Category Archives: History

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

I swear, you can’t make this shit up.  Take a look:

I distinctly remember Ronald Reagan meeting Mikhail Gorbachev in Iceland.  Reagan landed first, and was waiting when Gorbachev’s Aeroflot airliner landed – in the Icelandic wind.  Gorbachev deplaned in a typically Russian heavy overcoat and fur hat (say what you will about the Russians, they know how to dress for cold weather) and Reagan was outside waiting for him in a regular business suit.

As Gorbachev approached, he slipped on a patch of ice.  He did not fall, but before his aides could react, the older Reagan ran to his side and steadied him, as though he was the younger, stronger man, representing his younger, stronger country.

It was a great visual.  Now we have doddering, senile old Joe Biden, sending the world just the opposite message.

Great.  Just great.

With that…

On To the Links!

Yeah, that’s not going to work out the way you think.

And that’s not likely to work out at all the way you think.

The epidemic that wasn’t.

Well, this is embarrassing.  If you’re not feeling like this, you should be.

No shit, Sherlock.

No shit, Sherlock II.

From the time of dinosaurs, and before.  Cool.

Holy shit!  Watch the embedded video – there was sure as hell automatic weapons fire on the Mexico side of the river.  Believe me, I’ve heard it before – and not an automatic rifle.  That was an M-60 or something of that sort, a crew-served machine gun.  (But they have such strict gun control in Mexico!)

Neandertals took good care of their teeth.

Well, you bought a house in loony California, so…

Fuck you, China.  Right in the neck.

This is actually racist.

1.  Read riot act.  2.  Order rioters to disperse.  3. Open fire.

Another one bites the dust.

Baghdad Bob at the southern border.

Meanwhile, immigrant facilities are apparently full of giant baked potatoes.

Joe Biden(‘s handlers) can’t keep covering this shit up.

The Navy is still looking into fusion.  Not surprising, the Navy operates a lot of reactors and has plenty of nuke experts.

This Week’s Idiots:

CNN’s Stephen Collinson is an idiot.

Newsweek‘s Michael Dyson is an idiot.

The Guardian‘s David Smith is an idiot.

USA Today‘s Nicole Carroll is an idiot.

Notorious blowpig Michael Moore is still an idiot.

Colorado farmers and ranchers respond to Gov. Polis’s idiocy.

Slate‘s Pedro Gerson is an idiot.

Slate’s Jane Hu is an idiot.  I’m sensing a pattern here.

Everyone involved with this bill is an idiot.

The Week‘s Ryan Cooper is an idiot.

The Nation‘s Elie Mystal is an idiot.

And So:

Boy, this one brings back some memories.  I remember going to the Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime when I was a little kid.  They had bins of little plastic toys, dinosaurs, birds and the like.  My Mom would give me a nickel each trip, if I had behaved myself, so I could buy one.

Later, as a teenager, I worked at the Woolco in Cedar Falls, selling guns and fishing gear.  Woolco was, of course, a branch of the famous Woolworth chain of five and dime stores.  I never fell in love with a co-worker there, although I did date one of the girls from the Garden Center for a while.  Nanci Griffith did a wonderful song about that happening, however; this is Love at the Five and Dime.  And (let’s say this softly) compare this marvelous display of talent, class and skill with what passes for music today, say, for example, at the recent Emmy Awards.  Anyway.  Enjoy.

Rule Five Stumbling Into War Friday

National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson wonders if President Biden(‘s handlers) might be about to blunder into another war due to incompetence.  Excerpt:

If, even unwittingly, President Biden projects the image that the Pentagon is more concerned about ferreting out wayward internal enemies than in seeking unity by deterring aggressors, then belligerents such as China, North Korea, and Iran and others will likely—even if falsely and unwisely—wager that the United States will not or cannot react to provocations, as it has done in the past. And accordingly, they will be emboldened to provoke their neighbors with less worry about consequences. 

Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 on the false assumption that Stalin had been too busy purging his military elite, starving his own people, or executing both rivals and friends. He certainly did all that and more. 

Yet despite Soviet cannibalism, nonetheless, Hitler was apparently unaware that the chaotic Russians could still field an army twice the size of his own. Stalin’s tanks and artillery were just as or more deadly than Hitler’s—and soon far more numerous than the assets of Blitzkrieg. A spirited, defiant and, yes, united populace was determined to protect Mother Russia from the invader. The British Empire and America were far more potent allies than Hitler’s Mussolini and Tojo. 

So wars are deterred when all the potential players know the relative strengths of each and the relative willingness to use such power in defense of a nation’s interests. Lack of such knowledge leads to dangerous misjudgments. And war then becomes a grotesque foreordained laboratory experiment to confirm what should have been known in advance.

Wars begin when aggressive powers believe that their targets are weaker, or give the false impression that they are weaker, or at least stay inert in the face of provocation. What were Argentina’s generals or Saddam Hussein thinking when they provoked the United Kingdom or the United States during the Falkland War and First Gulf War? No doubt, they assumed that their more powerful targets were too busy elsewhere, played out, or insufficiently concerned to react. In aggregate, a lot of damage and death followed in those two respective brief wars of 1982 and 1991—and all to prove what should have been obvious.

Read the whole thing, of course.  Dr. Hanson’s insights in this arena, as with so many others, are invaluable.

But as an old soldier myself, I have some insights as well.  The hard truth is that the United States is weaker than it was in 1991, when we fielded the largest expeditionary force the U.S. military had produced since World War II.  A generation of “peace dividends” followed up with even reservists dealing exhaustively with deployment after deployment after deployment in some of the worst shit-holes in the world have brought us to this pass.  Now the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration’s Top Men seem more concerned to wring their hands about “white supremacists” in the military than they are with making sure that the armed forces are able to carry out their primary purpose – to kill people and break things – or that they are only sent out to do so when there is a vital, compelling national interest in doing so.

We now have soldiers, Marines and airmen in some of the worst places in the world with no clear mission, no exit strategy, and serving no defined national interest.  It’s no wonder the armed forces are having retention problems.  But that’s OK – we can just keep lowering standards for new recruits, right?

Dr. Hanson concludes:

Biden would do better to apprise quietly his friends and enemies of America’s force and determination. He should resist comprehensive deals with China and Iran that have unrealistic chances of success given their agendas. And he could claim Trump’s successes as his own and continue their current trajectories, rather than court favor abroad by distancing himself from a largely successful foreign policy guided by Secretary of State Pompeo. 

Otherwise, the alternatives will become increasingly dangerous.

President Biden(‘s handlers) will, of course, do none of those things.  And yes, they are very likely to blunder into some kind of conflict.  And, yes, young soldiers will pay the price for this administration’s incompetence.

Animal’s Daily Truthiness News

National treasure Dr. Thomas Sowell, one of my personal heroes, weighs in on the current state of affairs.  Excerpt:

It is amazing how many people seem to have discovered last Wednesday that riots are wrong — when many of those same people apparently had not noticed that when riots went on, for weeks or even months, in various cities across the country last year.

For too many people, especially in the media, what is right and wrong, true or false, depends on who it helps or hurts politically. Too many media people who are supposed to be reporters act as if they are combatants in political wars.

Someone once said that, in a war, truth is the first casualty. That has certainly been so in the media — and in much of academia as well.

One of the most grotesque distortions growing out of this carelessness with the facts has been a removal of Abraham Lincoln’s name and statues from various places, on grounds that he saw black people only as property.

Such criticisms betray an incredible ignorance of history — or else a complete disregard of truth.

I suspect it’s some of both, but there is plenty of complete disregard for the truth going around.  Take, for example, last week’s events at the Capitol.

The legacy media would have you believe this event, which was for the most part better defined as hooliganism than terrorism, was some kind of historic first; when in fact the Hart Senate Office Building was invaded only in 2018 by anti-Kavanaugh protestors, Senators were confronted in elevators and all this was accepted as “free speech.”  Not to mention that only earlier this year D.C. was literally on fire, and this was described as a “mostly peaceful protest,” in one case by a reporter who literally had a burning car in frame behind him.

So to answer Dr. Sowell’s question:  No, the truth does not matter any more.  To pols in both parties, honestly, The Narrative is what matters.  But the actions of the Democrats and their supporters in the legacy media have been, for some time now, particularly egregious.

Rule Five Options Friday

It’s increasingly looking like President Trump’s legal challenges are sputtering out, and that next month we’ll have an arguably senile old C-lister inaugurated as the (figurehead) President.  But that’s not what’s really significant about all this – the number one takeaway from this 2020 event is that we no longer have an honest and effective election system in this country.  The Presidential election process has descended into banana-republic territory, and at this point it’s hard to see what we can do to fix it – given that it would take action by the very people who allowed it to be broken and, indeed, who benefit from it being broken.

So what options remain for our tottering Republic?  As I see them, there are three:  Submission, secession or civil war.  Let’s look at them one by one.

Submission.

This is, sadly, the most likely option.  I’m not saying it’s the best option, mind you; just the most likely one.  A great deal of the electorate is not engaged much in the process, while a strong plurality was in favor of the “whatever it takes” approach to removing President Trump and doesn’t give much of a damn that it took electoral fraud to do it.

The implications of that are serious.  No matter the outcome of any election, anywhere in the country, both sides will presume that any outcome they don’t like was due to fraud, and in many cases they’ll be correct.  The Left in particular has now taken the mask off.  They have shown that they will do whatever it takes to gain power and retain power.  That’s not a recipe for maintaining the liberty of the people. 

But if the ordinary people of the nation accept this, then the United States as we know it will gradually devolve into an authoritarian state.  End result:  The U.S. ends not with a bang but a whimper.

Secession.

Let’s assume for a moment that we’re not talking about an 1861, South Carolina-style secession, but rather the “peaceful divorce” option already being floated in Texas and other places.  Take a look at the map of states that supported the Texas-initiated lawsuit that was just struck down a week ago today; most of the states are contiguous, excepting our own soon-to-be home state of Alaska.  A peaceful divorce of some sort would leave a nation on the northeast coast, one around the upper Midwest (call it Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan) and the West Coast. 

The free states would have good ports at Galveston, Corpus Christi, Mobile and Savannah on the golf and east coasts, and Anchorage on the Pacific.  (I may have missed a few, or maybe a few dozen ports there, but you get the point.)  The free states would also have most of the continent’s agricultural land, energy production and a lot of the manufacturing capacity.  The not-so-free states in the East would have… well… the legacy media, a fair amount of the old academia institutions, and the peripatetic victim classes.  The West Coast states would be set up a little better with some agricultural lands – assuming the new national governments allowed farming – and some industry, along with several good Pacific ports.

But how would the military be divided up?  Would there be any mutual defense pacts?  The new Blue nations would almost certainly devote little or nothing to defense; how long before China looks with envy at the undefended West Coast?  There are a million things that would have to be worked out.  Even so, I see this as probably the best way out of the current predicament, even as it is not a very likely one.  The down side is a global power vacuum, as the superpower that once stood astride North America like a Colossus would be gone for good.  End result:  Two, three or more nations where one once stood, the sum of those parts being rather less than the whole had once been.

Civil War.

This is by far the worst, and fortunately least likely, option.

Any such conflict would be, unlike the 1861-1865 war, a true civil war.  It would not be uniformed armies maneuvering in open country and fighting conventional battles; it would be much more like the various third world conflicts of the last century.  It would be a conflict involving atrocity piled upon atrocity; it would be fought on the streets of the cities, and spilled out into the countryside and the small towns.

This event would see the rise of local warlords; a partial or complete collapse of conventional authority would likely result.  Some percentage of the military would go to each side, likely – depending on actions of commanders – taking some military equipment and vehicles along with them.  The cities would be cut off, and as starvation set in, the urban cohorts would head into the country, assuming there was food there, but having no idea how to obtain or produce that food for themselves, and running into armed landowners when they try to appropriate that food.

And no matter which faction managed to wrest out some local victories, the United States, in this option, ends with a bang, not a whimper.

The Odds?

I’m engaging in pure guesswork here, but my estimate of the odds of each of the above scenarios, right now, are as follows:

  • Submission – 75%
  • Secession – 20%
  • Civil War – 5%

I’m probably pegging the odds of civil war a little too high.  My first gut reaction is to place that probability at 1% or less, but I’ve spent the last week watching reactions, and I have to say in my almost-sixty years I’ve never seen such a reaction to an election.  The primary reason I place the odds this high is that it’s arguably already started, with the Profa thugs of the Democratic Party’s brown-shirt enforcement wing already rioting in the streets. 

The main reason I don’t put the odds higher is that Profa has shown themselves to be rather egg-like; externally they have a hard shell, but when confronted and the shell cracked, they are pretty squishy and runny inside.  Things could well spiral out of control even so, and while I still think it’s unlikely to devolve to that point, I wouldn’t rule out some kind of preference cascade leading to the unthinkable becoming thinkable, and one thing that could lead to that is the ordinary citizenry realizing that their municipal governments aren’t going to do anything about the brown-shirts, and taking matters into their own hands.

So.  Thoughts?

Rule Five Old Rules/New Rules Friday

This came out over on Freethepeople.org a little over a week ago, but I took a little time to absorb it:  The Rules of Politics Don’t Matter Anymore.  Timely, indeed.  Excerpts, with my comments, follow.

When Virginia decided to secede from the Union, 50 counties in the western part of the state were generally in disagreement with that decision. They formed their own government and held votes to create their own state. They were admitted into the Union in June of 1863 by the vote of Congress. The challenging part of this is that the Constitution in Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 states the following:

“New states may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.”

Legally, if Virginia had seceded and was not a part of the Union, then the congressional vote to admit it was void because the government established in West Virginia was make-believe. Virginia was part of a different country and therefore the West Virginian contingent was as phony as wax fruit. The Confederacy hadn’t given West Virginia permission to secede from the Confederacy. If, as Lincoln claimed, the state of Virginia was in rebellion, then the state still bound by the Union had not given its permission as required by the Constitution. Either way, the state was formed illegally and should not have been admitted into the Union.

Now this is an interesting bit.  Author Aaron Everitt points out that, while the separation of West Virginia may well have been prohibited by the Constitution, it’s certainly not going backwards now.  But the larger point is the precedent that was set:

Here is the basic problem with those of us who still want to play by the rules of the Constitution… We still want to play by the rules. When courts say we can’t secede any longer, we accept our medicine and say it isn’t a workable idea because it would break the rules. Last I checked, the advancement of most social changes in the United States were not because we changed the Constitution (like the rules say we should). Instead, they have come by executive order, Congressional law, or judicial fiat. As rule followers, we scream and holler that the other ideologues are “not playing by the rules.” Still, the advancements keep coming and the government gets larger and more out of control. We get on our blogs and talk radio and yell about how the progressives are destroying our country! We insist they play by the rules of the Constitution, and we watch the world shift underneath our feet. We keep hoping they will play the game we want to play, by the rules we think we all should play by—instead they show up ready to do whatever it takes to win; the rules be damned.

So why haven’t the political right learned to do the same thing?  And if we do, how then are we any better than the left, who set this standard?  What price political victory?

If that is the game we are playing, why not take a page from West Virginia? What if, in this era of larger and more overwhelmingly authoritarian government, we decided to do what West Virginia did and just break apart regardless of the rules? What would stop Morgan county in Colorado from just becoming its own country or state? They can’t do it because the Constitution says so? Since when has that mattered to those on the other side of the ideological spectrum? Wouldn’t these places be wise to become defiant and say “We are leaving”? A better question still is, who will stop them? Will the federal government really send the troops in to preserve the Union? I have a hard time imagining tanks rolling through the middle of Eureka, California to make sure they stay beholden to Sacramento let alone Washington D.C. Most of the people in San Francisco would be glad to see those people leave. They generally frustrate their utopian ideals and stop them from creating their socialist paradise. I struggle to see the cafe and croissant crowd demanding that Morgan County in Colorado remain a part of the state. I see no moral imperative to holding this massive country together any longer. There isn’t a crusade that anyone can rally behind with enough energy to stop the departure of places that are insignificant to the elites.

This is a sentiment that you see kicked around a lot right now.  I think it’s largely an expression of frustration, especially after the shenanigans surrounding the recent elections, but there’s always the possibility it could become more than that; there’s a trip wire that could be crossed.  The article here concludes:

We used to have an “invisible fence” for our dog. For years the dog was trained through its own trial and error that it could go no farther than a certain point in our yard or it would get shocked. A few years into having the system, the wire was severed and the line stopped working. However our dog had become so accustom to being shocked in the past that it never crossed the line—even though the system was useless. I wonder if we, as Constitutionally-minded people, aren’t in the same predicament as my dog? So afraid to change because we want to obey. But if we take these thoughts from Jefferson to heart, perhaps it is our right, if not our duty to start the breakup.

Ay, there’s the rub.

Even now, after this sullied election, with the growing urban/rural divide, the United States is one nation.  But the bounds of this nation are like the invisible fence that Mr. Everitt used as  a metaphor, and there’s another phenomenon that may lead to us ignoring that fence, that being a preference cascade, one that leads us to break the bonds.

And once that’s done, there’s no going back.  The only question will be whether America remains, afterwards, in any recognizable form.

 

Rule Five The More Things Change Friday

In accordance with my odd habit of reading classical and sometimes rather arcane stuff, I’ve recently been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.  It’s a fascinating read, and for having written this around 1800 years ago, this Roman Emperor had some insights that still apply today – some almost uncannily.  A few of these are here, followed with my thoughts.

Moreover I learned of him to write letters without any affectation, or curiosity; such as that was, which by him was written to my mother from Sinuessa: and to be easy and ready to be reconciled, and well pleased again with them that had offended me, as soon as any of them would be content to seek unto me again. To read with diligence; not to rest satisfied with a light and superficial knowledge, nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of…

“To read with diligence.”  How many people do that any more?  It took me years to learn to seek out differing viewpoints; the Old Man used to exhort me to vigorously challenge my own opinions, but I was probably in my forties before I really took that advice to heart, and it did result in my changing my mind on a few issues.  My current worldview, that of a somewhat prickly minarchist libertarian, arose from my following of that advice.  And “…nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of” applies as well.  In simple, modern English:  The “common wisdom” usually isn’t.

And these your professed politicians, the only true practical philosophers of the world, (as they think of themselves) so full of affected gravity, or such professed lovers of virtue and honesty, what wretches be they in very deed; how vile and contemptible in themselves?

Boy howdy!  Does this ever apply to most modern pols.  “…what wretches they be in very deed,” as in profiting hugely from their service, even if it’s indirectly; say, by laundering bribe money from a Ukrainian oil company by placing your useless, coke-head, prostitute-impregnating son in a plush “position” on their Board of Directors.

What is that that is slow, and yet quick? merry, and yet grave? He that in all things doth follow reason for his guide.

This kind of fits in with the first item, doesn’t it?  When used as a verb, ‘reason’ may be defined as to “think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.”  Now read Twitter, or FaceDerpbook, or any of the other various and sundry social media outlets, and see how many people you think are thinking, understanding and forming opinions by a process of logic.  I can answer that in advance:  Almost none.

He that runs away from his master is a fugitive. But the law is every man’s master. He therefore that forsakes the law, is a fugitive. So is he, whosoever he be, that is either sorry, angry, or afraid, or for anything that either hath been, is, or shall be by his appointment, who is the Lord and Governor of the universe.

The key takeaway from this?  “…the law is every man’s master.”  But today, the law is not every man’s master; too many people (like, say, Bill Clinton) get away with too much, with too many things, that common people never would.  “…the law is every man’s master” is another way of saying “equal treatment under the law,” which is, as we have documented many times in these virtual pages, effectively dead in this country today.

Marcus Aurelius was in many ways no prize by today’s standards.  He was an Emperor, by definition an autocrat.  But he was the last of what Machiavelli more-or-less accurately described as the “Five Good Emperors,” and the Roman historian wrote of him “…alone of the emperors, he gave proof of his learning not by mere words or knowledge of philosophical doctrines but by his blameless character and temperate way of life.”  His Meditations, these eighteen centuries later, are still worth reading – and reflecting upon.  Some of our political employees would do well to mark his words.

Rule Five Berkeley Friday

This came out last week, but I needed a few days to properly digest it.  My reaction?  This is long overdue.  Excerpt:

The vast majority of violence visited on the black community is committed by black people. There are virtually no marches for these invisible victims, no public silences, no heartfelt letters from the UC regents, deans, and departmental heads. The message is clear: Black lives only matter when whites take them. Black violence is expected and insoluble, while white violence requires explanation and demands solution.

Please look into your hearts and see how monstrously bigoted this formulation truly is. No discussion is permitted for non-black victims of black violence, who proportionally outnumber black victims of non-black violence. This is especially bitter in the Bay Area, where Asian victimization by black assailants has reached epidemic proportions, to the point that the SF police chief has advised Asians to stop hanging good-luck charms on their doors, as this attracts the attention of (overwhelmingly black) home invaders. Home invaders like George Floyd.

For this actual, lived, physically experienced reality of violence in the USA, there are no marches, no tearful emails from departmental heads, no support from McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. For the History department, our silence is not a mere abrogation of our duty to shed light on the truth: it is a rejection of it.

And speaking of George Floyd, here’s a reality check:

As a final point, our university and department has made multiple statements celebrating and eulogizing George Floyd. Floyd was a multiple felon who once held a pregnant black woman at gunpoint. He broke into her home with a gang of men and pointed a gun at her pregnant stomach. He terrorized the women in his community. He sired and abandoned multiple children, playing no part in their support or upbringing, failing one of the most basic tests of decency for a human being. He was a drug-addict and sometime drug-dealer, a swindler who preyed upon his honest and hard-working neighbors. And yet, the regents of UC and the historians of the UCB History department are celebrating this violent criminal, elevating his name to virtual sainthood. A man who hurt women. A man who hurt black women. With the full collaboration of the UCB history department, corporate America, most mainstream media outlets, and some of the wealthiest and most privileged opinion-shaping elites of the USA, he has become a culture hero, buried in a golden casket, his (recognized) family showered with gifts and praise.

Americans are being socially pressured into kneeling for this violent, abusive misogynist. A generation of black men are being coerced into identifying with George Floyd, the absolute worst specimen of our race and species. I’m ashamed of my department. I would say that I’m ashamed of both of you, but perhaps you agree with me, and are simply afraid, as I am, of the backlash of speaking the truth. It’s hard to know what kneeling means, when you have to kneel to keep your job.

Read the whole thing; it’s powerful stuff.

Unfortunately it will also be water off a duck’s back to the people at whom it is aimed.  The Left’s conquest of the legacy media and our educational institutions has been at least a couple of generations in the making, and it would take that long to undo if we started today.  And it won’t start today.  People on the political Right (and also minarchist libertarians, like me, who don’t quite fit on the generally accepted political spectrum) tend not to go into these fields, I suppose because we prefer honest work.

But holy shit, when did honesty stop being a virtue?  When did we start accepting liars as long as they advance a “cause?”  When did we start accepting blatant, transparent lies (Russian collusion!) as long as they advance The Side?

The article here linked concludes:

I condemn the manner of George Floyd’s death and join you in calling for greater police accountability and police reform. However, I will not pretend that George Floyd was anything other than a violent misogynist, a brutal man who met a predictably brutal end. I also want to protect the practice of history. Cleo is no grovelling handmaiden to politicians and corporations. Like us, she is free.

Not any more.  The PC mob has take over.  Cleo has been shackled, and we are all headed into dangerous times.

Rule Five 1776 Friday V

For the past few weeks RealClearPublicAffairs has been running what they are calling the 1776 series.  I recommend reading them all.  Here’s the description:

The 1776 Series is a collection of original essays that explain the foundational themes of the American experience. Commissioned from distinguished historians and scholars, these essays contribute to the broader goal of the American Civics project: providing an education in the principles and practices that every patriotic citizen should know.

This week I’ll be providing some commentary on the final issue of this series, Self-Government, the American Way, by Will Morrisey.  Excerpts follow, with my comments:

After winning the independence they had declared in 1776, Americans had to prove that they could sustain self-government in peace. They’d governed themselves already, as colonists, but now the British government no longer protected them from the other European powers, and indeed remained a potential enemy of the new country. It’s easy for us today to wonder why American statesmen from Washington to Lincoln seemed obsessed with building and sustaining “the Union,” or why President Jefferson so readily bent his constitutional scruples to purchase Louisiana from Napoleon to extend it. But to Americans then, looking at maps of North America, seeing their republic surrounded by hostile empires and nations whose rulers viewed republicanism with fear and contempt, maintaining the Union meant survival—survival not just of their way of life but of their very lives.

It’s important to note that the formation of the American republic was an existential threat to kings, emperors, dictators and despots all over the world.  Not only was there now a nation with government by the people, of the people, for the people, it was a nation whose governing documents included strict prohibitions against its interfering with the fundamental natural rights of its citizens.

To understand American self-government, one should begin with the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  These rights stand at the center of republicanism considered as an activity of self-government. They limit the power of Congress, the branch of the federal government charged with legislating. They prevent Congress from legislating republicanism out of existence.

As I’ve pointed out before in discussing other articles in this series, the first five words of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights is key and cannot be emphasized enough:

Congress Shall Make No Law.

No law, as I’ve said, means no damn law.  But during the Kung Flu crisis, that didn’t stop  state governors and local pols and bureaucrats from trying all manner of power grabs; many of those were challenged in court, many were protested with vigor by the citizens, but court cases take time.

Freedom of speech and of the press must not be prohibited—they cannot even be abridged by Congress. Here, we must know what the founding generation meant by such a formula: freedom of political speech and publishing. Slander, libel, and obscenity were universally banned by state and local law, and could potentially be banned by federal law, too. Republican government requires discussion and deliberation by the sovereign people. How else could citizens make their sovereignty effective? This is why the Preamble to the Constitution begins with “We, the People of the United States.”

Now, today, here’s the question:  Have we been successful, as citizens, in making our sovereignty effective?

I’d argue that today we can only say “somewhat.”

Congress routinely runs roughshod over the Bill of Rights.  The several states, maybe even more so.  During the earlier part of the Moo Goo Gai Panic, the Governor of New Jersey – the chief executive of one of the fifty states – replied to an interviewer that the Bill of Rights was “…above his pay grade.”  What an idiotic reply!  The Bill of Rights is not above anyone’s “pay grade,” it is a compendium of our natural rights with which no pol or bureaucrat at any level of government may legally interfere – a part of the Constitution which this stupid ass took an oath to support and defend!

The essay and the series concludes (emphasis added by me):

It remains for American citizens to live in the structure the Founders designed by respecting its features, a respect that can only be maintained by what one Founder called “a moral and religious people”—which is to say, a people who perpetuate the American effort at self-government in their private, civil, and political lives.

That last sentence, that’s the part that scares me.  More and more, I fear, more Americans are lured away from the “American effort at self-government” by the siren song of Free Shit, and more and more, the Bill of Rights is forgotten.

Rule Five 1776 Friday IV

For the past few weeks RealClearPublicAffairs has been running what they are calling the 1776 series.  I recommend reading them all.  Here’s the description:

The 1776 Series is a collection of original essays that explain the foundational themes of the American experience. Commissioned from distinguished historians and scholars, these essays contribute to the broader goal of the American Civics project: providing an education in the principles and practices that every patriotic citizen should know.

This week I’ll be providing some commentary on Civic and Moral Virtues, the American Way, by Will Morrisey.  Excerpts follow, with my comments:

In declaring their independence from Great Britain, Americans famously asserted their unalienable rights. Much less conspicuously, but no less tellingly, they listed ten moral responsibilities consonant with those rights.

In announcing their political separation, they begin by acknowledging a duty to observe “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” by stating the causes for their decision. 1). “Decent” means fitting, appropriate; the opinions of mankind are fittingly respected because human beings possess the capacity for sociality, for understanding one another, for giving reasons for their conduct. Any important public action entails the responsibility to explain oneself, to justify that action before the bar of reasoning men and women.

To justify oneself, in turn, requires Americans to state their standard of justice. That standard is unalienable natural rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 2). Justice numbers among the four cardinal classical virtues, defined and elaborated by Plato, Cicero, and other philosophers well known to the Declaration’s signers. Just conduct consists of actions defending natural rights in a civil society; to assert those rights, to separate oneself from those who would violate them, logically entails respecting those rights in all other persons, inasmuch as “all men are created equal,” all equally entitled to enjoy their natural rights undisturbed by tyrants.

Justice should indeed ranked high, if not first, among moral virtues; the concepts of individual rights, liberty and property are impossible to maintain without it.  Here:

Governments that secure such rights are established by the consent of the governed. This means that consent cannot mean mere assent or willingness. It can only mean reasoned assent. 3). Reasoned assent to natural right implies a modest degree of another classical virtue, wisdom. In this case, it is what Aristotle calls “theoretical” wisdom, understanding general or abstract principles. Americans recognize their duty to understand what human nature is—not only the nature of Americans, or the English, or the French, but of human beings as such.

And in this lies my concern.

Look at the last few election cycles – for Congress or for any of your local elections – and ask yourself, seriously, given the tenure of the campaign ads and the rhetoric of the candidates, how “wise” the voters these people are aiming at really are.

It’s not just the endless boasting of how much Free Shit the candidates will give away.  Most of the voters couldn’t find the First or Fourth Amendments with written instructions, partly because the basic education system has degraded into a series of leftist indoctrination seminars, our popular entertainment is composed of gladiatorial games and an endless parade of morons posing as “reality” programming.  One can hardly expect wisdom from a population when a plurality of that population is more concerned with who one of the Kardashians is fucking in any given week than what their Congressman is doing to our wallets that week in the Imperial City.

Is there hope for us?  Well, I’m inclined to think so:

The fourth classical virtue is courage. Without it, wisdom, justice, and moderation by themselves will leave you high and dry. As a baseball manager once said of a rival, “Nice guys finish last.” Accordingly, Americans announce their intention to defend their rights with “manly firmness.” It should be noted that manliness in their minds had no “gender.” Abigail Adams was no less “manly” in her firmness than her husband, John. He knew that and said it. Looking back on the American Revolution, he wrote that those were times that tried women’s souls as well as those of men, and that American women had exhibited no less courage than their husbands and sons.

I think we still have courage, as a people.  I recall President Reagan’s speech about “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc,” and I also recall some talking head interviewing a journalist who had been embedded with some of our troops in Iraq in 2003.  The talk-droid referenced that speech by President Reagan, (correctly) lauded the courage of those men that stormed the beaches of Normandy, and asked the journalist “…where are young men like that today?  Are there any?”

“Yes,” the journalist replied.  “We have many of them, and a lot of them are there, today, in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And that’s what might just save us as a people.  It won’t be the professional grievance-mongers, the race hustlers, the permanently “offended” that make America work – not ever.  It’s the courage and moral fortitude of the regular workers and business-people of America who, once the autistic screeching of the previous types has finally tapered off, will spit on their hands and get on with the job.

That’s courage, True Believers.  The courage to keep on.

Read the whole article, of course.  It’s worth the time.  It’s about us.

Rule Five 1776 Friday III

For the past few weeks RealClearPublicAffairs has been running what they are calling the 1776 series.  I recommend reading them all.  Here’s the description:

The 1776 Series is a collection of original essays that explain the foundational themes of the American experience. Commissioned from distinguished historians and scholars, these essays contribute to the broader goal of the American Civics project: providing an education in the principles and practices that every patriotic citizen should know.

This week I’ll be providing some commentary that some of you may differ with (hardly the first time I’ve done that!) as this week we’ll look at Religion and the Moral Foundations of American Democracy by Carson Holloway.  Full disclosure:  I’m an atheist.  Selected excerpts, with my comments:

According to social scientists, traditional religiosity is in decline in contemporary America. Fewer Americans identify as members of long-established churches. Fewer Americans attend religious services on a weekly basis than in generations past.

This is certainly true, and not just in America, but over the developed Western world in general.  Is it a bad thing?  Well, as an areligious person myself, I can only give a qualified answer:  “That depends.”  But let’s move on.

Some Americans view these developments in purely empirical terms, as evidence of a changing culture. Others, critics of traditional religion, take the decline of American religion as a desirable trend, a sign of liberation from outmoded beliefs and irrational superstitions unsuitable to a modern, rational age.

While I am not an evangelical atheist – I never have harbored any notion that I was smart enough to tell anyone else how to live – I do tend to agree with that latter statement.  But here’s where this essay, to my mind, wanders off course:

Neither of these assessments, however, is consistent with the mainstream American political tradition. That tradition views religion not as a private concern, the decline of which would be a mere sociological curiosity, nor as a relic of an unenlightened past with which the contemporary world can happily dispense. Instead, it regards religion as an essential element of America’s political culture. According to this venerable understanding, the American regime cannot attain its ends—that is to say, America cannot truly be America—in the absence of widespread religious belief and practice among its citizens.

Look at that last sentence:

According to this venerable understanding, the American regime cannot attain its ends—that is to say, America cannot truly be America—in the absence of widespread religious belief and practice among its citizens.

I don’t think this is the case.

This essay seems to operate on a pro forma assumption that religion is the only possible basis for morality.  That’s a canard.   From an essay of my own from some time back:

Speaking for myself – and I presume to speak only for myself, in itself a moral decision – I do not need a higher power to tell me what the right way is to behave.  I already know the difference between right and wrong.  I live a moral life not because someone or something else requires me to, but because I choose to do so, because it is the right thing to do.  I have distinct ideas on how a moral person should comport themselves in a free, moral society.  Moreover, I have very distinct ideas on how human society should conduct itself, morally.  How do I define right and wrong?  Conducting yourself in a moral manner is right.  Conducting yourself against accepted codes of moral behavior is wrong.

On what things do I, as a moral person, base my morality?  I base morality on that highest of human conditions, the only one that truly reflects the concept of natural rights:  Liberty.  I base morality on the fundamental right to the fruits of one’s own effort:  Property.

Holloway continues:  We may be tempted to look complacently on the decline of American religion, thinking that rights and freedom are modern and desirable, while religion is a burdensome relic of the past. The American Founders, however, and the political tradition they initiated, would warn us that such thinking is mistaken. Religion supports the morality necessary to a free society—and so, as Washington taught, we have both patriotic and pious motives to encourage religious belief and practice. As Alexis de Tocqueville, a friend and friendly critic of American democracy, wrote in 1835, “Despotism can do without faith, but liberty cannot. . . . And what is to be done with a people that is its own master, if it is not obedient to God?”  

What de Tocqueville (who I generally find inspiring and have quoted regularly) is engaging in here is an ipse dixit (“he said it himself”) assertion of fact without evidence.  It is perfectly possible and, I would say, preferable, to have a moral society based on nothing more than a universal acceptance of the two principles I have listed above:  Liberty and Property.

Now, with that said, atheist I have been and will remain, but you will find no stauncher defender of freedom of conscience than I.  It is an inextricable part of the principle of liberty; you cannot have freedom without freedom of conscience, which includes your freedom to believe and my freedom to not believe.

That is something, I think, that the author overlooked.