Archive for July, 2009

The sideshow of Obama’s birth certificate

July 28, 2009

Perhaps you’ve heard of the surprising resurgence of interest in Barack Obama’s place of birth.

Maybe someone who spends copious hours investigating forged documents can help me, but I don’t see how there can be any confusion over the subject of where Barack Obama was born.

What is truly confusing about this ordeal is how people like Alan Keyes can think that even if Obama were from Kenya that it would make sense to force him out of office on these grounds.

Invalidating the prior election is a pretty big deal considering the effort that election workers, the staffers of the two candidates and the voters put forth thinking that they were having an impact on the government. With that in mind, there would have to be some significant gains from removing Obama from office to make up for the losses that would be incurred in the form of: 1) Having a president who was not elected by the public; and 2) Further disillusionment with politics in the population and a drop in future voter participation.

The position of Keyes and the other “birthers” would be more understandable if the “natural-born” clause of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution served a useful purpose. The anti-Obama websites that I’ve visited suggest that the rationale for the clause is one of preventing the ascension to the presidency of someone with allegiances to foreign powers.

But exactly what security do they believe is compromised by having non-natives, even those with long-standing citizenship, accede to the presidency? John Dean, former legal counsellor to Richard Nixon, wrote a good column a few years ago detailing the problems created by the clause, one of which being that it prevents “security threats” such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madeline Albright, Henry Kissinger and Michigan’s current governor Jennifer Granholm from becoming president because of their place of birth.

Granted, you may not like any of the people I mentioned but it’s hard to see how their country of birth contributed to how good (or bad) they’ve been as public servants compared to their natural-born peers.

I say it’s time for the natural-born clause to go and that, not Obama’s birth certificate, should be the issue that Dobbs, Limbaugh et al. get fired up over.

A bar exam to become an adult

July 18, 2009

There are many laws that prohibit minors from engaging in certain behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, marrying, etc.

Most of the arguments I’ve heard on these issues rely on the notion that the lawmakers have a better idea of what is good for a child than the child itself. I reckon the lawmakers think this because children, as a general rule, are less educated than adults about the behaviors in question. The average minor may not know the effects of smoking as well as the average adult, and therefore be in a bad position to determine if smoking is a good idea.

The problem I see with this is that age is only a very rough approximation of intelligence. In the case of smoking, it could very well be the case that owing to the barrage of anti-smoking information children are given they may have more knowledge of its harmful effects than most adults who never received that education or have long since forgotten it.

A solution I’d like to see implemented is to offer minors a test whereby they could prove they had ample knowledge of smoking, or alcohol (or whatever else is prohibited) to be able to engage in those behaviors prior to their 18th birthday (or 21st).

Take whatever information adults are assumed to possess about these subjects and then create a multiple choice exam to see if there are minors who possess this information as well. If so, those minors would be given the same freedom as adults.

A possible counterargument might be that some of those prohibitions have to do with physical aspects of the minor and not their capacity to make good decisions. Commenting on the effect alcohol has on adolescents, Dr. Linda Patia Spear remarked, “Rapidly changing body systems often are particularly vulnerable to disruption, and hence long-term consequences may result from alcohol exposure during this time of accelerated neural and endocrine system maturation.”

While convincing, I’m left wondering if the government should not also make laws that limit the alcohol-intake of adult alcoholics who are in danger of liver failure and other alcohol induced problems. I don’t see why the government should take pains to prevent minors from drinking even an ounce but turn a blind eye to adults who drink themselves to death.