Diatribes - Computer, Economic & Political

This blog is really just for me. If you find something interesting on it, leave me a comment. If you disagree with something, let me know what and why. In this blog I am just putting some of my thoughts for computers, the economy, politics, and other topics in writing.

29 October 2008

Obama v. McCain - they're not all bad either

This is once again a response to another email. Yuck, I know.

This discussion has put me in the uncomfortable position of defending Obama. To be clear, I'm not an Obama supporter. I think he's wrong all over on social issues. I think he's wrong all over on family issues. I only mean to defend him from attacks I think are inaccurate or unfair. I'd do the same for McCain if someone brought up the Keating 5 scandal. So far, I think Baldwin is the closest fit for what I actually think. Take a look at his platform, as a strict constitutionalist I think you'll like it too. He's got some nutty issues too, but fewer than McCain or Obama in my opinion.

I'm inclined to agree with you that we've got a semi-socialist/welfare state now. If I were king for a day, I'd yank it in a second, if it weren't for all the people who have grown to expect it. It'd be kind of unfair to yank away social security from those who've paid into it thinking it'd be their retirement money. I don't know what to do about the reliance interest people have developed in our welfare state, it is a tricky question. I don't think more welfare is the way to go, though you're right that democrats are generally in support of this (Obama is no exception). I do think there is enough in the system for everyone to live comfortably if everyone gave to charity as generously as they comfortably could, but mandating it seems unfair.

As for the Obama quote anti-constitution, I understand the suggested interpretation. Personally, I think it requires reading something into what he's saying that isn't there, but reasonable people can disagree. Initially I went through it blow by blow in this response, but I removed it since it didn't add anything. It comes down to what you want to believe, I want to believe Obama was only defending Brown v. Board of Ed, you want to believe Obama was criticizing the constitution and promoting wealth redistribution. As for negative liberties (for the government), the constitution *is* set up that way - to limit government. The name shouldn't connote anything bad though.

I don't know anyone who would say the constitution, great & inspired as it is, is totally flawless. It left out a number of key rights such as a general right to privacy, it supported slavery, it enfranchised only white male landowners, and it is very skeletal. I know there are important reasons for these things - slavery was a compromise and it wouldn't have passed the states without limited support, and federalists were afraid of listing rights for fear that people would think listed rights were the only ones they'd have (which turned out prophetic) - but they're still faults. I don't see Obama pointing to any "fundamental flaws" in the constitution; at most he's suggesting the constitution would be better if it listed government duties to citizens (like national defense). That seems reasonable to me. I might disagree with him on what those duties should be, but I don't know exactly what his list would look like.

As for the statement: "This is the lawyer speaking. This is the problem. No offense but lawyers tend to do this. They take a meaning of something and spin and twist it." I have a few comments. First I'd say it is wholly unfair to paint an entire profession as categorically dishonest. I know people who would say similar things about history teachers. Lawyers may twist words to get them to say what they want, and history teachers may twist history to get it to say what they want. I know it is cool to smear lawyers - we're easy targets given we're often forced to defend losing issues & loser clients - but I absolutely disagree with this statement & the sentiment behind it. I think history teachers try to honestly understand history, and lawyers try to honestly understand words. I also think lawyers are categorically one of the most honest professions, held to one of the highest professional standards, and are by and in large are up to the requirements.

Two points on ACORN. First, I don't see them as universally harmful. Yes I disagree with lots of their positions, but they support some admirable and under served causes. Take a look here. I know you hate wikipedia, but take a look at the citations if you doubt the content. McCain has visited ACORN meetings as recently as 2006, so he isn't free of connection either, though he's certainly less connected than Obama. Also, to say the the democrats are the only ones involved with voter fraud is absurd - just google "voting purges" - the GOP has been responsible for massive purges recently in Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina. No one's hands are clean here (except 3rd parties). And the concerns with voter fraud & ACORN run smack into another issue I brought up earlier - the firing of the US prosecutors. The DOJ found that former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was wrongfully fired by Alberto Gonzales after Iglesias declined to indict over alleged voter fraud at an ACORN affiliate in New Mexico, because of insufficient evidence. So it isn't clear to me why ACORN is unabashedly evil, even if I disagree with a plurality of their tenets.

Actually on a related note, this is a quote from one of my favorite books - Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut. "Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side." I certainly don't think anyone has suggested they hate anyone else, but I think the comment also relates to disagreeing and condemning without reservation. There is good in every person, and I think Obama has quite a bit of good in him. His record of community service, he's a terrific father & husband, and he genuinely wants to help America. Similar things can be said for McCain - he loves his country, he is willing to serve, and he genuinely wants to help America as well. Unless you're debating the policies of Satan himself, I think there is something you can agree with in every person, party, and organization.

As for the quotes you provided on marxism, they seem to suggest lots of people are marxist. I'm concerned how people have been "priviledged or disabled by their position within the social structure." I see genuine issues that need real solutions (I just don't think raw wealth transfers are the solution). I also think both parties are supportive of a "strong state" - both Obama & McCain have generally taken positions to expand federal influence. I think any economist would agree that a valid purpose of government is to "regulate, to reform . . . the private property market economy of liberalism because of the inequality or alienation it creates." That is what anti trust & regulation is all about.

I just don't think Obama is interested in "replacing" the private property market with "collective or public ownership of the means of production." On the criticism of wikipedia, I think wikipedia is a great source for the mainstream understanding of a term - certainly more so than a specific professor or two. The professors will certainly have better insight into the theory, but as we all know professors specialize to a large degree and their knowledge isn't always representative of the common parlance of a term. I'm not suggesting that wikipedia is reliable enough to use as a source in a research paper, but I think it *is* reliable enough for a quick term look up. Had I been writing a thesis in response, I'd have looked up marx & engels proper, but I'm not being that formal. Attacking wikipedia doesn't invalidate my assertion that Obama isn't marxist - certainly Marx's own writings would a be better source, but I'm afraid I don't have them on hand.

In any event, I think your last statement was bang on - democrats are more "democratic socialists" - which I'd say includes Obama. Marxist just doesn't fit. Thanks for the response, I also enjoy this kind of thing (obviously), and I swear I won't continue this thread any longer.


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