Saturday, April 24, 2010

John Smithson's Inadequate Response To My Questions

Recently, I had decided to ask conservative activist, John Smithson, some questions, seeing that he had recently asked me some questions and then used my responses in his repeated attempt to smear me, at one point telling his readership that I had not offered a response to him, proving that I was some kind of "Marxist obstructionist." I gave a lengthy response to Smithson, but apparently my thoughtful and intellectual response was falling on deaf ears. I figured that since it was debate that Smithson wanted, it would be debate that Smithson would get. Here are the questions that I had asked:
  • Do you deny being a racist, and accept those of African descent to be your equals?
  • Do you believe Islam to be an "evil" religion?
  • Being that you openly define socialism as a "curse," are you prepared to rescind your support of Sarah Palin, who helped redistribute wealth from the private sector to the citizens of Alaska?
  • Based on your arguments against health care reform, will you come out against The Patriot Act, which was hurried together, and has resulted in tremendous damage to American liberties and the growth of the size of government?
  • As a constitutionalist, do you agree with the sentiments made by Sarah Palin during the vice presidential debates, regarding the role of the vice president, in that there is "much flexibility there in the office of the vice president?"
  • Do you believe all government regulation to be bad? 
Smithson responded to these questions affirming the first two, deflecting the next three, and giving a "for-the-most-part" response for the last.  I will detail Smithson's responses below, and I will accompany each response with a rebuttal of my own, in a similar format to my original response to Smithson's questions of me.

To begin, I will focus on the last four questions first, and respond to the first two in a follow-up post.

In regards to whether or not Smithson would rescind his support of Sarah Palin for her socialist policies, Smithson first responds with "You implicit definition of "socialism" is uninformed."  Smithson goes on to write the following:
"Curse" is not my definition of socialism. In fact, I don't understand why you think it a "definition" at all. It is my assessment of its over all effect on - especially -- this country. Socialism (here comes a "definition" Kevin) is state ownership of industry and/or capital. I am not only opposed to this, I hate the very notion. It is a curse to individual liberties, by definition and is, therefore, a . . . . . . . . . . . curse.
Smithson falsely attributes the definition of socialism as a "curse" to me, and then coyly plays with the word itself, at first denying it is a curse by implying my question was "uninformed," but then stating that it is "by definition and is, therefore, a... curse."  Smithson's response is interesting considering a similar question he had asked myself previously, in which he asked if I saw "Marxist/Socialism as the curse it is."  Smithson then attempts to play dumb, and insists that my two separate questions involving Sarah Palin where one, but it is not over, because Smithson's response gets even more convoluted.  He goes on to state that he is "not prepared to rescind on anything [he had] said" and that I need to "give up on 'curse' being a definition of anything," despite his own admission that socialism was a "curse," and the reason why I used Smithson's own words in that question is because of Smithson's rebuttals to my prior responses.

Smithson then later argued that I did not understand proper grammar, and that the word "curse" was an adjective, modifying the word "socialism."  It seems that now that he is the one getting asked the questions, semantics are an issue.  In response, I had simply pointed out that he was wrong about the sentence structure of his "socialism is a curse" comment, and that there were no adjectives at all - he used a basic subject-verb-noun sentence structure.  To explain, I explained that "socialism" is the subject, "is" is the verb, "a" is an article, and "curse" is the noun.   

Putting grammar aside, first, I would like to point out the question Smithson asked of me regarding MSNBC: "You deny support of MSNBC and its support of a spocialized State?"

When asked whether I believed Marxism/socialism to be a curse, Smithson responded to my response with the following: "Lets see - guess I missed his denial of the notion of Marxism or Socialism being 'a curse.'"

When asked whether I had voted for President Obama, Smithson responded with the following: "Well, there you have it - a man who claims to be a 'Republican,' standing in compliment with the GOP political platform, seeing Obama and his Marxists/Socialist agenda as being in line with his political views."

By Smithson's own logic, because I aligned my vote with someone he deems to be socialist, I myself became a socialist, and logically speaking, became a supporter of a cursed system. This led to my question, in which Smithson finds so hard to answer. After some extended dialogue with another author of this site, c, Smithson finally gives a clear response:
Is it your assertion that Palin is a socialist? If so, my answer is "no." Maybe you missed my point stated earlier but I do not believe that a progressive tax is socialism. I do not agree with Palin's redistributive tax on the oil companies but such does not make her a socialist.
Smithson's response is very interesting because not only does it contradict with his previous comments regarding myself and Obama, he actually selectively determines what constitutes socialism to support his argument, stating "progressive" taxes are not socialist and that Palin's "redistributive tax," while something he does not agree with, is not socialist, when the definition of socialism in Marxist theory states that "the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism [is] distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done."

The tax Smithson references, and in which I implied in my question, is the Alaska Permanent Fund, which sets aside a certain share of oil revenues to pay dividends to the citizens of Alaska.  It was my point to illustrate the fact that Palin had endorsed a program that ignored the privatization of natural resources to redisctribute wealth to the citizens of Alaska.  Smithson takes the position that such redistribution does not classify as socialism, and that while he disagrees with the program, he still supports Palin, yet he accuses me to be complicit with Marxism/socialism because I voted for President Obama, whose administration oversaw the automotive bailout, which saw the United States Department of Treasury come to own 61% of General Motors.  Smithson goes on the record stating that skimming from the profits of private corporations is not socialism, while the government taking ownership in part of a corporation, is.  Can someone say hypocrisy?

The next question, which relates to Sarah Palin, asks whether or not Smithson agreed with Palins assertion during the vice-presidential debates that the position of the vice-president is offered great flexability per the Constitution.  Smithson was confused by the question until fellow author c asked the following: "Do you also believe the role of the VP is clearly defined by the constitution or does the role 'have much flexibility' as stated by a former VP candidate? Yes or No?"

Smithson's response: "I would answer "yes" and "yes" to what you have written above. "

When asked by Gwenn Ifill about the role of the vice-president, this was Palin's response:
Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.
Ifill had then asked Palin to expand on her explanation, asking her if she believed that "as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?"

Palin's response:
Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.
Joe Biden couldn't sum it up any better:
Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.
Lets double check with the constitution:
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
Pretty clear.  I don't understand where the flexibility comes into play.  My problem with Palin's response is because Palin supporters, such as Smithson, claim to be defending the constitution from unwarranted assaults by the likes of communists, socialists, and any other types of leftist radical, yet they seem to take liberties with the things set in stone in the constitution when those things restrict the advancement of their agenda.  This brings me to the other question asked of Smithson - whether he believed all government regulation to be bad.

Smithson's response was that he believed "most Federal regulations to be in violation of the 10th Amendment."

Lets take a look at the 10th Amendment:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
I would place a bet that not many Americans would have been able to tell you what this amendment was before the health care debate, but now that it has come into the forefront of conservative argument, I think it would be of interest to take a look at.

I had come across this blog, where the author, Conflict and Consensus in American Politics by Stephen J. Wayne, G. Calvin MacKenzie, and Richard L. Cole, where the authors mention that the founding fathers "provided no clear designation of the precise relationships among the various levels of government,"  resulting in a continuous conflict between state and federal governments over specific issues not considered when the document was drafted.  Critics claim legislation like health care violates this amendment while proponents believe the amendment is too broad to apply.  While I think any argument against health care reform using the 10th Amendment would be interesting, I have doubts as to whether they would succeed because, as Brownstein points out, only twice has a law been deemed unconstitutional in regards to the 10th amendment, which leaves room for lots of precedent, and I am sure the defense would be looking to things like Social Security and Medicare.

To take the strictest interpretation of the constitution, Smithson's response would be too liberal, because Smithson concedes that "most" regulations are unconstitutional, allowing that some are constitutional.  Now I am sure Smithson could argue that he intended to imply that he meant only regulation involving powers enumerated to the federal government are constitutional, and seeing that Smithson offered no example of "good" regulation, I will assume that this is what he meant, so I will approach this argument from a different angle.

It is quite possible that the Supreme Court would rule health care reform to be unconstitutional by definition of the 10th Amendment.  After all, the power, according to conservatives, is not expressly granted by the constitution, but then one may ask, what is?  Considering the average Tea Party response as to what the role of the federal government should be, there are only a couple reasons to exist, which in essence is an oversimplified version of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, and they are to provide for defense and maintain the infrastructure of the nation, but where does the Constitution state the government needs to help maintain power grids, bridges, roads, etc.?  It doesn't, yet these same constitutionalists who argue against excessive government regulation and intervention have no problem with the federal government spending money on these things, despite not being specifically outlined in the constitution, but this is where the argument against health care can be turned upside down.  Lets take a look at the first sentence of Article 1, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Now lets look at the last sentence of Article 1, Section 8:
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
It appears that the federal government does have the power to collect money to provide for the "general welfare of the United States."  Typically, the armchair constitutionalists found amongst the Tea Party tend to only look at the preamble of the constitution, which states the purpose of the document is to "provide" for common defense, but as they may point out, only "promote" the general welfare, but the constitution does not restrict the federal government by giving specifics for each level of the nation to follow, instead giving generalities to be interpreted throughout time.  It is this author's opinion that health care reform is a constitutional power granted to the federal government by the founding fathers, as indicated in Article 1, Section 8.  Health care reform is a law by Congress to help provide for the general welfare of the United States.  Another common problem with Tea Party constitutionalists is that they see the word welfare and they flip out, stating it is not the same definition one might associate with welfare programs of today, and this is true, but as points out, the definition of welfare, as used by the founding fathers, is "health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being."

So why did I go on for so long about the constitutionality of health care?  To prove a point.  While detractors may cry foul regarding the federal encroachment of states' rights, they fail to look at the entire constitution as a whole.  Federal regulation is neither good nor bad, but in certain circumstances, necessary.

The final response of John Smithson's that I will address in this post is the belief held by Smithson that the Patriot Act is not an attack on individual liberties.  Smithson's response: "My answer is "no."

My exact question compared the rhetoric used by conservatives, claiming liberals quickly drafted the legislation, attempting to "ram it down our throats," and the passage of The Patriot Act, which was drafted, voted on, and passed in little over a month.  Smithson stands by the law, despite numerous provisions having been ruled by federal courts to be unconstitutional.  This, in my opinion, allows anyone reading Smithson's work to understand that what they are in fact reading is one man's perversion of the constitution, and by association, the entire legal system, as applied to current events.  These perversions can also relate to other things, such as religion, economics, philosophy, etc.   

As I have detailed, John Smithson continually tries to debate this website's authors on the issues, in hopes of proving his point.  While Smithson has claimed to be the victor on his own site, his readers are yet again misinformed of the facts.  With each response, The Midnight Review has proven Smithson incompetent, pointing out his countless falsifications, misrepresentations, and contradictions.  It is this author's conclusion that Smithson believes the ends justifies the means, after all, he is a conservative activist, and has an agenda to push.

Smithson will support candidates who advance socialist agendas if it means they will later publicly advocate capitalism or issues close to his heart, like faith (Sarah Palin).  He will promote the misinterpretation of the constitution to expand the powers of elected officials who belong to Smithson-apporved political parties (Palin's explanation on the role of the vice president and implicit defense of Dick Cheney).  He would apply selective enforcement of particular constitutional amendments to advance an agenda (Evoking of the 10th Amendment).  Essentially, Smithson is a hypocritical conservative - the kind that believes it is only right when conservatives do it...

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