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Preserve, protect and defend

Today I completed my training to be certified as a poll manager for Spartanburg County in South Carolina. I should get a letter in the next couple of weeks telling me where I will be working. One of the next steps in the process is to swear an oath (South Carolina Constitution Section Article III Section 26) before the Clerk of Court:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been appointed, and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this state and of the United States. So help me God.

I’ve never had occasion to swear an oath before to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and I look forward to doing so, considering it a serious and solemn privilege to serve my state and my country. On the other hand, I feel I have always tried to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, oath or no. As I contemplate taking this oath, my thoughts move towards the significance of taking the oath and what it means.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e6/Washington%27s_Inauguration.jpg

George Washington taking the Oath of Office

I haven’t thought much about this blog as “defending the Constitution,” but in a way it does. The framers of our republic clearly intended the country to be guided by enlightened reason and the rule of law. That’s what this blog seeks to do–encourage enlightened reason and respect for law. A considerable portion of this blog deals with certain birther attempts to misrepresent the Constitution regarding who is eligible to assume the office of President of the United States. It also, in some small measure and in certain narrow areas, seeks to explain how the law and the courts work.

I have long felt a certain similarity between the legal doctrine of standing and the Mormons’ doctrine of revelation. Mormons believe that any member of the Church can receive a revelation from God; however, they further believe that true revelation comes in the context of an individual’s responsibility from which it follows that only the head of the Church would receive a revelation applicable to the whole church. (So when Cody Judy claimed that he had a revelation that he should be the head of the Church, that wouldn’t be seen as valid.)

These concepts of revelation and standing seem to apply also to defending the Constitution, and this is where some of those on the right wing misapply their oaths. I do not criticize birthers for bringing their grievances before the courts, although I criticize them for doing it over and over. The access to the courts is their privilege under the law. Terry Lakin swore an oath to defend the Constitution, but it was not his responsibility to have the President vetted, and I criticize Lakin for breaking the law in his attempt. Defending the Constitution is done within the context of respect for the laws made under the Constitution.


Note: Eligibility to be a poll manager in South Carolina requires one to be a registered voter and to live in the county (or a county adjacent to) where one serves.

The moral dimension of birtherism

The reason that I have so much motivation to combat birtherism is that I consider it immoral, and not just immoral in and of itself, but a movement that promotes immorality and encourages others to act badly, and not only does birtherism encourage birthers to be immoral, it also entices its opponents to act badly as well.

The scripture text for today’s sermon comes from St. Paul’s letter to Rome:

And as they didn’t keep God steadily in mind, God left them to their unsteadiness of mind to do things that decency forbids, filled as they were with all kinds of unlawfulness, meanness, greed, and evil, rampant with envy, murder, discord, treachery, and disorderly conduct: rumormongers, character assassins, God-haters, criminals, haughty, boastful, fabricators of evil stories, disobedient to parents, with no comprehension, no cohesion, no affection, no compassion.

Gaus, Andy (1991-01-01). The Unvarnished New Testament (New Translation from the Original Greek) (Kindle Locations 5157-5161). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

While several items from the indecent list fit things I see in the birther movement, the one that I think most characterizes it is “character assassins.” (I could have picked the closely-allied “fabricators of evil stories.”) What is the birther movement, after all, but an attempt to find something bad about Barack Obama, initially to keep him from being elected president, and later to try to make him fail in office, or to get him out of office? Birtherism springs from and promotes a visceral dislike of Barack Obama, whether it is because he beat out Hillary Clinton, or that he is black, or urbane, or progressive, or has an Arabic-sounding middle name.

Birtherism has had its consequences, and I can think of no greater waste than former Army physician Terry Lakin, who ruined his career, lost his medical license, and lost his pension because of birtherism. On the other side consider Adam Cox who was convicted of threatening Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Would he ever have done this if not enraged by the character assassination of the birthers?

It is important to try to distinguish those who make up stories and market them from those who just spread the stories. At the top of the food chain we have folks like Joseph Farah, Jerome Corsi, Bob Unruh and Jack Cashill. They make money stirring up ill will. While folks like that deserve greater condemnation, still people who spread stories (like, for example, Donald Trump), the “rumormongers,” bear responsibility for not checking out stories before they pass them on.

Web sites such as Birther Report are noted for the “meanness” of the comments as much as their misleading stories. And when I see meanness and “haughty,” “boastful” fabricators of evil stories, it makes me angry and under that influence I can sometimes be mean too (that’s why I gave up BR for Lent).

Birtherism is not just wrong; it is indecent.

Surprise! Tea Party event flops

The Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots report that the birther celebrity event organized by the Surprise Tea Party Patriots, featuring Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Mike Zullo, singer Pat Boone, and disgraced Army doctor birther Terry Lakin. has been canceled due to inadequate sales of the modestly-priced $10 tickets. Unlike the canceled Birther Summit, refunds are being issued.

Read more at the Phoenix New Times blog.

I think there’s something to be learned here, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. Birther public events flop. We have Carl Swensson’s march on the Atlanta capitol with maybe a dozen folks showing up. There was Berg’s big fling in DC that garnered a handful of curiosity seekers. The “King of the Birthers” Andy Martin maybe filled up a hotel room – two single beds. The Orly Taitz/Pastor Manning protest of Fox News in New York was a bust.

Birthers just don’t show up. I don’t know whether they are afraid that Obama will get them, or that there really aren’t more than a handful of committed (or maybe “not yet committed”) members of the birther movement. The number of people who watched the various birther court appearances were in the tens of thousands, but we don’t know if these were birthers or anti-birthers. Maybe birthers are too anti-social to congregate (this actually makes sense). Maybe most of the birthers are really institutionalized and can’t travel. Maybe the number of serious birthers is wildly overrated and birtherism is a web-only movement.

Lakin’s book tanks

I haven’t read Terry Lakin’s book, Officer’s Oath, nor do I plan to — this is not a book review. Generally I have sympathy for the disabled and victims of crime, and so I probably view Terry Lakin somewhat more sympathetically than others, particularly current and former members of the armed forces who have a stronger sense of the importance of being able to rely on your buddies in crisis. On of my great life insights is: “it’s not about me,” a lesson that Lakin unfortunately didn’t learn.

Whether Terry Lakin intended to make money from his book or whether its goal is influencing the election, it has been an abject failure based on sales. The following table shows Amazon.com rankings for a few selected books1 (for the birther impaired, books at the TOP of the chart start with the NUMBER ONE book, the best seller of all Kindle books. The bigger the number the farther down the ranking and the fewer actual books sold):

image


1I ranked the Kindle edition to be consistent. Books with many editions confuse the ranking, and it’s more fair to eliminate the factor of what books are carried in bookstores and airport  shops. The paperback ranking of Lakin’s book is so low it is literally off the charts at 347,886. Maraniss’ paperback, on the other hand, is ranked much better than his Kindle edition at 431.

When is a lieutenant colonel not a lieutenant colonel?

The answer is: when the lieutenant colonel has been dismissed from the service. A new article over at the Military Law and Justice blog reports the dismissal of former Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin has been approved and that he is no longer entitled to use the title.

The Terry Lakin Action Fund web site apparently hasn’t gotten the message, continuing to use the title and show a picture of Dr. Lakin in military uniform. If Lakin is using his former rank in conjunction with fundraising, he may be in violation of the Stolen Valor Act. Check out the linked article for more information.

Lakin withdraws appeal

In breaking news, LTC Terry Lakin, the Army doctor that was convicted of disobeying orders in a quixotic attempt to resolve questions about Barack Obama’s birthplace, has withdrawn the appeal of his sentence, clearing the way for his complete discharge from the Army. The court said:

Appellant, after consultation with his appellate defense counsel, requests withdrawal of his case from appellate review.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED:

That withdrawal of this appeal pursuant to Article 61 ( b ), Uniform Code of Military Justice, is granted. The record of trial is returned to  The Judge Advocate General for action pursuant to Rule for Courts-Martial 1112 [hyperlink to Rule].

Recall that as long as Terry Lakin is in the Army, he is severely limited by the UCMJ in regards to making disparaging remarks about Barack Obama, and in particular pursuing a new career as an anti-Obama celebrity and a star attraction at the Birther Summit next March. If Lakin had continued his appeal, he probably would not have been out in time for the Summit.

H/t to Phil Cave.