Keith Olbermann Thinks You’re Chicken

I was going to title this “Keith Olbermann is an Idiot”; but we already knew that. His latest idiocy is this video in which he attempts to persuade people to get the Chinese coronavirus vaccine by calling them chicken if they don’t.

Insulting people and calling them names isn’t an effective method of getting them to do something. Keith might have tried attempting to understand why some people might be reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID and presenting a clear, logical case why they ought to. If they still prefer not to be vaccinated, he might have tried respecting their decision. Instead, Keith reverts to the mentality of the grade school playground. He sounds, for all the world, like little boys, who attempt to prove their courage by daring each other to do foolish and dangerous things. I’m surprised he didn’t start mocking the vaccine-hesitant by clucking like a chicken or double-dog-daring people to get the shot.

What Keith doesn’t consider is that there is nothing wrong or shameful about being afraid, if there is cause to be afraid. There is cause to be afraid of the long-term effects of a vaccine rushed into production. The medical establishment assures us that the vaccines are safe, but the medical establishment has not inspired much trust in recent years. I can imagine seeing the advertisements twenty years from now, “If you have received the COVID vaccine and have developed a permanent crotch-itch, call our law office, you may be entitled to compensation. The vaccines are probably safe and effective, but who knows? I should point out that the most vaccine-hesitant are not White Trump supporters, as Keith Olbermann believes, but African-Americans. If you don’t know why Blacks might be more than a little distrustful of the medical establishment, look up the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Keith also doesn’t seem to understand that the decision to refuse to get the shot might be entirely rational, based on careful consideration of the costs and benefits of the shot. When Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine, no one had to be pressured into getting the vaccine. This is because everyone understood that polio is a horrific disease. Polio kills people. Polio causes paralysis. You don’t need to see many people trapped in an iron lung to be convinced that being vaccinated against polio is a good idea. COVID-19 is not horrific. Yes, people die from COVID, but for most people, the coronavirus is not much worse than the common flu. I am not saying that there are no risks associated with COVID and even the young and healthy can die, but this is a disease with a better than 99% survival rate. We are not talking about the Black Death or smallpox. It may be reasonable to decide that the unknown risks of the vaccine are greater than the risks of actual disease, particularly since the natural immunity gained after recovering from the disease is more effective than the immunity from the vaccine.

Keith casually brushes aside the concerns many of us have over vaccine mandates or passports, but this is a valid issue. Even those who have gotten the shot and believe that it would be advisable for everyone to be vaccinated have legitimate concerns about compelling people to be vaccinated. The whole business of showing a vaccine passport to enter a restaurant seems creepy and totalitarian, the sort of thing one might have seen in East Germany rather than a free republic. In the end, the citizens of a free country have the absolute right to decide what does and does not go into their bodies. Maybe it is foolish not to be vaccinated, but freedom must include the freedom to be foolish, or it is not freedom. In a free country, the decision to be vaccinated would be a personal decision that is no one else’s business. Certainly, the idea of mandating or compelling people to receive the vaccine would be unthinkable.

Keith and the left don’t want to live in a free country, however. They want to live in a country in which they are the elite who decide what’s best for us and we are the serfs who must submit. This is why they are so adamant about the vaccine mandate. It is a way to show the rest of us who is boss and to drive another wedge between us. The left is already trying to divide us by race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and anything else they can think of. Now they want to divide us between vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The fact is that it is Keith Olbermann and the leftist elites who are afraid. They are afraid that Americans of every color and creed will stand up and demand to be free. They are afraid that we will start to refuse to comply with their mandates. They are afraid we will start to ask questions about their handling of the coronavirus, of the border, of the Afghanistan withdrawal, of the economy and so much else. They are afraid we will resist their attempts at social media censorship and the false narratives they are pushing on us. They are afraid we will wrest control of the government and the institutions which they have seized and ruined from them and restore them to we the people. They are afraid of us.

I think it is past time we give them something to be afraid of.

Yom Kippur

This evening at sunset Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar begins. Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishrei, of the Jewish calendar. This year that corresponds to September 15.  On this day Jews ask for forgiveness for the sins they have committed against God and their fellow men over the past year.  They fast for 25 hours on this day, starting about 20 minutes before sundown the previous day and continuing until the evening of the day. Jews also attend Synagogue services for much of the day and there are five services in contrast to the usual three prayers on most days and four on Sabbaths. After the last service, they recite the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”, and blow the Shofar.

Here is the Biblical description of the Day of Atonement.

1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. 2The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering[a] and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. 5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat.[b]9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. 12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. 14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

18 “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.

20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. 27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

And it was done, as the LORD commanded Moses. (Lev 16:1-34)

Since the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, the ceremonies pertaining to the Most Holy Place cannot now be performed. Instead, Jews remember the Temple ceremonies in the Avodah service. Orthodox and most Conservative Synagogues have a detailed recitation of the Temple Ceremony.

Here is a detailed description of the Yom Kippur Services.

So, G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

Twenty Years

It has been twenty years since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and I still remember it as if it were yesterday.

On that Tuesday morning, I was at work, driving from Madison to North Vernon when I got a call from my wife. She asked me if I was listening to the radio. I was not. She told me to turn it on because something terrible was happening. I turned my car radio on and listened to the coverage of the attack.

I went about my duties at the stores in North Vernon in a sort of state of shock.  The North Vernon Walmart and Jay C played continuing news coverage of the day’s events instead of the usual soothing Musak. Not too many people were working or shopping in the stores. They were mostly just listening.

I had to go to Seymour for a meeting that afternoon. On the way, I noticed that some gas stations had raised the price of gasoline to a then unheard of price of $5 per gallon. At the meeting, no one wanted to discuss the business at hand. Instead, we talked about the terrorist attack. It seemed certain to us all that more attacks were on the way and that this time we couldn’t just launch a few missiles, blow up some tents, and then move on. We were in for a long fight.

I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. I went home but I don’t remember much about it.

I was once in the World Trade Center. I was in New York with some friends as a sort of tourist and we took the elevator to the top floor of one of the twin towers. There was a gallery up there where you could look out over the city of New York. The day was foggy so I didn’t see anything. They had a gift shop in the center section of the floor. It sickens me to think that the people who worked there went to work one morning, and then had to choose between burning to death or jumping, Not to mention the tourists, who only wanted to look at the city.

It still sickens me to think about the people who were only doing their jobs having to lose their lives.

It sickens me, even more, to have an alleged president turn tail and run from the kind of terrorists who committed this atrocity, abandoning Americans in Afghanistan, or to have political leaders more eager to fight their fellow Americans than the enemies of our country, but so it is.

twin

CDC Newspeak Dictionary

The Centers for Disease Control has just released an updated edition of the New Speak Dictionary, that is to say, that the CDC has released a new “non-stigmantising” language guide. I read about this development from this article at Campus Reform.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently unveiled a lengthy “non-stigmatizing language” guide.

As Campus Reform has repeatedly reported, universities across the United States frequently implement “inclusive language” guides. The University of Michigan, for example, published a list of words that “are, or can be construed to be, racist, sexist, or non-inclusive.” Words such as “man,” “crazy,” “picnic,” “dummy,” “grandfathered in,” and “long time, no see” were deemed offensive in various ways.

Now, the nation’s top agency for addressing viral diseases has created a similar list of “Preferred Terms.”

 

“Language in communication products should reflect and speak to the needs of people in the audience of focus,” explains the CDC. “The following provides some preferred terms for select population groups; the terms to try to use represent an ongoing shift toward non-stigmatizing language.”

 

For example, the agency suggests replacing the phrase “smokers” with “people who smoke” and “alcoholics” with “persons with alcohol use disorder.” Similarly, they recommend swapping “homeless people” for “people experiencing homelessness” or “persons who are not securely housed.”

 

With respect to mental health, the CDC recommends using “specific disorders” whenever possible. Instead of “crazy” or “insane,” American should use “people with a diagnosis of a mental illness” or “people with a pre-existing mental health disorder.”

There is a lot more of this in the article and you can find the complete list of preferred terms here

I would think that an agency tasked with protecting the nation’s health would want their communications to be as clear as possible without any obfuscating euphemisms. I would suppose that they would feel that keeping people safe from disease, the whole purpose of even existing, might be just a little more important than keeping people from feeling stigmatized.

I think that it would be better for the Centers for Disease Control to express their findings bluntly and risk hurting feelings than for them to risk misunderstandings. As Dr. House put it. “What would you prefer – a doctor who holds your hand while you die or one who ignores you while you get better?”. Would you rather the CDC concentrated on fighting diseases or in being politically correct? I’d prefer they fight diseases. Too bad they have chosen otherwise. This makes it harder to take any of their recommendations on fighting the COVID pandemic seriously. 

 

Rosh Hashanah

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the first of the High Holy Days. To be more precise, Rosh Hashanah actually began yesterday evening, since the Jews traditionally begin a new day at sunset. This holiday takes place on the first two days of the month of Tishrei in the Hebrew calendar. Because the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar, the dates wander a bit in our Gregorian calendar. This year it takes place on September 6-8. The New Year is celebrated for two days because of the difficulty of determining the precise day of the new moon.

Rosh Hashanah, which means “the head of the year”,  is not mentioned as such in the Bible. Instead, the day is called “Zikaron Teru’ah” a memorial of the blowing of horns in Leviticus 23:24 and “Yom Teru’ah” the day of blowing the horn in Numbers 23:9.

 23 The LORD spoke to Moses: 24 “Tell the Israelites, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you must have a complete rest, a memorial announced by loud horn blasts, a holy assembly. 25 You must not do any regular work, but you must present a gift to the LORD.’”  (Lev. 23:23-25)

1 “‘On the first day of the seventh month, you are to hold a holy assembly. You must not do your ordinary work, for it is a day of blowing trumpets for you. 2 You must offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs one year old without blemish.  3 “‘Their grain offering is to be of finely ground flour mixed with olive oil, three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths of an ephah for the ram, 4 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs,note 5 with one male goat for a purification offering to make an atonement for you; 6 this is in addition to the monthly burnt offering and its grain offering, and the daily burnt offering with its grain offering and their drink offerings as prescribed, as a sweet aroma, a sacrifice made by fire to the LORD. (Num 29:1-6)

I mentioned that the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar. That is not quite correct. A fully lunar calendar would be based solely on the phases of the moon that would cycle through the year, as the Islamic Calendar does. Instead, the Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar. The twelve months add up to 354 days, so to keep up with the seasons extra, intercalary months are added in a nineteen-year cycle. Seven intercalary months are added during the cycle so that a thirteenth month is added every two or three years. This means that the dates wander a bit compared to the Gregorian calendar but stay within the appropriate seasons.

Anyway, Shana Tova everyone.

Is Chaucer Relevant

The University of Leicester is planning to “decolonize” their English Literature Department by ending the study of Chaucer and other great poets of Medival English and replacing them with new and up-to-date modules on race and sexuality. According to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The University of Leicester will stop teaching the great English medieval poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer in favour of modules on race and sexuality, according to new proposals.

Management told the English department that courses on canonical works would be dropped in favour of modules that “students expect” as part of plans now under consultation.

Foundational texts such as The Canterbury Tales and the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf would no longer be taught, under proposals to scrap medieval literature. Instead, the English faculty will be refocused to drop centuries of the literary canon and deliver a “decolonised” curriculum devoted to diversity.

Academics now facing redundancy were told via email: “The aim of our proposals [is] to offer a suite of undergraduate degrees that provide modules which students expect of an English degree.”

New modules described as “excitingly innovative” would cover: “A chronological literary history, a selection of modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity, a decolonised curriculum, and new employability modules.”

Professors were told that, to facilitate change, management planned to stop all English language courses, cease medieval literature, and reduce early modern literature offerings.

Despite Chaucer’s position as “the father of English literature”, he will no longer be taught if plans currently under consultation go ahead.

They would end all teaching on texts central to the development of the English language, including the Dark Age epic poem Beowulf, as well as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

This brings up the question of whether we ought to continue to teach these Medieval and Early Modern literary works or whether we ought to eliminate them in favor of newer, more diverse selections. Are these texts still relevant to our modern age, or should they be forgotten as relics of a darker, less tolerant past? Is it more important to study our own history and heritage or a selection of modules on race, ethnicity and the rest of that woke crap? Who is Geoffrey Chaucer anyway, and why should we read him six hundred years after his death?

                                                                         Geoffrey Chaucer

If you remember Chaucer at all from your English classes, you know him as the author of the Canterbury Tales, the one that begins with

When April with its sweet smelling showers

Has pierced the drought of March to the root

and then tells the story of a diverse group of pilgrims to Canterbury who decide to tell each other stories to make the long journey pass by more quickly Chaucer wrote and did a lot more than the Canterbury Tales, however. He was quite an interesting man. Born sometime in the 1340s, we don’t know exactly when; Chaucer was a Member of Parliament and close personal friend of King EdwardIII’s son John of Gaunt. Chaucer held a number of government posts, under the patronage of the royal family, including comptroller of the customs for the port of London, and clerk of the King’s works. King Edward III and his grandson King Richard II entrusted Chaucer

                                               King Edward III

When Chaucer was captured by the French during the Hundred Year’s War, King Edward III paid his ransom out of his own pocket, a measure of how greatly the king valued Chaucer.

Today, Chaucer is known more for his literary endeavors than his services to the King of England. Most educated people know about The Canterbury Tales, but he wrote a whole lot more. Chaucer translated Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy from Latin and wrote a treatise on the astrolabe for his son. His works of poetry include the epic poem Troilus and Criseyde, and of course, the Canterbury Tales, a work he began late in life and never actually finished before his death in 1400.
So that is who Chaucer was. Why should we study him? Well, Geoffrey Chaucer lived and wrote during a pivotal moment in the history of the English Language and Literature. Before Chaucer’s time, English wasn’t considered to be a very prestigious language. Latin was the international language of the Church, scholarship, and diplomacy. If you had anything important to say, you said it in Latin. Since the Norman Conquest of 1066, the aristocrats and anyone of importance in England spoke Norman French. England was a sort of colony of Normandy and English was the language you spoke to the servants or to the peasants to remind them to pay their taxes. The Angevin kings of England were more concerned with their lands on the continent and seldom visited England except to get money to finance their wars and crusades.

The Kings of England spent more time in France than England

This situation began to change about a century before Chaucer’s time, when King John, of Magna Carta fame, managed to lose all of his territory in France. After that, the kings and aristocracy of England began to identify more and more as English rather than Norman and the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons became melded into one English people. English started to become the language of everyday life among the nobility. The process only accelerated with the coming of the Hundred Year’s War. Wars always encourage patriotism and this war was no exception.
English was still not a literary language, however. This had to wait until the later 1300s when Chaucer and other poets, under the patronage of the king, began to what in what is now called Middle English. These poets helped to establish the dialect spoken around London as the form of standard English and developed much of the vocabulary and devices used in English poetry. Geoffrey Chaucer was the greatest of these Middle English poets. His influence cannot be underestimated. Chaucer was, in many ways, the father of English literature, rescuing the English language from the negligence the language had endured after the Norman Conquest. The revival of English as a literary language would likely have occurred without Chaucer, but the history of English literature would be much poorer without him.
Needless to say, My answer to this question is an unambiguous yes. Chaucer is still relevant to the present day and we should still read and study his works. Chaucer’s works have endured for over six hundred years. I doubt very much if any of these modules “on race, ethnicity, sexuality, and diversity” will be read in six decades. If you want to understand the history and development of the English language and literature, you have to study the greatest masters of the English language, including Geoffrey Chaucer and the unknown writer of Beowulf. A university course that does not include these great writers is not teaching English literature. That university is defrauding its students, promising them an educated but delivering only woke fluff; politically correct nonsense that cannot stand the test of time. The woke universities that go this route ought to be shut down for academic fraud and the students’ tuition and other expenses should be paid back to them so they can get a real education.

Who’s the Boss

While many states are banning the teaching of the Marxist-inspired and racist Critical Race Theory in classrooms, some teachers are vowing to defy these laws. According to the Washington Free Beacon:

Thousands of teachers are pledging to teach critical race theory in the face of state laws seeking to ban it from classrooms.

More than 5,000 educators have signed the Zinn Education Project’s “Pledge to Teach the Truth” since June 21. In the letter, the leftist education group claims the United States was founded on “structural racism and oppression”—tenets of the Marxist-based ideology called critical race theory.

Legislatures in several states have passed bills to restrict educators from teaching critical race theory to students. Florida’s education board outright banned teachers from using material from the New York Times’s 1619 Project. Teachers in Idaho are banned from teaching that any race or sex is inherently inferior or superior to another. And Rep. Glenn Grothman (R., Wis.) introduced a bill in the House that would prohibit teachers and students in the District of Columbia from making confessions about inherent racism based on skin color.

Racism is integral to the founding of the United States, the pledge states, and failing to educate students on “the roots of U.S. racism” is deceptive.

“From police violence, to the prison system to the wealth gap, to maternal mortality rates, to housing, to education and beyond, the major institutions and systems of our country are deeply infected with anti-Blackness and its intersection with other forms of oppression,” the pledge states. “To not acknowledge this and help students understand the roots of U.S. racism is to deceive them—not educate them.”

In addition to listing the names, cities, and states of the pledge’s signatories, the Zinn Education Project posted personalized statements from the teachers.

“I refuse to teach my students an alternate history rewritten by the suppressors in power,” Jessica Williams, from Tucson, Ariz., said. “They have the right to learn about the contributions and impact that Black Americans, women, LGBTQ+, Latin/a/ex, Native Tribes, Asian and Pacific Islander, all religions other than Christianity, and all other non-white Europeans have had to America.”

Who do these teachers think they are? What gives them the right to fill impressionable young people with hatred against their own country? Their students are not their children, and they do not have the final say on what they teach in their classrooms. The parents of the students are the ones who ought to decide what the instructors teach. The parents have, in effect, hired the teachers to teach their children the knowledge and skills they require to be successful citizens. I think that very few if any parents would consider a doctrine that foments race hatred and division to be among those skills. It is the parents who are the boss, not the teachers.
Critical Race Theory has no more business being taught in our public schools than scientific creationism or the scientific racism of a century ago. Even if there were any truth or merit behind this poisonous nonsense, the parents are nearly universally against having it taught in the public schools and they or their elected representatives ought to have the final say. The teachers who signed this pledge have practically stated that they do not care what the parents, their bosses, want them to teach in the public schools. They have pledged to work against the wishes of the parents, their bosses. If I ignored the commands of my bosses, I would lose my job. I see no reason why it should be different for these teachers. Every single one of them should be dismissed and barred for life from teaching in any public school system. If they really want to teach Critical Race Theory, let them open up their schools for any parent foolish enough to pay them.

 

This Flag Stands for Freedom

In Cuba, the people are fighting for their freedom against Communist tyranny.

 

Just as the people of Hong Kong have been protesting the despotic rule of the People’s Republic of China.

 

Isn’t it ironic that all over the world the American flag is a symbol of freedom, except here in America? In the United States, our leftist elite despises the flag as a symbol of racism and hate. They are triggered by the sight of the flag. Children are taught to hate the American Flag. 

 

 

I think this tells us everything we need to know about the American flag-hating left. They are not fighting against racism but freedom. They despise the greatest symbol of freedom in the world as much as they despise the freedom that flag represents. These socialists are on the same side as the tyrants of Cuba, China, and everywhere else freedom is denied to the people. They are on the same side as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and every other despot who tormented the people he ruled. Their Critical Race Theories and 1619 Projects and socialist politics are simply a way to attempt to impose the same sort of totalitarian rule that the brave people of Cuba and Hong Kong are fighting against. 

For millions of people around the world, the American flag stands for freedom. It is a pity that is no longer the case for so many people here at home. 

Sortition

Back in 1979, James Bovard wrote an op-ed in the New York Times proposing that Congress be composed of conscripts rather than volunteers who choose to run for office. This Independence Day, he revived the notion on his blog.

July 4th is my Independence Day, regardless of how depraved the government has become. Forty-two years ago, the New York Times printed a satire I wrote on the failure of the All-Volunteer Congress.  Some congressmen wanted to revive the military draft in order to have a higher quality army.  I showed that the same argument could be used for drafting members of Congress because “it is only the ego-starved who volunteer for Congressional duty now. These people are forced into Congress by their psychological or mental poverty, as no real alternative or treatment exists for their condition.”

Unfortunately, conscription is now fashionable – and the New York Times editorial and op-ed pages are leading the charge.  Two months ago, the Times editorialized on the benefits of forcing all young people to “serve.” Two days ago, NYT published an article by the president of Rutgers calling for “compulsory national service for all young people” in order to “make us more self-reliant” and to “secure the blessings of liberty.” NYT editorial page has apparently gotten rid of both its fact checkers and its BS radar.

The fact that the nation’s most respected media and many prominent officials are calling for imposing conscription epitomizes the growing contempt for individual liberty.  I’ll write more on that shortly.

Here are some excerpts from the original article:

The All-Volunteer Congress has proved to be a failure. Its cost is extremely high and there is not a proportional representation of minorities. There are also many doubts about the honesty and intelligence of the recent volunteers. Many of Congress’s recent failures are owing the low quality of its composition.

In a society with 50 percent women and over 10 percent black and Hispanic populations, these groups are very underrepresented in Congress. When we consider the injustice of these statistics, superficial objections against conscription are easily swept away.

A viable democracy needs to have a racially, sexually balanced set of representatives. The latest statistics issued last November proved that this lack of representation is worsening.

It is only the ego-starved who volunteer for Congressional duty now. These people are forced into Congress by their psychological or mental poverty, as no real alternative or treatment exists for their condition. Naturally, Congress is psychologically off-balance, because of the nature of the people who currently volunteer.

Most of the members of Congress are between 30 and 60 years of age. There is no group that enjoys the benefits of society more than this group. They have the highest salaries, the nicest homes, the largest cars, and the most power. However, this group is deeply entrenched in hedonism, and has thus far turned a deaf ear to the needs of the country.

Mr. Bovard explains how the new system would work.

With a service-oriented Congress, every man and woman would be required to register with the Selective Service Commission on their 30th birthday.

Every second year, everyone’s name would be placed in a giant basket, and the Secretary of Labor would pull out the number of names needed for that session of Congress.

The new members would receive a subsistence allowance (an honorable precedent established during the Revolutionary War), as it would not be right to overpay someone for what he owed to society.

The moral caliber of Congress would be improved by conscription. The environmental and personal background of many of today’s volunteers appears to be conducive to fabrication. Randomly picking people off the street would give a much higher level of honesty and responsibility.

Mr. Bovard wrote this article as satire, but the proposal that Members of Congress, and perhaps other government posts be selected by lot is not as crazy as it sounds. That is just what they did in ancient Athens and some other Greek city-states. Government by randomly selected individuals is called sortition, dymarchy, or stochocracy. Strange as it may seem, sortition has been used to select government officials of states in various times and places, with varying results.

We call ourselves a democracy here in the United States, but a citizen of fourth-century Athens would disagree. He would point out that the definition of a democracy is a state in which the people themselves make the laws and would state that our system of government by elected representatives is really a kind of elective oligarchy. Electing representatives is not all that democratic, as our Athenian friend would argue since the already wealthy and connected would be more likely to have the leisure and means for pursuing a political career, the elected representatives would not be representative of the citizenry as a whole. In time, an Athenian might argue the officeholders and representatives would tend to form a closed elite excluding outsiders from offices and political power forming political dynasties If he were of a philosophical bent, our Athenian friend might note that the people most likely to seek office and power are the very people who ought not to have it.

In contrast, our Athenian would point to his own city as a perfect example of democracy in action. In Athens, the laws and basic decisions of government were made by the people as a whole in the Ecclesia, the body of adult male citizens. A six thousand man body would be somewhat unwieldy so there was a sort of executive committee of five hundred called the Boule or council. This Boule was made up of fifty men over the age of thirty and selected by lot from each of the ten Phyle or tribes of Attica and ran the day-to-day affairs of the city. Members of the 501 man juries and many other officials were also selected by lot, though, notably, the ten Strategoi or generals were elected.

The Athenian system worked well enough, though it was not without its flaws and perhaps we should consider adopting certain elements of the Athenian constitution for ourselves. Of course, An ecclesia of a hundred million would be impossible to manage, and our Athenian friend would certainly argue that democracy is only possible on a small scale, but we could select Congress by lot, as James Bovard suggests satirically. The drafted members of Congress would be more representative of the Congressional districts they represent, the states the selected Senators would represent, and the nation as a whole. The people drafted for Congress would not become isolated from the needs of the citizenry, as politicians are wont to do in our current system and politics would be open to the people, not a self-selected elite.

The major objection to drafting Congress is that the people selected might not be experienced or competent enough to serve in Congress. In response, I would point out that we are not exactly sending our best and brightest to Congress.

 

I’m sure a brief search could find many more instances of Congressional idiocy. Surely ordinary people off the street could do at least as well, without the greed for power that animates many people in politics. Besides we need not include the whole population in the lottery. Perhaps exemptions for physical or mental incapacity could be granted, just as they were when men were drafted to serve in the military.

No system of government is perfect and sortition has its own set of flaws, yet I think that on the whole drafting ordinary people to serve would make a better, more responsive government. The people selected would be more focused on doing the job of legislating so they could get on with their lives, rather than focusing on winning the next election.

Seriously, I think sortition is worth a try. The result couldn’t possibly be worse than our current system.

 

Independence Day

The Fourth of July is the day on which the American people celebrate their independence from Great Britain. It is not actually clear why Independence Day is the Fourth. Congress actually passed the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. It has often been thought that the Declaration was signed on the fourth, but that doesn’t seem to be true. There wasn’t any one time when the members of Congress signed the Declaration and there were a few who didn’t get around to signing it until August. Nevertheless, the fourth is the date that stuck. As John Adams wrote to Abigail.

English:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

And so it has been, for the last 245 years. May God bless America and grant us many more years of freedom.

Happy Independence Day.