Sunday, May 30, 2010

Obama showed true colors abandoning Specter in Pennsylvania

Arlen Specter, a Republican fixture in the Senate for decades and who switched to the Democratic party this year, was defeated by Joe Sestak in a Democratic primary that was significant in the way Specter was double crossed by Obama.'

On both the eve of the election and on the day of the election, the White House, seeing a close election and the possibility of a Specter defeat, abandoned Specter, refusing to lift a finger to campaign for him when he needed it the most, even though they had wooed him to the Democratic Party and Obama had publicly endorsed him.

According to MSNBC reports, the White House signaled it was going to throw Specter under the bus when they said about Specter, " He came to us ( meaning his switching party's) we didnt didnt go to him".

For those in the know that was another example of what Obama does best -- lie through his teeth since it was Obama and Joe Biden who had wooed Specter and made him promises if he would switch the to the Democrats. But it became obvious that when Obama's choice for the nomination was in trouble, Obama did not want to be seen as the loser and so, as he has done so many times before whether its with people or policy, ( as was the case with the public option) Obama reversed field and reneged on his pledge.

The single biggest issue when Obama ran for the Democratic nomination was color and his supporters based everything on an agenda based on electing the first African American president ( even though that is bogus also -- Obama as everyone knows including Obama is half black). But when it comes to politics, Obama has shown that his true color isnt black, it's, "politician" and his own political standing is what matters more than anything else. And so Obama abandoned Arlen Specter even though Obama had publicly endorsed him when he was up by 20 points.

On primary day, when Specter needed Obama to help get out the vote in Philadelphia, Obama was nowhere to be seen.

Actually, ironically enough, he was seen -- making a speech in Ohio less than seven miles from Pennsylvania. Ohio was the site of Obama's NAFTAgate lie promising to get rid of NAFTA while assuring the Canadian embassy through the back door that he would do nothing of the kind.
Obama was caught red handed in the lie to the people of Ohio ( who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary by a landslide margin) and the press turned a blind eye to Obama's duplicity.

In the end, with Obama it's always politics not policy or conviction and Obama was more interested in saving his own face than saving Specter's seat in the senate, despite his pledges of support he gave to Specter.
Obama was clearly afraid of suffering another loss of prestige as happened with Martha Coakley in Massachusetts where a largely Democratic state rejected his endorsement. In this case it was a Democratic primary and a substantial majority of Democratic voters rejected Obama's choice, showing that an Obama endorsement will either hurt more than it helps in the fall or just not help at all.

And the fallout from the primary has taken an unexpected turn with the questions now arising about his offer of a job to Joe Sestak to get out of the race. Ironically the candidate who campaigned on the pledge that he was going to change the way Washington does business is now defending the offer to Sestak by saying its simply the way Washington has always done business.
Which also shows Obama's true colors.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2nd amendment ignorance and pandering at NRA annual meeting

The NRA recently concluded its 2010 annual meeting and as should be expected, there was the usual display of ignorance, pandering and stupidity over the 2nd amendment, mostly by politicians.

There is no reason why gun enthusiasts need to be constitutional experts or historians and so their own ignorance of the 2nd amendment and what its about and what it means isn't really the issue, though the blatant dishonesty and distortion by the NRA is another story. But politicians have no excuse since they swear an oath to preserve and defend it.

There are only two approaches to the constitution and ironically, the one that chooses to interpret the 2nd amendment as having anything to do with individuals owning guns is not just the most liberal approach, it is liberal beyond ratiionality.

The other approach, whch is original intent, says that where the original intent of the founders is clear and unambiguous, it is that which must be applied. Liberal constituitional philosophy says disregard what the Founders intended and read the words here and now and interpet them to mean whatever you want them to mean.

Of course there are extremes on both sides. Extremists on the side of strict constructionism will say stupid things like Lindsay Graham did the other day at a hearing on terrorism where he said that you didn't have the right not to be searched before you get on an airplane because the founders never contemplated flying. The 4th amendment does give you the right against unreasonable searches but after 911 no one would argue that searching passengers and bags is unreasonable.

The other extreme is one expressed by those who think original intent make no sense, where you discard the intent and focus on only applying the words as you see fit and make them mean whatever you want them to mean.

The NRA ironically takes the most liberal approach, and to such an extent that they even get rid of the first few words of the 2nd amendment in their seal and literature and only include "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". The whole point and intention of the amendment, " a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state..." is just conveniently lopped off as if it doesnt matter.

Given that the Founders debated the meaning the need and purpose of the 2nd amendment for weeks and re-wrote it seven times making small word changes here and there as members of the First Continental congress tried to make sure the wording said what they meant it to say, discarding the first half the amendment because it doesn't suit your desires is not exactly standing up for the constitution which conservatives hypocritically are always claiming they do.

But its not the ignorance of the 2nd amendment that the NRA promotes that's the problem. Its the pandering of politicians, members of congress and even Obama who claims to be a constitutional scholar but who seems anything but, who actually take an oath to defend the constitution that is the biggest problem. They either know they are lying and pandering or they are ignorant and neither is acceptable for an elected official.

The meaning of the 2nd amendment is absolutely clear and I'm going to prove it in the best way possible -- with the words of the congress four days after the amendment passed in September of 1789, which in the Senate Journal, clarifies and states unequivocally what the purpose and meaning of the amendment is. There is also the entire debate over the amendment available to anyone who wants to see it and it can be found online.

The second amendment was all about the Founders concern that the individual states needed an armed and trained militia to defend each state against the possibility of attack by a foreign government or a future president trying to become a tyrant.

Many of the Founders were against the federal government keeping a standing army. They felt it was a threat to liberty. With no federal army the only means of defense against a foreign enemy would be state militias. Except after a long war many who served in the militia wanted no part of being in the military and the Founders were concerned about this and how necessary militias were to the sovereignty of each state, and so wrote an amendment that guaranteed each state the right to have its own militia and in the words of one Founder during the debates, " to train men to arms".
Given that just about all the colonists owned guns and knew how to use them, "training men to arms" obviously doesn't mean to train men to use a gun. Or to hunt. Or to take target practice. So it makes clear what the word "arms" means. It meant training them in military discipline and war and how to function as part of a well drilled militia in battle. It had nothing to do with giving people an individual right to own guns because people already owned them and no one ever brought up the idea of whether people should be allowed to keep them. The idea that they did is patently absurd.

Owning a gun was a given. Like owning an axe or a hammer. It wasn't controversial. In fact, it was such a given that an early version of the amendment stated that just because a man owned a gun, that wouldn't compel him to serve in the militia. That alone is proof that the issue of the 2nd amendment never had anything to do with whether people should or should not have guns. It wasnt ever part of the debate. And in no way relates to the second amendment.

Here is a brief history of the evolution of the second amendment, starting with a proposal to prohibit the federal government from having a standing army without 2/3rds of the states agreeing:

August 17, 1789: "A standing army of regular troops in time of peace, is dangerous to public liberty, and shall not be raised or kept up in time of peace but from necessity, and for the security of the people, nor then without the consent of two-thirds of the members present of both houses, and in all cases the military shall be subordinate to the civil authority." This amendment was voted down.

After a week more of debate on how to handle the issue of a standing army and the defense of the state ( not the self defense of an individual) this amendment was voted on:

August 24, 1789: "A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the People, being the best security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person."

"Religiously scrupulous" meant people like Quakers or others who had religious beliefs and a conscientious objection based on religion against going to war. But it further clarifies what the Founders meant with the words " to bear arms". "To bear arms" means to go to war. It means to serve in military service as the above version makes clear. There were plenty of Quakers and others who owned guns to hunt and ward off predators to their livestock who wouldn't use them in war. "To bear arms" does not mean to own guns or use them for hunting, self defense or target practice as some ignorantly insist. It means only one thing -- to go to war in defense of the state or country and to render military service.

The Senate objected to certain words and concepts in that version of the amendment they felt might be confusing and after another week of debate agreed to strike certain words and voted on this amendment:

"A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

After voting to change "best security" to " necessary to the security of " they voted on the proposed amendment on Sept 4, 1789 and passed it. This one read:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

This is the 2nd amendment as it is today and this is what was recorded in the Senate Legislative Journal dated Sept, 9,1789 explaining the sole meaning and purpose of the 2nd amendment only four days after it was passed by both houses of congress:

"That each State respectively shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining its own militia, whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the militia shall not be subject to martial law, except when in the actual service in time of war, invasion or rebellion; and when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be subject only to such fines, penalties, and punishments as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own State."

Not a word about a right of individuals to own guns. Nothing. It was never even discussed because it was never even an issue.

Whatever laws governing gun ownership exist, is a matter of each elected state or local government to decide, not the constitution. For that gun owners or the NRA can lobby anyone they want support anyone they want and spend anything they want to get legislation that favors them. But it has nothing to do with the constitution and the 2nd amendment has nothing to do with an individual right to own a gun.

There is no such individual right expressed by the second amendment or anywhere else in the constitution no matter how much some ignorant or pandering politician wants to stand on their head and say it does to get campaign contributions.. If it did, the clause " shall not be infringed" would invalidate every gun law in the country. And "to keep and bear arms" couldnt be more clear. It means to render military service not go target shooting. The only way "to keep and bear arms" can relate to the gun someone has in their closet is to stand the constitution on its head, ignore the Founders intention, throw out the true meaning of the language of the amendment and make the words mean whatever you feel like making them mean today. Anyone who does that and claims to be a conservative just threw all their principles out the window to get what they want.

For gun owners who don't mind that politicians lie and pander to them about the 2nd amendment because they think its to their benefit, keep this in mind: they will lie and pander and be stupid about other things too if they are allowed to get away with it and aren't held accountable.And the next time you may not be too happy about the things they lie and pander about, Which though it isnt in the constitution, is guaranteed will happen again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tiger Woods proves why journalists are useless

As the storm around Tiger Woods raged and more and more revelations about his various affairs kept coming out, the usual suspects gathered in the press and on cable TV to give us their educated, objective and insightful opinions about Woods future which, in every case amounted to denial, journalistic hero jock worship, fawning self-delusion and predictions that missed by a mile. Not dissimilar to the way the press handled Barrack Obama during the Democratic primaries.

The networks added to the Woods fiasco by interrupting regularly scheduled programs to broadcast Woods' first press conference live as if it was an event of world importance.

Which has been one of the problems with the news media the last 20 years. Trivializing what matters and overplaying things that don't, especially when it comes to sex whether its in sports or politics.

With Woods dropping out of the Players tournament after not being even remotely competitive, and missing the cut altogether in his previous tournament, Woods has proved all the journalistic predictions and opinions all wrong. As usual.

Mike Lupica, ad man Donny Deutsch, on MSNBC, ESPN analysts, even political commentators like Ed Schultz, all tried downplaying the Woods revelations of the serial cheating that wrecked his marriage and turned his image upside down, and predicted it would have no affect on Woods at all either on the golf course or in his endorsement deals.

Deutsch, from the very beginning not only predicted none of Woods' sponsors would leave him, he actually said the revelations would make Woods an even more attractive endorser. How much consideration he gave to Gillette's slogan " the best a man can get" how it would play with Woods Im not sure. But Gillette dropped him within days.

But they were all wrong, not just Deutsch. But not just wrong -- they were wrong in the face of every shred of common sense that said they couldn't possibly be right.

Lupica's grand prediction in a Sunday column was that when Woods finally returned to golf would "be back better than ever". Not exactly.

Woods finished fourth in the Masters but, never threatened for the lead and then missed the cut entirely in his second start in a non-major, and now dropped out in the third round of the Players,ostensibly with a neck injury but so far back of the leaders that during the entire tournament he never got a minute of television time. My guess is the neck injury is an excuse and he dropped out to avoid further embarrassment. At the time he withdrew he was listed at 45th.

According to golf writer Mick Elliott, Woods in an interview two days ago proclaimed himself physically fit and never said a word about the neck injury that he is now saying he sustained weeks ago. Woods was quoted as saying he was "absolutely 100%". So whether the media will buy Woods explanation as to why he withdrew and why he played so poorly or look deeper remains to be seen.

When the scandal first broke, Donny Deutsch on MSNBC predicted that Woods wouldn't lose any endorsement contracts at all but Woods lost almost all of them except Nike within the first week of the scandal and none of the sponsors who dropped him are showing any interest in having him back..

Most of the journalists defending Woods ( from what they were defending, its hard to say, but Schultz exhorted Woods to "hang in there") sounded like lawyers for the Vatican trying to defend the Catholic Church against the sex abuse scandals. How do you defend Woods against the indefensible? Because he was the greatest golf pro of his time? HIs marriage came apart publicly because he had cheated with porn starlets and nightclub hostesses, sent embarrassing text messages, paid off some of them ( Rachel Uchitel reportedly was paid in 8 figures to keep quiet) became a world wide joke and that was supposed to have no affect? When professional athletes play on a level that requires the focus of a brain surgeon?

For the record, Woods shot the worst back nine of his career ( 43) in missing the cut two weeks ago for the first time in 5 years. And he was so far back in the Players you wouldnt know he playing from the TV coverage. There was nothing to cover.

The real importance of all this is not so much about Tiger Woods as it is about the massive decline and deterioration of the news media as a whole, the people in it and the way most of them do their jobs.If plumbers had the same degree of professionalism as journalists we'd all be walking around knee deep in water. Instead we're drowning in somethng else.

For too long it hasn't mattered in the media whether or not a journalist or commentator had any real insights, made predictions that turned out to be true, or showed he or she knew what they were talking about.

They could make any prediction, any pronouncement, make any statement, and have everything be wrong every time with no consequences. Whether its journalists or politicians there is no accountability. Or credibility. And like the media handling of the Woods scandal and the predictions and pontificating, based more on their own wishful thinking than anything real, the news media's coverage of events that matter more to the country, gets that wrong more than they get it right. ( Iraq anyone?)

What's worse, they don't care so there is no hope in the near future it will get any better. Its all about money for them. Which is ratings which equals advertising dollars. Fox News for example, the most brazenly dishonest, simply tells their audience what they want to hear even if what they want isn't the truth.

The other news outlets try to be the anti-Fox, often shilling for Obama, neglecting the truth when its something less than flattering for him and ignoring incovenient facts which puts Obama in a bad light in much the same way Fox invents "facts" to put Obama in a bad light.

In the end Tiger Woods problems and how he was covered are small potatoes compared to war, who gets healthcare, unemployment, climate control, immigration reform, financial reform and who gets to decide these things. But the incompetence and wrong headedness of the mainstream media whose job is, as the Founders intended, to inform the electorate, is not small potatoes.

Maybe some day journalists or analysts who are hired to give their opinions or report the facts will be hired based on how accurate they are and how good they are at what they do. But for now what we saw with the coverage of Tiger Woods and how reality has turned out to be the opposite of all the predictions, is what we get every day on matters of much more importance.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Republicans ready to junk the Constitution after arrest of Times Square bomber

After the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square car bomber,Republicans almost immediately began politicizing the attempted bombing, complaining about the protections American citizens receive from the Constitution and think they should be junked when it came to Faisal Shahzad who is an American citizen.

Using the attempted bombing as an excuse to play to the basest instincts of their political base, mostly the lunatic fringe in this country, Republicans like John McCain, and Mitch McConnell have said that Shahzad should not have been given his Miranda rights "until we know more".

What these Republican defenders of our democracy seem to forget is that reading an American citizen his Miranda rights is the law. You know, that thing that Republicans beat their chests about at picnics on the 4th of July and crow about in schoolyard mentality TV commercials at election time.

Lindsay Graham,(R.Sen.S. Carolina) added his voice to the insanity during a senate hearing on the Times Square incident, complaining about Shahzad getting his Miranda warning. He did so by trying to draw a parallel between a soldier on the battlefield capturing an enemy having to read them their rights and Shahzad's arrest, showing that when it comes to some issues, even a normally rational Republican like Graham can turn into an idiot. The difference is, a solider doesnt arrest anyone. He or she captures and doesn't arrest. Soldiers didn't apprehended Shahzad it was FBI and NYPD and the law requires that Constititional rights be read to an American citizen within a reasonable time of arrest -- as soon as authorities are satisfied that the person in custody has no information regarding any other attacks imminent or otherwise. And that is what happened with Shahzad.

Graham himself admitted that you cant try an American citizen in a military tribunal only in a a criminal court. But as soon as that is acknowleged then it's required that Shahzad be read his rights.

As an American citizen, not reading Shahzad his rights could have jepoardized his prosecution. It even raises the possibility that he could have gotten off scott free. There is not a judge in the country whose hands would not have been tied and probably have been forced to throw out any evidence or information gotten from Shazhad if he gave it without being read his rights.

Graham further left his senses in his briefcase when he said "you dont have a constitutional right to get on an airplane without being searched. The Founders never contemplated flying".

The Founders never comtemplated television, radio or the internet yet no one argues that freedom of the press and freedom of speech applies to these mediums. And in fact you do have a constitutional right not to be subject to unreasonable search and seizure. Its called the 4th amendment. But given the events of 911 no one can call the random searching of persons or bags either getting on a plane or taking any form of public transporttion, unreasonable.

Republican concerns aside, law enforcement has reported that Shahzad has been very cooperative and has provided valuable information both before and after being read his rights, including admitting that the was the bomber, that he received his training at a terrorist camp in Pakistan and he gave information about those camps. According to CBS News, Shazhad has been "singing like a bird". And, by the way, without water boarding. To date 10 people have been arrested in Pakistan, largely as a result of information provided by Shahzad.

But it still didnt stop Republicans from politicizingt the Times Square incident and grandstanding about Constitutional rights.

Shahzad was not initially read his rights. He was questioned about other imminent threats as the law allows. He was questioned for over 10 hours without being Mirandized. It;s called the Public Safety Exception. Once it was determined there were no immediate threats and that Shahzad had no information about any immediate threats to public safety he was Mirandized so authorities could begin questioning him about his own failed attack.

Republicans seem to think the Constitution, whose sole function is to protect American citizens from too much government power, is some kind of convenience or appliance, something they can apply or not apply or switch on or off, depending on to whom, what and where they want to apply it. They protest too much government when it comes to giving healthcare but have no problem trampling on Constituional rights when they want to prey on fear.

In spite of the Republican junk-the-Constitution point of view, authorities are getting so much information from Shahzad that his appearance in court had to be postponed while he continues to talk.

Republicans like McCain are trying to use the event politically. He is being challenged in Arizona by a Tea Party conservative. But this is New York, not Arizona and no one here cares about McCain's political problems here. Nothing that McCain, McConnell or any other Republican congressman has to say matters here..

The people who caught Shazad 53 hours after his car bomb was discovered know what they're doing and they will continue to do their jobs and do it the way they see fit. and according to the law and the Constitution. And with no help needed from those ready to junk it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Supreme Court ruling on crucifix displays conservative hypocrisy

In a narrow 5-4 decision sending the case back to a lower court, the 5 conservative members of the Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that a crucifix erected on government land in the Mojave Desert to honor war dead did not violate the first amendment "establishment" clause meant to prevent any government endorsement of a religion.

But the hypocrisy of the reasoning was apparent in deciding the case on ideological not constitutional grounds. In the opinion, written by Justice Kennedy for the majority, he wrote that the first amendment calls for a "middle ground policy of accommodation regarding religious symbols."

There is of course no mention of a middle ground on anything in the first amendment, and and the hypocrisy of the reasoning is brazen because conservatives, including those on the court, who rail against Roe v.Wade, do so because they say the basis for the decision -- that there is a constitutional right to privacy -- doesn't exist in the constitution.

Conservatives on and off the court have criticized Roe, or try to, on the grounds that the justices didn't strictly follow the constitution and insinuated themselves, legislating from the bench, and seeing things in the constitution that arent there. Conservating complain bitterly that liberal judges substitute their own judgement for what's in the constitiution. Yet that is just what happened in this decision. The 5 conservative members of the court did the very thing conservatives howl about -- legislate from the bench and Justice Kennedy's "middle ground of accommodation" is clearly substituting his judgement for what the Founders intended.

The conservative justices legal reasoning, as expressed in Kennedy's written opinion, that the crucifix has more than just a religious meaning is intellectually and factually preposterous. A crucifix has only one meaning and it is clearly and solely the symbol of Christianity and means nothing else. In the opinion of the 4 dissenting justices, that was made clear when they wrote that the first amendment explicitly forbade government endorsement of any particular religion and that the cross at Mojave was solely a symbol of Christianity.

To find that it was more than that,and therefore allowable, or that there is some "middle ground of accommodation" nowhere to be found in the First Amendment, the conservative wing of the court has given indication that they are apt to decide more cases on ideological grounds and do what conservatives loudly complain about when they believe liberals are doing it -- legislate from the bench.

Obama's next appointment to the court, expected to be a liberal, will not change the current balance on the court and so wouldn't have changed the outcome of this decision.

And so far Ann Coulter, who at one point publicly advocated the poisoning and killing of Justice Stephens for, in her opinion, legislating from the bench in a liberal opinion, hasn't yet made public whether she thinks the conservative justices should meet the same fate.