Columbus Day

October 14, 2019
Christophorus Columbus, portrait by Sebastiano...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Columbus Day in the United States, celebrating the day that Christopher Columbus reached the New World. In Berkeley and some other Leftist enclaves, it is Indigenous People’s Day, in which Western Civilization is condemned for its many crimes against humanity. Columbus Day is no big deal, just a three day weekend for banks and such. Still, should we honor Christopher Columbus with a day?

I think we can absolve Columbus of the destruction of many Native American cultures and peoples. That was inevitable. Europe’s sailing and navigation techniques were advancing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before someone stumbled across the Americas. Since the natives were centuries behind in technology and had no immunity to smallpox and other diseases the Europeans brought, they were doomed. They weren’t entirely helpless victims though. They did fight, with varying degrees of success. But between the massive death toll from disease and their own disunity, often they were more interested in using the guns they acquired from European traders to fight traditional rivals than the Europeans, the Native Americans were doomed.

Still, Columbus did set the pattern by enslaving the natives of the islands he discovered.From the Wikipedia article there is this excerpt from his log.

From the 12 October 1492 entry in his journal he wrote of them, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.”[39] He remarked that their lack of modern weaponry and even metal-forged swords or pikes was a tactical vulnerability, writing, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”[40

He seems not to have been a very good governor of Isabella, the first Spanish colony in the New World. He was charged with excessive cruelty and sent back to Spain in chains. These charges might be false though, since Ferdinand and Isabella felt they had promised him too much reward for his discoveries. Before he set out, they had promised him governorship any lands he discovered. As it became obvious to everyone but Columbus that he had discovered a whole continent, the king and queen wanted a bigger share.

Maybe the biggest reason not to celebrate is that he was wrong. The popular view is of Columbus bravely asserting that the Earth is round against the scholars and intellectuals of his time who “knew” the Earth was flat. Of course, everyone knew the Earth was round. Every educated person in the West had known the Earth was round since the time of the Ancient Greeks. The Greek scholar Eratosthenes had even calculated the size of the Earth with reasonable accuracy back in the third century. The scholars and intellectuals who opposed Columbus knew about how large the Earth actually was and they knew perfectly well that Columbus was fudging his calculations to make his voyage seem feasible. If the Americas hadn’t been in the way, his voyage would have ended in disaster. But the Americas were in the way and Columbus was able to make the most amazing discoveries in history, bringing the old and new worlds together.

For all that though, I like Christopher Columbus. Despite his flaws, and he was only a man of his time. He had courage and vision, two qualities that are rare enough in any time, especially our own. So, by all means, let’s celebrate this man and his deeds.

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What is it with Twitter?

October 13, 2019

You may have heard the story of Carson King’s troubles with tweeting. If not, here is the story.

Carson King raised more than $1 million for an Iowa children’s hospital, borne out of a request for beer money on national TV. But old racist tweets ended his relationship with the beer company that promised to match his fundraising.

Anheuser-Busch announced it would no longer associate with King after he admitted posting two offensive tweets in 2012 when he was a 16-year-old high school student.

“Carson King had multiple social media posts that do not align with our values as a brand or as a company and we will have no further association with him,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

The 24-year-old shot to fame when he appeared on ESPN’s “College GameDay” program earlier this month, holding a sign that said “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” with his Venmo username.

Donations poured in, and after buying one case of Busch Light, he said he decided to send the rest of money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Anheuser-Busch and Venmo promised to match whatever King could raise.

King said a Des Moines Register reporter pointed out the tweets while interviewing King for a profile, which prompted him to hold a press conference Tuesday before the paper’s story was published.

One of the tweets compared black mothers to gorillas and another joked about black people who were killed in the Holocaust, the Des Moines Register reported.

Carson King

One might wonder why it was necessary for the reporter, Aaron Calvin to go through years worth of tweets searching for offensive comments in what ought to have been simply a feel-good, human interest story. These racist tweets did not simply surface. Calvin had to spend some time going through King’s twitter feed. Why? One might also recall the adage that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones since it did not take long for offended readers to uncover offensive tweets by Calvin, which led to his being fired from the Des Moines Register.

What I wonder most is that whenever you hear about someone making some obnoxious, inappropriate, or racist joke or comment on social media, it always seems to be on Twitter. Why is this? What is it about Twitter that seems to bring out the worst in its users? Is it the 280 character limit? Does this character limit make it impossible to make nuanced observations, encouraging tweeters to make short, snarky remarks? Does the ease of tweeting whatever thoughts are on the top of one’s head make reflection and discretion especially difficult? Is there some sort of dopamine rush from seeing your tweets retweeted and commented upon, the more controversial, the more likely to become viral? Does online anonymity make it easy to be a jerk? What is it?

Whatever it is, it seems to me that of all the social media platforms that have come to infest our online world, Twitter is easily the worst. Twitter really does seem to bring out the worst in its users, encouraging them to express their most negative ruminations and setting people against one another. If the Devil were to design a social media platform specifically to bring as many people to Hell as possible, or to make the earth a hell, he would design something very much like Twitter. In fact, has anyone checked Jack Dorsey for horns and cloven hooves?

Jack Dorsey, or could it be Satan?

Whatever the case, we are all going to have to be more careful about what we post on social media, and maybe we should avoid twitter altogether. Perhaps we should adopt the adage that whatever you wouldn’t say in front of your mother, or a live audience, you should say on social media. Maybe there should be some sort of statute of limitations. Surely, something that someone posted ten years ago when they were younger and less mature is not very relevant to the person they are now. We should also learn to be more tolerant of one another and to judge someone based on a single tweet. Just because someone makes an obnoxious comment, that does not make them a bad person. We should judge one another if we must judge at all, on the totality of their lives, and not on a single incident. Carson King seems to be a good man. He didn’t have to give millions of dollars to the children’s hospital. He could have kept it all to buy beer. A couple of racist tweets from years ago do not make him a bad person. None of us should be judged by the most foolish things we have done.

 

Yom Kippur

October 9, 2019

Yesterday evening at sunset Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar began. Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishrei, of the Jewish calendar. This year that corresponds to October 9.  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 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 they 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.

 

Feminist Vegan Restaurant Closes

October 3, 2019

Here is a wacky story from Down Under.

A lesbian-owned, vegan restaurant that charged an 18% “man tax” has closed its doors after less than two years of business in BrunswickAustralia.

Handsome Her, a small restaurant billed as “a space by women, for women,” made international headlines in 2017 after announcing upon its opening that female customers would get priority seating and men would be charged an optional 18% tax “to reflect the gender pay gap.”

Less than two years later, the cafe’s owners announced that they would be closing up shop in order to continue their mission with more “hands-on work.”

“When we opened Handsome Her in 2017, we expected that perhaps we might make a stir through our brazen public discussions of structural inequality and oppression,” the cafe said in a Facebook post. “The man tax blew up the internet, an idea that we didn’t think was all too radical, yet the way the world responded showed us how fragile masculinity is and solidified the necessity for us to confront and dismantle patriarchy.

The idea of charging a “man tax” seems radical to me and I wonder how this man tax did not run afoul of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. It certainly seems to be discrimination based on sex, but perhaps discrimination against men doesn’t count. Maybe the fact that the tax is optional is enough to keep them out of trouble. I also wonder how these women expected to stay in business when they were alienating half of their potential customers. More than half really, since I am sure that many women did not appreciate the discrimination against the men they loved.

It is easy to make fun of these foolish women with poor business sense, but I think there is an important lesson for more established businesses here. The reason that any business exists, whether it is owned by a single proprietor or a great multi-national corporation is to make money for its owners. Any business must make a profit or it will eventually go out of business. The only way for any business to make a profit is to please its customers by providing goods or services they desire in a manner they desire. If the owner or manager of a company decides to pursue any goal besides making a profit by pleasing its customers, such as pursuing social justice, it will cease to please its customers and will eventually go out of business. This is particularly true if the pursuit of virtue-signaling results in policies that alienate customers. Yes, I am looking right at you and your new gun policies, Doug McMillan, CEO of WalMart. Trying to impress the social justice warriors, who despise WalMart and would never willingly shop there, while alienating gun-owning customers is simply not a good business policy.

Ultimately, the CEO of any corporation works for the stockholders, the owners, of the corporation. It is his or her job to serve the interests of the stockholders by pursuing policies that legally and ethically maximize profit for the corporation. As I stated above, any company can only make a profit if it provides goods and services that customers want to buy. If the CEO of a corporation decides that impressing his elite peers with virtue-signaling is more important than providing customers with the goods and services they want, he is not pursuing policies that will maximize profit and therefore is not serving the stockholders. He is in the same position as any of his employees who pursue outside interests while on the job.

Businesses should concentrate on the business of making money and pleasing their customers, not engage in political activism or pursue social justice. When I decide to buy something from Walmart or some other store, the only thing I want to consider is whether I am getting a good deal. I don’t want to have to be in the situation of having to consider whether the money I am spending is going to serve a bad cause. I don’t want every decision in my life to have political considerations. Not everything has to be about activism.

 

Rosh Hashanah

September 30, 2019

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 calender. Because the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar, the dates wander a bit in our Gregorian calendar. This year it takes place on September 29-)October 1. 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.

 

 

Pride and Prejudice

September 22, 2019

I saw this meme posted on Facebook.

I don’t actually subscribe to the point of view expressed in this meme. To begin with, I do not believe that expressing pride is actually a good thing. Pride, according to Roman Catholic doctrine is considered to be one of the seven deadly sins. Many Christian thinkers have viewed pride as the worse of all the sins, the sin that caused Lucifer to rebel against God and become Satan. As C. S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity:

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the center of Christian morals did not lie there.  Well, now, we have come to the centre.  According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

If pride in oneself and one’s own accomplishments is a vice or a sin, what about pride in one’s race or ethnicity? None of us have had any choice about the race in which we were born. It seems to me to be more than a little silly to take pride in something over which we had absolutely no control over. Why should I be proud to be White? I did not choose to be White. If other White people have accomplished a great deal to be proud of, they are not my accomplishments. Race pride is both foolish and pernicious.

If I do not agree with the sentiment in this meme, I cannot deny the logic expressed.  Why is race pride considered to be a good thing in every case except for Whites? Perhaps the answer is that Whites have committed horrible crimes against people of other races in the past and present and therefore being White ought to be a cause of shame rather than pride. But this only raises another question. If every White person ought to feel a collective shame and guilt for the admittedly considerable injustices and atrocities of other White people, then why should they not also feel pride in the considerable accomplishments of other Whites?

The idea seems to be that encouraging greater collective identification among people belonging to groups, racial or otherwise, who have been discriminated against in the past will help to eliminate discrimination against them. Highlighting the particular accomplishments of each group will help to alleviate the lingering effects of past discrimination. Shaming Whites, particularly While males for being the perpetrators of past discrimination against other groups will help to eliminate present and future discrimination. Dividing everyone up into groups and encouraging everyone to be proud of their group, except White males will help everyone get along better.

I think this emphasis on race pride will have the opposite effect. I think that encouraging everyone to identify with and take pride in their race will only encourage racism. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, pride is essentially a competitive sin.

Now what you want to get clear it that Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident.  Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If someone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.  That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not.  The sexual impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl. But that is only by accident; they might just as likely have wanted two different girls. But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to prove to himself that he is a better man than you. Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power.  Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride.

You cannot really be proud of your group without eventually distaining members of other groups. A person who is proud of his race is proud because he believes his race his better than others. He can only take pride in his own race by believing that other races are inferior. The net effect of encouraging race pride can only be to set people of different races against each other.

I also do not believe that treating Whites as though white skin were the mark of Cain is going to be very effective at reducing White racism. In the long run, it is more likely to increase racism among Whites. No one wants to be the villain of the story. Over time, Whites are going to become more conscious of the hypocrisy of rewarding expressions of race pride among other races while condemning any expression of racial pride in their own race. They are going to feel as if they are the ones being discriminated against. Whites will be all the more susceptible to racist demagogues who tell them that they have no reason to be ashamed of their race. In fact, they will say, Whites have more reason to be proud than others. It will not end well.

If we must be proud of our race, why not be proud of belonging to the only race that really matters, the human race. If we want to fight racism, we shouldn’t be driving people of different races apart by emphasizing what makes us different but bringing ourselves together by focusing on what makes us alike. To quote C. S. Lewis again, this time from Prince Caspian

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

Let us be content.

Undoing the Industrial Revolution

September 13, 2019

CTV News reports that former Vice-President Joe Biden has promised to end fossil fuel use.

Joe Biden is looking voters in the eye and promising to “end fossil fuel.”

The former vice-president and Democratic presidential candidate made the comment Friday after a New Hampshire environmental activist challenged him for accepting donations from the co-founder of liquified natural gas firm.

Biden denied the donor’s association to the fossil fuel industry before calling the young woman “kiddo” and taking her hand. He said, “I want you to look at my eyes. I guarantee you. I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel.”

The activist, 24-year-old Rebecca Beaulieu, later said she appreciated that Biden took her question seriously, but that he was not satisfied with Biden’s plan to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050.

Essentially, Joe Biden and the other Democratic presidential candidates are promising to undo the Industrial Revolution. Our economy and civilization depend on the use of fossil fuels. There is simply no alternative to their use, except for nuclear power, which they’re also against if we want to maintain our current level of prosperity.

For most of history, the only available sources of power were human and animal muscles. These sources, supplemented by water and wind beginning in the Medieval Period do not provide much power. The amount of work that can be done with muscles, human and animal, is sharply limited. As a result, the great masses of people, in any society, lived in poverty, with barely enough to survive. Only a very tiny elite could live in any degree of comfort.

This situation only changed when humans learned to harness the power of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels could unleash far more energy than could be obtained through the power of muscles, energy to power machines that could do more work and produce more wealth than would have been conceivable before. Unlike wind and water mills, which were only usable at particular times and places, factories powered by fossil fuels could be placed anywhere convenient. The resulting industrial and technological revolution, along with the development of free-market capitalism, something else the current crop of candidates is campaigning against, allowed a higher standard of living than could ever be possible previously. For the first time in history, ordinary people could live lives of comfort. The difference between rich and poor in the developed world is no longer one of kind, whether a person has enough to eat or sufficient shelter from the elements, but of degree, how nice that house, car or food. At the present time, we are living in a world in which the greatest health problems of the poor stem from having too much unhealthy food to eat. We may be within a generation of eliminating poverty worldwide, thanks to fossil fuels.

What if Joe Biden and the other Democrats have their way? What if the use of fossil fuels is severely curtailed here in the United States, and elsewhere in other to combat climate change? Could renewable sources of energy make up the difference? No, they could not. Renewable sources of energy; wind, water, and the rest simply do not provide enough energy to maintain our current use of power, not by orders of magnitude. Nonrenewable sources are only available in limited times and places, necessitating the storage or long-distance transmission of energy, which can be difficult and expensive. Nuclear power could make up the gap, but the people who want us to stop using fossil fuels also dislike nuclear power.

A world in which fossil fuel use was eliminated would be a world in which energy was much more expensive than it is at present. As a result, all the necessities of life would be much more expensive. It would be a poorer world, a world in which a small elite could live comfortably while the majority of the population would be struggling to survive. It would be a step back to the bad old days. Even if it were conceded that man-made climate change was the dire threat to humanity’s continued survival and well-being, a concession I am not willing to make, surely the cures proposed by the Democratic candidates are far worse than the problem. I do not believe that any crisis can be resolved by crippling the most productive and innovative economy in the world. It may not be the intention of those proposing such radical solutions to global warming to create a neo-feudal world of impoverished masses lorded over by a tiny elite, but that would be the inevitable result.

There will come a time when advancing technology will make the use of fossil fuels obsolete. This time will come only if people are free to innovate in a prosperous economy. It will not come by stifling innovation with overbearing government fiats in a crippled and impoverished economy. That is just what the Democratic candidates are proposing.

Eighteen Years

September 11, 2019

It has been eighteen 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.

twin

 

 

The Election of 1884

September 4, 2019

The election of 1884 was a vicious contest between James G Blaine, a man known for his personal integrity, but suspected of corruption in his public life and Grover Cleveland, a man known to be an honest public servant but with a somewhat scandalous private life. There were serious issues, of course. Tariffs were always a point of contention in nineteenth-century American politics and the country had been in a recession since 1882. Still, it was the contrast between the two candidates that everyone really cared about.

The Republicans met for their national convention in Chicago from June 3-6. President Chester A. Arthur would have liked to run for a full term. He was popular enough, but in the end, he decided not to run for re-election because of concerns about his health. General William T. Sherman was considered to be a potential candidate, but he absolutely refused to run, vowing to refuse to serve if elected. Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln was also approached as a potential presidential or vice-presidential candidate, but he wasn’t interested. In the end, the Republicans nominated James G. Blaine from Maine.

Although James G. Blaine had been born in Pennsylvania on January 31, 1830, his public like was spent in his wife’s home state of Maine. There he had owned a newspaper and become involved in politics, first as a Whig and then a Republican. Blaine had served in Maine’s legislature from 1858-1862, moving on to the U. S. House of Representatives where he served from 1863-1876, becoming the Speaker of the House from 1869-1875. Blaine had served in the Senate from 1876-1881. There, he had opposed President Hayes’s policy of ending Reconstruction in the South. Blaine had been a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1880 but questions about the suspicious circumstances surrounding his sale of bonds to the Union Pacific Railroad derailed his candidacy and James Garfield was nominated instead. President Garfield made Blaine his Secretary of State, but Blaine resigned after Garfield’s assassination. The Republicans went on to nominate John A. Logan from Illinois as his running mate. Logan had been a capable general during the Civil War and had served as Senator from Illinois from 1871-1877 and 1879-1886.

Blaine was popular among the Republicans, and he seemed to have a good chance of winning, but questions about financial improprieties still hounded him, especially after some letters were uncovered to Boston railway attorney Warren Fisher, one of which ended the command to “burn this letter”. The Democrats had a field day, chanting, “Burn this letter” at rallies and “Blaine, Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine.”

For their part, the Democrats met in Chicago from July 8-11. Grover Cleveland from New York was the obvious candidate. Cleveland had served as Sheriff of Erie County from 1871 to 1873, Mayor of Buffalo in 1882 and Governor of New York from 1883 to 1885. Throughout his political career, Grover Cleveland had earned a reputation as an honest and fearless reformer, fighting corruption and willing to take on entrenched interest in the name of a better, more honest government. The New York Party bosses from Tammany Hall hated Cleveland, but that was a recommendation for his reform-minded supporters. Grover Cleveland easily won the Democratic nomination for president, along with Thomas A. Hendricks from Indiana for Vice-President. Hendricks had served in the House of Representatives from 1851-1855, in the Senate from 1863-1969, and as governor of Indiana from 1873-1877. He was known to be an honest man and a strong orator, who had opposed Reconstruction.

Because Cleveland had a public reputation for honesty, as opposed to Blaine’s alleged corruption, several prominent Republicans came out in support of Cleveland. These defectors came to be known as “mugwumps“, a name derived from an Algonquin word for chief. Although the name was given in derision, the Mugwumps adopted it with pride as champions of reform and honest government. Grover Cleveland’s reputation was stained by the revelation that he had fathered a child by Maria Halpin while a lawyer in Buffalo. When this scandal broke, Cleveland took the unusual step of instructing his campaign workers to tell the truth. He admitted to having a relationship with Halpin and while he was certain the child in question was his, he had paid child support as a public duty. This ex[planation may have appeased his own supporters, but the Republicans took to chanting, “Ma, Ma where’s my Pa?” at campaign events.

There were some third party candidates, including Benjamin F. Butler former Governor of Massachusettes for the Greenback Party and John St. John former governor of Kansas for the Prohibition Party.

The Election of 1884 was a close race and either candidate might have won, particularly whoever won the state of New York. The New York native Grover Cleveland might have seemed to be the obvious favorite, but James Blaine was also well-liked in New York, particularly by the Irish Catholics, since his mother had been Catholic and he was known to be anti-British. Then Blaine managed to destroy his chances twice in a single day. On October 29, Blaine made an appearance in New York City at which a speaker, a Presbyterian minister, made a remark about the Democrats being the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion“, alienating thousands of Irish Catholics. If that wasn’t bad enough, Blain attended a fundraiser that evening along with some of the richest men in the country. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong about that, except that the optics, as they say nowadays, of hobnobbing with the rich and famous in the middle of an economic recession didn’t look good.

Ma Ma where’s my Pa?
Gone to the White House ha ha ha.

 

In the end, Grover Cleveland won a narrow victory. Cleveland won 4,914,482 (48.9%) popular votes to Blaine.s 4,856,905 (48.3%). John St. John got 150,890 votes and Benjamin F. Butler won 134,294 votes. In the Electoral College Cleveland got 219 electoral votes, sweeping the South and winning Indian, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in the North. Blaine had 182 electoral votes winning the West and the rest of the North. Cleveland’s won New York by fewer than 1200 votes, and if not for Black Wednesday, October 29, Blaine would likely have won New York’s 36 electoral votes and won the election. As it was, the Democrats could finally respond to the Republicans’ taunts with, “Gone to the White House ha, ha, ha”.

 

 

 

 

The Election of 1884

The 1619 Project

August 28, 2019

For some years I have felt that I have been living in a country occupied by a hostile enemy determined to erase every vestige of our country’s history and heritage. The people who influence our culture and politics, the academics, the news and entertainment media, and so many others, seem to be motivated by a simmering hatred of America and its people. This feeling has abated somewhat, with the election of President Donald Trump, who seems to be leading a sort of resistance against the Occupiers, but the Occupiers are not about to give up their power and they have been orchestrating a furious counter-revolution against President Trump, and the people who elected him.

After trying and failing to discredit and delegitimize President Trump by peddling false stories of Russian collusion, the editors of the NewYork Times have decided to discredit and delegitimize the entire United States of America with the 1619 Project, an audacious attempt to reframe our nation’s history by tying it to slavery.

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Now, there is nothing at all wrong, in itself, with examining the history of slavery in the United States. Slavery has played a major role in American history, with an impact that can be felt to this day, more than one hundred fifty years after the institution was abolished. The New York Times, however, seems to be going farther than merely providing a historical survey. Judging from their decision to count the year slavery was introduced into what would become the United States and some of the excerpts they provide from the essays that will make up the 1619 Project, the editors of the New York Times, seem to be trying to link America incontrovertibly with slavery. The history of America is a history of slavery and the one thing that makes America exceptional among the nations of the world is slavery.

The premise of the 1619 Project is false. The essays and articles that will make up the 1619 Project may or may not be factually correct. I have no way to judge without reading them, but the central premise of the project is false. Slavery has been a major theme in American history, but the history of the United States cannot be solely defined by slavery and the United States is not exceptional because of slavery. America does have a unique and exceptional relationship with slavery, but this relationship does not exist because slavery is somehow unique to America or that slavery in America was worse than in other times and places. Slavery has existed in every culture since before recorded history. The transatlantic slave trade was in operation for almost a century before that fist slave ship appeared off the coast of Virginia. What makes America’s relationship with slavery unique and exceptional is that slavery contradicts America’s founding ideals in a way that is not true of most countries. Most nations were founded by warlords who conquered and enslaved entire populations. Think of William the Conquerer, Clovis, Charlemagne, Qin Shi Huang, and many others. In contrast, the United States of America was founded by some of the greatest and most enlightened men who have ever lived, men who could write the immortal words,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These were the words by which our country was founded upon. These were the words that the Abolitionists used to demand the end of slavery. These were the words that Martin Luther King used to demand justice and equality for his people. No nation that was founded upon these words could ever be comfortable with slavery. The very fact that slavery and segregation were completely contrary to America’s founding ideals meant that these institutions could not endure in America. America’s true founding was in 1776, not 1619. America is a nation based on freedom, not slavery. The 1619 Project is fake history, propaganda, designed to mislead rather than inform the New York Times’s readers. 

Why are they doing this? A nation conceived in tyranny and dedicated to the institutions of slavery and segregation is a detestable nation. One cannot feel pride in being a citizen of such a country, only shame. One cannot love such a country, only despise it. Such a country is not worth defending. Its institutions are not worth preserving. Its borders ought not to be protected. In fact, the quicker such a nation is consigned to the dustbin of history, the better. This is what the left thinks about America. This is what they want their fellow Americans to think about America. 

This viewpoint, that America is a detestable nation founded on slavery and racism is already predominant in academia and among our supposed elite. The editors of the New York Times have decided that it is time to educate the deplorables about the true history of the nation they want to make great again. They need to realize that if America has ever been exceptional, it has not been exceptional in greatness but in iniquity. Other media outlets will follow the lead of the New York Times. It is, after all, the nation’s premier newspaper. Schools will teach this distorted history if they are not already. The New York Times has already provided a curriculum for use in the classroom. The hope is that the 1619 Project will become the consensus view of American history. 

Can a nation survive when its citizens are taught to despise it? We may find out unless we work hard to teach the true history of American freedom. 


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