Archive for the ‘What’s Happening’ Category

The Harper’s Magazine Letter

July 13, 2020

I am not very impressed with the open letter calling for the end of cancel culture that is appearing in Harper’s Monthly.  This is unexpected. When I first heard that a number of prominent liberals had signed an open letter advocating freedom of speech and thought and calling for an end to the increasing tendency to ostracise people who hold whatever opinions are deemed racist this week, I might have thought it would be something I could get behind. After all, I am a free speech fundamentalist. As far as I am concerned, there is no subject too dangerous to discuss. There are no opinions so repugnant that they should be censored.

So, what is my problem with this open letter? Well, to start with, it begins dishonestly. Look at the first paragraph.

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

What has Donald Trump to do with the intolerant climate that has set in? The most he has done is call out the media on its dishonest and biased reporting. How has the Right been intolerant? Have conservatives been trying to get people fired for disagreeing with them? Most conservatives in the last few decades have been heavily influenced by libertarian ideas. There haven’t really been any prominent conservatives calling for censorship or canceling people. Even if there were, conservatives haven’t been in much of a position to cancel anyone. Leftists control the media, academia, the federal bureaucracy, even many large corporations. The left has won the culture war. They own the culture. If there has been a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity, it is entirely on the left. All right-wing demagogues can do is plead for tolerance.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

All of this is very true, except that it is all being done by the radical and not so radical left. Mainstream conservatives have little enough power to censor. Anyone on the radical right has absolutely no power at all. being isolated from public fora. The writers of this letter are trying to spread the blame around for developments that are entirely the fault of their own ideological allies. Leftists are responsible for the free exchange of ideas and information being more constricted. It is the left that has developed an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. It is dishonest to pretend that this is not the case.

And this leads to the other problem I have with this letter. Let’s look at the final paragraph

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

These are all fine sentiments, but I have to wonder where these people were when all this political correctness madness began? Where are they when conservatives were being canceled and de-platformed? They didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the restriction of debate by an intolerant society then. Some were even cheering the outrage mob on. I didn’t start seeing letters defending the right to free expression until the leftist outrage mobs started turning on their fellow leftists for being insufficiently woke.

While I appreciate the newfound commitment to free expression in at least a few people on the left, I am not going to take it very seriously until I see them defend the free speech rights of conservatives. They can begin by not calling people on the right racists and Nazis. Better still, I’d like to see them defend the free speech rights of actual racists and Nazis. It is easy enough to defend the rights of people you agree with, more difficult to defend the rights of people you disagree with, but only someone who is truly committed to freedom of expression would defend the rights of people who express ideas everyone else finds despicable. I’d like to see the people who signed display that level of commitment. Actually, I’d like to see that level of commitment from everyone. Maybe this letter will be a step in that direction.

The Election of 1892

July 10, 2020

The election of 1892 was a repeat of the election of 1888 with the same candidates and same issues, but with a different result. Neither Benjamin Harrison nor Grover Cleveland was especially popular with their respective party leaders. Benjamin Harrison was widely perceived to be cold and unfriendly. He was a reserved man who didn’t seem to have much of a personality. Grover Cleveland, on the other hand, had rather too much personality for the Democratic party leaders, with his stubborn tendency to go his own way regardless of the party leaders wanted or what happened to be popular with the people.

The Republicans held their convention first in Minneapolis from June 7 to 10. President Benjamin Harrison had not really wanted to run for a second term. His health was failing and his wife was suffering from tuberculosis. Besides, the economy had gone into recession and the Republicans had been beaten badly in the 1890 Congressional elections and Harrison was not seen as a particularly successful president. However, Harrison did not want his Secretary of State James G. Blaine to be nominated, so he reluctantly decided to run for reelection. Vice-President Levi Morton was dropped from the ticket, because of his association with Blaine and the Republicans nominated Whitelaw Reid in his place. Whitelaw Reid was a newspaper editor from Ohio who had written a history of Ohio in the Civil War. He had served as Minister to France from 1889 to 1892. The Republicans adopted a platform supporting protective tariffs and the gold standard.

The Democrats held their convention in Chicago from June 21-23. There was a lot of opposition to Grover Cleveland by delegates from the South and West over his continuing support for remaining on the gold standard and from Tammany Hall. Nevertheless, Cleveland narrowly won the nomination on the first ballot. For Vice-president, the Democrats selected Adlai Stevenson I from Illinois. Adlai Stevenson had served as a Congressman from Illinois from 1875-1877 and 1879-1881. He went on to become Assistant Postmaster General from 1885-1889. Stevenson’s free silver views did not mesh with Clevland’s support of the gold standard, but he was nominated to balance the ticket. The Democrat’s platform condemned Republican protectionism, particularly the recently passed McKinley tariffs.

It was not a very exciting race. Neither major party candidate actively campaigned for office. Benjamin Harrison did not even run a traditional front porch campaign, being more concerned about the health of his wife than whether he would win reelection,. She died just two weeks before the election and both candidates ceased campaigning altogether. For excitement, you had to go to the third parties. Since many people in the West and South felt that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represented their interests, 1892 was a good year for minor parties

First, there was the People’s Party or Populist Party, The Populist Party was the successor to the Greenback Party and the Farmer’s Alliance. The Populist Party represented the interests of the farmers of the South and West and were opposed to the corporate interests which they viewed as dominating the politics of the nation. The Populists wanted soft money, or an inflationary monetary system either by coining silver along with gold or by the government printing fiat currency or greenbacks. The Populists also favored federal regulation of railroad rates and a progressive income tax. The Populists tried to forge an alliance between farmers and urban workers but were not entirely successful. In any case, the Populists met in Omaha Nebraska and nominated James B. Weaver, a Congressman from Iowa from 1879-1881, and from 1885-1889 for President along with James G. Field, the former Attorney General of Virginia for Vice-President.

The Prohibition Party obviously supported the prohibition of alcohol, but they also had a progressive platform rather similar to the Populists. In fact, some believed the Populists and the Prohibitionists should merge to form a united progressive party. This plan never came close to materializing, and the Prohibition Party met in Cincinnati to nominate John Bidwell, a former representative from California for president and William Jennings Demorest for vice-president.

There was also the Socialist Labor Party who nominated Simon Wing for president and Charles Matchett for vice-president. The Socialist Labor Party was only on the ballot in five states, but they deserve to be mentioned because this was the first time an explicitly socialist party was on the ballot in the United States.

The main issues of the campaign were, as I said, tariffs and the money question. Populists and many Democrats wanted the nation to adopt a soft money or inflationary monetary policy. It might seem strange to us that many people actually wanted inflation. We are living in an inflationary period in which prices are expected to keep rising. The decades after the Civil War were a period of deflation or decreasing prices in the United States. The American economy was growing very rapidly but because the nation was on the gold standard, the amount of money was limited. If inflation can be described as too much money chasing too few goods, the post Civil War deflation was too little money chasing too many goods. For us, deflation might seem to be a good thing, but in fact, it is not. Excessive deflation can be just as devastating as excessive inflation. For consumers and creditors, deflation can be a good thing, but for producers and debtors, decreasing prices can be a problem, particularly for farmers.

In a way, American farmers had become victims of their own success. American farmers had become enormously productive, flooding the world with their products, causing food prices to plummet, while the supplies they needed remained relatively expensive. The farmers, caught in the middle, hoped that inflationary soft money would get them better prices for their crops. Urban workers, on the other hand, did not like the idea of spending more their meager wages on food, so the hoped-for worker-farmer alliance never materialized because of their differing interests.

Tariffs and labor unrest were the other major issue of the election of 1892. The Republican argument that high protective tariffs led to high wages for industrial workers was undercut when Henry Clay Frick, Chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, abruptly cut wages for the steelworkers at Homestead, Pennsylvania. The workers did not appreciate this and went on strike. The Pinkertons and the State Militia were called in and there was a pitched battle between strikers and strikebreakers. It seemed to many that high tariffs simply increased the profits of the protected industries while raising prices for consumers. Meanwhile, such violent confrontations did not help President Harrison’s chances of reelection.

The Homestead Strike

On Election Day, Grover Cleveland won easily with respectable margins in the popular vote and the Electoral College. Cleveland won 5,556,918 (46%) popular votes to Benjamin Harrison’s 5,176,108 (43%). James Weaver of the Populist Party got 1,041,028 (8.5%) popular votes. In the Electoral College, Cleveland won with 277 electoral votes, sweeping the South and Midwest and winning his home state of New York, as well as New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, along with California. Harrison got just 145 electoral votes in the North and West. Weaver carried five states, North Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Idaho, and Nevada, winning 22 electoral votes.

The Election of 1892

Grover Cleveland won another term making him the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. This second term was marred by the Panic of 1893 and continuing labor unrest. The dissatisfaction that led to the creation of the Populist Party would only grow until it led to the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century.

You Say You Want a Revolution

June 17, 2020

I think that everyone agrees that the death of George Floyd was a heinous act of murder and that the officer responsible, Derek Chauvin, ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This is a literal no-brainer. I would also like to think that everyone agrees that looting and rioting are bad things, unlikely to have positive results. Somehow, this is not as obvious. There seem to be a fairly large number of people who have been taking to social media to excuse, justify, and encourage the rioters.

These people don’t really seem to be all that concerned with Black Lives. They don’t seem to care much about the Black lives that are destroyed when Black neighborhoods are burned down. Instead, they seem to be most interested in living out some role-playing fantasy of revolution. Since these people are fools who don’t have any idea of what they are leading the country into, I am going to explain just what living in a country where the people have decided they would rather kill each other rather than live in peace is really like.

Is this what you want?

Wars, revolutions, and civil disturbances are interesting to read about in history books. Movies and books make war and revolution exciting, glamourous, even romantic. Who wouldn’t want to be like Luke Skywalker or Katniss Everdeen, leading the good fight against the Evil Empire? Real life is very different. In real life, civil conflict is not exciting and glamorous. It is frightening, ugly, and brutal. Just look up some of the places in the world where the people have decided that they prefer to kill each other than living in peace. Here is a shortlist of recent examples; Syria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, The Congo. There are many more. Look up the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Mexican Revolution for just a few, not so recent examples. You do not want to be living in a country that has torn itself apart. Trust me, you really don’t.

Let me give you an idea of what it is like to live in a country where people have decided it is better to resolve their disputes violently rather than peacefully. Let’s imagine you are living in America about ten years from now.

You wake up early to go to work. It used to be about a thirty-minute commute into the city to the office, but that was before the Uprising and the fighting. These days you never know how long it will take if you can make it at all. There hasn’t been much fighting in this part of the country lately. Just the usual terrorist bombings and attacks by the Resistance forces hiding out the country. The government says they have the situation under control and the Resistance is losing. They have been saying that a lot.

On the way to work, you have to veer into the next lane to avoid the crater left by the bomb that went off last month. They say the Resistance was targeting a military convoy. If so, they must have set the timer wrong because the bomb took out three cars full of people going to work, just like you. You saw the explosion from a distance. You were late to work that day because it took the emergency responders three hours to clear away the wreckage. They had to be careful. Sometimes the Resistance plants second bombs to kill the people trying to save the victims.

You are stopped twice at military checkpoints. Each time you show your ID to the soldiers and explain that you are on your way to work. You try to keep calm and not act suspiciously. Under the State of Emergency, the police and military have the power to detain anyone they suspect of aiding and supporting the Resistance for seventy-two without charges. Each time, the soldiers check your ID against the online database and let you pass. It is getting harder to move around these days. You are lucky to be working in the same county you live in. If you lived in another country they would be checking your ID more closely and asking if you really need to cross a county line to work. It is very difficult to cross a state line these days. You would need to demonstrate a legitimate need to travel to receive your travel permit. This is all very inconvenient, but if it helps stops the terrorists, maybe it is worth it.

At work, you overhear some of your co-workers talking about politics and recent events. That can be dangerous. Expressing sympathy for the Resistance could get you a visit from the police if you are lucky. If not, you could simply disappear one night. No one really knows what happens to the people who disappear, though there are stories. Maybe they are shot and buried out in the country. Maybe they are taken to work camps in North Dakota. Who knows? Its also not safe to show too much support for the government. The Resistance has been known to assassinate people who speak out against them. You are just glad you have no close family in the police or military. More than one cop or soldier has come home to find the mutilated corpses of his family waiting for him, murdered as a lesson or in retaliation. It’s best to stay quiet and mind your own business.

You have to stop at the grocery store on your way home. There is not much on the shelves and what little there is, is terribly expensive. War and terrorism play havoc with supply chains. You also have to stop at a gas station to refuel. You hate to do this since gasoline is over $10 per gallon, after the refineries in the Gulf were blown up. Before you can pull in, you are stopped by policemen. They ask you to get out of your car so they can search it. It seems that the Friends of the Earth have taken to leaving car bombs at gas stations to fight global warming or something. Its strange, but last winter was the coldest you can remember. Maybe that was because you couldn’t afford heating though.

 

At home, you turn on the television. the President is giving a speech about the recent capture of a major Resistance leader. He looks old. He has been president for a long time, almost nine years. The Uprising began right after the last election. Resistance fighters seized control of several American cities and declared themselves to be the Socialist Republic of North America. Fighting broke out all over the country. The Capitol was bombed while Congress was meeting and the twenty surviving members of Congress voted unanimously to suspend the constitution and grant the president emergency powers. The President ordered the military to take back control of the cities by any means necessary. The Uprising was crushed but the Resistance lived on. The fighting has continued to the present day.

The power goes out abruptly. This is a regular occurrence. Maybe a power line was cut or a transformer blown up. Maybe no one has the time to keep up maintenance on the infrastructure anymore. You decide to go to bed early. As you lay in your bed, you hear the distant sound of gunfire. The Resistance has emerged from their hiding places and is fighting the military. You hope the fighting doesn’t spread to your neighborhood like it did last year. Its hard to get any sleep in the basement, hoping no one decides to loot or burn down your apartment building. With that thought, you drift off to sleep.

Does this sound like fun or exciting to you? Is living in a country that is fighting itself likely to improve anyone’s life? And keep in mind that that was a fairly optimistic scenario with the government was mostly intact and fighting limited to terrorism and guerrilla war. I can imagine worse scenarios. Imagine how bad it would be to live in a country with no functioning government, just rival gangs or militias fighting it out all over the country. Or imagine if different factions of the US military took different sides in a civil war. How would you feel watching a race-based militia doing door to door, dragging out your neighbors who happen to have the wrong skin color and shooting them in the street? How would you like fleeing for your life from such a militia with nothing but the clothes on your back? Do you think you would enjoy living in a refugee camp because your home was bombed?

Revolution is not exciting or romantic. It is terrible. You do not want to be living in the middle of a civil war, yet that seems to be the way our country is heading. We have got to decide to step back from the cliff. No matter how bad you think the president is, or how much you think the Republicans or the Democrats are screwing things up, the alternative is far, far worse. You say you want a revolution. You have no idea what you are wishing for.

Lead by Example

May 28, 2020

Earlier this month around two hundred celebrities signed on to an editorial in the French newspaper Le Monde calling for a radical transformation of the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. I read about it in James Barret’s article in the Daily Wire.

A collection of over 200 Hollywood stars and scientists have signed an editorial this week calling on world leaders and citizens to embrace “radical transformation” of our economies and values post-coronavirus crisis in order to avoid what they say will be “the massive extinction of life on Earth.”

Among the signatories of the alarmist message are several high-profile actors, including Robert De Niro, Madonna, Cate Blanchett, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Eva Green, Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Willem Defoe and Joaquin Phoenix.

The usual gang of celebrity idiots.

The editorial, published in the French paper Le Monde on Wednesday, presents the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to “examine what is essential” and to recognize that “the massive extinction of life on Earth is no longer in doubt, and all indicators point to a direct existential threat.”

I am glad that Mr. Barrett provides a translation of the editorial since my French skills are limited to Je m’appelle David and J’aime parler francais.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a tragedy. This crisis is, however, inviting us to examine what is essential. And what we see is simple: “adjustments” are not enough. The problem is systemic.

The ongoing ecological catastrophe is a meta-crisis: the massive extinction of life on Earth is no longer in doubt, and all indicators point to a direct existential threat. Unlike a pandemic, however severe, a global ecological collapse will have immeasurable consequences.

We therefore solemnly call upon leaders — and all of us as citizens – to leave behind the unsustainable logic that still prevails and to undertake a profound overhaul of our goals, values, and economies.

What precise steps should we be taking?

The pursuit of consumerism and an obsession with productivity have led us to deny the value of life itself: that of plants, that of animals, and that of a great number of human beings. Pollution, climate change, and the destruction of our remaining natural zones has brought the world to a breaking point.

For these reasons, along with increasing social inequalities, we believe it is unthinkable to “go back to normal.”

The radical transformation we need – at all levels – demands boldness and courage. It will not happen without a massive and determined commitment. We must act now. It is as much a matter of survival as one of dignity and coherence.

For these reasons, along with increasing social inequalities, we believe it is unthinkable to “go back to normal.”

The radical transformation we need – at all levels – demands boldness and courage. It will not happen without a massive and determined commitment. We must act now. It is as much a matter of survival as one of dignity and coherence.

I have a suggestion. If these people are so concerned about the fate of the Earth and are willing to make a radical transformation, there is a simple thing they can do that might make life better for all of us. They can retire from show business. Actors can stop making movies. Musicians can stop going on tour. I don’t think there is any industry other than the entertainment industry that consumes so much of the world’s resources and has so large a carbon footprint while being completely nonessential.

What’s more, the lavish lifestyles of these celebrities affect the environment far more than the lives of the ordinary people they keep scolding. Why don’t these entertainers give up their huge mansions, their private planes, and whatever other luxuries they spend their money on and live the life of an ordinary middle-class American? In fact, if they are really so concerned about social inequality, why not give up their multi-million dollar salaries and work for the American median income? After all, as a wise man said, “At a certain point you’ve made enough money”. If the world is really in so much danger from ecological collapse, why not give all their money away and decrease their environmental footprint to a bare minimum by adopting the lifestyle of a third world peasant. Let them lead by example.

They won’t of course. These people are actors playing another role, speaking lines written for them, which is why we shouldn’t pay too much attention to entertainers. If they want us to believe that there is some great crisis necessitating a radical transformation of our society and economy, they should act like it and take the first step. I won’t be holding my breath waiting.

Nativity Scene at Brownstown

May 15, 2020

Here is some Jackson County local news from the local newspaper.

A federal judge recently ruled a Nativity scene displayed on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn in Brownstown during the holidays each year cannot be displayed.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed Dec. 28, 2018, in the New Albany division of the Southern District of Indiana, U.S. District Court.

That suit, filed by Rebecca Woodring of Seymour, asked the court to rule the Nativity scene violated her civil rights as she felt county government was promoting Christianity to her and other county residents. According to court records, Woodring is an atheist and believes government should not be involved in religious activity.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued the ruling supporting Woodring’s contention Friday.

In her ruling, Pratt said the display needed to be removed from future display on the courthouse lawn.

“Jackson County has violated the rights of Woodring and its other citizens by displaying a religious symbol on government property in violation of the First Amendment,” Pratt said in her ruling. “Jackson County is hereby enjoined from displaying the crèche as presently presented on the lawn of the historical courthouse.”

Woodring, represented by attorney Kenneth J. Falk with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said she was happy to learn the judge had ruled in her favor.

“This is a huge win for everyone who believes religion and government should be separated,” she said.

I suppose the legal reasoning is sound, so far as it goes, and is in line with other rulings on this issue. However, I do not understand why having a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn during the Christmas season is such a big deal. In this case, the components of the Nativity scene are owned by the Brownstown Ministerial Association and cared for by the Brownstown Lions Club. No taxpayer funds are used to maintain the Nativity scene. No government at any level is endorsing Christianity by permitting private citizens to place it on public property. Why can’t these atheists let people have their Nativity scenes? They are not being harmed by these inanimate objects, are they?

Jackson County moved to dismiss the suit on precisely the ground, that Ms. Woodring had not suffered any damage as a result of the Nativity scene. Judge Pratt wasn’t having it.

The county then asked Pratt to dismiss Woodring’s complaint in October 2019 contending she had not suffered any damages and making the Nativity scene part of an overall holiday display was constitutional. The judge dismissed that motion, stating the display of the Nativity scene continues to give the impression of a religious endorsement.

As for Ms. Woodring, she claimed that she was suffering serious psychological harm from being forced to see the insidious display.

Woodring said in her suit she had to pass the Nativity scene often for her work duties, which includes T-shirts she has printed to be delivered in the Brownstown area.

She also claimed she had to use a nearby county office for part of ongoing divorce proceedings and collection of child support payments.

Because of those activities, she would either have to be forced to view the display or considerably alter her behavior to avoid it, each of which could cause her to suffer psychological injury.

The county, defended by the Liberty Counsel of Maitland, Florida, free of charge, contended Woodring had no necessary business that forced her to visit the courthouse.

The county also claimed she could still participate fully as a citizen and fulfill her legal obligations while avoiding the display since everything associated with her divorce was done in the county’s new judicial center. According to them, this would neglect the claims of possible psychological injury.

The court found Woodring would have to considerably alter her behavior to avoid it because of how close the judicial center is to the courthouse. This led to the ruling that the Nativity scene needed to be removed from the courthouse lawn.

Really? This woman is so fragile that even the sight of a religious display might cause psychological damage? Well, I’ll tell you what causes me psychological distress; bullying atheists who believe that they have the right to impose their views on the community by suing to prevent religious believers from practicing their faith. Ms. Woodring may be in the right in a strictly legal sense but in any community of diverse beliefs and practices, we must all show respect and tolerance for one another. Ms. Woodring is not showing respect and tolerance but is trying to force the community to do things her way, ignoring the rights and feelings of the majority of the people in her community.

I do not believe that Ms. Woodring truly desires separation of government and religion. She seems to want the government to endorse her lack of religion. The claims of psychological damage indicate to me that she is motivated more by animus against Christianity than by a desire to enforce the constitutional separation between church and state. Then again, maybe she is a grinch who hates the whole Christmas season. Whatever her reasons, Ms. Woodring has succeeded in taking away something that harms no one, least of all, herself, and gives joy to the community.

I notice that this ruling has generated some bitter feelings on social media. I hope that no one, especially no Christians take it upon themselves to harass this woman. There is no need to make her look like a martyr, the victim of intolerant and bigoted Christians, and, in any case, our King commands us to pray for those who oppose us. We do not need a nativity scene at the courthouse to celebrate Christmas, and it may be that focusing on the manger rather than the One in the manger is missing the point.

 

To Open or Not to Open

May 5, 2020

To open or not to open, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to suffer to open up

And suffer the slings and arrows of COVID-19

Or shelter in place against a sea of viruses

And by opposing end them.

Okay, so I am no William Shakespeare. Still, the question remains, how long must this quarantine and sheltering in place last? We cannot remain closed down indefinitely. Small businesses and the people who they employ are suffering badly. Before too much longer, they will not be able to reopen. Every day that we remain closed down presents a greater risk of a recession or even a depression occurring later in the year. Yet, if we open everything too soon before the pandemic has run its course, we run the risk of suffering a second wave of coronavirus resulting in more sickness and deaths. Shutting the economy down again late this summer could do more damage to the economy than keeping things shut down a little longer this spring. This is not an easy decision, no matter what some people who are not in the position to make the actual decisions and be responsible for the consequences might believe. I wouldn’t want to be the person who has to decide.

Hamlet pondering on whether to reopen Denmark after the coronavirus pandemic

You wouldn’t think that responses to the coronavirus epidemic would be along partisan lines, but then what isn’t along partisan lines these days? I have noticed that Democrats and leftists generally seem to be in favor of extending the lockdowns for as long as possible and seem to favor stricter guidelines for social distancing, while Republicans and conservatives generally seem to want the lockdowns to end as soon as possible. Perhaps the Democrats tend to be more concerned with the population’s health while the Republicans are more concerned with the nation’s economy. Or maybe Republicans have actual jobs and would like to get back to the business of providing for themselves and their families. I think everyone not on the fringes is starting to get a little frustrated.

Out on the fringes, the lunatic right seems to believe that the Wuhan virus is some sort of false flag operation by the government to impose socialist tyranny on the country. All of the lockdowns and shelter in place orders are just to prepare the sheeple to follow the government’s orders no matter how negatively they affect their lives and circumstances. When the blue-helmeted UN ‘peacekeepers’ arrive in their black helicopters after the disputed election of 2020, most people will be conditioned to do as their told and offer no resistance to the invaders. I wish I were making all of this up.

On the other hand, the idiot left does seem to be taking advantage of the disruptions in everyday life to push their agenda. Now is the perfect time for work stoppages, rent strikes, gun safety measures, freer access to abortion, a wealth tax, open borders, and who knows what else. None of this has anything to do with the pandemic, though I imagine that a country in the sort of economic collapse that would ensue if the left’s policies were adopted might find it more difficult to protect its citizens from disease.

Some governors, especially in the Blue States seem to be enjoying the power which the crisis has given them. They seem to relish having the power to decide which jobs and businesses are essential and telling people how they can interact with one another, setting up snitch lines, getting the police to note the license plates of people who have dared to attend religious services, threatening the Jews, etc. I wonder if these governors will ever reopen their states. They seem to be having too much fun unleashing their inner authoritarians. Besides, if we end up in a Greater Depression, it might cause Trump to be defeated in the upcoming election. Tens of millions of Americans permanently out of work and without hope is a small price to pay for defeating the bad orange man, and it is a lot easier to set up the new socialist America if people have to depend on the government for every necessity. We can’t have a free people who rely on themselves. That’s racist or something.

For my part, I think there has been a lot of overreaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese coronavirus just doesn’t seem deadly enough to justify the lockdowns and the general panic. Still, better safe than sorry and I would prefer to err on the side of doing too much than too little. After all, when this crisis started, we had no way of knowing how bad it might get. The Chinese government has not been too helpful in providing the information we needed. I think we need to start opening things up now, not just because of the economy, but because I sense the American people are getting impatient and frustrated. I think the nation’s governors are going to have to plan to start opening things up right now before people start simply ignoring them and opening up on their own. Already we read of protests. That’s the signal for our leaders to get out and lead, or we’ll just start leading ourselves.

Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2020
Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of...

Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of Puebla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Today is Cinco de Mayo or the Fifth of May. Contrary to what is commonly believed, (including by myself), Cinco de Mayo is actually more of an American, or at least a Mexican-American, holiday than a Mexican one. Cinco de Mayo is only celebrated regionally in Mexico, primarily in the states of Puebla and Vera Cruz. Schools are closed on this day, but it is not an official national holiday in Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of  Puebla on May 5, 1862. In 1861, the Mexican government was bankrupt and President Benito Juarez suspended payments on Mexico’s foreign debt. In response, Britain, France, and Spain sent naval forces to occupy the city of Vera Cruz and demand payment on the debts Mexico owed them. Juarez managed to come to an arraignment with Britain and Spain, but the French, ruled by Emperor Napoleon III had other ideas.

Louis Napoleon III was the nephew of Napoleon I Bonaparte. He had somehow managed to get himself elected as president of the Second Republic of  France in 1848, but he decided that president was not a grand enough title for a Bonaparte, and in 1851 he seized dictatorial power in France and named himself Emperor. Despite being the nephew of Napoleon I, Napoleon III was not a particularly aggressive Emperor and was mostly content to have France at peace with other European powers. With the crisis in Mexico, however, Napoleon III saw an opportunity for France to gain an empire in Latin America. The United States was involved in the Civil War and was in no position to try to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. In fact, an additional benefit to the French occupation of Mexico would be to give France a base with which to send aid to the Confederate States, keeping the nation divided and unable to resist the French conquest.

 

The French army invaded Mexico with 8000 men under the command of General Charles de Lorencez late in 1861. This army marched from Vera Cruz in April of 1862 and defeated Mexican forces led by Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin on April 28. Seguin retreated to the city of Puebla where the Mexicans had two forts. Seguin had only 4500 badly armed and trained men to defend the city. It seemed likely that the French would crush the Mexicans and march on to Mexico City without and further resistance.

 

On May 5, Lorencez attacked the forts with 6500 men. Against all odds, the Mexicans successfully defended the forts against three assaults. By the third assault, the French artillery had run out of ammunition, so the infantry had to attack without artillery support. They were driven back and the French had to fall back. Then, Seguin attacked with his cavalry while the Mexican infantry outflanked the French on both sides of their positions. The French were routed with 462 men killed, while the Mexicans only suffered 83 dead. This unlikely victory has been an inspiration for Mexican patriots ever since.

 

The victory was a short-lived one. Napoleon III sent reinforcements to Mexico and the French were able to conquer the country. Napoleon III placed the Austrian Hapsburg Maximilian as the first Emperor of the Mexican Empire. He was also the last Emperor since as soon as the United States was finished with the Civil War, the US government made it clear to Napoleon III that it would not tolerate a French colony on the southern border. Since Napoleon III did not want to fight a war against battle-hardened Civil War veterans, he removed the French troops. Maximilian, even though he sincerely tried to govern Mexico well, was quickly overthrown and executed.

 

Although Benito Juarez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated by Mexicans in the American Southwest, the territories the US gained in the Mexican War. The former Mexicans began to celebrate Cinco de Mayo both as a way to express their Mexican identity and to show their support for the North in the Civil War. It may seem odd that these unwilling Americans would care about a war half a continent away, but the Mexicans were against slavery, and Hispanics insisted that California enter the United States as a free state. Cinco de Mayo gained popularity in the 1960s with the rise of Latino activism and still more in the 1980s when beer companies realized that the celebratory nature of the holiday would be a good marketing tool to sell more beer.

 

So happy Cinco de Mayo, or should I say Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

 

 

Biden His Time

April 26, 2020

Now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out, Joe Biden is the last man standing. I hardly expected that to be the outcome. I thought that Bernie would stay in longer. Actually, I was hoping that Bernie Sanders would stay in longer, at least long enough that we would have an actual choice here in Indiana. One of the disadvantages of living in Indiana is that our primary comes so late that the contest has already all but been decided before we vote. I don’t think it is fair that the people in Iowa and New Hampshire and the states that have their primaries on Super Tuesday get to pick the party nominees, while other states get no choice at all. Maybe state primaries should be on some sort of rotating schedule so that other states can get the first choice.

Joe Biden

My guess would be that Bernie Sanders was not really running to be president but to move the Democratic Party further to the left. He must believe that either Biden has moved far enough to the left to suit him, and is unlikely to move to the center as president, or that it does not matter much what Biden says or does since he won’t be the one making the decisions. He may be right. Joe Biden has never been know to be particularly smart, and it seems that he is suffering from some sort of dementia. Perhaps, Joe Biden is meant to be a figurehead. Those Democrats who have dropped out and endorsed Biden may be hoping for cabinet positions or be the real power in a Biden administration. If so, many of them, especially Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, are surely extreme enough to suit Bernie.

If this is the case, then the Democratic Party has completed the transition from a center-left party made up of a coalition of the White working class and various racial and ethnic minorities to a hard-left, Socialist Party dedicated to fundamentally transforming the United States from a constitutional republic based on individual freedom and the rule of law to a socialist utopia based on the preeminence of the state above all else. This transition, begun with the McGovern campaign back in 1972 has proceeded slowly as the radicals have climbed their way into the Democratic Party power structure and was somewhat delayed by the relatively moderate New Democrats such as Bill Clinton, but greatly accelerated by the rise of the radical Barack Obama has transformed the Democratic into a totalitarian party with no place for dissenting moderates. Even such past luminaries as Roosevelt or Johnson might find it difficult to fit into the contemporary Democratic party. John F Kenedy might be more comfortable as a Republican today. Even George McGovern, who was not, in fact,

These old Democrats, whatever their faults were patriots who loved their country and respected the institutions that made it great and free. They may have been liberals, but they were not radical enough to want to destroy those institutions, just reform them to make them better. Even though many of their policies were wrong-headed, they were sincerely interested in expanding opportunities to the disadvantaged. The contemporary Democratic Party seems to be led by virtue-signaling coastal elites and tech moguls, environmentalist wackos, and the genderqueer obsessed. They seem to be more about restricting opportunities rather than expanding them, keeping the disadvantaged down in their place rather than lifting them up. They seem to hate America and want nothing more than to tear down every institution and constitutional check as merely in the way of their goal of obtaining absolute power to remake the country as they see fit.

It is all a shame, really. The was some good in the Democratic party of old. There is nothing good in this new, neo-Bolshevik party, no matter who is the nominee. The Democrats need to be defeated this November. A Democratic president with a Democratic Congress would be a disaster for the country and for the cause of freedom in the world It is not going to be enough for Trump to win, the Democrats need to face a shellacking big enough to make them reconsider their leftward drift into Socialism. It won’t happen. I’m afraid that the days of 49 state landslides are over and even if the Democrats face a defeat on the scale of McGovern’s or Mondale’s, they will likely simply blame Biden for being too moderate and double down on the crazy.

Can Biden win? As the presumptive Democratic nominee, he certainly has some chance of being the next president. Biden is not a very impressive candidate, even when he was younger, and as I’ve mentioned, he seems to be deteriorating fast. There are a lot of people on the left who really hate Trump, though, and many of them would vote for a head of lettuce if that is what it takes to deny Trump a second term. On the other hand, there were a lot of people on the right who really hated Clinton and Obama and who voted for the uninspiring Bob Dole and Mitt Romney, yet Clinton and Obama both won reelection. Joe Biden is a good deal weaker as a candidate than either Dole or Romney. I suppose much will depend on who is selected to be Biden’s running mate. Whoever it is might be seen as the real candidate who might be expected to take over if Biden is obliged to resign.

There has been some speculation that Biden will be replaced by a more suitable candidate at the Democratic National Convention, perhaps Hilary Clinton or New York governor Andrew Cuomo. I don’t see how the Democrats are going to be able able to pull that off. Joe Biden has the most delegates pledged to him and as the only candidate still in the race, will have a majority by the time the primaries are over. It seems to me that the Democrats would have to discard their own rules for nominating a candidate to ditch Biden. Maybe they will, but I wonder if a candidate nominated under such unusual circumstances would really be a stronger candidate than Joe Biden. I guess we are just going to have to bide our time and see what happens.

Quarantine China

April 6, 2020

If it were not for the criminal negligence of the government of the People’s Republic of China, the world would not be suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. They lied about the extent of the pandemic in their own country and punished medical authorities who dared to tell the truth. Their incompetence permitted the spread of COVID-19 beyond Wuhan.  The Chinese government is still not being truthful or responsible about events in China and has even permitted the wet markets, where the disease began, to reopen.

All of this could be forgiven if it were a one-time event, but the recent history of pandemics originating in China reveals that the spread of this latest pandemic is part of a pattern. The Chinese government was just as incompetent and dishonest in its reaction to the SARS epidemic of 2002, the Swine Flu epidemic of 2009, and the Bird Flu epidemic of 2013-16. It must be obvious by now that the People’s Republic of China is unable or unwilling to maintain the minimum standards of public health or fulfill its obligations as a good global citizen. It is time to quarantine China.

We need to cut off our trade with China as much as possible. We certainly should not rely on a potentially hostile trading partner for our military or economic necessities. Wherever possible we need to bring our manufacturing back to America. American companies need to come home. When it is not feasible to locate a factory or other facility in the United States, we should at least locate it in a friendly country. There are many places with cheap labor. We do not have to rely on a country with values hostile to our own to make our stuff.  We should also restrict travel from the People’s Republic of China until they can show that they are capable of establishing public health protocols that will prevent the next pandemic from spreading outside of China. Unfortunately, these proposals will cause hardship for the citizens of China who have no control over the actions of their government, but we have to put the health and welfare of our own people first.

We also need to investigate the Chinese Communist infiltration of American and Western institutions. In recent years, the Chinese have been leveraging their increasing economic prosperity to gain influence over our universities, research laboratories, entertainment industry, and judging by their eagerness to parrot Chinese propaganda even our news media While the Democrats have been fretting over alleged Russian electoral interference, it is China that has been expanding its efforts to influence public opinion in Western nations and even donating to preferred political parties and candidates. All of this needs to be stopped, particularly the self-censorship that Hollywood imposes on itself to gain market share in the vast Chinese movie-going public. We need to ask ourselves what does it gain us to get cheap stuff and profits from China if we lose our nation, our freedoms, and perhaps even our lives?

While we are decoupling economically from the Communist Chinese state, why don’t we reverse the terrible decision President Carter made in 1978 to recognize the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of China and sever diplomatic ties with the Republic of China in Taiwan. The Communists are the de facto government of the Chinese mainland, but that doesn’t mean we ought to recognize them as being in any sense the legitimate government. The Communist government of China is nothing more than a band of corrupt bandits who shot their way into power and then proceeded to murder and starve tens of millions of their own citizens. The economic reforms of the last few decades may have allowed some economic freedom for the people of mainland China and some degree of prosperity, but China remains a totalitarian state that denies its people the most basic civil rights. Even if the Communist government of China was, in any sense, the legitimate government of China, it surely lost its legitimacy when it sent soldiers to gun down its own citizens at Tiananmen Square for asserting their right to be free. It is time to stop pretending we are dealing with a civilized power and re-establish diplomatic relations with the free and democratically elected government of the Republic of China in Taiwan.

Whatever we decide to do after this present crisis is over, we had better make sure that we take steps to make sure something like the COVID-19 pandemic does not happen again. One thing that we can certainly do is to decouple ourselves from China until they show that they can get their act together and keep their citizens and the world safe and healthy.

“Chinese Virus” is not Racist

March 22, 2020

No, it is not racist to refer to the coronavirus or COVID-19 as the Chinese virus or the Wuhan virus. Calling it the Kung Flu might be racist and is certainly inaccurate, considering we are not dealing with a strain of influenza, but it is funny. This pandemic had its start in Wuhan, China, and it is commonplace to name a new form of a disease by its origin. As David Mastio, the Deputy Editor of USA Today’s editorial page, and no Trump supporter, explains;

But many of the reports left something out: just how common and innocuous geographic names are for diseases.

Here are a few:

And disease names don’t have to come with a foreign flavor. Lyme disease is named for a town in Connecticut. Norovirus is named for Norwalk, OhioRocky Mountain spotted fever!

And then there is the issue of facts. The Spanish flu was most likely misnamed; we don’t know where it came from. But we do know that the novel coronavirus now sweeping the world emerged from a city called Wuhan in central China.

I suppose that if COVID-19 had first emerged from Hoboken, New Jersey it would be popularly named the Hoboken virus or the American virus. Would that be racist? Is referring to rubella as German measles racist or anti-German? No sensible person would maintain such a ridiculous notion. Why is Wuhan or the Chinese virus somehow racist? Why are so many in the media jumping on this bandwagon? I can only think of two reasons.

The government of the People’s Republic of China has been very eager for the rest of the world to forget that the coronavirus originated in China. China’s leaders would especially like for people to forget that the pandemic could have been easily managed had they managed the minimal level of transparency expected in a good global citizen. Instead, they tried to cover up the problem to protect the Party’s reputation. Now, they are trying to blame the United States by promulgating a bizarre conspiracy theory, while insisting that “China virus” is racist. Our elite media seems all too eager to repeat Chinese Communist propaganda points, whether because they are that eager to find some way to blame Trump or they admire China’s authoritarian government, I don’t know.

Or maybe they just despise their fellow Americans. The idea among our betters seems to be that if the president refers to the Chinese virus, it will lead to attacks against Asian-Americans. Already, the media is breathlessly reporting on a handful of incidents of insults and violence against East Asians. According to our elite, those of us who are benighted enough to live in flyover country are so racist and ignorant that any mention of the China virus will drive us into a frenzy of hate and will cause us to form mobs to hunt down every Chinese we can find and murder them, just as mobs of Europeans murdered Jews during the time of the Black Death. Well, in a nation of over 320 million people there are going to be a few cases of people behaving badly, especially in California. Contrary to what our betters on the coast might believe, the United States of America is not a nation of haters. We do not form mobs to kill “foreigners” at the drop of a hat. There are not KKK rallies being held on every street corner, and Trump’s supporters are not White supremacists. We are better people than they believe us to be and I wish they would stop projecting their own bigotry on to us.

It is certainly appropriate to refer to the coronavirus as the Chinese virus. I cannot say that I am very much troubled if the Chinese leadership or their allies among our own leaders are upset by the use of that term. To be honest, I am more than a little irritated at the Chinese, or to be more accurate, at the Chinese communist government for their negligence which led to our present crisis. I have already been upset by the Chinese government’s totalitarian disregard for the basic civil rights of their own citizens, the near genocide of the Uighurs, the occupation of Tibet and the bullying way in which they have been leveraging their economic power to supplant the democratic values of free nations with their own authoritarian values. The Chinese virus is simply the last straw. The People’s Republic of China has shown that it is not a friend to the United States or to the free world. It is time we take their threat seriously. We can begin by assigning the blame for the coronavirus pandemic where it belongs and not allowing them to bully us into denying the obvious truth.


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