A More Perfect Union

By Sean Carroll | March 18, 2008 11:21 am

Barack Obama gave a major speech on race in Philadelphia today. Inflammatory statements by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, have been receiving a lot of media attention — they feed into fears that many Americans have about a black guy with a funny-sounding name. Obama has strongly condemned the statements, but refused to dissociate himself from his pastor.

Instead, as evidenced in this excerpt from his speech (which he wrote himself), Obama is choosing to respond with a nuanced and honest assessment of race-based resentment in America. It’s a novel strategy; we’ll have to see if the collective attention span of the media and public is up to the task of absorbing something like this.

… This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

A bit more below the fold.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Rights, Politics
  • http://www.scottaaronson.com Scott Aaronson

    That was an incredible speech; given his current predicament it would be hard to write a better one. I can imagine it someday appearing (alongside Nixon’s Checkers speech) in an anthology of “America’s Most Famous Hole-Climbing-Out-Of Speeches.”

  • Slide2112

    It is simply not possible to sweep 20 years of support under the rug with a single speech. Trying to distance himself only when it hurts his “political viability
    does not change the facts. It is dillusional to think otherwise.

    There is more substance in a 20 year relationship then a 30 minute speech. Yes, let us hope “the collative attention span for the media and public is up to the task of absorbing something like this.”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    John Derbyshire at National Review Online, always with the nuance, parses it thus: “Blame whitey, and raise high the red flag of socialism.” This is what we are up against.

  • davidv

    Slide2112, you say “There is more substance in a 20 year relationship then a 30 minute speech.”

    Ironically though, you judge the substance of a 20 years relationship based on a 3 minutes speech (even more, one of the 2 participants in that relationship wasn’t even there when the speech was delivered).

  • Ken

    Slide2112:
    I think you overlooked the crux of his speech. Obama is not distancing himself from Rev. Wright, he’s reconciling his belief system with that of his church.

    I know plenty of devout Christians that approve of gay marriage even though their Bible and their ministers rail against homosexuality. I think it’s intellectually dishonest that the public and media have been so eager to damn Obama for his pastor’s words. Is it so unbelievable that personal belief systems vary from the Church’s or pastor’s? Of course not, this is a commonly held, and encouraged, social behavior in America. We pride ourselves in maintaining the ideology of the majority while protecting personal beliefs of the minority… which is why our country is called a Republic.

    Barack: “B0…”
    Hillary: “You sunk my battleship!”

    PS: I voted for Hillary in the MI primary.

  • Z

    Caving into organized religion is what got Obama into this mess. When will america have a viable rationalist candidate?

  • http://astrodyke.blogspot.com The AstroDyke

    I found it a very thoughtful speech. (How will it be interpreted through our attention-deficit soundbite culture?)
    I’d nominate it alongside
    Hillary’s speech on science funding as the most carefully reasoned & thoughtful political rhetoric in years.

    Xenu: scientists are people, not brains on sticks. We think about science, and the politics of science, and politics. And given the factor-of-ten underrepresentation of people of color in academic astronomy, discussions of race are especially germane.

  • Z

    Caving into organized religion is what got Obama into this mess. When will america have a viable rationalist candidate?

    I’m finding Ralph Nader increasingly compelling.

  • http://www.geocities.com/aletawcox/ Sam Cox

    Obama has his head on pretty straight- and I’m impressed. Now:

    1. Lets see if he can get elected, and

    2. If he is elected, what he can do about these very mean spirited attitudes which go far beyond race relations, rotting American society at the heart.

    At the very least, he has sure “cleared the air”.

  • http://carlbrannen.wordpress.com/ Carl Brannen

    The hilarious part of watching the physics community support Obama is that you think he’s your buddy and is going to put money into physics. Maybe you should try listening a little closer to what he and his preacher say about science.

  • http://kurinboism.blogspot.com/ kuri

    Slide2112,
    “Not this time.” Please.

  • Xenu

    AstroDyke: I agree and I would welcome this post if it related to science, science education, research funding, encouraging minorities to participate in science, scientific controversy in politics, politicians inability to rationally discuss science, anything having anything whatsoever to do with science, or basically any of the many reasons I subscribe to this blog.

    I am interested in science and I am interested in politics. But when I go to the dailykos.com I am not interested in what the author thinks of the latest dark matter theories. Just like when I go to Joystiq I don’t want to know what they think about politics or science, I am interested in videogames and when I go to 101cookbooks I am interested in recipes.

    Now sometimes those fields overlap. Sometimes there are relevant discussions about politics and science, about politics and videogames, about science and videogames. And then I am glad to see that connection being discussed.

    A scientist in congress is such a case: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2008/03/08/another-scientist-in-congress/
    McCain bashing scientists is such a case: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2008/03/12/culture-war-by-proxy/
    McCain being full of it about vaccinations is such a case:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2008/03/03/mccain-talks-nonsense-about-vaccinations/

    But this is not one of those cases.

    If Obama were demonstrably the “science candidate” it might even be tolerable to have blog post after blog post on a science website stumping for him. But he’s not.

    Look at it another way. What did I get out of this post, as a reader? More confirmation of who Sean wants to be president, and not much else. Why would I come to a blog that is ostensibly about science to find out who a particular physicist who I don’t particularly care about wants to be president?

    I want to be mad that my last post was deleted, but I understand. I’m not discussing the content of the post, I’m discussing it’s existence, and I guess that’s not the kind of discussion you guys like to promote on CV. I get it and I can’t really be mad about it. But a lot more posts like this and I’ll be making use of the “subscribe to certain authors” feature.

  • http://www.sonic.net/~rknop/blog/ Rob Knop

    Carl, I’ll call your bluff. Exactly what are you talking about here? Or is this just the standard tactic of making a vague leading suggestion in an attempt to get others to infer what you want them to infer?

  • Slide2112

    In response to #4 and #5

    Christians can and do interpret their doctrine in anyway they see fit. The Constitution created by rich white people defends their right to do so. Obama chose to support this congregation and in particular he chose to support this Pastor.

    To claim Obama was not aware of the racist and irrational views of this church that he chooses to support is just silly. He could have walked down the street and “found Jesus” of another stripe, color or sexual orientation, but he chose this one.

  • Analyzer

    I’m finding Ralph Nader increasingly compelling.

    Hahaha! You talked about rationalism and then Ralph Nader! Good one!

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    @Carl, who said:

    The hilarious part of watching the physics community support Obama is that you think he’s your buddy and is going to put money into physics.

    I love how being a physicist makes one a single-issue voter, don’t you?

  • SLC

    Re Rob Knop

    What Mr. Carl is talking about is the feeling at the Fermilab that Senator Obama was less then supportive of that institution during budget cutting time.

    Re Slide2112

    Okay, Mr. Slide2112. How about the love affair between the Reverend John Hagee and Senator McCain. Reverend Hagee is at least as screwy as Reverend Wright.

  • http://www.sunclipse.org Blake Stacey

    All else aside, I have to give the Senator mad props for using the term “zero sum game”. A quick Googling finds examples from Tony Blair (a 23 June 2005 speech to the EU Parliament) and Tzipi Livni (speaking to the Knesset, 4 September 2007), but AFAIK, it’s not exactly a common term in political speeches.

  • Elliot

    I think this was a brilliant speech. I hope the subtext makes it’s way into the hearts and minds of Americans.

    I bet even Aaron Sorkin was impressed.

    e.

  • fh

    One of the great things about this blog is the readership who will always helpfully inform the authors actually writing the blog about the blogs true nature (while helpfully noting what kind of posts they are entitled to have on the blog).

  • Haelfix

    Who cares what his idiotic mentor thinks. I prefer to judge people on their record and what they say, all things which distance Obama from people like him.

    Ok, sure, its a little funny watching some people defending him when they use the ‘guilt by association’ trick vicariously when the political aisle is reversed, but that does not excuse anything.

    I’d just assume people voted on the issues rather than on who a certain politician is friends with.

  • Pingback: Obama’s Speech on Race. My contribution to the dialogue. « blueollie()

  • http://www.scottaaronson.com Scott Aaronson

    A few more thoughts:

    1. Now that I reread the speech, the story at the end (“I am here because of Ashley”) really doesn’t work well — I would’ve cut immediately before that.

    2. The rest of the speech, though, does indeed (as Sean says) do something that seems incredibly novel in American politics: turn what could easily be a career-ending scandal into a wrenching internal conflict, by letting the audience in thought-by-thought on that conflict. (“Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and YouTube … there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.”) And I say this as someone who was presumably part of the speech’s target audience (i.e. who did, in fact, want more clarity on these questions).

    3. Now that he’s on a tear, maybe Obama should also explain his views on the origin of HIV? (Not that one can’t predict them, but I’d really like to hear him trash-talk some pseudoscience in his own words. Or has he done so already?)

    4. One might ask whether it’s possible for any politician to acquire the zeal and eloquence Obama has, without hanging out with characters who will embarrass him later. I conjecture that the answer is no, that we’re seeing a fundamental tradeoff. Can anyone think of a counterexample?

    5. It occurred to me that one thing is missing, before the speech can have its full intended impact on voters: namely for Wright to make a tearful admission that Obama’s rebukes of him were justified. (Has anyone seen any reaction from Wright?)

    6. Assuming Obama wins the primary, it’s probably best that this is coming out now; hopefully people will get tired of it long before October.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    The back-and-forth thought-by-thought examination of a difficult issue is precisely what is utterly alien to politics as it is currently practiced here in the U.S. I like to believe that it will actually be received sympathetically by many voters; it’s certainly a welcome respite from the usual simplistic pandering.

    On the other hand, I may simply be naive and unable to remove my academic’s lenses in this instance. Obama taught constitutional law for some time at the University of Chicago.

    But the real danger is that the media just won’t be able to convey the message to those who weren’t able to see or read the speech for themselves. It’s not easily extracted into soundbites.

  • Brian Mingus

    If you don’t want to read about politics on this blog, set up filters in your newsreader. NetNewsWire and others allow you to do this.

    I personally enjoy the political commentary. I don’t agree with it all, but I just finished watching that speech and was pleasantly surprised to see it covered here. I’ve tried reading Daily Kos in the past but couldn’t stomach it. Maybe a post on physics now and again would help me keep it down.

  • http://voicesofreason.info Neil B.

    A lot of thoughtful people are impressed with Obama’s speech, and his writing it himself. As for Wright, I realize he has bitterness but as Obama says, there’s no helpful point in ranting and making so many others mad at Wright in turn. (MLK didn’t talk like that, did he? He criticized US policy and history, but didn’t use inflammatory expressions of the “God damn America” sort AFAIK.) The problem about Wright and our inciting 9/11 however: to say that we incited or stimulated a reaction is like saying that splashing mud on gang members stimulated them to shoot you – it isn’t a validation or a claim of “just deserts.” Wright may have thought some Palestinian etc. gripes legit anyway, but that doesn’t change the basic warning that it doesn’t pay to piss certain people off, and that not being a claim it was OK for them to react in that way.

    I still find Obama attractive, especially since Hillary seems bent on getting the nomination even if it damages the nomination process and the Democratic party. If McCain does win, he seems to be decent enough, relatively speaking, as politicians go, and seems rather competent. I just hope his temper doesn’t cause him to zing off something that we regret.

  • khurram

    Wow a lot of people here have their head up Obama’s you know what. It’s all politics!!! He has made this a bigger issue to detract attention from himself and the controversy HE is involved with.
    I really don’t take any particular offense to what his pastor says. I see the point he is trying to make. Some of it makes sense actually.

    He paints himself as centrist when he has THE most liberal voting record of anyone in the Senate! There is nothing wrong with that but don’t paint yourself as something you are not!
    In the three years that Sen. Obama has been in the Senate, Hillary has sponsored 53 bills that have attracted Republican co-sponsors. Over the same period of time, Sen. Obama has sponsored just 24 bills that have attracted Republican co-sponsors.
    Further HE LIED. Last Friday he clearly said that he was NOT present at the sermons where Wright delivered his inflammatory anti american and deragatory comments. Today in the speech he admitted he was!
    Come one people wake up stop drinking the kool-aid.
    He is a false prophet.

  • khurram

    Neil- — “especially since Hillary seems bent on getting the nomination even if it damages the nomination process and the Democratic party”

    riiight and Obama is NOT bent on getting the nomination? Give me a break.
    You need 2025 delegates(without MI and FL) to win. Neither candidate will have the required delegates. So how do we define winning??? I don’t know myself but I do know
    1. Hillary will win the popular vote (PA, Indiana, West VA, Oregon, Puerto Rico and perhaps FL and MI are left) and look good for her. He will get NC probably. Maybe Oregon but she has the support of active governor there.
    2.She easily has beat him on electoral votes already!
    3. She is also winning battleground states! That is very important
    So why should she drop out now????

  • khurram

    Thank you AstroDyke. that is great speech on science by senator clinton. I was actually not aware of that. Thank you.

  • http://www.scottaaronson.com Scott Aaronson

    Neil B.: To understand what makes people angry about the argument that “sure the US didn’t actually deserve 9/11, but still, it was our own behavior that caused it…,” consider an analogous argument that liberals in particular rightly despise: “sure she didn’t deserve to be attacked, but still, it didn’t pay for her to dress provocatively and lead him on…” The trouble, in both cases, is that the person making the argument insists on talking forensically about a situation that’s fundamentally game-theoretic. In other words, it might be perfectly true that the victim’s behavior influenced the attacker, but by focusing on that one gives the attacker too much power over the victim’s future behavior (which might have been precisely the goal). It’s to Obama’s credit that he seems to understand this; that might be the reason why he didn’t even try to “contextualize” Wright’s 9/11 comments as he did with the comments on race.

  • Elliot

    khurram,

    Please let’s get a grip on reality. NY, CA, and MA are solidly democratic no matter who the nominee is. So her argument about the “big states” is flawed. Obama can bring in some traditionally southern states, VA, NC and perhaps GA. Do your electoral math before spouting the Clinton line.

    e.

  • khurram

    Elliot- I have done the electoral math and Clinton is way up! If she was going against Obama she will have more than the 270 needed to win after PA.

    I never said he wouldn’t win NY CA and MA. I have no idea where you get that from. I said battleground states not big states.

    I have never heard Clinton say anything about Big States. I have heard the media say that. It’s about battleground states- Ohio, PA and FL.

    She is also up by 15%! in Arkansas with 6 electoral votes enough to offset Mccain winning new hampshire’s 4 electoral votes.
    There is NO way he will win GA. GA (along with one other state) were the only two states on super tuesday where the republican turnout was higher than the democratic turnout. count GA out.
    But i do think he has a chance as winning Kansas (also 6 electoral votes).
    he has roots there + support of democratic governor.

  • Elliot

    khurram,

    Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota all track better for Obama than Clinton.

    She is only percentage points behind Clinton in PA, OH, MI against McCain vs. Clinton and after he is the nominee and she, as a loyal democrat, backs his candidacy, he has a solid chance of sweeping the rust belt which has been particularly hard hit by the failed economic policies of the Bush administration.

    Hillary, in my opinion, simply brings too many negatives to the general election and energizes the GOP base. On the other hand Obama brings a fresh message and energizes the democratic base as well as bringing new young voters into the process.

    I would not be disappointed with either a Clinton or Obama presidency. I think on the issues they are not that far apart and would welcome an end to the war, universal health care (or something close to it) and a return to fiscal sanity by allowing the Bush tax cuts to mercifully expire.

    My fear is a McCain presidency which will lead to 4 more years of gridlock, deficits, war, and further decline in the moral and economic status of the United States in the world community. I just think that Obama has a stronger case against McCain, than Clinton.

    e.

  • TimG

    khurram wrote: “He paints himself as centrist when he has THE most liberal voting record of anyone in the Senate!”

    The same organization that tabbed Obama as the most liberal Senator this time around named John Kerry the most liberal senator during the last election cycle.

    Coincidence? Or a sign of a flawed algorithm that pushes Senators to the extremes of the rankings if they’ve missed a bunch of votes (say, to campaign for the Presidency)?

    Anyway, I can’t believe that anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to the Senate actually thinks Obama is or Kerry was the most liberal. Personally I have an easy litmus test. As long as I can say “Man, I wish _____ was remotely electable, but since he’s not I’ll take Obama” then Obama isn’t the most liberal.

  • jw kersten

    I wonder about the naiveté of people. Surely Obama and his team knew this was coming. (If he didn’t know that there would come an attack on the known”inflammatory rhetoric” of this “family” member of his campagne, then that would show a lack of understanding I really don’t want to accuse him of) So his speech must have been prepared well in advance and although this doesn’t detract from the content of the speech ( which I think is very well written), It put some reasonable doubt about the spin of two days and nights it took him personally to write this. He may have updated and tweaked it and he may have written it himself, but surely not in the last week.

  • Tom

    As someone who used to be a faithful church goer – I can tell you that I would not want to be held to the words my pastor uttered. After 10 years of churching, I would be hard pressed to remember a small fraction of things uttered, inane or enlightened.
    I am sure there were times I was offended by things said, or strongly disagreed. And I am sure that nearly every pastor in America could have quotes lifted from their sermons that would sink almost any candidate that attends their church.
    This is not a reasonable standard to hold any candidate to.

    For those who don’t wish to vote for Obama – don’t. No need to try to look under every rock and try to justify your choice to the rest of the world. If you don’t want to vote for him for funny looking ears, that is your choice.

  • Anon

    I am surprised at the support Obama gets from rationalists. Hillary is methodist because she was born into it. She did not seek it out later in life to fill some personal void or weakness or to find some identity that she didn’t already have. The fact that Obama did, in addition to bothering me as a scientist, makes me question his personal strength and sense of identity. Like most people born into the “old” protestant denominations, which already tend to strongly emphasise knowledge and are strongly rationalistic (within obvious limits, of course), I do not believe that Clinton’s life and leadership decisions will be based on faith when opposed to reason. In fact, if she is like most “old” protestants, they will not be based on faith at all, which suits me just fine.

  • Dhayjones

    Can’t see what all the fuss is about. There is understandable rage about racism in some sections of the African American community. The pastor’s remarks are understandable in that context, forgivable, too. Obama does not need to agree with every word of every sermon in order to attend the church of his choice. He did a good job of rising above the fuss. Otherwise, it was a rather mundane speech which stated the obvious. It said what we all know to be true about America. I wish the man well.

  • per

    Carl Brannen,

    Perhaps it comes as a chock, but for a country in both economical and moral crisis, the science budget is not the most pressing thing :)

  • CWhite

    I still have problems understanding what Rev. Wright said that was wrong.

    Everyone (including Obama) rails about the “despicable” the Reverend’s comments were and I don’t really understand where he was wrong. Sure his comment about who “invented” HIV was wrong but everything else he said can be substantiated as fact. You may dislike the way he said it, but it’s pretty hard to discount his raw assertions.

    The most obvious bone of contention, that we brought 9-11 down on ourselves, is easily supported by the facts that we meddled in Middle Eastern politics for years before they struck back at us for our interference.

    If Canada had deposed and installed US leaders for years as the US did in the Middle East; Do you really think there would have been no blowback?

    White colonization of the New World was the blowback experienced by British Empire for it’s marginalization of the poor and minority religions. Why would whites be surprised by black anger at financial and political marginalization?

    So, how exactly, was Rev. Wright wrong?

  • Visiting from the Kiddie Pool

    hi,

    Great speech by Obama. He took admirable risks and succeeded. But what do you think the “Limits of Uncertainty” for the speech were? Let’s say we could estimate the speech’s success. Measurements of success are measured in Successertrons. 100 Successertrons would be considered a very successful speech.
    Actually, hard to say: I would put the speech at 90 ± 35 STrons. (OK, I’m trying to be funny here :-).

    OK, I have a question that is wildly off topic.

    It’s a long story but I’ve become interested in physics lately (questioning the lifelong assumption that I am adamantly a Non-math, non science person)(but first I feel like I have to relearn and learn a bunch of math before I start in earnest). (FYI: I’m not a kid— I’m an adult woman).

    Anyhow, I read through the first section of the the first physics lesson by this author named Robert Lehrman.

    It’s about the “Limits of Uncertainty”.

    “All measurements are limited in accuracy because of errors introduced by
    the nature of the measuring instrument and the object being measured. ”

    “Ultimately, on the atomic scale, all surfaces are fuzzy.”

    He also talks about the imperfections of our eyes.

    “In scientific work, every measured value must be accompanied by a statement
    of its uncertainty. (although he goes on to say that “. . .even the uncertainty has its uncertainty.”)

    So, he gives the example that the height of a cylinder measured in centimeters has “limits of uncertainty” of ± 0.1 cm.

    So, first question: Where did the particular number ± 0.1 cm come from? Lehrman says that this number is “not absolute” — he doesn’t explain where the figure comes from though. (Probably too complex for the very first lesson, but I was just curious, not looking for a detailed answer, just a general idea). Is this the “gospel” “Limits of Uncertainty” for a cylinder measured in centimeters?

    Two: So, as far as we can tell, no physical object can be, for instance, be exactly 15 cm tall? Or if it was, we couldn’t know it for sure?

    OK, BUT. .. What if I were Ultimate Queen of the Universe and I was jeolous of all other rulers, even aluminum ones, and decided to set up my own measuring system and I deemed that the primary Unit of Measurement from now until forever would be: The Venti Starbucks cup. To measure height, volume, etc. The height would be called a VSBuck (which would be segmented into tenths called a CenBuck) (it would quickly get nicknamed “Buck”, people would be marking “Bucks” and “CenBucks” on their walls as their children grew up. . .) So, in that case, the height of my particular Venti Starbucks, which is the new standard for all of the world, would be EXACTLY One VSBuck tall. Exactly. Right?

    (hey aren’t we almost there anyway, what with Sbuck’s taking over the world? I mean, doesn’t “Tall” already mean “Short”? I wonder how many VSBucks cups are there to the moon) :-)

    Thanks.

  • Anon

    I too see little wrong with Rev. Wright’s comments. I presume Obama feels he has to pander to the mentality of a population that is highly sanctimonious when so-called “patriotism” is involved.

  • Changcho

    Amazing speech! This is the guy the US needs *right now*…before it’s too late.

  • http://www.davidnataf.com David Nataf

    Visiting from the Kiddie Pool,

    1) The 0.1cm probably comes from whatever he uses to measure the cylinder. If it’s a typical ruler, the finest refinement on it is about 0.1cm, so on average you might get it wrong by about that amount. Due to the rounded edges of a ruler, some wear and nibbling or whatever here and there, there would be a fundamental limit to how well you can use a ruler. You can then get a better ruler to measure the cylinder but then it too would have its most refined length, maybe it would be 0.01cm.

    2) Absolute measurements. There are two reasons why your starbucks would not work that I can think of. The first is that not all starbucks cups are the same, there could be slight impurities in the plastic here and there, et cetera. The second is that due to the fact the speed of light is now recognized as a constant of 299 792 458 m / s, you cannot define length and time separately, you can only define one of them, and then the other has to be defined in terms of the first one.

    So scientists chose to define the second as 9 192 631 770 microwave oscillations of cesium, and the meter as the distance such that light will travel 299 792 458 of it in one second. These peculiar integers were chosen so that the new standards would be very similar to the old standards, and people would not have to throw out the old ruler sticks.

    Back to the cups, you cannot make them all “exactly” the same size due to manufacturing limitations. But even if there were no manufacturing limitations, there would be quantum limitations which as far as I know are currently much smaller than manufacturing limitations for all industrial applications. Atoms, particles, et cetera don’t exist in am arbitrarily specific spot, they bounce around in a random manner.

  • MedallionOfFerret

    From Sean’s post: “…we’ll have to see if the collective attention span of the media and public is up to the task of absorbing something like this.”

    The current evidence is that many physicists reading about Obama’s speech in a (usually) science blog are not up to that task.

  • ike

    Quite a unique speech in the annals of American political discourse on race – I can’t think of anything similar, personally. I do wonder what the “play count” on the old television will be – will Obama’s speech get as much play as his pastor’s comments have?

    The speech could be condensed to a soundbite: “Hey folks, lots of bad history here, lots of water under the bridge, on all sides of the color coin. However, we don’t really have time to indulge in such childish behavior anymore – so grow up, everyone.”

    As far as the suitability of a politics post on a physics blog. . . well, if there is any area of life as chock full of political maneuvering as that within the halls of U.S. academic institutions, I have yet to hear of it.

    For example, if you want to ignite a political firestorm in academia these days, go ahead and promote non-exclusive licensing for all intellectual property produced on the taxpayer’s dime – then you’ll see some manic political behavior by university administrators, guaranteed.

  • chris

    hi Xenu,

    people visit this blog for various reasons. i myself am mostly interested in the political entries and this one was top interesting for me.

    all bloggers have their own style. you are free to just not read the post. i for my part enjoyed it very much.

  • http://voicesofreason.info Neil B.

    Xenu, you have a point. However, despite the overall reputation of this blog for being about science related issues, note the blurb at top: “random samplings from a universe of ideas.” There’s plenty of science (and some philosophy in general, albeit often sophomoric IMHO w.r.t. the highest level of thought) on this blog.

    khurram: I wasn’t getting after Hillary for very much wanting the nomination, I clearly said “…getting the nomination even if it damages the nomination process and the Democratic party.” It was her apparent willingness to cause such harm that I complained about. Those distinctions about consequences matter very much, and when commenting on other comments you should pay careful attention to that. I am not suggesting that she should drop out. It might be helpful to winning against McCain, but it isn’t clearly her responsibility at this point w.r.t. Obama.

  • http://voicesofreason.info Neil B.

    Visiting from the Kiddie Pool: I carefully pick whether to reply to OT questions (I should talk, heh, see below …) but will this time. The particular type of uncertainty you read about and quoted concerns engineering practices of using “significant digits” – read up on it. It is a matter of convenience and practical concerns, like how much tolerance matters and how easily to measure it with mechanical devices etc. Sure, it is biased due to our arbitrary base-10 number system. If we used binary, we’d have to pick something like sixteenths to be what matters etc. In any case, do not confuse that with quantum type uncertainty. And no, an object cannot be exactly 15 cm tall. Consider that when the spec, gets to about atomic dimensions, you have atoms and their fuzzy electron clouds, the uncertainty of their overall positions even talking that into account.

    One issue I still worry about sometimes: People say, no problem with the deBroglie wavelength of a baseball etc., since at some velocity they gratuitously pick to make the point, the wavelength is very tiny like maybe 10^-15 m etc. But in principle, the ball could be at or nearly at rest, with a wavelength of meters etc. Sure, there’s the Fourier addition of the possible momenta to make a wave packet, but even so: in principle that could hash out to some value bigger than the ball, and then what? And REM the oddity of deB wavelength being based on mass of “a particle” – it reminds me of Galileo’s critique of Aristotelian physics, when he asked, if you tied two rocks together should they count as “one” of larger mass or “two” separate masses, for figuring rate of fall under the false theory of the mass-dependence of velocity. How does the same paradox work out in quantum mechanics, if I may ask an OT question myself FWIW. Maybe a good answer will happen to fit at another post, LMK.

  • http://lusepuster.wordpress.com Lusepuster

    #26

    It seems you don’t really realize the amount of pain and suffering that the US has inflicted on large parts of the world, even *before* 9/11. It certainly amounts to more than ‘splashing mud on gang members'; in fact it – in numbers – massively outweighs the victims of 9/11. The sanctions agains Iraq alone has cost an estimated 600.000 children their lives. This was not an act of the US alone, sure, but it has certainly played a, if not the, leading part.

    Not said thereby that anyone deserved 9/11; that would be a moral statement that made no sense. The victims of 9/11 had nothing or very little to do with the crimes of the US foreign policy.

    From another point of view, though, it is painfully predictable that people will strike back with whatever they have, at whatever target they can hit. Like the palestinians of Gaza fire primitive, garage-manufactured missiles against any target within range, justifiable and efficient or not; it was very much to be expected that with a US military so massively superior to anything else around; the only way that is left for anyone to strike back is agains innocent civilians.

    This statement would be a moral defense of the 9/11 attacks only if you consider the US a genuine and true democracy and, thereby, consider the acts of the US governmenmt and intelligence around the world to be the honest and decisive will of the people of the United States. It is, however, my experience that the average US citizen has little idea what is going on out there, and ever so often plain wrong. You only know what you’re told.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Arthur Silber reminds us of the Tuskegee experiment.
    http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2008/03/truth-is-far-worse-than-any-conspiracy.html

    “To return to Wright’s now infamous and impermissible comment about the HIV virus, the following is why you should set aside your knee-jerk outrage and your real (or feigned) astonishment. This is the history you should remember, or learn for the first time. And please note: this is not distant history. In historic terms, this happened only yesterday.”

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun
  • senderista

    I am voting for Obama not because of this speech, but because of this one.

  • http://carlbrannen.wordpress.com/ Carl Brannen

    The basic problem of theoretical physics is that the only use for them is to make theories and to make more theoretical physicists. The consequence is that (other than for brief periods of expansion of academia) most new physics PhDs will not get jobs in the subject area that inspired them to learn the subject. No president can change these economics.

    So when can you expect a society to suddenly increase funding for particle physics? It can only happen in times when the society is either (a) fooled into thinking that particle physics has practical applications, or (b) times when the society is doing so well that it has money to throw away.

    And what time is now? If you’re about 50 years old or older and have a PhD in physics, you are aware of the stagflation of the 1970s and what this did to the physics community. If you’re too young and ignorant to know about what happened, do some google searches on the Vietnam war, get charts of the prices of oil and gold, and look up what happened to physics graduates in the 70s and 80s.

    History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. There’s no way that Obama or anyone else is going to suddenly give a big gift to particle physics. It’s far more likely that they will put a lot of money into alternative fuels, chemistry, ecology, sociology, biology, communications, etc., but these are very practical times and these are also “basic research.” The left wing is more worried about global warming and what children think about sex roles than the top quark. And the right wing doesn’t care about either.

    Physics academia is going to suck for the next decade. On the other hand, the first half of those years are going to be wonderful years for agriculture, manufacturing, and other blue collar stuff involving exports. After that, we’ll all suffer for a few years while the Fed tries to stop inflation and the stock market will languish.

    Humans are social animals that assign leadership to appropriate targets the same way that newborn ducks conclude that the first large moving object they see is mother. Various leaders will be blamed for the bad times or praised for the good times. But the world’s economies move in tandem, the leaders have little effect, unless they start wars. Most famously, in the great depression, every major economy on the planet crashed, no matter what economic theory their leaders believed in.

  • Horace Grady

    Obama as president will do nothing to calm the racial conflict in America. On the contrary, his policies will pour more gasoline on the current level of racial conflict.

    Let’s take affirmative action. Post-1965 immigrants from the Carribean, Africa, Central and South America and Asia all quaily for affrimative action. In fact,they all have been recipients of Affirnmative Action. Why should White Americans be in favor of this?

    Let’s take Legal post-1965 immigration policy. Post 1965 legal immigration is radically changing the racial composition of Ameica. Why should White Americans be in favor of this?

    When Barack Obama campaigned in California for the Hispanic vote, he explictly appealed to Hispanic racial interests. Obama promised Hispanics in California more affrimative action and an open border hispanic immigration policy. Both of therse policies will inflame and increase the scale of racial conflict in America. Only a fool or a madman would deny this.

    Obama is bad for the enviroment. Legal and illegal post -1965 immigration policy -when you take into account the number of offspring hispanics,asians, muslims,carribeans and africans are having in America-accounts for 100 percent of current US population growth. I suppose liberal supporters of Barack Obama expect White Americans to stop breeding to compensate.

    Barack Obama is a friend of the Corporation. This has been documented in a Atlantic monthly essat artilce by Ken Silverstien on Barack Obama.

    Corporations use both Legal and illegal immigration as a way of transferring power away from American Workers to the Corporation.

  • Horace Grady

    I forgot to mention that Barack Obama’s top economic advisor-the one who assured the Canadians that “free” trade policy will continue apace is a corporation worshipping University of Chicago School economist who According to Counterpunch, Wall street is bankrolling Obama’s campaign.

    The fact that Barack Obama has said that he won’t meet with Hasmas-the legitmate representative of the Palestinian people-is a very good indicator of what ot expect from an OBama presidency: a con tiuation of a pro-Isarael rejectionism policy which is the number one barrier to peace in the middle east. If Hamas is a terrorist organization, Israel is a much greater terrorist organization. Just count the number of dead bodies. For every person killed by Hamas, Israel kills three hundred(acording to Ralph Nader).

    Barack Obama is more of the same. Just another sleazy megalamanic lusting for power,fame and fortune. These are the types that have appeal to liberals with a guilty racial concience. Unfortunately, it is the rest of us who will have to pay the price for the financially well- to -do liberal with a guilty racial concious. For more on this check out Steve Sailers blog and Vdare.com

  • Horace Grady

    One last thing, since Barck Obama has obviously sold his soul to THE Corporation, one should not be too suprised that Barack Obama fantically supports a massive increase in immigration-which would drive the US population up to a billion or more in 25 years. As far as the interests of the CORPORATION go-after all, these days the CORPORATION has the legal status of a super-human-the more the scab labor influx,the better. No need to worry about epic racial conflict within the borders of America and the destruction of America’s ecological life support system upon which the economy depends. Shear madness.

    Every long term festering social,economic and environmnetal problem in America will increase in scale-and therefore remain unsolvable-if Baracl Obama is elected president of the United States.

    Barack Obama’s politics are racial to the core…. right to the wick of his being.

  • http://voicesofreason.info Neil B.

    Horace – it is a good place to remind people that the SCOTUS decision that supposedly granted personal rights to US Corporations was actually fraudulently summarized by the clerk managing the case. They didn’t really say that, but it became part of practical law due to the difficulty of digging into the entire text of the arguments. See for example “How a clerical error made corporations “people”” at http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/node/664, which is a great summary of what happened.

    I think you are too hard on Obama, but he is compromised to some substantial degree like any conventional politician. Only Nader could be trusted to really stand up to corporations, but he’d split the vote and I don’t want to see that. Maybe Obama if elected, can appoint Nader to head the FTC.

  • Loki on the run

    AstroDyke says:

    And given the factor-of-ten underrepresentation of people of color in academic astronomy, discussions of race are especially germane.

    Are Chinese people not people of color in your mind? I could have sworn they make up an enormous percentage of UC Berkeley admissions (and several times their actual percentage in the CA population), and are routinely passed over in the Ivies because they get perfect scores …

    Now, I wonder what the difference is, hmmm. Maybe whitey somehow discriminates in favor of the yellow man?

    Perhaps we really should discuss the elephant in the room.

  • Visiting from the Kiddie Pool

    David Nataf and Neil B.

    Thanks you so much for your detailed and kind replies. They really helped. I’m printing them out. I’ll post more later —

  • Ann Nelson

    I listened to a more complete excerpt of the sermon from which Wrights 9/11 “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” comments are taken. The video clip that is being played is completely out of context. Wright is quoting a “white ambassador” in those comments, which is “faith footnote” to a sermon about how to respond to 9/11. In fact Wright is not advocating any blaming of anyone in the sermon, but rather calling on people to respond by reflecting on their own relationship with God. The sermon advocates reflection, not anger. The ‘faith footnote’ is merely a comment about how some have reacted with anger.

  • http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/21/the-full-story-behind-rev-jeremiah-wrights-911-sermon/ NB

    Yeah, below is a big excerpt from that Wright sermon. There’s a great discussion at http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/21/the-full-story-behind-rev-jeremiah-wrights-911-sermon/. The sermon was delivered way back on 9/16/2001. Indeed, Wright was quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force. Peck was speaking on FOX News. Wright did not say that what happened was justified. The meaning of “chickens coming home to roost” means that poking at something can have blowback, not that the blowback was ethically valid. The people who claim that Wright considered it justified are either incompetent at analysis, or dishonest and focused on propaganda value:

    “I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

    “We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

    “We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

    “We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

    “We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

    “We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

    “We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

    “We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

    “Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

    “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

    “Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

    Later he said the following:

    “Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Maybe we need to declare war on the nation’s healthcare system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation.”

    I don’t think there’s much he or Barack should be apologizing for about that particular speech, although I didn’t like the GD America stuff the other time.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    http://miaculpa.blogspot.com/2008/03/listen-up.html

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/3/21/16207/3114/363/481705

    “One of the most controversial statements in this sermon was when he mentioned “chickens coming home to roost.”

    He was actually quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force, who was speaking on FOX News. That’s what he told the congregation”.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Charley Reese on Obama:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/reese/reese438.html

    “My estimation of him went up, because I’m sick and tired of these weasels who avoid anything that their staff says might cause them to be a shade less popular. You want a real man with guts in the White House? Well, Obama fits the bill.”

  • http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/21/the-full-story-behind-rev-jeremiah-wrights-911-sermon/ NB

    Arun – a touch of synchronicity here?

  • Horace Grady

    The Indian tribes mentioened above used force and and terror,,,and in some cases outright genocide…against other ameridian tribes to secure space and resource. The Indians(Ameridians) were not our moral superoirs.

    Whites won. Too bad. I suffer no White guilt over it. It doesn’y follow from this that Americans Indians should be treated badly.

    Barck Obama would like to see the contiuation of post-1965 immigration policy because over time this policy will reduce White Americans to a racial minority. So clearly Barck Obama’s intetnios towards White Americans are quite nasty.

    If he were elected president, Barck Obama would increase the scale of the currently intractable social,economic and environmental problems. Do you really think afirmmative action for hispanics ,jamaicans,nigerians,ghanians and other post-1965 demographic groups is a long term viable policy option? Complete nonsense.

    Barck Obama in his orientation is 100 percent racial. Manifestly obvious.

  • http://voicesofreason.info N. B.

    Grady, two flubs there. First, you can’t honestly compare the encounter with native Americans to a legitimate conflict between national beligerants that was settled with an honorable treaty. Americans used subterfuge and sheer seizure much of the time, it wasn’t classical spoils of war. (However, an honest historian would admit that tribes supporting the British during the Revolution or the South during the WBTS did subject themselves to warned of consequences of loss – that isn’t talked about much. But did we reward the ones on the federal side either time? Not for long …)

    Second, you have no right to proclaim “Barck Obama would like to see the [continuation] of post-1965 immigration policy because over time this policy will reduce White Americans to a racial minority.” That is a motivational claim, not a fact. Anything that lasted since 1965 clearly has a lot of fingerprints all over it, mostly from corporate America that wants to suppress wages. I would like to see strong support of border security, but who else would stand up to corporate America and do that right? Racial issues are a distance nth factor leading to support, perhaps among specific direct interest groups. Obama wouldn’t be any worse than the other contenders, and is likely to mellow the affirmative action issue not make it more strident. Your final sentence is manifestly outrageous, especially on a blog dedicated to scientific style thinking in every area.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    How do I know I’m not NB?

    :)

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Obama just picked up an endorsement from a conservative legal scholar, see at http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/convictions/archive/2008/03/23/endorsing-obama.aspx:
    I usually fumble the italics HTML, but below is all quoted:
    *

    Endorsing Obama

    Today I endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. I believe him to be a person of integrity, intelligence and genuine good will. I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and to return United States to that company of nations committed to human rights.

    9/11 and the radical Islamic ideology that it represents is a continuing threat to our safety and the next president must have the honesty to recognize that it, as author Paul Berman has written, “draws on totalitarian inspirations from 20th-century Europe and with its double roots, religious and modern, perversely intertwined. . . .wields a lot more power, intellectually speaking, then naïve observers might suppose.” Senator Obama needs to address this extremist movement with the same clarity and honesty with which he has addressed the topic of race in America. Effective criticism of the incumbent for diverting us from this task is a good start, but it is incomplete without a forthright outline of a commitment to undertake, with international partners, the formation of a world-wide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby, stem radical Islam’s threat to civil order. I await Senator Obama’s more extended thinking upon this vital subject, as he accepts the nomination of his party and engages Senator McCain in the general campaign discussion to come.

    Published Sunday, March 23, 2008 9:18 AM by Doug Kmiec
    Filed under: Iraq, John McCain, Douglas W. Kmiec, Barack Obama, OLC, 9/11 plotters, speech, Roe, abortion, terrorism, rule of law

    About Doug Kmiec

    * Douglas W. Kmiec is Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University. He served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (U.S. Assistant Attorney General) for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Former Dean of the law school at The Catholic University of America, Professor Kmiec was a member of the law faculty for nearly two decades at the University of Notre Dame.

  • Anon

    Obama’s calls for tolerance, now that he is on the receiving end of bigotry, would be more believable if he practised what he preached. However, it is hard to buy what he is selling, given the following story, quoted from various sources:

    In 2004, at the height of the firestorm that was set off by Mayor Gavin Newsom authorizing same sex marriages in San Francisco, previous Mayor Willie Brown held a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama. The candidate had a request to Mayor Brown:

    “And he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

    Given this, his latest speech is, to me, nothing more than a political speech motivated by cynical political ambitions. He is someone who will do what he thinks he needs to win. In particular, you can bet your ass he will not touch gays or gay issues with a ten foot pole during this election.

  • http://gollyg.blogspot.com Dr Zen

    Obama is obviously full of shit. He’s a pollie, what do you expect? But it was a nice speech.

    And he’s a liberal in the same way John McCain is a centrist.

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    It is a great speech.

    Trouble is, it doesn’t tell us how to move on from the Bush/Clinton era of gotcha cherrypicking, base busing, and dumbing down. If Obama can’t figure out how to translate better and more honest arguments into wins, he’ll get ground down by the politics of the last two decades.

  • Todd

    Simply put, Reverend Wright is a bigot. In this speech, it feels like Obama is trying to rationalize his disgusting rhetoric as somehow representative of a broader racism problem in America.

    If someone is black, white, or green, spouting this sort of bile only reveals their internal prejudice. Wright is a bigot. Case closed.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun
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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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