The Birth Certificate is a Red Herring

July 26, 2009

I’ve been a long-time fan of John Hawkins’ work at Right Wing News, but his recent piece on the Obama birth certificate controversy is unconvincing:

Since it is a constitutional requirement that the President be born in the United States, it’s understandable that some people have been concerned about where Barack Obama was born. Furthermore, when you consider the fact that Barack Obama is a shameless liar, that he grew up in another country, and that there has been a lot of conflicting information out there, it’s easy to see why so many people have become concerned about where he was born.

All that being said: Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Granted, not everyone on the Right agrees with this assessment, but nevertheless, it’s so.

I agree with Hawkins and other conservative bloggers who’ve argued contra myriad conspiracy theories that Barack H. Obama was indeed born on August 4, 1961 at 7:24 p.m. in Honolulu, Hawaii. I accept this as established fact.

However, I disagree with Hawkins’ framing of the eligibility issue. The problem starts in his very first sentence. Hawkins says that “it is a constitutional requirement that the President be born in the United States.” This is incorrect.

The U.S. Constitution states in pertinent part that “no person except a natural born citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President (emphasis added). . .”

While some on the fringe right have claimed that Obama was born in Kenya or that his mother renounced her citizenship at some point, the question of Obama’s eligibility hinges entirely on the meaning of the term “natural born citizen.”

Elsewhere throughout the document, the Constitution referenced various other terms, including “person,” “inhabitant,” “citizen,” and “naturalized citizen,” but “natural born citizen” only appears in the section regarding eligibility for the office of the Presidency. Logically, it follows the term “natural born citizen” means something different than these other terms.

It is highly unlikely that the term “natural born citizen” simply mirrors the Britain common law understanding of “natural born subject.” The British used this concept to demand perpetual allegiance from, and exercise sovereignty over, persons born within any territory claimed by the Crown. This was the basis of British impressment of American sailors that led to the War of 1812. Indeed, American resentment over this odious British practice was one of the specific grievances against King George III listed in the Declaration of Independence: “He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.”

The term “natural born citizen” is derived from Emmerich de Vattel’s The Law of Nations, the leading treatise on the subject for over a century following its publication in 1758. The Framers were well acquainted with Vattel’s treatise and incorporated its concept of “natural born citizen” in framing the requirements for Presidential eligibility:

“The citizens are the members of the civil society; bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. The society is supposed to desire this, in consequence of what it owes to its own preservation; and it is presumed, as matter of course, that each citizen, on entering into society, reserves to his children the right of becoming members of it. The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children; and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. We shall soon see whether, on their coming to the years of discretion, they may renounce their right, and what they owe to the society in which they were born. I say, that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen, for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country (emphasis added).”
— de Vattel, Emmerich (The Law of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 19, §212: Citizens and Natives)

See this article by Dr. Orly Taitz for an extensive discussion of Vattel’s influence on the Founding Fathers.

As the highlighted excerpt from de Vattel demonstrates, the requirement was clearly intended to safeguard against the possibility of divided or coerced loyalty. The Constitutional language makes this quite clear:

“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President. . .”

If the term natural born citizen meant simply a person who acquired citizenship by birth, then the carve-out for mere Citizens when the Constitution was adopted would have been superfluous, as Washington and the other Founders were born in America. To prevent even the possibility of divided loyalty, the Founders insisted on at least two generations of American citizenship as a prerequisite for Presidential eligibility. The grandfathering the Founding Fathers’ generation was a necessary exception since few adults from that generation met the two generation requirement of natural born citizenship.

The biggest mistake in the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate is the focus on the birth certificate.

The birth certificate is a red herring.

It isn’t about the birth certificate. It isn’t even about Barack Obama.

It’s about Barack Obama’s British/Kenyan citizen father.

H/t to my good friend Luis Gonzalez at Boiling Frogs who’s been right about this issue from the beginning.


Obama Countdown Clock

July 24, 2009

I stumbled across this cool gadget while surfing the Internet. If you have Vista, you can add it to your desktop.

Barack Obama Countdown widget brought to you by www.obamacountdownwidget.com

Atheist Summer Camp

July 23, 2009

From the Sacramento Bee:

At Camp Quest, campers may not believe in God, but they do have faith in their community.

On Sunday evening, 49 children from across the western United States arrived at the camp nestled in the hills outside Nevada City. It is one of five summer camps in the country for the children of atheists and other nonbelievers.
. . .
Their activities, however, have a decidedly secular twist.

Campers play games that encourage critical thinking such as one called Evolution and another where they are asked to prove something invisible doesn’t exist.

Before meals, they learn about freethinking heroes such as Margaret Sanger and Isaac Asimov.

Sanger was certainly an atheist. Her battlecry was “No gods. No masters.” One wonders if the freethinking curriculum includes a discussion of Sanger’s “progressive” ideas on eugenics and race, including her advocacy of birth control and sterilization of blacks.

While their parents are atheists or freethinkers, many of the children said they are unsure of their beliefs. Hinckley said she is not ready to label herself an atheist.

“I don’t really believe in God,” said Hinckley. “But really, I’m just not sure.”

That’s exactly the kind of thinking-for-yourself that is encouraged at Camp Quest.

One lesson in critical thinking involved a campfire story about an invisible monster name Schree. Camp staffers pretend they believe that a monster exists because their parents told them so or a friend who told them about it is really cool. They promise to pay a camper $10 to prove it doesn’t exist. No camper has ever won.

“It helps them learn that these kind of arguments don’t go anywhere,” said Lindstrom. “And that they shouldn’t believe everything they hear.”

One reason these kind of arguments don’t go anywhere is the lack of critical thinking skills displayed by those who claim that belief in God is equivalent to belief in “an invisible monster named Scree,” unicorns or the Easter bunny.

The International Programs Center, U.S. Census Bureau estimates the total world population is 6,773,000,000 as of July 23, 2009. According to Adherents.com, anywhere from 88% to 96% of the world population believe in God. I would wager that the percentage of adults who profess belief in Scree, unicorns and the Easter bunny is much closer to zero than to the total number of attendees at Camp Quest atheist summer camp.

If God is an illusion, He would seem to be a stubbornly persistent illusion that causes even disbelievers to go through so much effort to deny Him.

Personally I don’t believe in Scree, unicorns or the Easter bunny, but I am not quite so heavily invested in my disbelief as atheists. In fact, to date I’ve expended zero effort to convince others that these invisible critters don’t exist. One wonders why atheists spend so much time arguing against the existence God (and telling us how much they dislike Him), when their own critical thinking exercises are intended to show that such debates are pointless.

The very existence of atheism is inexplicable if you accept the atheists’ unexamined assertion that belief in God is equivalent to belief in other alleged imaginary beings. So far Dawkins, Dennett et al. have written zero books regarding the existence vel non of leperchauns. I’ve never been confronted by an angry and defiant disbeliever in Thor. And I’ve yet to see even a single bumper sticker mocking the Tooth Fairy. Like the Sherlock Holmes mystery involving the dog that didn’t bark during the night, it’s a curious singularity to see these “New” Atheists barking only at God. The atheists’ obvious response is that refutations of other imaginary creatures are unnecessary because no one believes in these things.

Precisely.

That’s why comparisons to Scree and other imaginary creatures fail to explain the persistence of belief in a transcendental Creator, but say a great deal about atheists themselves. As G.K. Chesterton said “If there was no God, there would be no atheists.”

Hat tip: Jewish World Review


Al Qaeda Justice Pick

July 22, 2009

I just saw this story from the New York Post last Friday:

IF you were hiring a lawyer to help pro tect Americans from terrorists, you likely wouldn’t choose a left-wing ac tivist who’s been a champion of the killers held at Guantanamo Bay.

Then again, you’re not President Obama. His Justice Department has raised eyebrows by tapping Jennifer Daskal, formerly “senior counterterrorism counsel” at Human Rights Watch, to work as counsel in its National Security Division and to serve on a task force deciding the future of Guantanamo and its detainees.
. . .

As a lawyer for the advocacy group, Daskal never missed a chance to give Gitmo detainees the benefit of the doubt while assuming the worst about US government intentions. She has called for a “truth commission” to investigate Bush anti-terror policies, and was even unhappy with Team Obama before joining it.
. . .

Daskal thinks America is guilty of torture — but she has an odd understanding of it. In a 54-page report on Gitmo detainees’ allegedly deteriorating mental health, she laments how one detainee, “a self-styled poet,” “found it was nearly impossible to write poetry anymore because the prison guards would only allow him to keep a pen or pencil in his cell for short periods of time.” Quick, call the Red Cross!

Then there’s the attention Daskal lavished on Canadian-born Omar Khadr, a detainee she says is being denied “his rights as a child.” (Human Rights Watch has urged Defense Secretary Bob Gates to transfer Khadr to courts where he’d be treated as a juvenile.)

He’s an adult now, but Khadr was 15 when apprehended on an Afghan battlefield — where, US troops say, he launched the grenade that killed Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer.

Sgt. Layne Morris, who was wounded by the same grenade, calls claims that Khadr should be treated as a child “laughable.” And he says: “The fact that she took on that young man’s case — and has argued the ridiculous things that she has — and is now appointed to the Justice Department, where she brings in those same thought processes and prejudices — it doesn’t bode well for the security of our country.”

Full piece here.

The Obama Administration is besotted with terrorists like Khadar, but threatens to prosecute CIA and Bush White House officials who kept us safe from terrorist attacks since 9/11.

It’s going to be a l-o-n-g four years.


Newsweek’s Top 100 Books: The “Meta-List”

July 21, 2009

Someone recently forwarded what might be the worst Top 100 Book list ever compiled courtesy of Newsweek.

Declaring the best book ever written is tricky business. Who’s to say what the best is? We went one step further: we crunched the numbers from 10 top books lists (Modern Library, the New York Public Library, St. John’s College reading list, Oprah’s, and more) to come up with The Top 100 Books of All Time. It’s a list of lists — a meta-list. Let the debate begin.

The term “meta-list” seems to be a fancy postmodernist way of saying they put zero thought into the actual compilation of this list and minimal thought into deciding which “expert” opinions to crib. Oprah’s Book Club and Wikipedia? Why not Michael Moore or Joe the Plumber? I am curious why such a minimalist project required credits for “statistical analysis” or “research,” which my 13-year-old niece could easily replicate in a few hours.

The first reader comment is devastating:

Posted By: El Gigante @ 07/20/2009 11:10:19 AM
This list is an unholy mess. All this proves is that, by trying to be eclectic and egalitarian, you’re just giving everybody equal reason to complain about why one genre or another has been woefully neglected. You’ve managed a perfect illustration of our highly confused and conflicted meta-culture, although I’m not sure that’s what you were going for. It actually makes sense that you didn’t publish this list in print, as the sprawling internet is its only rightful place.

Here’s an eclectic and uneven list of my complaints:

Glaring omissions from French literature: Hugo, Dumas, Camus, Sartre

Glaring omissions from German literature: Goethe, Hesse, Kafka, Kant

Glaring omissions from Russian literature: Dostoevsky, Gogol, Chekov, Solzhenitsyn

Glaring omissions from English and American literature: I wouldn’t know where to start …

Omissions in Sci-Fi: Asimov, Wells, Heinlein, Bradbury

And since you’ve gone out of your way to throw a bone to just about every possible group, I should point out that you somehow neglected to include an Arabic writer as important as Naguib Mahfouz. I’m sure there are other greats from other cultures that have gotten short shrift. The fact that you could never have made room for all of these giants is a very good reason this list should never have been made in the first place (although dropping a few duds wouldn’t have hurt that cause). The obvious mistakes in the order are too many to mention, but, as an illustration, is Winnie the Pooh really of higher quality or significance than Hamlet? That should tell you there’s something wrong with your criteria, whatever they might be.

A while ago, TIME put together a much more sensible list that included only English language books published since 1923. It may not have been as broad or ambitious as this list, but it actually made some sense. Parameters are still useful. (emphasis added)


Obama vs. Obama on the Stimulus

July 21, 2009

Has to be seen to be believed. Comrade Obama changes the past.

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
— George Orwell, 1984

Hat tip: Fox News


Change Comes to Mississippi

July 16, 2009

From the Daily Telegraph:
Down the Mississippi: Barack Obama effect ends white rule in Deep South town

A tiny Mississippi delta town has elected its first black mayor after the white incumbent, unopposed for 30 years, faced a young challenger inspired by President Barack Obama’s feat in winning the White House.

In a shock result in Alligator (population 220), Tommie “Tomaso” Brown, 38, defeated Robert Fava, the mayor since 1979, owner of the general store and once his opponent’s boss, by 37 votes to 27.

Mr Brown’s surprise victory was a milestone for Alligator, which is named after the curving lake nearby rather than the alligators that once occupied it. Although the only three businesses in the shrinking, tumble-down town are run by whites, three-quarters of the population is now black.

“They wanted a black mayor,” said a philosophical Mr Fava, 71. “Another Obama – I think that’s what brought it on. I ran on ’30 years of dedicated service’ and he ran on ’Change’. He promised a swimming pool and a recreation centre, which he can’t do.

Full article here.

Mr Brown was the first black man ever to stand for Mayor of Alligator and it took Mr Obama’s election to galvanise him into action. “Obama was a major influence on everybody,” he said, almost drowned out by the chirping of crickets in the sweltering afternoon heat. “He inspired me. I’m not going to take that from him.

I found this part particularly inspiring:

Some youngsters ran into Mr Fava’s store to taunt him. “They was pulling down their pants, shouting, ’Kiss my black ass, because we got a black mayor’, swinging their things around and throwing stuff,” said Jennifer Green, 31, a black mother of 10.


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