Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Thanksgiving

November 28, 2019

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. The story of Thanksgiving that we remember, with the turkey meal, etc is based on the Thanksgiving celebration held by the settlers of the Plymouth colony in 1621. They had a lot to be thankful for. These Pilgrims had decided to immigrate to the New World so that they could practice their religion freely. They had intended to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River but their departure from England on the Mayflower had been delayed and the trip across the Atlantic had been rough. They reached America farther north then they had intended, at Provincetown Harbor in November 1620. While they did not really have a legal right to create a colony in what is now Massachusetts, no one really wanted to spend the winter at sea so, on December 21, 1620, the Pilgrims began to build the settlement at Plymouth.

Model of a 17th century English merchantman sh...

Would you spend any more time in a leaky ship like this than you had to? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first winter at the new colony was very hard. About half of the colonists had died by spring. By what must have seemed incredible luck or divine providence, the colonists were able to make contact with two Natives who could speak English. One of these was named Samoset and he had learned some English from English trappers and fishermen. He introduced the Pilgrims to the other man, Squanto, who had a truly remarkable life. Captured by Englishmen, he was taken to England and instructed in the English language in the hope that he could serve as an interpreter. When he was brought back to New England, he was captured again, this time by members of John Smith’s expedition who planned to sell captured Indians as slaves in Spain. In Spain, some friars learned of this plan and had the Indians freed and instructed in the Catholic religion. Squanto was able to make his way back to England and then across the Atlantic. There, he discovered that his whole tribe had been destroyed by the diseases, probably smallpox, that the Europeans had brought to the New World.

Squanto was willing to help the Pilgrims and taught what they needed to know to survive in New England. The harvest in the summer of 1621 was good enough that the Pilgrims did not need to fear starvation that winter. They had a feast that Autumn to celebrate their good fortune and to give thanks to God. This celebration was not considered to be anything very remarkable. Thanksgiving celebrations were fairly common at the time, especially among people who had successfully made the difficult and dangerous voyage across the ocean. It was not really the first Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930).

There were proclamations of thanksgiving at various times in American history, especially during the Revolutionary War, but the holiday we know of as Thanksgiving really began in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that a national day of Thanksgiving was to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November. It might not seem that there was all that much to be thankful for in the middle of the Civil War but the tide was turning in the North’s favor after the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg that July and the country was continuing to grow in strength and prosperity despite the horrors of the war. Lincoln’s proclamation set the date for the national holiday that has been celebrated ever since. Franklin Roosevelt set the date a week earlier in 1939 in the hope that an earlier date would mean a longer shopping season for Christmas, thus helping the economy still mired in the Great Depression. This was not without controversy and in October 1941 Congress officially set the date of Thanksgiving on the fourth, and almost always the last, Thursday in November.

So, enjoy your turkey but remember to be thankful to God. If you happen to be an American you really are one of the luckiest people on Earth.

 

Greta Thunberg

November 20, 2019

Jason D. Hill writes an open letter to Greta Thunberg on Frontpagemag. I don’t why people write editorial pieces in the form of open letters since the intended recipient will almost certainly never see it. Why not just write a straight editorial? Still, Hill makes some very good points.

Greta Thunberg:

You have declared yourself a leader and said that your generation will start a revolution. You have comported yourself as a credentialed adult and climate change activist who has fearlessly addressed politicians and world leaders. You have dropped out of school and declared that there isn’t any reason to attend, or any reason for you to study since there will be no future for you to inherit. You have, rather than attend your classes, been leading Friday Climate Strikes for all students in your generation across the globe. Your attendance at oil pipelines has been striking. There, you unequivocally declare that all oil needs to remain in the ground where it belongs.

In September of 2019 you crossed the Atlantic in a “zero carbon” racing yacht that had no toilet and electric light on board. You made an impassioned plea at the United Nations in which you claimed that, “we have stolen your dreams and our childhood with our empty words.”  You claimed that adults and world leaders come to young people for answers and explained in anger: “How dare you!” You claimed that we are failing you and that young people are beginning to understand our betrayal. You further declared that if we continue to fail your generation: “We will never forgive you.”

You have stated that you want us to panic, and to act as if our homes are on fire. You insist that rich countries must reduce to zero emissions immediately. In your speeches you attack economic growth and have stated that our current climate crisis is caused by “buying and building things.” You call for climate justice and equity, without addressing the worst polluter on the planet China; the country that is economically annexing much of Africa and Latin America. You dare not lecture Iran about its uranium projects — because that’s not part of the UN’s agenda, is it?

It is strange that these activists only harangue western countries, especially the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions have been falling. I guess they know that countries like China and Iran don’t care what they think. It is far easier to virtue signal by shaming the West.

First, we did not rob you of your childhood or of your dreams. You are the legatee of a magnificent technological civilization which my generation and the one before it and several others preceding it all the way to the Industrial Revolution and the Renaissance, bequeathed to you. That growth-driven, capitalist technological civilization has created the conditions for you to harangue us over our betrayal. It is a civilization that eradicated diseases such as small pox from the word, and that lifted millions out of abject poverty in a universe you think is dying and decaying. It assured you a life expectancy that exceeded that of your ancestors. Most likely by focusing on economic growth which you demonize, and scientific advancement, that civilization will further enhance a robust quality of life and health for your descendants.

Young people in the West like Greta Thunberg have absolutely no reason to feel frightened or pessimistic about the future. They are already living lives that kings during the Middle Ages would envy. They can grow up confident that they will never know famine. They do not need to fear dying from diseases like smallpox or plague. All over the world, the standard of living is rapidly improving, even in the poorest parts of the world. There is no reason to believe that the future will not be even brighter, provided the ecofascists don’t take over and undo the industrial revolution.

Here is a hard truth to ponder, Greta: if the great producers of this world whom you excoriate were to withdraw their productivity, wealth and talents—in short—their minds from the world today, your generation would simply perish. Why? Because as children you have done nothing as yet, with your lives besides being born. This is what we expect of children until such time as they can be producers by learning from their elders. You are understandably social and ecological ballast. You are not yet cognitively advanced to replicate the structures of survival of which you are the beneficiaries.

Why do we pay any attention at all to what children are saying? By definition, children are ignorant. They lack any real knowledge of the world. It is up to us, the adults to teach them about the world, not to indulge them by pretending they are saying something wise or profound or to use them as political props.

Yes, we have betrayed you: by capitulating the world of leadership to bored, attention-deficit children who spout bromides, platitudes and slogans that a rudderless and morally relativistic culture accepts because a significant number of its denizens have become intellectually bankrupt and morally lazy.

Greta Thunberg reminds me of Samantha Smith. Samantha Smith was a ten-year-old girl who wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov when he succeeded Leonid Brezhnev in 1982. In her letter, she asked Mr. Andropov, why he wanted to conquer the United States. Andropov, a KGB man who had helped to brutally crush the Prague Spring and had persecuted dissidents in the Soviet Union, replied that, of course, the USSR had no such intentions. He only wanted peace and invited her to come to the Soviet Union. She accepted and became a “goodwill ambassador”, and a Soviet propaganda prop. Meanwhile, foolish adults interviewed her and solemnly intoned that a simple child could see what the adults could not.

Samantha Smith was only a child. She had little or no knowledge of the totalitarian nature of the Soviet government or of the Communist party’s aggressive commitment to spreading Communism worldwide. She knew nothing at all about international relations or the geopolitical realities that made nuclear disarmament extremely difficult and even undesirable. Anything she had to say on the state of Soviet-American relations was worthless. She would have been better served if she had stayed in school in the US and studied.

Likewise, Greta Thunberg knows nothing of climate science, the real science as opposed to the politicized nonsense the public is being fed. She knows nothing of the difficulties of ending fossil fuel use and has no idea that such a step would consign billions of the poorest people in the world to starvation. She has not the slightest idea just how good her life is. She has nothing worthwhile to say and would be better off going back to schools. ‘

Greta Thunberg cannot be blamed for her folly. She is only an ignorant child. It is the adults who are using her who should be ashamed of themselves.

No, America Does Not Need a Hate Speech Law

November 4, 2019

One of the best things about the Trump presidency is the way that the Leftists are finally taking off the mask to show off their totalitarian ideology to the world. There was a time when they felt the need to pretend to respect the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, while actually believing that freedom of speech, religion and the whole idea of checks and balances are archaic concepts that only get in the way of their efforts to create a socialist utopia that will be best for everyone, whether we like it or not. In the past few years, however, the Left has become more comfortable openly proposing censoring speech, confiscating wealth and guns, and punishing churches that do not change their doctrines per the latest diktats from the woke.

Let’s keep it.

In an oped piece in the Washington Post, Richard Stengel asserts that America needs a law against hate speech, that the first amendment guarantee of freedom of speech was designed for a simpler time and the government can and should step in to prevent the spread of hateful speech and false information.

When I was a journalist, I loved Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s assertion that the Constitution and the First Amendment are not just about protecting “free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

But as a government official traveling around the world championing the virtues of free speech, I came to see how our First Amendment standard is an outlier. Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?

Okay, let’s stop right there. Are we now accepting advice on free speech from representatives of some of the most illiberal regimes in the world? Yes, our first amendment is an outlier. That is a good thing. America’s commitment to freedom of speech and thought is one of the things that makes America great. It is not a coincidence that the country that allows people to burn a Koran is one of the most successful nations in history while those countries that kill people who burn a Koran are, we might as well be blunt about it, shitholes.

It’s a fair question. Yes, the First Amendment protects the “thought that we hate,” but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another. In an age when everyone has a megaphone, that seems like a design flaw

 

That’s partly because the intellectual underpinning of the First Amendment was engineered for a simpler era. The amendment rests on the notion that the truth will win out in what Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas called “the marketplace of ideas.” This “marketplace” model has a long history going back to 17th-century English intellectual John Milton, but in all that time, no one ever quite explained how good ideas drive out bad ones, how truth triumphs over falsehood.

Milton, an early opponent of censorship, said truth would prevail in a “free and open encounter.” A century later, the framers believed that this marketplace was necessary for people to make informed choices in a democracy. Somehow, magically, truth would emerge. The presumption has always been that the marketplace would offer a level playing field. But in the age of social media, that landscape is neither level nor fair.

On the Internet, truth is not optimized. On the Web, it’s not enough to battle falsehood with truth; the truth doesn’t always win. In the age of social media, the marketplace model doesn’t work. A 2016 Stanford study showed that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and an actual news story. Only a quarter of high school students could tell the difference between an actual verified news site and one from a deceptive account designed to look like a real one.

No, it is not a design flaw. The first amendment does not just protect the good guys. It also protects the bad guys. The truth does not always prevail over lies. The point of the concept of the marketplace of ideas is that we the people should be the ones to decide what is true and what is false, not some censor. Mr. Stengel believes that because we deplorables are just too stupid to determine what is true so we need someone to control what we see.

How do we define hate speech? Who decides what is hate speech? How do we ensure that whatever government agency is responsible for policing speech doesn’t simply define speech it happens not to like as hate speech? How do we ensure an honest debate of a contentious issue if one side is simply defined as hate? How could we discuss illegal immigration or gay marriage if the people who happen to believe that illegal immigration should be stopped are defined or that marriage should only be between a man and a woman are defined as racists or homophobes and their arguments labeled as hate? What if some future government defines dissent as hate? Does Mr. Stengel really trust any government enough to grant it the power to decide what is acceptable discourse?

Since World War II, many nations have passed laws to curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred. These laws started out as protections against the kinds of anti-Semitic bigotry that gave rise to the Holocaust. We call them hate speech laws, but there’s no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is. In general, hate speech is speech that attacks and insults people on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.

Somehow the definition of hate speech tends to morph from deliberate insults to ideas that offend certain privileged people. I am not sure that isn’t deliberate.

 think it’s time to consider these statutes. The modern standard of dangerous speech comes from Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) and holds that speech that directly incites “imminent lawless action” or is likely to do so can be restricted. Domestic terrorists such as Dylann Roof and Omar Mateen and the El Paso shooter were consumers of hate speech. Speech doesn’t pull the trigger, but does anyone seriously doubt that such hateful speech creates a climate where such acts are more likely?

The problem with hate speech laws, besides being a dangerous abridgment on our freedoms, is that they don’t really work. Punishing someone for saying the wrong thing does not change his mind. It does not change the minds of the people who are frightened by his example into remaining silent. It very likely encourages hate by making the person who is being punished into a martyr. As this article from the Cato Institute points out, the Weimar Republic had what would today be called hate speech laws precisely to keep people like the Nazis from gaining power. It didn’t work.

 Leading Nazis, including Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch, and Julius Streicher, were all prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech. And rather than deterring them, the many court cases served as effective pubicrelations machinery for the Nazis, affording them a level of attention that they never would have received in a climate of a free and open debate.

In the decade from 1923 to 1933, the Nazi propaganda magazine Der Stürmer — of which Streicher was the executive publisher — was confiscated or had its editors taken to court no fewer than 36 times. The more charges Streicher faced, the more the admiration of his supporters grew. In fact, the courts became an important platform for Streicher’s campaign against the Jews.

I should point out that Der Stürmer was so venomously anti-Semitic that even many Nazis were disgusted by it and it was never an official publication of the National Socialist Party. Even so, prosecuting Julius Streicher for publishing what was clearly propaganda did not eliminate the problem. It only made his supporters more determined while inspiring the curious to investigate just to see what the controversy was all about. Der Stürmer probably gained more readers than if the German government had simply ignored it.

America does not need a hate speech law. What we need is more tolerance for other’s views. We need to develop thicker skins, not more chips on our shoulders. We need to regain the respect for free speech and free thought that made this country great. We need to be more like America rather than follow the bad example of others.

Halloween

October 31, 2019

Today is Halloween. The name “Halloween” is actually derived from “All Hallow’s Eve“, that is the day before “All Hallow’s Day” or All Saint’s Day. All Saint’s Day was and is a Christian, primarily Roman Catholic, holy day which celebrates all the saints in Heaven and includes prayers for those in Purgatory.

Halloween, however, is not a Christian holiday. It seems to have come from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was a summer’s end or harvest festival. The Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires to ward off evil spirits and sacrificed animals and sometimes humans to their gods. This pagan heritage has made Halloween controversial among Christians at times. The Protestant Reformers in England did not like the holiday and tried to suppress it because of its pagan and Roman Catholic origins. The Scots were more lenient and Halloween is celebrated there more than in England. The Irish, of course, still celebrated it as they remained Catholic and true to their Celtic Heritage. Halloween was not much celebrated in America until large numbers of Scots and Irish immigrated here during the nineteenth century.

As for the customs which have grown up around Halloween, it would seem that carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns is an American innovation. The Scots and Irish used turnips. Pumpkins, which are native to North American, turned out to be larger and easier to carve. Trick or treating seems to be derived from the Scottish custom of guising. Guising is the custom in which children would go from door to door in costume begging for treats and performing a trick or song in return. This custom was first noted in America in the early twentieth century. Trick or treating became the custom by the 1930s. Haunted houses have also become popular since the 1970s.

So, Happy Halloween, or Samhain.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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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