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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Friday, June 16, 2006

On Flag Burning

I was watching O'Reilly the other night and he mentioned in passing his opposition to a Constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the American flag. His reason, which I thought was a bit goofy, was that burning an American flag is "protected," meaning, we can assume, protected by the 1st Amendment right to free speech.

My thought, when I heard him say that, was, "Well, we are in bizarre times when igniting a piece of cloth is a form of speech." But he's actually right. The Supreme Court, in 1989, decided that flag burning is in fact "symbolic speech," contorting the Bill of Rights into a shape most painful. But protected it is.

My next thought was, "That's right, Bill, but that's the whole point behind the passage of a Constitutional amendment - to instruct the court to never consider flag burning a form of speech again. Or, in other words, to unprotect it."

The O'Reilly episode was brought to mind when I read this:

America Should Not Restrict Flag Burning
Jason Vick, Collegiate Times

It appears that Congress has yet to outgrow its desire to pass a flag-burning amendment to the constitution. Along with Bush’s push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, conservatives in Congress, along with Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, are pushing for another go at the perennial amendment to ban flag-burning.

The absolute absurdity of such an amendment has not been fully conveyed to us. No matter how vulgar, how profane, how insulting, offensive and perverse an act of protest is, so long as no physical harm comes of it, the state has no place legislating its restriction.

The freedom of assembly and freedom of speech enshrined in the First Amendment indicates that when citizens are assembled, they may speak in protest as they choose, not as the government regulates.

Any such step towards the regulation of non-violent, symbolic protest is a dangerous step down a harsh and authoritarian path. Such an amendment sounds like it would fit in all too well with our ugly history of sedition acts and treason laws used to target dissidents in wartime. It is, and will always be, simply unacceptable. (link)

Wow. I don't know who Jason Vick is but, since Collegiate Times is Virginia Tech's student newspaper, I'll assume he is an educatee there and is (a) young enough to have not lived in the 200 years when flag burning was in fact illegal but (b) old enough and educated enough to know that to be the case. Flag burning was, until 1989, against "the harsh and authoritarian" law in every state in the land.

And Jason Vick falls into the same trap Bill O'Reilly did - albeit with a good deal more hyperbole. "The freedom of speech is enshrined ... "

I have to tell you, I've been on both sides of this issue at various points in time over the years, especially in those crazy years when I flirted with libertarianism. And I may change my mind yet again before I die. Which means I'm not a fanatic and will be able to live with myself whatever is decided (and will continue to amuse myself with the thought that putting a match to a flag is a verbal act).

But young Jason hits on the argument that I think makes the case for flag desecration to be prohibited by an amendment to the Constitution. It's in these words:

No matter how vulgar, how profane, how insulting, offensive and perverse an act of protest is ...
There are many, many people in this country who treasure the tangible symbol (another symbol; why isn't it "protected speech?") of the USA - the red, white, and blue - and are deeply aggrieved by those who inflict damage upon it. They want their government to protect that symbol from harm. And if the Supreme Court stands in their way, which it decided to do, they go around it by having the legislature enact a law that the populace subsequently votes up or down that then, if supported by enough people, becomes the law of the land. That's how we do things in this country. Separation of powers and all that.

But to say that we can't change the Constitution because it would violate the Constitution (O'Reilly!) is a little silly. And wrong.

Lest we forget, it all gets back to this:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Never Repeat The Past

From a business perspective, what is the one (terrifying) image that comes to mind when reminiscing on the Jimmy Carter years?

Inflation.

And what is the one concept that will send the markets into a panic more quickly than any other lo these many years later?

Inflation.

So, when the Fed chairman talks happy about the potential for inflation to be receding, how does the stock exchange react?
Stocks Soar as Fed Chief Eases Fears on Inflation
By Vikas Bajaj, The New York Times


Share prices turned up sharply yesterday in a broad rally that was fed by tame inflation remarks from the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, even as it added to concerns about increasing volatility in the market.

Stocks gained for a second day after five tumultuous weeks in which they gave back all of their gains for the year.

Mr. Bernanke, whose recent statements about inflation have unsettled markets, helped the rally when he told business executives that high oil prices had not yet driven up inflation expectations or the cost of goods and services in a substantial way, though they were threatening to do so in coming months. (
link)

I wouldn't mortgage the farm yet to buy stocks. There's that little "in coming months." And the oil shock is bound to hit before long.

But for now, life is good. For now ...

The Party Of Tokenism

While the Republican party proudly promotes black candidates for the United States Senate in Maryland, for governor in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and for the House of Representatives in a number of districts around the country, including nearby Winston-Salem, NC, the Democratic party is throwing its token negroes off the plantation:
Democrats Vote to Force Jefferson Aside
By Kate Zernike, The New York Times


WASHINGTON, June 15 — House Democrats voted on Thursday night to strip a Louisiana congressman of a key committee position as they tried to avoid any taint of scandal in a year when they want to ride accusations of Republican corruption to election victories.

The congressman,
William J. Jefferson, is the subject of a federal bribery investigation and has insisted he has done nothing wrong. He has rebuffed efforts to get him to step aside voluntarily. (link)

What's interesting about this is that this kind of action has never in the history of the country been taken before. Even the infamous Tom Delay wasn't removed from his committee chairmanship until he was indicted. Congressman Jefferson, although appearing (if the mainstream newspapers are to be trusted) to have been caught red-handed taking bribes, hasn't been convicted of anything. He hasn't even been charged.

He is a pawn in the Democrats' game of politics. Nothing more than a token.

Blame It On The Oil Companies!

There are people around the globe who choose to blame Big Oil and capitalism for the world's problems. But these days Big Oil is growingly linked not to those infamous capitalists who run Exxon and BP but to thugs and Marxists. Saddam comes to mind (well, came to mind) as does Fidel wannabe Hugo Chavez.

And then there's Africa.

For those of you who think Exxon-Mobil exploits the masses, you might consider this story related to fabulously wealthy - and Marxist - Angola:
In Oil-Rich Angola, Cholera Preys Upon Poorest
By Sharon LaFraniere, The New York Times


LUANDA, Angola, June 10 — In a nation whose multibillion-dollar oil boom should arguably make its people rich enough to drink Evian, the water that many in this capital depend on goes by a less fancy name: Bengo.

The Bengo River passes north of here, its waters dark with grit, its banks strewn with garbage.

This is one reason, health experts here say, that Luanda's slums are now the center of one of the worst cholera epidemics to strike Africa in nearly a decade, an outbreak that has sickened 43,000 Angolans and killed more than 1,600 since it began in February.

"I have never seen anything like it," said David Weatherill, a water and sanitation expert for Doctors Without Borders, which is leading the response to the epidemic. "You see conditions like this on a smaller scale. But I have never seen it on such a huge scale. It is quite shocking." (
link)
Disease. Pestilence. Stunning poverty the likes of which the western world hasn't seen since the Dark Ages ...

... and fabulous wealth:
Angola is in the midst of a gusher in oil revenue, its hotels crammed with oil executives and its harbor filled with tankers carrying away the 1.4 million barrels of crude pumped here each day. The economy grew by 18 percent last year. The government racked up a budget surplus of more than $2 billion.

This year it is expected to take in $16.8 billion in revenue, well over twice the $7.5 billion it received in 2004. Next year, revenue is expected to rise by a third again, almost all because of oil.
Big Oil exploiting the masses? No. The oil companies are paying market price for Angola's crude. The problem is Angola hasn't the ability to exploit the opportunity. There is no capitalism. The marxist government there provides the means by which the oil revenue is distributed. Or not:
Economists say the government simply has more money than it can spend.
The lesson? For those of you who firmly believe that capitalism - free enterprise - is the root of all evil, I'd suggest you take a look at Angola and witness the alternative. Whether it's the Soviet system in Russia (of old) or the collectivist system in Cuba - or the socialist system in France - the alternative brings nothing but failure.