Posts tagged ‘Politics’

August 17, 2012

David Barton’s Thomas Jefferson

by Eric T. Phillips

David Barton is an evangelical Christian minister who styles himself a historian. Glenn Beck is a fan, once calling him “the Library of Congress in shoes.”

Barton’s latest (and best selling) book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jeffersonis an attempt to prove that Jefferson was more conventionally religious than historians portray. (He was kinda almost like a modern day evangelical, apparently.) The problem is, he wasn’t. He was a Unitarian who denied the divinity of Jesus and believed much of the Bible was “the fabric of very inferior minds.” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814) He did very much admire the teachings of Jesus, and that’s why he literally cut and pasted his teachings into a much truncated personal Bible. Barton’s claim that Jefferson put together this little text to convert Indians is laughable; Jefferson included the Greek, Latin, French, and English versions of his selections side-by-side so he could read and compare the text in all four languages–are we to believe that Jefferson thought the Indians were too dull to comprehend an unabridged version of the Bible but then would require them to read the shortened version in French, Greek, and Latin?

Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, two conservative professors from Grove City College in Pennsylvania have published a 250-page book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President, which is entirely devoted to debunking Barton’s error-ridden and misleading work. Largely due to their laudable effort, Barton’s publisher has ceased the publication and distribution of the book. (A private publisher’s decision to cease supporting a work that they have determined does not meet their standards is not censorship, as this site claims.)

A good supplement to Throckmorton and Coulter’s corrective is Greg Forster’s blog post that critiques Barton’s writings on John Locke. You can also go to Barton’s own site, Wallbuilders, where he and his researchers explain their methodology for attributing quotes to the founders; there, Barton and his team concede that many of quotes he had reproduced in earlier works are “unconfirmed,” but they nonetheless insist that the quotes “are nevertheless completely consistent not only with the character of these men but also with the character of their era.” As interpreted by them, of course. What a standard.

Barton’s work should make a fine edition to the average Romney voter’s bookshelf, right alongside Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln and the piano performance major Joshua Charles’s “translation” of some of the Federalist Papers into “modern” English.

August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan Begs Congress to Pass TARP

by Eric T. Phillips

After giving a Keynesian analysis of the financial crisis, Ryan tells Nanci Pelosi “This bill offends my principles. But I’m going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles, in order to preserve this free enterprise system.” See to believe (around 2:10):

(Hat tip LRC)

To make things worse, he then brings up Herbert Hoover as a cautionary tale, as if Hoover did nothing in the face of the 1929 crash, and that’s what caused the Great Depression. Just as a reminder, here are Hoover’s own words from his 1932 presidential campaign defending his public works and wage support programs:

We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic. We put it into action…. No government in Washington has hitherto considered that it held so broad a responsibility for leadership in such times….

Creating new jobs and giving to the whole system a new breath of life; nothing has ever been devised in our history which has done more for … “the common run of men and women.” Some of the reactionary economists urged that we should allow the liquidation to take its course until we had found bottom…. We determined that we would not follow the advice of the bitter-end liquidationists and see the whole body of debtors of the United States brought to bankruptcy and the savings of our people brought to destruction.

The modern idea that Hoover was some kind of laissez faire ideologue is nothing but pro-New Deal propaganda rewritten for 9th grade history books. But recycled pro-New Deal propaganda is all Ryan could come up with to defend his “free market” principles.

July 11, 2012

Krugman: I’m Too Good for Public Debates

by Eric T. Phillips

That’s basically what Krugman says to this caller who asks him why he won’t debate Robert Murphy. Debates are just “public circuses” he says:

I guess for Krugman the Webster-Hayne debate, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the Nixon-Kennedy presidential debates were just useless public spectacles then. Or maybe he’s just defensive about his atrocious debating skills.

The ancient Greeks believed that a man’s rhetorical skills were directly related to his intelligence and wisdom. Socrates even criticized the invention of writing for “imparting forgetfulness in mens’ souls.” The idea was that for knowledge and wisdom to be truly internalized, it had to be remembered. The man who constantly has to refer to “external written characters,” according to this view, is not wise at all. He does not know the truth; at best he simply knows the truth is written down somewhere else.

As Brett and Kate McCay explain:

…if you were an ancient Greek and busted out some speech notes in the Assembly, you’d probably be laughed at and mocked as weak-minded. The canon of memory then was in many ways a tool to increase an orator’s ethos, or authority with his audience.

We need not be as strict as the Greeks to expect an important public intellectual to be able to defend his ideas in public. There is a time for writing technical articles in obscure peer-reviewed economics journals. But there’s also a time to defend the ideas developed in those journals in public, for an audience that hasn’t taken courses in differential calculus and matrix algebra.

April 20, 2012

Bill Would Require ‘Black Boxes’ in All New Cars to Spy on You

by Eric T. Phillips

Eric Peters reports:

After a certain point, it’s not paranoia.

The latest brick in the wall is the predictably named “Moving Ahead For Progress in the 21st Century Act,” also known as Senate Bill 1813. (See here for the full text of the bill itself; the relevant section is 31406.) This legislation – already passed by the Senate and likely to be passed by the House – will impose a legal requirement that all new cars made beginning with the 2015 models be fitted with so-called Event Data Recorders (EDRs). These are the “black boxes” you may have read about that store data about how you drive – including whether you wear a seat belt and how fast you drive – ostensibly for purposes of post-accident investigation.

Read the rest.

If the feds fit together your driving patterns with all of your purchases (which will be tracked in the coming cashless society) and all of your emails and phone conversations, what won’t the government know about you?

April 20, 2012

The Coming Military Occupation of America

by Eric T. Phillips

Helicopters filled with heavily armed soldiers fly in formation over the Chicago skyline. Apparently, they’re preparing for the coming NATO summit that’s set to meet in the city and the “feisty protesters” sure to show up. The local Fox affiliate reports:

In all totalitarian regimes, the presence of fully-armed soldiers operating in civilian society becomes common place. That’s the direction we’re heading.

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April 9, 2012

The Ron Paul Movement and the Republican Party

by Eric T. Phillips

Strictly in terms of votes and delegates,  Ron Paul has performed respectably but largely below expectations throughout this past primary season. His problem, ironically, is the Republican Party.

I say ‘ironically’ because the party–while in many ways stupid and evil–gave Dr. Paul a platform to tell millions of people about liberty. Without the televised primary debates in 2007 and 2011, he would still be largely unknown. And, as a result, the libertarian movement would be far weaker.

Many Ron Paul supporters realize this, and many hope to build on the success they’ve already achieved within the Republican Party. One typical activist, for example, hopes that the Ron Paul people currently being elected as heads of the local Republican Party, as town councilmen, and as state legislators will come of age and finally hold real positions of  power in about twenty years time.

Right now, however, despite the Ron Paul movement’s impressive growth and intense enthusiasm, it’s a relatively weak constituency in the GOP. Think, how many Republican candidates for national office are running on a platform of reducing defense spending and ending the federal war on drugs? To ask the question is to answer it.

Despite consistently drawing large crowds around the country, many of the people who attend these rallies do not vote in Republican primaries. As Nia-Malika Henderson explains:

The problem is this: Although Paul is running to lead a party that looks like him — older, whiter, Southern — his crowds are younger, war-weary, more diverse and less likely to identify with one party or to vote.

The same independent streak that leads the young and the restless to Paul’s libertarian philosophy seems to make it more unlikely that these supporters will pick a side and a party, which is a requirement for many of the primary and caucus contests.

And so electoral success has remained elusive.

The movement’s leverage comes entirely from the possibility that it will defect to a third party in November. As Scott Clement of The Washington Post reports, “Paul as third party candidate could doom GOP in 2012.” But if the Republicans manage to keep Ron Paulians tied to the party with false promises and empty rhetoric–as they are desperately trying to do–they’ll have a strong shot at winning the presidency and will essentially have a blank check to start a war with Iran.

If Ron Paulians don’t leave the party when it nominates Mitt Romney, when will they leave?  And if all it takes to keep Ron Paulians in line is cheap talk, why would the party apparatchiks ever give anything more?

If we choose to pursue this go-along-get-along strategy within the GOP, it’s far more likely that the Republican Party will co-opt the Ron Paul movement than the other way around. It’s co-opted every other movement its ever brought under its wings (what ever happened to the ‘Buchanan Brigades’?) And what a long, slow, and pitiful death it would be for a movement that was born in such fiery optimism–ten thousand Ron Paul Republicans agreeing to water their message down just a little bit every year for twenty years in exchange for the perks of party leadership and the illusion of influence. What would be left at the end?

Justin Raimondo is right:

Republicans need to be taught a lesson, one they will never forget. By disdaining the substantial and growing libertarian wing of the GOP, and ignoring the desire for peace on the part of the larger public, they have earned nothing but defeat.


April 3, 2012

Don Boudreaux Writes to the Establishment Progressives at The Washington Post

by Eric T. Phillips

And explains to E.J. Dionne that founding fathers were not funded by the Kochs:

Flabbergasted that several justices of the U.S. Supreme Court think it appropriate to question the constitutionality of Obamacare’s individual mandate, E.J. Dionne tries to dismiss those justices by saying that they “repeatedly spouted views closely resembling the tweets and talking points issued by organizations of the sort funded by the Koch brothers” (“The right’s stealthy coup,” April 2).

A less inflammatory and far more accurate description of last week’s oral arguments is that those justices repeatedly spouted views closely resembling the statements and analysis issued by the founding fathers.

The “tweets and talking points” of 200 years ago are found mostly in written letters, such as a February 13, 1829, note from James Madison (who, I believe, was not funded by the Kochs) to Joseph Cabell, in which Madison said of the Commerce clause: “Yet it is very certain that it grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government.”

This statement (and others) by the Father of the Constitution makes clear that questioning the constitutionality of the individual mandate is perfectly proper.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University

The establishment left is indeed flabbergasted that a growing pro-freedom movement is challenging the hegemony it has enjoyed for the past century. Their response has been, effectively, to assure their readers of their own intellectual superiority and to call their political opponents stupid. (Didn’t you know that Steven Pearlsteinwon a certain prize” for his contradictory reporting on the financial crisis? How dare you question him?!) Fortunately, their monopoly on “respectable ” political discourse continues to rapidly disintegrate.  And if they want to continue to convince people that America’s bankrupt corporatist state is really a good and just political arrangement, they’ll have to do more than mockingly disparage their opponents’ intelligence.

April 1, 2012

NBC Edits Zimmerman’s 911 Call

by Eric T. Phillips

On the Today Show this past Tuesday, NBC aired an edited version of George Zimmerman’s 911 call, just before he killed Trayvon Martin.

In the NBC segment, Zimmerman says: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

The full version, however, happened like this:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

911 operator: “Okay. And this guy, is he white, black, or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

In other words, Zimmerman only mentions Martin’s race after he was asked about it. The NBC version makes it seem like Zimmerman equates being black with being “up to no good.”

As Lew Rockwell notes, “typical MSM.”

April 1, 2012

An Individual Broccoli Mandate?

by Eric T. Phillips

Steven Pearlstein is upset with the conservative Supreme Court justices. He hoped “to see the best and the brightest engage in a reasoned debate on the limits of federal power.” But instead he saw “political posturing, Jesuitical hair-splitting and absurd hypotheticals.”

He is particularly upset about those “absurd hypotheticals,” that tendency of Scalia and Alito to “to latch on to an opposing argument and take it to its illogical extreme in order to show how silly it is.” If the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the conservatives argued, couldn’t the government make people eat broccoli or join a gym, since those mandates could also lower health care costs?

Of course giving Congress the power to force people to buy health insurance implicitly gives it the power to force people to eat broccoli, Pearlstein concedes, but the latter law would just be “stupid.” So Congress wouldn’t pass such a law. And if it did, that’s why we have elections.

But if you accept Pearlstein’s premises–that the free market is to blame for the high cost of health care and that Congress has the right and the responsibility to fix these problems by forcing people to buy things–why would forcing people to eat broccoli be a stupid law? Congress could create jobs by employing federal health officers to search the nation for people not getting their recommended daily intake of vegetables and imposing on the rest of us with their poor health. It could fund these new positions with punitive taxes on sugar and fast food. Meanwhile, the Department of Education could issue new rules that force cafeterias to serve healthy fare (as defined by the government) and forbid students from bringing their own lunches with them to school, as some schools have already done. Would these laws be stupid?

Well, yes. But there are a lot of people who think otherwise.

Fortunately, the constitution delegates no power to the federal government that would allow it to engage in such futile and tyrannical attempts at the central planning of the American diet. But unfortunately, people like Pearlstein are engaged in a never-ending attempt to render the constitution “a blank paper by construction.”

March 31, 2012

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels Signs ‘Right to Resist’ Bill

by Eric T. Phillips

In a victory for the principles embedded in the Magna Carta, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has signed into law the bill that would allow citizens to resist government employees engaged in illegal activity. This means that a citizen who uses reasonable force against a police officer either in self-defense or in order to resist an illegal search will not (or should not) be prosecuted.

The new law is a response to the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Barnes v. State of Indiana, which established the principle that “there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.”

Opponents are worried that the new law (which really just reaffirms an old principle) will lead to an outbreak of violence against police. But the law is hardly a blank check for citizens to attack cops. It simply recognizes that the right to self-defense does not go away if the assailant is wearing a government uniform.


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