A reader argues….

that I should not have retracted my gripe about the God King’s “No man is an island” speech:

I don’t think you should have changed your position on Obama in the post. Although I think the “God King” monker should be reserved for pro-life issues. I wrote something in response to John Wright, but didn’t post it. It explains why I think you’re wrong. Sure there’s an “obligation” to support the common good, even perhaps through taxes.

But in fascist terms, property and commerce cannot exist without a state authority to invent and preserve them. The “obligation” to maintain the state, and to accept its control of every activity, arises merely by living. There is no distinction between the institution that regulates weights and measures and the farmer who grows wheat; both are participating in a state program called “agricultural commerce,” and the farmer is wrong to think his land or work is anything but a function in that program. If the farmer succeeds, “he didn’t do it alone” because his success is an example of a successful state program. Whether that program involves subsidies, or the working of other state programs like the family, education, or road building, is beside the point. The point is that the farmer’s obligation to the state exists because the farmer owes his life to the state. “Everything for the state. Nothing outside the state.” This is what Republicans and Democrats believe. It’s no less pernicious because it’s political boilerplate. Quite the contrary.

In reality, the state doesn’t “make the market possible.” You don’t need full-throated “state of nature” philosophy to know that property and contract are natural rights that weren’t invented by the state. There are conditions that make collective, even governmental, action beneficial to property and contract. People can agree on these conditions and allow their property to be confiscated to support common projects intended to ameliorate these conditions. But the common project is properly understood to be a delegated, secondary function that can be changed or terminated when it ceases to serve its purposes. A successful farmer “didn’t do it alone” because she contracted with other free people to work a farm; to the extent her success can be traced to state programs, well, she’s already paid for them and it’s just and right that she have their benefits. The “obligation” a successful person has to the state is the obligation to be prudent, not an obligation to an entity in which he or she lives, moves, and has their being.

This distinction gets blurred when the state uses public debt to finance projects no one paid for, and enlists legions of hacks in academia, the media, and chambers of commerce to hype the benefits of government programs “to us all,” but whether we end up as slaves or the free people God intended us to be depends on realizing that distinction. Obama and the Democrats realize it, and openly opt for fascism. Romney and the Republicans realize it, but they merely use popular resentment of the paradigm to further their own fascist ambitions.

Well, that’s my 5-minutes of daily pomposity done. Ta.

Discuss. I, for one, have no trouble with the thesis that we are rapidly morphing into a fascist state and that our Ruling Classes on both sides of the aisle are complicit. So I think this argument has much to commend it. What do you think?

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  • James H, London

    [pompous House-of-Lords voice] Hear, hear!

    Such a shame that the good American-issue common sense never gets a hearing in the meedja, anywhere.

  • Both/and. We are morphing into a fascist state via bipartisan support. On the other hand, Tyrant-Emperor Obama’s speech (esp. considered in isolation) contra Randian rugged individualist “I did it all myself; got mine, Jack, sucks to be you” wasn’t wrong.

    • Peggy R

      Zach, I don’t know any folks who say “I did it all myself; got mine, Jack, sucks to be you.” Some might, sure. Is that what you think of people who work hard day and night to build something of their own? You and the God King are attributing a lack of charity to others whom you don’t know, as a group. That’s called stereotyping and judgmentalism, I think.

      I agree that you should not have retracted your original criticism of Obama’s statement. He is correct that we rarely do anything “all by ourselves.” But he also said you didn’t do any extra, hard work to build your business. Do you think you did nothing special or put forth any great effort to produce the books you’ve written? You didn’t work hard and dedicate yourself to the work you love? You now have something to call your own that you did, yes, with help, but no one did it all for you. You had to do the work. God help us if we abandon the idea of teaching our children they must work to achieve or obtain something in this world.

      Obama degraded working for oneself. He wants us to be slaves to the State or get handouts for doing nothing.

      • Ted Seeber

        Peggy, you may not have met such people, but I was once strongly involved with the Libertarian Party, and I most certainly HAVE met such people. Many of whom were millionaires and billionaires because they had NO ethics or moral compunction against lying, cheating, and stealing their way to the top.

        On the other hand, IF you could show them how they could profit off of a gift to charity, they would suddenly turn into the most generous people in the world- but ONLY when it was in their own self interest (it is amazing how many additional customers a food bank drive can bring in).

        • Peggy R

          Libertarians are a different breed. They are a small minority of society.

          • Ted Seeber

            Well, so are homosexuals. And, for that matter, atheists.

            The difference is crony capitalism. The only difference between a libertarian and a crony capitalist is a large enough bank account to fund campaigns. As you’ve pointed out in the past, crony capitalism in the Democratic and Republican Parties is a huge negative for small businesses. It can, and often does, mean the difference between success and failure how close you are to what the big boys want for their “share” of the market place (and that’s usually 100%).

            And they’re willing to use every trick in the book to get it, having NO morality is a huge competitive advantage.

            • Peggy R

              I’m sorry you’re so cynical.

              Yes, the crony capitalism hurts small business. Thus, we should be especially respectful of the hard work the entrepreneur undertakes to make something of his life, to work successfully at something he loves. The small business man should not be told he didn’t “make that.” He should be especially praised and respected for succeeding in spite of the obstacles placed by govt and large corporations.

              • Ted Seeber

                I am cynical because I’ve been hurt one too many times by capitalism- and fail to see how exemplifying a deadly sin does anybody any good at all.

                YES, the small businessman deserves recognition for what he does, but you’re crossing the line here into more than that; you’re jumping right into the libertarian concept of “he did it all alone”. Just because he works hard does not mean he did it alone; we are a FAMILY, all in this together. And until we see all classes as one; until we feel the sting of every member who falls as well as help celebrate the success of everybody who succeeds, we will be unbalanced.

                • Peggy R

                  I have ABSOLUTELY NOT said “he did it all alone” in any of my comments on these 2 posts of Mark’s. You may check that. The entrepreneur, artist, dedicated soul did the work that ultimately made his dream, his product, his business happen, with help from others. Not much of it out of charity.

                • ED

                  [“And until we see all classes as one; until we feel the sting of every member who falls as well as help celebrate the success of everybody who succeeds, we will be unbalanced.”]

                  Yes… so-o-o very true my friend!!!

  • I strongly agree with your reader, especially his 3rd and 4th paragraphs. While Obama is correct that no man is an island, I do think he was suggesting that any successful person is or was dependent on the government at some point along the way, and therefore “Everything for the state. Nothing outside the state.” is a fair criticism.

  • SDG

    If we confine ourselves to the speech in question, I think the reader is overexegeting (or eisegeting), i.e., reading in things Obama didn’t say. Perhaps the reader’s argument implicitly relies on or assumes other things Obama has said, or interpretations thereof, or on larger climates of opinion of which Obama is or is presumed to be a part (e.g., Alinsky), etc. But nothing in this speech warrants reading “You didn’t build that” as “Your successful business is a successful state program” or “everything for the state, nothing outside the state.” The remarks in question emphasize collectivity and solidarity, but on an economic and communal level, not necessarily, I think, on a specifically state level.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      This. Obama’s speech, in itself, had nothing problematic in it. However, speeches and the ideas that form them don’t happen in a vacuum. When put in context of Obama’s other speeches and philosophies, he’s not defending Catholic Social Teaching; he’s dressing up his own agenda with CST.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        There is a danger, though, of responding to everything Obama says with, “Well, we know how he really feels about X” without listening to what he’s actually saying.

        • Confederate Papist

          The only thing I would say is that Obama’s parents were *not* capitalists. His father was anti-colonial and Marxist. His mother and grandparents were socialists, bordering on communism. Frank Marshall Davis was a communist and a mentor. Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Jeremiah Wright, Fleger…do we judge a man by his associates and associations?
          Communists’ philosophies have changed from a direct to an indirect approach as to how to affect change in America. Obama and the dems and many repubics are all of the same stripe in my opinion….so yeah…one can correctly wonder what message, subliminal or otherwise, he…or anyone else in the federal government…is putting forth.

          • Ted Seeber

            Children in their rebellion, often end up living their parent’s worst nightmares. Capitalism and communism flip flopped in my family a lot.

    • MattyD

      Well said, SDG. If readers are going to take Obama’s plea for social interdependence and extrapolate from that a fascist agenda, then I think we’ve reached a point where words and civic discussion have become entirely meaningless.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Agree completely.

  • Will

    I think all of the labels and name-calling are symptoms of what is wrong. You are not any different than the people you label.

    • john

      But it is ok to label someone as a labeler and call someone a name caller because they are what is wrong…?

    • ivan_the_mad

      Pot, meet kettle.

      • john

        A label and a name call in one go…see that is what is wrong…you should find some more inclusive and tolerant way of identify the (can’t find non-labelic term or name) being discussed.

        • ivan_the_mad

          LOL oh but your blind hypocrisy is far too amusing.

          • john

            Are you labeling me as blind? Would it not be more tolerant to state that I am a person who just happens to be-through no fault of my own- visually impaired? And to name call me a hypocrite is to ignore the fact that I am intellectually superior in that I can compartmentlize my thoughts so as to remain more open minded to all possibilities.

            • ivan_the_mad

              Bwahahahaha! Stop! Please! You’ll slay me with laughter! And then we’ll have to bring you up on charges of mansLaughter!

              • Killing with laughter was outlawed by a special session of the Geneva Convention. And the last lethal joke was burried in 1950. john must be labeled a proponent of violent humor.

                • john

                  Just call me Seargent (S)Laughter and call me before the Hauge

        • john

          I must apologize. In my rush to decry labeling and name calling I have labeled you as you thus implying an otherness between us. This was clearly not my intention…oh no I did it again by labeling myself as my and so creating the impression that there might be something that differentiates one from another. Clearly I am a part of the problem so should not be allowed an opinion since my opinions are based in labels and name calling…that problem that must be solved through the eradication of labels and name calling. I will submit myself for reprogramming and then return to be an acceptable member of society.

          • ivan_the_mad

            We are having far too much fun with this.

            • john

              Yes but the idea lends itself to silliness ad infinitum

              • ivan_the_mad
                • john

                  Yes one must walk like this to follow the thinking of the label free societers

              • john

                The intellectual dizziness that it creates is rather intoxicating…I could go for some cognitive pretzels to go along with this train of thought.

                • ivan_the_mad

                  You labelled the pretzels as cognitive! BLIND HYPOCRITE!!!

                  • john

                    No I was clearly name calling the cognition as pretzeled

                    • Jmac

                      This agrees with your later result that cognition is bad for your heart and makes you fat. Care for some emotional tofu?

                  • john


                    • ivan_the_mad

                      You’ll be labelled with the label I labelled you and you’ll label yourself pleased with it!

                      Now go away or I shall label you a third time!

                    • Jmac

                      Yo dawg, I heard you like labeling things. So I put a label on your label so you can be judgmental while you’re judgmental.

    • Jmac

      *Robert Downey Jr. voice* Now hold on now. What do you mean “you people”?

      • john

        Language lends itself to name calling and labels and should therefore be done away with

        • Jmac

          *Uses an elaborate system of facial expressions to indicate agreement*

          • john

            But is nonverbal communication not a language? And are name calling and labels not implied however subtlety in the use of facial expressions?…but thoughts require labels and name calling…oh no…I guess I should stop that wrongness as well…maybe then I will be acceptably tolerant and open minded. Yes I think I have discovered the trick to being totally tolerantly and diversively open minded…stop thinking.

            • Jmac

              I tried to trick it out by simply removing all abstractions my brain makes, but then I only saw quarks. So I’m forced to agree with you.

              • john

                I guess we should all just function on pure feelings…

      • Peggy R

        Can you do RDJr doing an Australian actor pretending to be a black actor?

        • Jmac

          You mean some kind of a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude?! That’s just TOO crazy.

    • Will

      You proved my point!!!

      • ivan_the_mad

        Next on Will’s Fabulous Proving Show, his line! And then, his polygon!

      • Jmac

        Looks like you replied to yourself there. Do you mean that you proved your own point?

        • ivan_the_mad

          QED, you ignoramus!!! Will said so!

          • Jmac

            Yup. A is equivalent to A. The reflexive property is a perfect substitute for argument 😀

  • John

    Capitalism requires a basic rule of law and some means of enforcing the terms of contracts. Absent a rule of law, inventors and creators constantly run the risk of their labor being stolen/seized by the local feudal lord/bureaucrat/plutocrat….which leads them to not invent/create or to focus on the black market and their own selfish little hobbies vs. the common good.

    Now, if – as many have persuasively argued here and elsewhere such as Anthony Codvilla in his short book “The Ruling Class” (which Rush Limbaugh promotes and accepts as true), that we are in fact living in a circumstance whereby both the GOP and DNC are in fact two wings of the same party (the ruling class party) which consists in the top 10-20% of the country and between them controls something like 95% of all the wealth (and 100% of all the means of police, military and intelligence apparatus)….. what “plan B” shall we, the 80% controlling at most 5% of the wealth, come up with to avoid a future of either outright, overt neo-feudalism or more of the same Matrix-like “status quo” where we are still called a Constitutional Federated Republic but in all practicality are actually a system not too different from the Medieval Feudalism of a Royal class supported by the Nobility who are a law unto themselves and receive the ‘rents’ from the serfs and townsmen from which they amass incredible wealth and military power?

    It would seem our only viable “plan B” is to simultaneously do two things: a) quietly change our lifestyles from consumption to a goal of eventual self-sufficiency, “off the grid” living; pay off all debt including the mortgage, raise a garden, chickens, homeschool, etc. and focus on local civil involvement only with neighbors, fellow believers, local government. and b) insofar as we’re politically active and engaged on the state and federal level, vote only for those Feudal Lords least disposed to run amok or go too far in their drug addled fantasies….

    Because if what everyone surmises is in fact so – that the 20% really do control all the money and power in the world and neither political party will allow a viable 3rd party to rise…. then our only hope to survive is to stay out of their way, become less dependent on them for subsistence, and thereby save our seed corn for a rainy day/or their eventual crisis when like all past empires and ruling classes, they’ll overstep and bring their highly complex system crashing down around their own heads – and thus allow us to come in like the children of Israel from the desert and re-populate the formerly soldily held social highground. It happened to Rome in 476 and it happened to Spain in 711, and to other lands follow national catastrophies. No reason why it won’t happen to ours too.

    Resistance – frontal, directly threatening their power – is futile. So the only rational course of action is passive; stay out of their way/gun sites…. go meek and humble and local…. focus on the next generation and down-sizing, de-leveraging, and building up savings, useful practical skills, networking locally, nationally and internationally… and praying for the strength to be a ray of civilization and light in a world increasingly savage, dark, and unjust as the elites predictably run the system into the ground.

  • Confederate Papist

    Obama is a symptom to a 150 year old problem, albeit a big symptom. Whether it’s fatal or not has yet to be determined.

    John’s response above, plus the argument Mark’s reader makes are very thought-provoking and….ah….what’s the word? Oh yeah…true.

    • Ted Seeber

      150 years. Yep, that’s about right. Bimetalism.

  • Irenist

    Both Obama and Romney are pernicious practitioners of the politics by which Big Corporate and Big Gummint (Hudge and Gudge) enable each other’s rent-seeking at the expense of the rest of us, but neither is a fascist: words have meanings, and precision is important. Fascism, Communism, and the current Welfare/Warfare state are all far from the ideal of subsidiarity and solidarity, but they fall short of it in distinct ways.

    • Jmac

      I’m in awe over how much alliteration you managed to fit in that comment.
      Good point, too.

    • Vote for Robamney! Otherwise, you’ll just be voting for the other guy!

  • Ted Seeber

    I agree with the right of property, but not entirely with the right of contract. It seems to me that there is a reason why popular pious fiction often depicts the Devil as a capitalist, getting people to sign away their souls in blood with a contract.

    Contracts are extremely complex, entirely for the reason that the State supports them and you may need to argue about their provisions in court. Money, government, and contracts are inventions that allow some men to hold on to wealth that they cannot personally protect otherwise, and thus are truly a governmental extension *beyond* natural property rights.

    • Harpy

      Ted, I think I am interpreting your comment to read that if a person cannot personally (physically) protect more than a certain amount of wealth, then it’s OK for them to lose it? Not sure I am following your rationale well. What does “personally protect otherwise” mean in this context? Not arguing, just trying to understand how a person’s ability to defend themselves somehow implicates contracts as immoral?

      • Ted Seeber

        That’s quite an interpretation, and goes a bit further than I wanted to. My intent was to define, rather sharply, the delineation between Natural Property Rights (given by God) and Governmental Property Rights (given by, well, contracts and court enforcement).

        It is *ALWAYS WRONG* to take away a man’s natural property rights. It is only *sometimes wrong* to take away his governmental property rights. Governmental property rights can and have been used to attempt to suppress natural property rights however, and quite often when this is done it is indeed one of the “sins that cries out to heaven” for remedy.

        A good example is the modern usury of the standard credit card contract, where if you fail to pay your gas bill, you suddenly owe more due to a unilateral contract adjustment on your credit card. If it wasn’t for government interference in the market place and the legalization of the credit reporting industry, the two subjects would be entirely disconnected.

        It is the individual’s inability to defend himself against government-enforced contracts that makes them immoral.

        • Observer

          Contracts are simply a re-inforcement of natural property rights. When social-neo-darwinism is introduced into play, then you have something quite un-natural and a problem upon which rights are being enforced (a discord caused in justice.)

        • Harpy

          OK – so, you are simply saying that there are some things that are not proper or moral for the state to uphold, despite the fact that there was a “valid” contract. Fair enough.

          • Peggy R

            I am not a contract law expert–not a lawyer, but econ. I agree that contract rights are important to economic stability. I wonder, however, whether the types of contracts that Ted is concerned with might actually be unlawful.

  • John

    The state or “government” is just other people. So is “church”. So much of what passes for domestic political strife wherein it’s posited that “the people” need some neutral hero called “the regulatory state agency” to save them from the depravity of “big business” or “big church” is wrong precisely because the meme considers some people always victims and others always suspect and others always the good guys….

    Capitalism is an economic system, not a system of government. This is why it functions even in China to the degree that some property rights are respected and contracts can be enforced. To the degree any individual or gang of individuals, working under cover of night, or legal cover as “the state” or culture cover as whatever non-governmental group infringes on the rights to private property or contracts…. to that degree the system of Capitalism breaks down and individuals have less incentive to create new goods and services.

    Socialism, neo-feudalism, Republicanism, Communism etc. are all systems of Government that presume the existence of some sort of ‘free economy’ and the serfs that make it all go but the focus is on who gets to decide what (law) and who gets to enforce the law.

    If what Mark argues – and I suspect is true, is true; that an oligarchy rules the world via the main political parties while the rest of us chase phantoms of patriotism and party allegiance, but in reality continue to play the part of serfs paying rent on the lands owned by others…. there is no easy political solution, the powers that be are too well fortified and defended. The only hope is to avoid conflict with them and pray/quietly prepare for the day when their foreign adventures or domestic cupidity lead to a collapse. The resulting anarchy may not usher in a new age of reason, restraint and Republic, but if we’re prepared, it won’t usher in genocide either.

  • Observer

    Capitalism may become border-line comunism.Look at the events which precipated Germany towards WWII. Outside forces played upon economics and brought people to their feet. A lone voice, of a mad man and an association of insane men, followed. People of Germany were then brought to give into the pressures and influences from outside working and affecting the inside of German people’s lives (particular to their governmental process.) So, as a result, you had the rise of a mad man and associated men of an insanse establishment. Perhaps there are men, of this day, who for some strange and peculiar causes, want to get back at the U.S. and try to create the same situation which befell the German people. Germany was a place of free commerce. Then, eventually, it collapsed. Not because of capitilism. Because an economic system was brought up in Germany which borderd comunist and sociallist systems being impressed upon the people from outside and inside forces.

  • If this indeed was what Barack Obama meant (and I did not hear the whole speech, and so cannot tell what the context was) I will humbly withdraw my criticism of your comment and urge you to retract your retraction.

    The difficulty is that the same words could be used either to describe the normal and republican (small r) duty all members of the res-publica, the commonwealth, have to maintain the common good by a common contribution.
    If you have a shop whose business comes to you along the public road, why, to pay your tithe to pay for the public road and for the traffic cop to maintain peace and order along that road is unexceptional and unobjectionable.
    On the other hand, if you are being asked to pay more than a tithe, and the claim is being made that you and your children and your grandchildren shall be in hock until the sun turns into the Red Giant, and this is to pay for public sector unions, motorcar factory unions, student loans, socialized medicine, the military industrial complex, the government media complex, the government pharmaceutical complex, the abortion industry, the space program, electric cars and corn subsidies, the Reserve Hydrogen Fund, the federal ownership of half the acreage in the southwest, the Federal Baseball Card museum, and payola to the contributors and courtiers of the ruling class, why then that is beyond objectionable and well into the areas where sober men should be stockpiling arms and discussing rebellion.
    So my note to you must be reconsidered. I doubt Mr Obama would be satisfied with the tenth of my product of my labor to contribute to the public good. But if that he what he meant, well and good.
    If he meant that I owe him my entire life, then my answer is the same as Patrick Henry’s.

    John C Wright

  • Andy

    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Sinclair Lewis.
    I do not agree that Obama is a leading us to a fascist state. Fascism is usually typified by an abundant nationalistic pride, bordering on hubris. Reading what many say about Obama, he is lacking in that abundant, belligerent pride in America, called by some American Exceptionalism. If I think anything of Obama, he is leading us toward a some combination of an oligarchy and plutarchy. That is not fascism; it has the economic bearing of facieses but not the nationalism, because this form of government is all about mammon. In fact the Republican de facto candidate is of the same mind – his more emphasis on the plutarchy while Obama favors the oligarchy. I begin with quote from Lewis, because I think he is right, and in the eyes of many posters here Obama will not carry the cross, and Romney doesn’t have the same belief system.

    • “Fascism is usually typified by an abundant nationalistic pride, bordering on hubris.”
      Well, actually fascism is national socialism (distinguished from international socialism, i.e., communism) in that it seeks a state-run economy on a smaller scale. There is, to be sure, national pride in national socialism, but it is the socialism, the state ownership in all but name of the means of production, the banks and motor car industry and money supply and so on, which defines fascism of the Mussolini type. Mussolini is the one who coined the word, and his economic program was the same as we see in the takeover of the medical industry, the car industry, the student loan industry.

  • Well of course not. Charity was supplanted by profit motives in this culture.

    What’s telling is how demeaning some would seem to find an oeconomy based in lovingkindness rather than accumulation of wealth.

  • Franciscan

    It’s not *quite* as bad as the couple of sentences everyone is looking at sounds out of context. Yes, Obama has a point – to a point. No one is an island. No one gets anywhere completely alone. Sure. But the problem, imo, is that President Obama likes to talk about “us” vs. the individual pretty much only when he wants “us” (read: those who already pay little to nothing in federal income taxes) to force certain other individuals to pay more taxes. So, his “us” rhetoric here really just seems to be a psychological ploy – a manipulation. As such, perhaps his statement unintentionally exposed his true beliefs – rather like when he blurted out to Joe the Plumber that he was in favor of “spreading the wealth around.”

    It seems to me that his view of the collective vs. the individual is out of balance. The Church takes no dogmatic position on the exact, correct way to help the poor. But it does teach some clear principles – one of which is commonly ignored by Catholics who have liberal political leanings – subsidiarity.

    Liberals, like Obama, favor government intervention and forced charity (which is really an oxymoron) through taxation (which I think likely explains why liberals typically give less to charity than conservatives). In so doing, they pervert true charity. There *was* a time when Catholic prelates fought the government over “our poor” – not ceding so much responsibility for their material well-being to the government.

    As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (§2431), quoting Pope Pius XI, teaches:

    Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society (emphasis mine).

    Robert Royal wrote in Philanthropy Magazine:

    “It is ironic, then, that the greatest challenge to Catholic philanthropies only began much later, during the New Deal. Aloisius Muench, bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, famously remarked at the time, “The poor belong to us. . . . We will not let them be taken away,” meaning that growing secular programs threatened the old institutional mission. A few years later, another Catholic leader warned that trends towards taking charitable efforts out of the parishes and centralizing them in diocesan offices might lead to a loss of “both the interest and the support of the clergy and the laity.” Even worse, he feared a future “when parish priests and their people cease to say ‘our poor’ and speak rather of ‘your cases.’”

    I also think Brit Hume made a fair assessment of some of the problems inherent in Obama’s full statement, here:


    Go to the 3 min 30 second mark and listen from there.