As Strom points out, the history of America over the past year has been replete with increases in the size and scope of government, but it’s happened in a way that will make dismantling Leviathan difficult:

Americans have made a bargain with the devil. Dispensing with the idea of limited government in realm of benefits has meant dispensing with the idea of any limits to government power at all. Once we accept the notion that government should ensure that our pursuit of happiness succeeds, we have accepted the notion that government has the right to define what a happy life should look like.

We can call this trend the encroachment of the “nanny state,” which it is, or the spread of “liberal fascism,” which it also is. But it is also the inevitable result of Americans’ increasing desire to have government guarantee that more and more aspects of our lives turn out all right.

Which is why there’s really only one way to tackle the state:

Limiting government power requires limiting the benefits that government can bestow upon us, and right now that seems a bridge too far for some Americans.

The question is, absent a crisis that brings the whole system crashing down around itself (and, for many reasons I don’t think waiting for an Atlas Shrugged-type collapse makes sense), how do we convince the American people that the state is not their friend ?

H/T: Virginia Virtucon

Open Thread: Is Obama Really JFK v2.0?

There have been more than a few comparisons between Barack Obama and JFK, many of them originating in the Kennedy family. JFK, of course, is one of the most-loved American presidents, but when you look at the record, you find yourself wondering exactly what he accomplished. JFK was known for many things, and for diffusing the Cuban Missile Crisis, he deserves some credit, but his presidency was largely ineffective. Whether that was due to it being cut short when he was assassinated is debatable, but you can’t really debate the fact that he didn’t accomplish much until then.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the parallels between JFK and Barack Obama, and this comment really gave me impetus to post:

What needs to happen is educated and experienced people, people with expertise in all the relevant areas need to get on board so we get some solid brainpower behind this bus of excitement. Someone who was president of Harvard Law review is exactly the sort of person we want driving a brain train towards a smarter government.

From what I’ve seen of Obama, he’s a very smart individual. And when you listen to his rhetoric, he does remind one of JFK*. Obama’s full of high-minded speeches and high-minded ideals, and is the sort that can inspire people regardless of his ability to back it up. JFK was the same, and he really inspired the generation of the time. He was clearly seen as the fresh face who had the new “big ideas” and the wonderful charisma. When you look at JFK’s cabinet, he was nowhere short of brain power in his government. And yet we still had the Bay of Pigs and the big run-up towards Vietnam. At the same time, we had a basically ineffectual Presidency that didn’t really get anything done. All the charisma and the smarts in the world didn’t actually lead to positive results.

Obama could quite easily scour the university ranks and get an average IQ in his cabinet well above MENSA qualification. But will something like that actually work? While I have no desire to see Obama get anything done, will his administration largely bumble through the process of leadership simple due to the fact that he’s a thinker, not a doer?

In general, though, this is a question for you history buffs. Where do you see similarities between Obama and JFK, both for good or for ill?
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The Cult Of Barack Obama

The Obamagasm phenomenon apparently knows no bounds:

BALTIMORE — Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings has held elected office for more than a quarter-century, so he’s seen his fair share of politicians come and go.

But apparently he’s never seen one quite like Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

“This is not a campaign for president of the United States, this is a movement to change the world,” he said as he introduced Obama last week in Baltimore.

“You do not get 13,000 people in this auditorium with a campaign.”

True, perhaps, but at some point it becomes necessary to ask why this is happening, and what it means for our political system.

But Cummings is mild in his praise compared to some people:

“He walks into a room and you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere,” George Clooney told talk show host Charlie Rose.

“I’ll do whatever he says to do,” actress Halle Berry said to the Philadelphia Daily News. “I’ll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear.”

Really Halle ? You’d do anything he asked you to ? I don’t use Nazi analogies often or lightly, but that is precisely the kind of thing that people thought about Adolf Hitler during his rise to power. It’s the reason that people went to Guyana with Jim Jones. It’s the reason they burned to death with David Koresh. And, it’s the reason they continue to give tons of money to religious hucksters.

I don’t take back my decision to vote for Barack Obama in Virginia’s primary; in the end, it was a vote directed more against Hillary Clinton and what kind of America she would create than it was a vote for him anyway. However, I’ve got to admit to having serious misgivings about the cult of personality that has arisen around Barack Obama.

It truly seems like people aren’t thinking, or don’t even care to think about what he might do as President because they’ve fallen in love with his slogans and they seem to believe, as Michelle Obama said last week, that only he can “save our souls.”

I addressed that issue yesterday and the words ring even truer in light of stuff like this:

Barack Obama isn’t going to “save our souls.” No President can save our souls, assuming we even have them. No one man is essential to the future of our nation, but listening to what Michelle Obama, and other Obama supporters say, one gets the clear implication that they believe that Barack Obama is some sort of political savior.

It’s the same sort of attitude I’ve noticed from some Ron Paul supporters, who have said in comments and on the Internet that freedom and America are doomed if Ron Paul is not elected President.

Assertions like this are not only wrong, they’re dangerous. Once you start putting that much faith in a political leader that is a flawed human being just like the rest of us, it really does become the cult of personality that some people have started talking about in connection with Barack Obama.

Whenever I hear any American saying that they’d “do anything” a politician says, like Halle Berry does (and I think she accurately reflects what many other Obama supporters believe), it scares me to death. Leaders like that are not good for America, and they’re not good for liberty.

Wisconsin/Hawaii/Washington Primary Postmortem And Wednesday Open Thread

With the last major primaries before March 4th behind us, the race on both sides is looking clearer and clearer.

Republicans

As James Joyner notes, this is the easy one. As expected, John McCain won handily in Wisconsin and Washington and, more importantly, he has cut significantly into Mike Huckabee’s core support areas.

As of now, according to RealClearPolitics, here’s how the delegates seem to pan out:

  1. John McCain — 960 delegates
  2. Mike Huckabee — 245 delegates
  3. Ron Paul — 14 delegates

This doesn’t include any of Mitt Romney’s 273 delegates, which are likely to go for McCain at the convention. But he’s not going to need them. Right now, McCain only needs 231 delegates to clinch the nomination and he’ll get those by the time we’re done talking about Texas and Ohio in March. The Republican race is for, all intents and purposes, over. Ron Paul is down in TX-14 concentrating on his Congressional re-election, and Mike Huckabee just needs to get the heck out of the race:

Huckabee should have graciously withdrawn one week ago, when he was unable to capitalize on his Super Tuesday wins. That he was still in the race last Monday is understandable, that he remained on Wednesday, questionable.

If he keeps on in the next round of primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont, he simply looks obdurate. More than that, collared with four more contested losses, he risks negating all the good he’s done himself as a national figure in this year’s election process. It takes only one loss too many for a candidate to become Stassenized, a candidate so obsessed with running that they become irrelevant, the worst fate that can befall a politician.

The funny thing is that, even if he drops out now, Mike Huckabee has damaged himself, perhaps fatally, for the future by not taking the high road like Mitt Romney did.

Democrats

Things are murkier on the Democratic side, but it’s still pretty clear that Barack Obama is now perhaps two weeks away from being the inevitable Democratic nominee for President.

Here’s the RCP delegate count:

  1. Barack Obama — 1,354 total delegates (1,185 pledged delegates, 169 superdelegates)
  2. Hillary Clinton — 1,263 total delegates (1,024 pledged delegates, 239 superdelegates)

Clinton continues to lead in most polls in Texas and Ohio, but those leads are slipping and they’re likely to slip some more now that Obama has one ten primaries in a row and shown that he can win the votes of groups that Clinton counted on as hers.

As Mark Daniels notes, there’s really only one way this can play out:

[O]nly a collective decision on the part of the Democrats’ superdelegates to ignore the verdicts of primary and caucus voters this election season, the political equivalent of drinking Jonestown Cool-aid, would result in a Clinton nomination. In order for the superdelegates to go for Clinton in a big way and deny Obama the nomination he’s earning, she will have to roll up massive majorities here in Ohio and in Texas in two weeks. Unless Obama self-destructs, that won’t happen.

Obama has a decent chance of winning Ohio and, given how Texas allocates delegates, Hillary could win that state and still not walk away with a big margin of delegates. It’s starting to look inevitable, which tells me that the Clinton’s are going to get desperate, and we’re going to see them go negative in a way that makes South Carolina seem like a church social.

It won’t work. Hillary’s toast.

Today In History — FDR Signs Executive Order 9066

A dark chapter in American history begins with the signing of an Executive Order:

United States Executive Order 9066 was a presidential executive order issued during World War II by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, using his authority as Commander-in-Chief to exercise war powers to send ethnic groups to internment camps.

This order authorized U.S. armed forces commanders to declare areas of the United States as military areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded.” It was eventually applied to one-third of the land area of the U.S. (mostly in the West) and was used against those with “Foreign Enemy Ancestry” – Japanese, Italians, and Germans.

The order led to the Japanese American internment in which some 120,000 ethnic Japanese people were held in internment camps for the duration of the war. Of the Japanese interned, 62 percent were Nisei (American-born, second-generation Japanese American) or Sansei (third-generation Japanese American) and the rest were Issei (Japanese immigrants and resident aliens, first-generation Japanese American).

The Secretary of War (then Henry L. Stimson) was to assist those residents of such an area who were excluded with transport, food, shelter, and other accommodations.

Americans of Japanese ancestry were by far the most widely-affected, as all persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from the West Coast and southern Arizona.  In Hawaii, however, where there were 140,000 people of Japanese ancestry (constituting 37 percent of the population), the Japanese were neither relocated nor interned  — there were so many that the political and economic implications of such a move would have been overwhelming. The Japanese were only vulnerable on the mainland.  Americans of Italian and German ancestry were also targeted by these restrictions, including internment, though to a much lesser extent.

(…)

One thing that was remarkable about the internment order was that there was virtually no opposition.  Even people who were generally pretty liberal accepted the notion that internment was acceptable — even desirable.  Interestingly, one of the few voices in Washington opposed to internment was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.  By the time World War II began, after nearly a decade of Democratic control of Washington under President Roosevelt, Hoover was one of the few Republicans left with any power. His opposition to internment is ironic, considering how some labeled his career as one in opposition to civil liberties.

This decision, which deprived hundreds of thousands of American citizens of the liberty and their property was later upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States:

It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers-and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps with all the ugly connotations that term implies-we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders-as inevitably it must-determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for [323 U.S. 214, 224] action was great, and time was short. We cannot-by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight-now say that at that time these actions were unjustified.

Remember this the next time you hear someone talk about how much of a liberal Franklin Roosevelt supposedly was.

H/T: Democratic Central

Barack Obama Supports Indentured Servitude

He’ll help you pay for college if you agree to be a temporary slave to the state:

It’s the dream of the teacher who works at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet. She needs better pay, and more support, and the freedom to do more than just teach to the test. And if her students want to go on to college, they shouldn’t fear decades of debt. That’s why I’ll make college affordable with an annual $4,000 tax credit if you’re willing to do community service, or national service. We will invest in you, but we’ll ask you to invest in your country.

Bad idea Barack, very bad idea.

H/T: Steve Verdon

Tuesday Open Thread: Time To Lift The Cuba Embargo ?

With today’s announcement that Fidel Castro is stepping down as President of Cuba, the curtain is drawn on one of the longest international rivalries of the 20th Century.

Yes, Fidel’s brother Raul is taking his place, and, yes, Cuba remains a one-party dictatorship, but this announcement leaves me with the feeling that we are seeing the beginning of the end of Cuba’s totalitarian history.

Which leads to a question — is it time for the United States to lift it’s near total embargo against Cuba ?

For the past 50 years, Americans have not been able to travel to Cuba (although people do go there through Canada and Mexico), they haven’t been able to sell anything to the Cuban people, and they haven’t been able to buy anything from them. The United States doesn’t even have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

From the beginning, the rationale for the embargo was that the United States didn’t want to strengthen the Cuban regime, but that rationale never made sense. Even during the height of the Cold War, we were trading with, and had diplomatic relations with, the USSR, China, and all of Eastern Europe behing the Iron Curtain. We’ve been trading with Vietnam for nearly two decades now and we have an ambassador there. But not Cuba.

Politically, it’s simply been impossible to even address this issue before now. No President — Republican or Democrat — wanted to raise the opposition of the powerful anti-Castro Cuban lobby in South Florida. But now that Fidel is basically gone, isn’t it time to start treating Cuba like every other nation in the world ?

I think the answer is yes.

Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish

Fidel Castro has resigned as President of Cuba:

MEXICO CITY, Feb. 19 — Fidel Castro announced early Tuesday morning that he is stepping down as Cuba’s president, ending his half-century rule of the island nation.

“I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief,” Castro, 81, said in a letter posted on the Web site of the state-run newspaper, Granma.

The announcement ends the formal reign of a man who, after seizing power in a 1959 revolution, not only outlasted nine U.S. presidents but his communist patrons in the former Soviet Union as well. Prior to the Soviet Union’s collapse, support from the Kremlin sustained Cuba as a socialist outpost on the doorstep of the U.S., and placed Castro and his country in the middle of events central to the Cold War, including the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis.

And to finally see him out of power, while it doesn’t yet mean the dismantling of Cuba’s totalitarian state, is gratifying nonetheless.

Here’s hoping his retirement is short-lived and thoroughly unenjoyable.

(Re)Introducing The Republican Liberty Caucus

Here’s a great two-part video showing Phil Blumel talking to a group of Ron Paul supporters about the Republican Liberty Caucus and it’s role in the Republican Party.

If you’re interested in being part of the effort to reinvigorate the GOP’s libertarian wing, there are few places better than the Republican Liberty Caucus.

Superdelegates And The 17th Amendment

The Democratic Party is finding itself in a very strange position. They’re approaching a potential situation where neither of their candidates have enough elected delegates to secure the nomination, and the race will turn to the superdelegates to decide. Primary results can then be trumped by the say-so of the “party elites”. Thus, the party who complained that Al Gore “really won” the 2000 election due to the popular vote may nominate Hillary Clinton, who now looks unlikely to win the national Democrat popular vote or the elected delegate count.

The schadenfreude of watching the Democratic Party put into a position of acting undemocratically notwithstanding, this case is very interesting on its own merits. It has a parallel with our own Constitution and the 17th Amendment, and thus I find myself cheering on the “antidemocratic” forces within the party rather than those who would rely completely on the popular vote.

In the days of our Founding Fathers, “democracy” was a four-letter word. Democracy is mob rule, and unchecked democracy can lead down a very nasty road. America was never intended to be a democracy, it was intended to be a Republic strictly limited by the bounds of the Constitution, with democratic processes implemented to elect [some of] the leaders of that republic. Even so, our Founding Fathers chose against the direct election of Senators, because they wanted a counterbalance to the power of the democratically-elected House. Particularly, they are a check on the growth of central power, a way for the States to retain powers that 50%+1 of the members of the House of Representatives wanted to give to the central government.

The democratic party is designed in much the same way. Some delegates are elected popularly, and tasked with voting based on certain rules in accordance with what “the masses” want. On top of this are superdelegates, whose mandate is different: do what is best for the party. If the scenario plays out in the most interesting way, with Barack Obama leading in both the popular vote and the elected delegate count, there will be loud calls for the superdelegates to vote along the same lines as the popular vote.

The specific purpose of the superdelegates, however, is to be the brake on bad decisions of the popular vote if they believe it to be necessary. The superdelegates have a mandate, and if they believe that the popular vote is contrary to the goals of the party itself, they are obligated to follow their belief, not the popular vote. This is an unpopular position to take, of course, because we’ve been raised to believe that democracy is– in and of itself– a worthwhile end. Democracy, though, is a means and not an end. Democracy is only justified as a means if it reaches the “right” ends, and there is enough evidence throughout history to show that democracy often leads towards ugly, nasty results (slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow being a few clear examples).

All this doesn’t mean that I’m implying that the superdelegates, if the situation breaks such that Obama leads the popular vote and elected delegate count, shouldn’t vote for him. However, it is important that the superdelegates follow their conscience and do what they believe best for the party, not simply parrot the popular vote for its own sake. The superdelegates should view such things as the preferences revealed by the popular vote as only one aspect in their decision. Other crucial aspects to consider would be the questions of which candidate more closely lines up with core Democratic party policies and which is more likely to defeat the Republican in November. This calculation may cause their vote to line up with the leader of the popular vote and elected delegate count, or it may not. Either way, the superdelegates should not allow themselves to be railroaded into making a vote they don’t believe is the correct move for the party.

I pointed out quite a while ago that Libertarianism and Democracy are not mutually exclusive, but that it often lines up that way, as the incentives of government tend towards government power and away from individual liberty, and this is no different in a democratic form of government. Likewise, it must be pointed out that the Democratic Party has its own goals as an organization, and it is the obligation of members of the party to see that those goals are realized within the organizational rules they’ve enacted, even if it means that primary voters get overruled. Much as the original purpose of the Senate was to protect the interests and rights of States against those of the general populace, the superdelegates are tasked to protect the party from mistakes made by the Democratic primary voters. What that means for their nomination vote is up to their own conscience, and should not be subject to any constraints saying they must “follow the popular vote”.

The Border Fence vs. Private Property Rights

The Washington Post has a detailed article this morning about the government’s efforts to steal private property to build a fence along the Mexican border:

EL CALABOZ, Tex. — In the 240 years since the Spanish Crown granted Eloisa Tamez’s colonial ancestors title to this flat, grassy expanse along the Rio Grande’s northern bank, her family has steadily lost its holdings to the Mexican War of Independence, the U.S. annexation of Texas and the Great Depression.

Now Tamez faces what could prove the final blow: The Department of Homeland Security has proposed building a section of the U.S-Mexico border fence mandated by Congress directly through the last three acres of the family’s original 12,000-acre tract.

But the 72-year-old nursing professor has a message for any government officials who expect her to leave quietly. “I’m not going down without a fight,” Tamez said, her dark eyes narrowing as she gazed beyond her back yard toward a field where she used to pick tomatoes as a child. “My father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather farmed this land. This is the land that gave me my life and my spirit. . . . I will fight this all the way.”

And Tamez isn’t the only one who stands to have her property stolen:

Over the past several weeks, U.S. attorneys acting on behalf of the Homeland Security Department have been filing lawsuits against the holdouts. Already, federal district judges have ordered one landowner in California, 11 in Arizona and 11 in Texas — including the small city of Eagle Pass — to temporarily surrender their properties. The mayor of Eagle Pass, which is located about 100 miles southwest of San Antonio and stands to lose 233 acres of city-owned land, said the city is planning to appeal. Suits are also pending against 14 landowners in California and 44 in South Texas, including Tamez.

News of the lawsuits has sent a chill through the chain of tiny centuries-old South Texas settlements that dot the Rio Grande like beads on a necklace. Like Tamez, many residents of these hamlets are descendants of the Spanish settlers who colonized the region in the late 1700s. But significant numbers of them are now impoverished, and even those who have become middle-class professionals, such as Tamez, lack deep pockets for a legal battle.

But here’s the particularly galling part, in many cases the border fence isn’t even being built on the border:

According to preliminary maps, large stretches of the proposed fence would be located more than a mile inland from the river, cutting off substantial swaths of land.

In other words, the fence would be cutting people off from several square miles of property that actually lies within the United States to begin with.

Though I find the idea of a border fence in the middle of the desert to be of dubious value, there are, as the article points out, other solutions. Vehicle barriers have been used in parts of Arizona. In other places, the levees along the Rio Grande are being built as high as 18 feet — an unscalable length — and border patrol reconnaissance is being increased.

In other words, there are ways to secure the border that don’t involve outright property theft. Here’s hoping the Feds don’t get away with it.

Obama Tries to Have it Both Ways on the Second Amendment

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Barack Obama said Friday that the country must do “whatever it takes” to eradicate gun violence following a campus shooting in his home state, but he believes in an individual’s right to bear arms.

Obama said he spoke to Northern Illinois University’s president Friday morning by phone and offered whatever help his Senate office could provide in the investigation and improving campus security. The Democratic presidential candidate spoke about the Illinois shooting to reporters while campaigning in neighboring Wisconsin.

The senator, a former constitutional law instructor, said some scholars argue the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees gun ownerships only to militias, but he believes it grants individual gun rights.

When I ran across the headline’s article “Obama supports individual gun rights” in The Rocky Mountain News, I knew I had to read further. So far, so good…so what:

“I think there is an individual right to bear arms, but it’s subject to commonsense regulation” like background checks, [Obama] said during a news conference.”

He said he would support federal legislation based on a California law that would facilitate immediate tracing of bullets used in a crime. He said even though the California law was passed over the strong objection of the National Rifle Association, he thinks it’s the type of law that gun owners and crime victims can get behind.

To be honest, I don’t know anything about this particular policy [if anyone can give me a Cliff’s Notes version, please fill me in]. Being able to trace bullets used in a crime back to a particular firearm…I thought this was already an accepted, common practice? I must be missing something; clearly if the NRA is opposed to this policy maybe we should look at it.

So Obama believes that the right to bear arms is an individual right (more than we can say about most Democrats) but also believes in “common sense regulation.” Surely, Obama would not consider the D.C. gun ban to be common sense…or would he?

Although Obama supports gun control, while campaigning in gun-friendly Idaho earlier this month, he said he does not intend to take away people’s guns.

At his news conference, he voiced support for the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, which is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court next month.

“The notion that somehow local jurisdictions can’t initiate gun safety laws to deal with gang bangers and random shootings on the street isn’t born [sic] out by our Constitution,” Obama said.

Now I’m really confused! The only thing I can figure is that Obama’s views on gun rights are based on what he thinks his supporters want to hear at any given moment (in other words, he’s being a politician). Obama’s comments also reveal a fundamental misunderstanding about the Constitution on his part. The right to bear arms, or any of the other rights found in the Constitution for that matter, are not “born out” of the Constitution; the Constitution merely recognizes individual rights which already exist.

Given these seemingly contradictory statements, one wonders what policies an Obama administration would support and what sort of judicial appointments Obama would make with regard to the 2nd Amendment.

***Correction***

Brad pointed out that the journalist likely misinterpreted Obama’s statement:

The notion that somehow local jurisdictions can’t initiate gun safety laws to deal with gang bangers and random shootings on the street isn’t born [sic] out by our Constitution.

What Obama likely meant was “borne out by our Constitution” meaning “supported by our Constitution” rather than “born of our Constitution.” While Brad and I both disagree with Obama on this point even as he likely intended it, I think it’s important that we try to represent the senator’s remarks accurately.

Elsewhere in the article there was this:

The senator, a former constitutional law instructor, said some scholars argue the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees gun ownerships only to militias, but he believes it grants individual gun rights.

Here again, it’s the journalist’s interpretation (Nedra Pickler in this case) of what she thought Obama said. Hopefully, Obama knows better since he is a former constitutional law instructor (though I’m sure that there are many constitutional law instructors who actually do believe the Constitution grants rights rather than recognizes their existence). The only way to determine if the journalist correctly interpreted Obama’s speech would be to find a transcript of the speech. So far, I have been unable to find one but when I do I will link the transcript to this post so readers can decide for themselves whether Pickler’s interpretation of Obama’s speech is correct or not.

Republican Congressmen Ask Shadegg To Reconsider Retirement

Earlier this week I noted that Arizona Congressman John Shadegg, one of the few true fiscal conservatives in the House Republican leadership, had announced his retirement.

Yesterday, his colleagues sent him a letter asking him to reconsider:

More than 130 Republicans in Congress have signed a letter imploring U.S. Rep. John Shadegg to reconsider his decision to retire at the end of his term.

Shadegg’s office learned of the letter late Thursday and the congressman’s Chief of Staff, Sean Noble, said Shadegg could reconsider his decision in the next few days. “I think it’s kind of a take your breath away moment,” Noble said. “You’re going to have to stop and think.”

No one in Shadegg’s office, including the Congressman, has seen the letter, Noble said, but the simple fact that it exists, and contains so much support for the seven-term Republican is impressive.

(…)

The letter asks Shadegg to run for re-election, because he is “helping Republicans return to core principles.”

“John, you continue to inspire, embolden and lead. The Republican Conference needs you here, the Conservative Movement needs you here, and the country needs you here,” the congressmen wrote.

Congressmen Mike Pence, R-Ind.,4 and Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex.,4 reportedly drafted the letter. A representative from Pence’s office provided The Republic with the statement.

Supporters reportedly gathered the 138 signatures, including every member of the House Republican leadership, in about two hours Thursday.

Here’s hoping that Shadegg does reconsider. Of course, his return to the House could be short-lived; if John McCain does win in November his Senate seat will be vacant and Shadegg has said in the past that he would consider running for the Senate if either McCain or John Kyl didn’t.

Eminent Domain — Your Property Rights Subject To “The Common Good”

Every once in a while, the veil is lifted, and you see just what the “common good” crowd thinks of your rights. In several California newspapers (this from the Contra Costa Times), journalist Harrison Sheppard asks whether eminent domain is a “land grab or tool to rebuild”. He, as a journalist should, does highlight the concern of eminent domain critics– namely that the property belongs to its owners and that it’s a violation of their rights (usually those most unable to fight back) to take it. And then he fires back with both barrels:

However, what groups like the coalition call “abuse” are instead seen by government agencies and developers as necessary tools that provide for the economic rebirth of depressed areas. In such cases, they say, some individuals will have to sacrifice for the greater good.

For example, the loss of a pawnshop or a convenience store in favor of a mall or condo tower that increases the economic activity in a neighborhood — and boosts city tax revenue — is usually worth overriding the concerns about property rights, they say.

In Los Angeles, simply the threat of eminent domain has been used to acquire properties in the redevelopment of Hollywood, the building of the Staples Center and retail projects in South Los Angeles.

Those who owned the properties that were taken often felt abused by the city, and many fought in court to obtain better prices than the city offered — but in the end, many city officials would argue a greater public good was achieved.

Yes, I’m sure “many city officials” believe that a greater public good was achieved. However, as I pointed out here, city officials who I gladly interact with on a personal level are incentivized to be cutthroat and backstabbing once they get into the ranks of government. “City officials” who tell you they’re working for the common good, while their local developer friends get rich on fat construction contracts, have a conflict of interest here. How is it that you ask the government if the government is doing the right thing, and then report it as if these people are perfect philosopher-kings?

Those who want to take your rights will always rationalize a justification to do so.

Obama — Ready To Use Your Money To Fight American Global Poverty

Barack Obama has proven to be an interesting character in this race. He’s offered comments, from time to time, that suggest that he’s a much bigger advocate of free-market policies than Hillary Clinton. What he’s hidden, to some extent, that he simply views the free market as a more effective way to get tax revenues for government largesse:

U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today hailed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s passage of the Global Poverty Act (S.2433), which requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive policy to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015 through aid, trade, debt relief, and coordination with the international community, businesses and NGOs. This legislation was introduced in December. Smith and Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) sponsored the House version of the bill (H.R. 1302), which passed the House last September.

“With billions of people living on just dollars a day around the world, global poverty remains one of the greatest challenges and tragedies the international community faces,” said Senator Obama. “It must be a priority of American foreign policy to commit to eliminating extreme poverty and ensuring every child has food, shelter, and clean drinking water. As we strive to rebuild America’s standing in the world, this important bill will demonstrate our promise and commitment to those in the developing world. Our commitment to the global economy must extend beyond trade agreements that are more about increasing corporate profits than about helping workers and small farmers everywhere. I commend Chairman Biden and Ranking Member Lugar for supporting this bill and moving it forward quickly.”

The Global Poverty Act:
* Declares it official U.S. policy to promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme global poverty in half by 2015.
* Requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to carry out that policy.
* Includes guidelines for what the strategy should include – from aid, trade, and debt relief, to working with the international community, businesses and NGOs, to ensuring environmental sustainability.
* Requires that the President’s strategy include specific and measurable goals, efforts to be undertaken, benchmarks, and timetables.
* Requires the President to report back to Congress on progress made in the implementation of the global poverty strategy.

I personally believe that Obama is less dangerous than Hillary, and thus I hope he receives the Democratic nomination. But when some people suggest that a libertarian can support Obama, it is important to recognize exactly what Barack Obama is. Hillary Clinton believes that we should replace the free market with government control, used for “the common good”. Barack Obama, on the other hand, believes that we should try to use government policies to help business succeed, and then reap large amounts of taxes from those businesses to use for “the common good”. Hillary Clinton’s policies will result in many very bad things, while Obama’s will simply result in European-style low economic growth and (in the long term) a much slower increase in standard of living than a true free-market approach.

Obama does not believe your money belongs to you. He believes that you “owe” the world for what you’ve earned. And he’s more than willing to take from you in order to give to people in other countries, through aid, trade, and debt relief. What he doesn’t state, however, is that we need to be focusing on the fact that many of the people in extreme poverty are not there because the West isn’t generous enough, they’re there because their own rulers crush the incentives for them to improve their own situation. And while I doubt he’s put two and two together, I hardly think that we should believe a politician who is anti-outsourcing is really committed to improving the lives of people in the third-world. If he really wanted to help these people, he would suggest that more American businesses look to invest in production facilities in those places, where people living on less than $1 a day could be earning much more.

Neither Obama, Hillary, McCain, nor Huckabee are fit to be President of these United States. Obama appears to be the greatest “clean slate”, upon which voters of all stripes can ascribe their own beliefs. This, in many ways, causes libertarians to believe that he at least is willing to entertain non-government options to solve problems. Instead, I believe that Obama is more of a rational statist than a reflexive statist. I think Obama wants to find ways to use government smartly to solve problems. But let’s face it: his goal is for the government to solve your problems. That goal is fundamentally opposed to libertarianism, and we all need to realize that.

Hat Tip: Quincy

Low Moments In Congressional History

I’m sure there might be something else out there, perhaps the caning of Charles Sumner by Preston Brooks, but I think it was reached yesterday when a Congressional Committee started investigating Roger Clemens’ ass:

WASHINGTON — Throughout the confrontation between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, much of the back and forth has been based on recollections of events as far as 10 years ago.

But on Wednesday, the committee produced documentary evidence that appeared — at least in part — to corroborate McNamee’s account that Clemens was treated for an infection in his left buttocks in 1998.

The only good thing that could have happened at that moment would have been if Daniel Webster and Henry Clay had risen from their respective graves and kicked those 40 morons out of their seats.

Update 2/15/2008: Henry Waxman now says he regrets the hearing was held at all:

WASHINGTON — A day after a dramatic, nationally televised hearing that pitted Roger Clemens against his former personal trainer and Democrats against Republicans, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Thursday that he regretted holding the hearing in the first place.

The chairman, Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said the four-hour hearing unnecessarily embarrassed Clemens, who he thought did not tell the truth, as well as the trainer, Brian McNamee, who he thought was unfairly attacked by committee Republicans.

“I think Clemens and McNamee both came out quite sullied, and I didn’t think it was a hearing that needed to be held in order to get the facts out about the Mitchell report,” Waxman said.

“I’m sorry we had the hearing. I regret that we had the hearing. And the only reason we had the hearing was because Roger Clemens and his lawyers insisted on it.”

Well, you could’ve said no Chairman.

The Media’s Latest Hoplophobia-mongering

Internet Broadcasting Systems has a new breathless article warning of the latest danger to government space travelers making the rounds of the internet:

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station apparently have access to a gun.

Oh the horror! Then comes the letdown:

Russian Cosmonauts carry a gun on their Soyuz space capsule, which is attached to the space station.

Every spacecraft carries survival gear for crash landings, and the Russian Soyuz has a kit that includes the gun.

The weapon they are referring to is a gun designed for the Soviet space program that can fire a shotgun shell, a solid round and a flare, and which can be converted into a shovel and a machete. The Soviets included this weapon in the inventory for the Soyuz because the capsule lands in the wilderness of south-western Russia and could be out of reach of rescue crews for hours or even days. The Soviets began including the guns after wolves were seen in the vicinity of a capsule during one recovery effort.

Of course, this is too substantive for this authors, who decided to stick to their core competency of yellow journalism:

Experts said the idea of an astronaut losing control was unthinkable until one year ago, when Lisa Nowak shattered the myth.
Her own attorney said she was insane when arrested for hunting down another woman, and prosecutors said she was heavily armed.
Nowak had flown in space just seven months earlier.

The article is substantially lifted1 from an article written by journalist James Oberg who is primarily focused on writing about space travel. His much more substantive article may be found here:

In fact, Moscow’s latest diplomatic offensive to get a treaty banning weapons in space may be shot down by one of the proposed pact’s little-noticed provisions: Nobody else should get to put weapons in space, but Russia gets to keep the ones it already has.

Cosmonauts regularly carry handguns on their Soyuz spacecraft — and actually, that’s not unreasonable. There are practical and historical justifications.

But wait! Apparently the survival gun is being phased out and replaced with conventional side-arms

Just before last October’s Soyuz launch, a British news report said that the gun, manufactured by a factory that is now in an independent country, was being phased out because all the in-stock ammunition had exceeded its certified shelf life. In its place, a standard Russian army sidearm was now to be carried.

Guns were never carried aboard U.S. spacecraft. Instead, a sharp machete served as the most serious armament for a jungle landing. Besides, with a worldwide U.S. network of bases and existing air-sea rescue forces, odds were that any downed astronauts would be found and rescued pretty quickly. The same now goes for Soyuz spacecraft supporting the international space station and usually carrying an U.S. crewmember at launch and landing — any off-course vehicle would have the entire U.S. rescue team at their disposal almost immediately. But the legend of the hungry wolves trumps current realities, so the guns have remained.

Then Oberg too engages in some hoplophobic advocacy of his own:

And here’s the safety issue that nobody seems to want to talk about. As the space station crew size increases, with a much wider range of crew members (including paying passengers, either tourists or representatives of national research groups from Malaysia, Chile, Venezuela or elsewhere), everyone on board will have access to the gun in the Soyuz. By 2009 there will always be two Soyuzes attached, so two guns will be available.

The next Soyuz launch is set for April 8. The handgun is probably already packed. If Moscow wants to show it is really serious about keeping space “weapons-free,” and keeping orbiting astronauts and cosmonauts free of too-easy access to lethal weapons, the gun ought to be removed. Carry a machete, carry a Taser — but stop carrying guns into space.

Mr Oberg’s point is quite interesting. It isn’t weapons per se that are dangerous, but guns themselves. Why a crazed crewmember with a pellet shooting gun is unacceptably dangerous while a crazed crewmember armed with a stun-gun is not, I am not sure, since any thing that can be done with a gun – incapacitate humans, wreck equipment, open the pressure hull to space – can also be done by a malevolent crewman armed with a stun-gun.

The fact is, prohibition never works. It never will work, even in space. Where humans go, conflict follows. Even in prisons, which should be a hoplophobe’s dream since the guards work diligently to keep anything that can be used as a weapon out of the inmates’ hands, stabbings and shootings with improvised weapons are quite common.

If prison guards can’t keep prisoners from smuggling weapons or constructing them, how do the administrators of government space programs propose to keep arms out of the hands of intelligent, free people who have a knack for engineering?

Twenty years ago, a fellow named Grant Callin penned a wonderful pair of books, Saturnalia and its sequel A Lion on Tharthree. I highly recommend them since it is some of the best ‘hard’ science ficition written in the 1980’s. Both books are focused on the discovery of alien artifacts on Saturn and the conflict between various consortia as they vie to control access to the alien technology.

In A Lion on Tharthree, the Captain of humanity’s first interstellar spacecraft takes Mr Oberg’s precautions. Getting wind of a potential mutinous act on the part of one unstable crewmember, he locks the only weapon in his safe. When the mutiny does occur, spearheaded by the executive officer and the representative of one of the consortia, the captain finds himself facing mutineers armed with guns constructed from the kinetic sculptures they had brought on board quite openly. The price the Captain and his crew pay for this willful disarmament are the life-threatening bullet wounds they suffer as they are forced to make a human wave assault in a desperate attempt to preserve their lives.

Mr Oberg’s recommendations, if adopted, would ensure that the first time a weapon is used in space it will be a disaster.

Postscript:

1 I find the warning at the bottom of the IBS article, “This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed,” kind of funny in that what they really did was rewrite Mr Oberg’s article, and that badly.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Quote Of The Day: There Are No Libertarian Gods Edition

This is exactly the wrong way to think about a politician, and, ironically, it comes from someone who supports a candidate who has run on a campaign of individual rights:

Ron Paul called for a march. If you are a supporter, youll go or at least try to. Anyone who thinks this isnt a good idea are not supporting Ron Paul. He is smarter than most of you if not all of you.

No politician, not Ronald Reagan, not Bill Clinton, not Thomas Jefferson, and not even Ron Paul is someone that we are required to obey whenever they express an idea. And anyone who cares about freedom and individual rights should reject the idea that any politician is smarter than they are.

Admittedly, this is from one person and not all Paul supporters are like this, but he’s not alone either. All too often, I’ve encountered people coming here to tell me how dare I disagree with the great Ron Paul.

Well, let me just say it.

Ron Paul is a good man, he’s got some good ideas. But, and I bet even he’d agree with this, he’s not perfect and treating him like he is, or like anyone who dares disagree with him is either per se wrong, involved in some wacked-out conspiracy, or worthy of being derided with profanity simply isn’t justified.

Blind obedience to one man, any man, is something that no person who claims to love liberty should ever fall victim to.

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