Politics: June 2006 Archives

I'm no fan of the flag-burning amendment Congress just tried to pass, but Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) has a very strange argument against it. He says the amendment flies in the face of 1st Amendment freedom of speech. Well, yes, at least on standard readings of the 1st Amendment. I do think burning a flag is a stupid and wasteful way to make any point, but I think free speech has enough value that those who think they're saying something by burning a flag should be allowed to do so. But my reasoning for this is based on the value of free speech. It's not based on the first amendment. It makes no sense to argue against amending the Constitution by appealing to the Constitution. Byrd's complaint would be like arguing against the repeal of Prohibition by saying that Prohibition was in the Constitution. The 21st Amendment most definitely flies in the face of the 18th. But then that was the point. So too with this. Of course it flies in the face of something that its goal is to limit. I liked what Byrd had to say about why the gay marriage amendment was stupid, and I think there are similar arguments that work here, but this particular argument is pretty lame.

Most of the other things he says in this speech are ok, but I have to note another mistake that Senator Leahy also made recently. Senator Byrd at least acknowledges one amendment that limited individual freedom (the 13th), but he misses several of the others I listed in the above-linked post, most notably Prohibition. Perhaps he just meant currently valid amendments. Still, I think the others I listed are most plausibly taken as limitations on individual rights (notwithstanding some commenters' arguments to the contrary).

Regardless of what you think about whether we should have invaded Iraq to begin with, surely we bear the moral responsibility not to leave Iraq in a position that the list of people below would be the first to describe as terrible, especially given that they will have a very tough time making any progress toward a secure country with the current state of their forces. Given that the thirteen senators listed below will also be the first to say that we caused this situation, it's amazing to me that they will deny that it's our moral responsibility to do what we can to make reparations or amends. I think it's thoroughly immoral that anyone would be willing to vote to pull us out by a certain deadline without caring if the Iraqi military forces will by that time be able to handle the situation themselves. I have less to say about the other amendment that the Senate also rejected today, since that involves more complicated issues that I haven't investigated (and am in no position physically to do any investigating today), but I think the following senators deserve a severe reprimand from their consistuents for their unwillingness to take responsibility for the bad situation they are so happy to say we caused. Those most critical of the invasion of Iraq and our continued efforts there, particularly those who emphasize the negative consequences of that action, have no intellectual right to demand that we leave Iraq in its current state (or even in the expected state one year from now, which is how the amendment was worded).

Here are the offenders:

Someone sent me a link to a piece by RJ Escrow called The Evangelighouls -- How The Christian Right Exploits War's Youngest Victims. He's crossposted it also at his personal blog Night Light. It's basically a hack smear of Campus Crusade for Christ, the second largest Christian missions organization in the world (after the Southern Baptist Convention's missions wing).

There are plenty of errors in Escrow's post. Some of these are purely factual. He consistently misspells the name of Steve Sellers (as Sellars). He says Sellers is president of Campus Crusade, a position currently held by Steve Douglass (and only ever held by one other person, founder Bill Bright). Sellers is a vice-president overseeing the ministries in North and South America, not president of the whole organization. In the earlier draft picked up by Yahoo, he uses a definite article before the name 'Campus Crusade for Christ', a common feature of those who speak derisively about the organization who don't really know anything about it. He seems to have removed all but three of those at this point. What disturbs me more are Escrow's false attributions, misrepresentations, and assumptions of motives well beyond the evidence.

On NPR this morning, they had a brief segment on the current gay marriage debate. I don't support this amendment, for reasons on at least four levels, most of which I've covered so many times before that I don't want to go into it all again right now. But even if you fully opposed this amendment, it doesn't do to say false or misleading things in order to support that view. Senator Patrick Leahy was quoted on NPR this morning saying that this amendment would be the first time in U.S. history that we would amend the Constitution to limit individual rights. I'm not sure what he's talking about, because I count six times that amdenments have done exactly that.

13th Amendment, Section 1: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

That sounds to me like a limiting of individual rights. I would have a right to own slaves if the 13th Amendment were not in effect. I do not have such a right due to that amendment. The 13th Amendment thus limits my individual rights.

14th Amendment, Section 3: "No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

This takes away the individual right to hold certain offices among those who have committed certain offenses. That's an individual right that the amendment removes.



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