The 4th of July

Every year the 4th of July gives Americans the chance to think about our roots and hopefully show a little gratitude for the sacrifices that a lot of people made for us. Unfortunately gratitude is not a common virtue among a large segment of our ill-informed fellow citizens who do not even know who fought in the revolutionary war, the civil war, or World Wars I and II.

Instead this year we are witnessing citizens who are inflamed about racial tension and are willing to disregard our entire history of progress to satisfy their sophomoric notions of history. In their eyes, the founding fathers where evil slave owners, not worthy of our admiration or gratitude.

We can only ask them to consider the thousands of our compatriots who followed those founding fathers and became the soldiers who delivered victories that resulted in the preservation of that same Liberty we all share.

Baltimore Independent Cadets

On December 3, 1774 the Baltimore Committee of Observation and 59 Baltimore citizens formed the Baltimore Independent Cadets and elected Mordecai Gist to be their Captain.  They adopted the following bylaws, which explain their purpose.

“We, the Baltimore Independent Cadets, deeply impressed with a sense of the unhappy condition our suffering brethren of Boston–of the alarming conduct of General Gage–and the oppressive unconstitutional acts of Parliament to deprive us of liberty, and enforce slavery on his Majesty’s loyal liege subjects of America in general; for the better security of our lives, liberties, and property, under such alarming circumstances, think it highly advisable and necessary that we form ourselves into a body or company, in order to learn military discipline, and to act in defiance of our country, agreeable to the Resolves of the Continental Congress.  And first, as dutiful subjects t King George the 3rd, our Royal Sovereign, we acknowledge all due allegiance, freedom and liberty of the Constitution.  Secondly, we resolve after a company of sixty men shall have voluntarily subscribed their names to this paper, that public notice thereof shall be given, and a meeting called to elect the officers of said company, under whose command we desire to be let, and will strictly adhere to, under all the sacred ties of honor, and the love and justice due to ourselves and country; and in case of any emergency we will be ready to march to the assistance of our sister colonies, at the discretion and direction of our commanding officer so elected, and that in the space of forty-eight hours notice from said officer.  Thirdly, we agree and firmly resolve to procure at our own expense, a uniform suit of clothes, (Regal.) Scarlet, turned up with buff, and trimmed with yellow metal, or gold buttons, white stockings, and black cloth half boots; likewise, a good gun with cartouche pouch, a pair of pistols, belt and cutlass, with four pounds of powder and sixteen of lead, which shall be ready to equip ourselves with, on the shortest notice.  And if default shall be found in either of us, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this engagement, we desire, and submit ourselves to a trial by court martial, whom we hereby fully authorize and empower to determine punishments, adequate to the crimes that may be committed, but not to extend to corporal punishment.  Given under our hands, this third day of December, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-four.”

The Baltimore Independent Cadets, were absorbed into William Smallwood’s Maryland Battalion (or Regiment) and into seven attached independent companies on January 14, 1776.  Compared to the rag-tag Colonial soldiers, the Cadets were elegant in their uniforms and rifles with bayonets. The contrast earned them the name Macaronis, similar to our word “dandy” now. It was used pejoratively referring to solders who excelled in appearance, discipline, and ultimately in performance on the battlefield.

In July, 1776, the Battalion was assigned to the main Continental Army and formally adopted into the Continental Army in August.  Later that month, the first and largest battle of the Revolution was fought on the west end of Long Island and is variously called the Battle of Long Island or the Battle of Brooklyn.

Old Stone House

image of Vechte-Cortelyou-House-Brooklyn

Vechte-Cortelyou House
John L. Pierrepont / Public domain

An Old Stone House was a central feature of the Battle of Brooklyn. The British General Cornwallis occupied the house as his headquarters. At the time of the historic battle, the British greatly outnumbered Washington’s army so he ordered their retreat.  Brigadier General William Alexander Stirling fought on for several hours not realizing that he was being outflanked by the British.

When he saw he was surrounded, Stirling ordered his men to retreat also, but they were essentially cut off. A few escaped though a swamp but many were killed or captured.

Stirling and Major Mordecai Gist took a contingent of  approximately 270 men from the Maryland Regiment and repeatedly attacked the British defending the house in order to open a breach in the British lines and enable Washington and the rest of the Army to escape. After sustaining heavy losses, Major Gist and nine soldiers escaped. Stirling was captured and later released in a prisoner exchange for a British loyalist,  Montfort Browne.

Reading an abbreviated account of the battle leaves out a lot of important facts. Why were the Marylanders left to sacrifice themselves? And why is an obscure figure like Montfort Browne worth mentioning?

Maryland 400

The Maryland First Battalion consisted of  728 soldiers in 1776.  They were among the best trained and armed. In those days, riflemen relied on bayonets for fast and close combat. Most of the Continental Army had no bayonets.  The Maryland Battalion had bayonets and had drilled in their use. During the Battle of Brooklyn the Battalion sustained heavy causalities. By the time Washington ordered the retreat, the Battalion had dwindled to around 400 soldiers. That is the number that has been reported in histories of the battle and eventually accepted as a convenient round number to romantically compare to the three hundred Spartans who battled the invading Persian Army at the Battle of Thermopylae.

Gist and Stirling led their troops into British fire, each time sustaining devastating casualties.  Stepping over their fallen comrades, they continued to press on. Washington is reported to have exclaimed, ” “My God, what brave men I must this day lose!”

Those who sacrificed themselves whether wittingly or out of desperation to escape themselves allowed Washington to escape with his army. The entire revolution could have ended at the Battle of Brooklyn.

For a closer look at where the idea of the Maryland 400 came from click HERE.

256 Maryland Soldiers

After the battle for Brooklyn, it was believed that the British or Hessian troops dug a long trench and buried the fallen Maryland soldiers. For many years residents thought the graves were beneath a concrete parking lot around 9th Street and 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. The Department of Education even installed a plaque at the location.

For over 100 years after the battle, the land where the battle was fought remained farmland.  Farmers reported digging up human bones occasionally as they tilled the land.

The Vechte-Cortelyou House was a sturdy structure designed to withstand attacks from native Americans. It changed hands several times after the war but it was razed and burned in 1897.  A later reconstruction by the city used some of the stones from the original building and now it serves as a Department of Park’s and Recreation museum and comfort station.

The location of the grave of the 256 Maryland soldiers remained controversial until 2017 when the city hired the architectural contracting firm AKRF to excavate the parking lot. Nothing was found except the remains of a pit (outhouse). No bones or other artifacts were found.

Montfort Browne

The story of Montfort Browne is instructive.  We think of ourselves as Americans. And when we think of the founding fathers and George Washington in particular, we think of the United States. But when the Revolution against England started, there were no United States; there were 13 colonies. Each colony was committed to the revolution to varying degrees and the citizens of the colonies saw themselves as citizens of each colony, not of a larger nation. Almost everybody was a loyal subject of King George III until they took the terrifying step to declare their allegiance to the  traitors, whom we call now call patriots.

What we now think of as the American Revolution was in fact a civil war. And the greater war, after France and Spain joined to help “our side,” was in fact a global war.  It became a rematch of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) when France and Spain suffered defeat and loss of territory at the hands of the British. Our revered hero, General George Washington was a militia colonel who was sent to fight the French in the Ohio valley. He was defeated by the French and forced to sign a declaration in French that that was used as propaganda by the French to exacerbate hostilities between France and Britain, eventually leading to the Seven Years’ War.

King George did not view his war in the colonies as a war against a foreign enemy; it was an uprising among his loyal subjects. And indeed most of the colonists remained loyal in the beginning. Estimates are as high a 65% were loyal, 35% were sympathetic to the revolution, but only 10% were willing to die for their beliefs. Benjamin Franklin’s own son remained loyal to the British Crown and in 1782, he went into exile in Britain.

Montfort Brown was also a loyal subject of the crown, a British Army officer, Tory, land speculator in west Florida, and governor of the Bahamas from 1774 to 1780.  In March of 1776 he had the misfortune of being take prisoner  along with 12 other high ranking Bahamian officials and taken to Maryland by the American fleet. In those days of gentlemanly warfare among generals and high ranking officials, Browne and perhaps some of his cohorts were a perfect swap for the recently captured American general, Brigadier General William Alexander Stirling. Upon his release, Stirling was promoted to Major General.

By returning Stirling to the battlefield, the revolution gained back a general officer ranked variously as number 3 or number 4 after Washington himself.

Thomas Paine

When Thomas Paine published his ideas that culminated in the multiple versions of “Common Sense,”  most colonists identified as British. Even those whose ancestors came from other countries like the Dutch who settled New York were fluent in English.   The Foundation for Economic Education estimates that approximately 80% of men and 50% of women in New England were literate by 1776.”  The high literacy rate may have directly contributed to the revolution considering the success of “Common Sense.”

Published anonymously on January 10, 1776, it is amazing that the ideas in Common Sense were ratified in the language of the Declaration of Independence just six month later on July 4, 1776. In this excerpt, Paine makes the case that the Colonists are European Protestants and the New World is the Cradle of Liberty.

“But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by the king and his parasites, with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still. ”

Tyrannical American Government?

There is a large segment of American society, particularly on the political Left, who enlist Paine’s rhetoric to bolster their own grievances.

“…our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”– Thomas Paine, Common Sense 1776

The Big Easy Magazine website proclaims itself as Unapologetically Progressive. Uniquely New Orleans. The writer boldly proclaims:

The current state of civil unrest must be viewed in the context of a tyrannical American government. When a group of people are being oppressed, American history has shown, that violence, riots, and revolution are predictable outcomes.
Asad El Malik,  June 1st 2020

We cannot argue with the publication’s core values: Kindness Compassion Equality Love Justice Inclusiveness, however contradictory they may seem to violence, riots, and revolution. We do however strongly disagree with the premise of a tyrannical American Government.

Many of the grievances in the Big Easy story deal with local conditions, police departments under local control, not a tyrannical American government.  Such hyperbole is uninformed by history, fact, and reason. The Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to petition the government for redress of grievances. Of course the easiest way to change things is to vote for qualified leaders in the first place, instead of the perpetually corrupt local governments that “furnish the means by which (they) suffer.”

Further Reading

The Black Lives Matter movement identified real injustice, both in current events and in the recent past. It appears that some of the violence accompanying protests was motivated by outside forces that have alternative agendas. Sadly this detracts from the message that seeks to correct racial injustice. It also takes away from the tremendous progress that has been made particularly since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rayford W. Logan argues that 1901 was the low point of black Americans’ status in society. His book, “The Negro in American Life and Thought: The Nadir, 1877–1901,” was published in 1954 and is now a collectors item. It was republished and expanded as “The Betrayal Of The Negro: From Rutherford B. Hayes To Woodrow Wilson,” in 1997.

A worse past is no justification for dismissing current problems. However, learning about the past helps us understand that real progress has been made and many brave people accomplished it by quietly writing books or being active politically. Change can be made without violence, riots, and revolution.

Constitutional Authority Running Amok

The coronavirus pandemic has put the Constitution on full display.  The Federal government has power that is supposed to be relatively limited compared to the powers reserved to the states and to the people. The power to quarantine is clearly with the states, and with the people themselves should they chose to voluntarily isolate themselves.

The constitutions of the various states define what emergency powers governors and mayors may exercise.  Whatever is not clearly defined in those constitutions and in legislation is reserved to the people to behave responsibly during chaotic emergencies. While the people have been acting responsibly for the most part, many local officials appear to have abused their power. Some have run amok.

Presidential Authority

President Trump grandly announced that his authority relative to the coronavirus pandemic is “total.”  His actions, however, show that he knows the real power lies with the states and with the people.

Article II of the Constitution gives the president “the executive power,” but does say what it is. Subsequently Congress and the Courts have pretty well defined what the president can do.  Hamilton in the Federalist papers made the argument for an “energetic” chief executive and regarded the legislature as the body that should deliberate and display wisdom.

“Those politicians and statesmen who have been the most celebrated for the soundness of their principles and for the justice of their views, have declared in favor of a single Executive and a numerous legislature. They have with great propriety, considered energy as the most necessary qualification of the former, and have regarded this as most applicable to power in a single hand, while they have, with equal propriety, considered the latter as best adapted to deliberation and wisdom, and best calculated to conciliate the confidence of the people and to secure their privileges and interests.”

During the pandemic, the President has clearly been energetic.  Daily press briefings highlight ever changing guidance as experts learn more about the virus and its epidemiology. He correctly defined the virus by its origin in China. Members of the opposing party in Congress protest that it is somehow racist to say the virus originated in China. If nothing else, members of legislatures regularly display their banality instead of the wisdom that Hamilton hoped for. But at least in such emergencies, we do not have to rely on the wisdom of the U.S. Congress – just their power of the purse to vote trillions of dollars for good or ill.

Governors’ Authority

Michigan’s Act 301 of 1945  gives the governor emergency powers upon  “reasonable apprehension of immediate danger.”  Most other states except New York have enabling legislation that gives governors extraordinary power if a threat is immediate or imminent.  New York goes far beyond immediate or imminent.

Normally emergency measures must be proportional to the threat and limited in their duration. Within those general guidelines come the inevitable disagreements over “how much for how long.”

In New York, governor Andrew Cuomo signed 11 executive orders, suspending dozens of laws. Only the state legislature can limit his power, but his party controls the legislature so there is little opposition.  In fact the legislature gave the N.Y. governor dictatorial authority during an emergency by changing the language of previous emergency powers from “imminent” threat to “impending or urgent threat.” Is climate change an imminent threat?

Read the bill HERE        (opens in PDF)

Now the New York governor may do as he pleases. Exercising the wisdom that Hamilton presumed would prevail, the New York legislature allowed for repetitive 30 day limits on the governors’ executive orders, with additional 30 day extensions up to an absolute limit at which sections one and two of the enabling legislation would expire and be deemed repealed  on April 30, 2021.

At least the legislature did not envision a dictator for life.

Assemblymen Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) when asked about the impact of the new legislation replied:

It gives “the governor very extensive and almost unlimited affirmative legislative power to not only waive existing laws and provisions of existing laws, which he now has authority to do, but it also empowers him to essentially make new legislation by issuing ‘directives’ to any New Yorkers.” (Quoted from Observer)

New York and Michigan’s governors are not alone in either being granted, or assuming, near dictatorial emergency powers. Many other governors like Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf,(D), and  Vermont’s Phil Scott (R) have been accused of making arbitrary decisions about what is essential or non essential to decide who must shut down their businesses and risk financial ruin.

City and County Authority

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.” (Bill de Blasio)

Local government is that closest to the people and is generally most responsive to the needs and desires of the people. Yet local governments are the ones that can immediately wield the awesome ” police power of the state.”  The president and governors are not the ones who put people in jail during an emergency that suspends normal legal protections. It’s the local authorities who are in a position to back up their presumed authority with force at their disposal.  Interestingly local police occasionally refuse to back up their mayors or county commissioners when they consider the order to be unlawful.

A local Democratic Dallas County Judge, Clay Jenkins, ordered salon owner Shelley Luther to immediately close her North Dallas salon . In Texas, elected county executive officers are called judges.  Jenkins was following Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order (Opens in PDF).

She refused and became the face of a resistance movement that quickly escalated into a public fight between Democrat led counties and cities and libertarian leaning Republicans. A Democrat judge (real judge), District Judge Eric Moyé, acting on a request from the Democrat led City of Dallas ordered Ms. Luther to shutter her business, and when she refused he sentenced her to a week in jail and $7,000 fine. Local police indeed put her in jail.  She was soon freed after a massive outcry and intervention by Governor Abbott who saw his order being executed too harshly.

In the meantime, Montgomery County Judge Mark J. Keough, a Republican, said Governor Abbott’s order was too vague and he would not enforce it.

It’s at the local level that the worse abuses of peoples’ civil liberties happen during ordinary times. Police brutality is an example. During extraordinarily times when local officials are ill prepared to deal with the nature of an emergency, stubbornly authoritarian local leaders may in good faith feel that they know best and force citizens to obey their edicts no matter how draconian or ultimately unconstitutional.

In the current coronavirus pandemic, the courts will be sorting out claims of abuse and unconstitutionality for a long time to come.

Liberty versus Safety

“I didn’t say it.”

Local authorities grapple with the extent of their authority and often fail to restrain tyrannical impulses engendered by what they believe is their more enlightened understanding of a dangerous pandemic.  Opponents of heavy handed government look for learned proclamations of the founding fathers to justify their opposition. Certainly Benjamin Franklin had something to say about shutting everything down in the face of a pandemic.

Unfortunately we cannot find it. He had something else besides personal or civil Liberty in mind when he said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  The “Essential liberty” to which he was referring was right of the Pennsylvania legislature to enact taxes to purchase a “little temporary safety” against attacks on the frontier during the French and Indian War.  No, we need to search deeper if there is a link between Liberty and Safety.

A philosophical justification for choosing Security over Liberty over  cannot be found because they are not in conflict. We can have both. There will forever be tension between the two, and so the dictum, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” seems like good advice. (quoted from The Life of Major General James Jackson, by Thomas U.P. Charlton, 1809)  Combined with Leonard Henry Courtney’s “The price of peace is eternal vigilance,”  it appears some thoughtful people have equated both liberty and peace/security with paying attention.

Dobbin, Hamilton Henry. [Policeman Adjusting Flu Mask on a Citizen]. N.p., 1918. Print.

There is a continuum between questions of Liberty and Security with both being highly subjective.  In normal times we agree to laws that impose a common set of public restrictions, such as speed limits. Few disagree with the concept of speed limits but many would disagree if the speed limit is too slow or too fast. When it comes to questions of the Patriot Act or how TSA handles airport security, the questions become more complex. Recently abuses of the Patriot Act and the FISA courts that the Act created have come to light.  Fortunately there are many both within government and without that are paying attention.

But the Constitution itself never foresaw the myriad of epidemics that have plagued the world and our own country. The closest thing we have endured as a nation to the current pandemic was the pandemic of  1918 caused by the H1N1 virus. It killed 50 million people worldwide because it struck a world of people with no immunity, no antibiotics to treat secondary infections, no immunizations, and spotty compliance with known strategies: isolation, quarantine, personal hygiene, disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings.  Local communities deputized men to form an armed cordon around towns to keep people out.  Such “shotgun quarantines”  were perfectly legal.

May a state close its borders from other states and stop all air travel into the state?  In a word, yes.

Chief Justice Earl Warren in the Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in Zemel v. Rusk wrote:

“But that freedom does not mean that areas ravaged by flood, fire or pestilence cannot be quarantined when it can be demonstrated that unlimited travel to the area would directly and materially interfere with the safety and welfare of the area or the Nation as a whole.”  (citation)

After draconian emergency measures have passed, the people will decide what was appropriate and what was not. Then they can pass new laws if necessary.  They may also show their displeasure for the officials’ actions during an emergency and throw them out of office at the next election. Abuses suffered during the emergency can be adjudicated. If citizens remain well informed and paricipate in representative democracy there is a reasonable expectation that an acceptable balance between freedoms and security can prevail.

Obituary of Thomas Jefferson

Occasionally we run across interesting articles that we would like to pass on.  On further refection we realize that what interests one person may not excite another.  But this time we will make an exception because we are very interested in Jefferson, and so should you.

Barton Family Funeral Service is a family run funeral service in Kirkland Washington, which happens to be almost ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.  The press reported that some of the early deaths from coronavirus occurred at the Life Care Center in Kirkland. So out of curiosity, we started to search on coronavirus in Kirkland WA and we ran into the Barton web site. Assuming that obituaries would be the place to look, we encountered an interesting chain of pages that ended in the Obituary of Thomas Jefferson, almost 200 years late. (Date of death: July 4, 1826)

Chain of Pages

The chain of pages that led us to the obituary involved showing people how to upload pictures to put in an online obituary.

The second of the above three links had links to information about Jefferson, and since he is one of our favorite founding fathers, we followed the link to the last page, which was the obituary.  We called Barton Family Funeral Service.  They were a bit surprised we found the page. It has been on their site for a long time and no one has commented on it before.

Permission Granted

We asked permission to post the article in its entirety and they were more than please to let us do so, asking only that we include their credits and copyright. So here is the Obituary of Thomas Jefferson 200 years late. It has the advantage of historical perspective to make an important point.  As stated in their article about the American Revolutionary War against England, “Their revolution was to be free from England. Ending slavery would have required another revolution and would have been the death of the union, as it almost was in 1861-1965.”

Obituary of Thomas Jefferson 200 Years Late.

Thomas Jefferson

April 13, 1743, (Shadwell, Colony of Virginia, British America)-July 4, 1826 (Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.)

Thomas Jefferson is counted among the Founding Fathers . He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he served as vice-president under John Adams from 1797 to 1801.

Jefferson was a prolific writer. John Adams, who also made major contributions to the Declaration of Independence, asked Jefferson to edit the document because  he felt Jefferson had “A peculiar felicity for expression.”

Jefferson is regarded as one of the most intelligent of U.S. presidents. President Kennedy is reported to have said to a gathering of scientists in the White House, that “I’d like to welcome you all to the greatest gathering of minds to assemble here since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

He was a genius by any standard but was just one among other geniuses of the day including, Washington, Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.

De mortuis nil nisi bene dicendum

(Speak not ill of the dead)

It has recently become fashionable among a self-righteous and arguably self-centered portion of the population to condemn many of the Founders of the Republic because they did not write or speak about the evils of slavery. Indeed Jefferson owned slaves. He also lived beyond his means, made bad investments, and may have had some personal relationships that used to be illegal in Utah.

Five of the  Founders, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and  Madison are on record for opposing slavery. They condemned it eloquently. Some are on record for wondering why their colleague Jefferson did not use his eloquence to denounce slavery.

Their legacy as founders, and indeed their very lives, depended on uniting a nation and winning the Revolution.

Their revolution was to be free from England. Ending slavery would have required another revolution and would have been the death of the union, as it almost was in 1861-1965.

Wise people know that they cannot always achieve their objectives as quickly as they may want. The ability to delay gratification has been show to be a characteristic of successful individuals.

Jefferson, like all of us when we die, should be remembered for the incalculable good things that he accomplished. He may have wanted to do more. Perhaps he knew he could not live long enough to see it all happen.

Thomas Jefferson’s Grave Stone

Jefferson instructed that his grave stone be made of “coarse stone … that no one might be tempted hereafter to destroy it for the value of the materials.”

Nevertheless people chipped off pieces for souvenirs rendering the monument in such poor repair that it was replaced by a new one in the family cemetery at Monticello and the old one was donated by the family to University of Missouri on July 4, 1885.

Content on this page is  from
© 2008-2020, Barton Family Funeral Service, LLC. All rights reserve.

Constitutional Authority

“Authority is Total”

The President caused a major freak-out when he declared that his authority is “total.” Listen carefully to what he so inartfully said. Then realize it is not what President says that is as important as what he does.

Righteous Indignation

As you see in the clip from the Guardian’s coverage of the President’s press briefing, the response from the ever vigilant guardians of truth and justice was swift.

What is Truth?

Keep in mind that the philosophical argument about “what is truth” has been going on since the dawn of human history.

Undoubtedly the intrepid reporter who made that bold declaration to the president has her own idea of what truth is. It is her truth, the truth that she subjectively feels. Her intuitive truth.  Perhaps it is informed by her understanding of the Constitution. Perhaps she thinks the Constitution embodies truths that the document itself declares to be “self-evident.” Is it true that all men are created equal?

Some people say the Bible is true. Some say it is not, but those who swear it is true seem to be more willing to die for their beliefs than those who say it is not true. The ones who say the bible is not true are less likely to publicly say that Muhammad was not a prophet contrary to the beliefs of over a billion people, some of whom have also demonstrated a fondness of dying for their beliefs.

Is the truth even worth dying for if there is such ambiguity about what is really true?  There seems to be an inordinate amount of emotion surrounding people’s notion of truth.

Is the President a Liar?

The President is widely decried as a liar because he says things that contradict what others regard as immutable truth. He regularly shows scant regard for the accuracy of numbers or dates, preferring instead to  paint a narrative. Like Longfellow’s highly fictional Paul Revere’s Ride, but without the eloquent poetry, Trump tells stories to get a point across. Those who listen to him and howl, “that’s not true”are not missing the point as much as they just viscerally disagree with the point he is trying to make.  And when he voices his aspirations in the guise of promises and then is unable to execute on those promises, like any accomplished adolescent, he blames the opposing party or fake news for holding him back.

In the final analysis he is right. Opposition to Trump has been breathtaking from even before he took office. It is often difficult to tell who the adults are and who are the petulant children.

The Reality

Back on the subject of Constitutional Authority, there are academic arguments from constitutional scholars and jurists and then there is reality.

We previously commented on the constitutionality of quarantines. We demonstrated that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states and to the people.   We also mentioned the troublesome Commerce Clause.

President Trump said that the president has “absolute” power. Not he, but the president.

That statement made a lot of people’s heads explode. Dictators have absolute power. Presidents are supposed to bend to the will of the people, but not necessarily to all the people.  Just their kind of people. When Trump talks to his people, the OTHER people jeer at and mock them all.

Perhaps on a certain level they know he is right. If he were their President, they would cheer him on for taking decisive action and spending trillions of dollars of other people’s money. They intuitively know where the true (oops, there is that word again) power is; its the power of the purse.  The Federal government invents money, Congress votes on where it should go, and the President spends it.

This has sometimes been called the golden rule. You know, he who has the gold makes the rules.

Ongoing Saga of Coronavirus Policies

Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, promulgated the nation’s most draconian lockdown, prompting an immediate backlash. Armed citizens marched in the streets and cars jammed the streets of Lansing.

In a letter signed by Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich, Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel, Mainstee County Sheriff Ken Falk, and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, the sheriffs wrote, “Each of us took an oath to uphold and defend the Michigan Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, and to ensure that your God given rights are not violated. We believe we are the last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties.”

Yet the predictably Leftist press labeled the demonstrations by ordinary citizens as “Right Wing.”  The street-fighting far right groups have failed to show themselves in public, but that did not stop the Guardian’s creative writing team from inventing an interesting headline:

Guardian Video

Note the obvious lack of street-fighting far right groups.  The Constitution of Michigan of 1963 Article 1, Section 6 reads, “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”

Most states, including Michigan, have enacted laws that allow local authorities to take emergency actions, including enforcing quarantines and isolation. Michigan’s law (Act 302 of 1945)  that gives the governor broad authority to “to proclaim a state of emergency, and to prescribe the powers and duties of the governor with respect thereto; and to prescribe penalties.”

Notably Michigan’s law  “Subsection (1) does not authorize the seizure, taking, or confiscation of lawfully possessed firearms, ammunition, or other weapons.”

Relationship of the States to Donald Trump

During ordinary times, the Democrat governors of various states join with their partisan supporters to trash Trump and work tirelessly for his ultimate defeat. But during this time of emergency when the President declares the power of the President power to be total, and the Vice-President affirms that the power of the presidency is plenary, governors with their hands out for Federal dollars are far more deferential.

Some are more deferential than others.  The Republican governors always command respect from the President, but now New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo  and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, regularly receive his  high praise for their performance in managing the pandemic emergency.

Governor Whitmer on the other hand is the object of Trump’s disdain, complaining that “all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.”  Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington is also critical of the President prompting Trump to admonish the Vice-President, “not to be complimentary of that governor because that governor is a snake”

In the world of big egos and boundless ambition, state governors, in whose hands reside the execution of emergency measures,  go begging for Federal dollars, the true fountain of total authority.

Quarantine is Constitutional

Many people have been complaining that shutting down businesses and quarantining people are unconstitutional.

Doesn’t the Constitution guarantee people freedom of assembly?  Limiting how many people can be in a bar or at a wedding ceremony smacks of heavy handed government denying us of our rights, doesn’t it?

No, actually the policies that local and state governments are taking during the coronavirus pandemic are in line with powers that are reserved to the States and to the People by the Constitution. You are free to limit who goes into your home; city leaders can take emergency measures to limit who goes into the city or who goes out in public places; the states have similar powers.

Actions by state and local authorities in emergencies are broad and easily enforced by local police power. There is no immediate Federal authority that will gallop in to preserve what some consider their precious first amendment rights. Or their second amendment rights for that matter. Sure, these amendments are fully incorporated to the states. If somebody thinks the mayor or governor is being too tough on them, they have recourse to the courts.

Spreading sovereign power across levels of government to cities and states is what distinguishes our constitutional republic from countries that rule from the top down. Doing so is the ultimate protection of our individual liberties. At times it may appear cumbersome but any perceived inefficiencies help us avoid the efficiencies of a dictatorship.

States’ Rights Issue

It’s interesting to watch the President and his advisors try to implement a national policy to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Advocates of unlimited federal power complain that Trump should force the states to follow a national plan. They say he should have acted sooner. To them, deferring to the governors is evading his responsibility.

To his credit, the President has stated that it’s not the federal government’s responsibility to do everything, especially what the states have the authority to do for themselves.  He is praising governors for doing their jobs.

Complaints are a continuation of the great Left-Right divide that is plaguing our body politic. Unfortunately this puts the Constitution in jeopardy as people call for nationalization of key segments of the economy.  Single payer national healthcare and other socialist schemes of the Left ignore the Constitutional principles that have allowed our economy to be strong.  As attractive as some of these proposals are to a large number of Americans, they clearly exceed the power of the federal government granted to it by the Constitution.

Tenth Amendment

The Tenth Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to define the balance of power between  federal and state governments It says that the federal government has only powers specifically granted by the Constitution. These powers include the power to declare war, to collect taxes, to regulate foreign and to some degree interstate trade, among other enumerated powers.

Commerce Clause

The Constitution includes sections that seem to favor strong states’ rights, while others like the Commerce Clause have been used to claw back authority to the Federal Government. It grants Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

Over time it has allowed the federal government to grow into a massive enterprise that creates money and dominates the world economy. It bribes the states with grants of money. Local and state entities are lulled into believing that they must follow every dictate of the Federal government if they want the money.

The Texas Example

The constitutions of the various states often mirror the U.S. Constitution by incorporating the enumerated rights of the people and the states. Here we will discuss Texas as an example. Check the constitution and laws in your own state to see if your governor and local officials are acting constitutionally.

During  hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005, a local authority tried to disarm the people. New Orleans police superintendent Edwin Compass called for blanket confiscation all firearms:  “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons,”  It was of course unconstitutional on both the state and federal level but there is little time to argue or go to court during an emergency. Actual instances of gun confiscation were fortunately limited and mostly carried out by inexperienced or out-of-state voluntary personnel.

That did not happen in Texas.  After Katrina, then Governor Rick Perry pushed for a bill,  S.B. 112, that was intended to protect the right to bear arms during a catastrophe. While the idea was noble, the bill unfortunately died in committee, not an uncommon fate in a state where “if it ain’t broke(n), don’t fix it” prevails.

Over the years Texas has enacted many laws to protect the people and their agricultural crops and livestock, including numerous laws and regulations that include emergency measures such as quarantine.

What about the coronavirus emergency?  Can the state and cities enforce quarantines or isolation?  What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Texas Home Rule Amendment to State Constitution

In 1912  Texas voters adopted the Home Rule Amendment to the state constitution and the legislature followed in the regular session in 1913 with the necessary enabling act.

A home-rule municipality may adopt rules to protect the health of persons in the municipality, including quarantine rules to protect the residents against communicable disease.  The following are a few of the current enabling statutes.

Texas Health and Safety Code §§ 122.005, 122.006


(a) The governing body of a Type A general-law municipality may take any action necessary or expedient to promote health or suppress disease, including actions to:(1) prevent the introduction of a communicable disease into the municipality, including stopping, detaining, and examining a person coming from a place that is infected or believed to be infected with a communicable disease; (2) establish, maintain, and regulate hospitals in the municipality or in any area within five miles of the municipal limits; or in any area within five miles of the municipal limits; or  (3) abate any nuisance that is or may become injurious to the public health.

(b) The governing body of a Type A general-law municipality may adopt rules: (1) necessary or expedient to promote health or suppress disease; or (2) to prevent the introduction of a communicable disease into the municipality, including quarantine rules, and may enforce those rules in the municipality and in any area within 10 miles of the municipality.

(c) The governing body of a Type A general-law municipality may fine a person who fails or refuses to observe the orders and rules of the health authority.

Texas Health and Safety Code § 81.085 (h)

Penalties. A person commits an offense if the person knowingly fails or refuses to obey a rule, order or instruction of the department or an order or instruction of a health authority issued under a department rule and published during an area quarantine under this section. An offense under this subsection is a felony of the third degree. (Underline Ours)

Of course it is up to the local authorities to decide if they will charge and prosecute offenses, and it is up to a court to decide innocence or guilt.  A felony, even a third degree felony is a serious matter.

Texas Health and Safety Code § 81.083 (individual); § 81.084 (property); § 81.085 ( Area Quarantine; Criminal Penalty)

Texas Response during Spanish Flu

Texas had thought through the pandemic thing in advance of the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 by enacting Home Rule for cities, although the above statutes are the product of on-going revision and rendering into plain English since the 1960’s.

Today Texas has a population of almost 30 million people. The governor has responded logically and firmly during the coronavirus pandemic. In 1918, then Governor William P. Hobby was dealing with many problems including WW I, the flu epidemic, raids on the border with Mexico, just to name a few. During WW I, one-third of deaths in the US military was due to the Spanish flu, not being killed in battle.

When the Home Rule amendment was passed in 1912, the total population spread across a huge area stood at about four million. In 1910, San Antonio and Dallas were near 100,000 in population; Houston and Fort Worth were well over 50,000; and only 40 other cities in the state had more than 5,000 people. Laws regarding quarantine where highly focused on preventing diseases affecting agricultural produces like cotton but there were also strong provisions given to state health authorities to prevent the spread of disease within the human population.

There was no question that the state had authority to shut things down.

Art. 4419. [4528] (1913)
General duties and powers.-The State Board of Health shall have general supervision and control of all matters pertaining to the health of citizens of this State, as provided herein. It shall make a study of the causes and prevention of infection of contagious diseases affecting the lives of citizens within this State and except as otherwise provided in this chapter shall have direction and control of all matters of quarantine regulations and enforcement and shall have full power and authority to prevent the entrance of such diseases from points without the State, and shall have direction and control over sanitary and quarantine measures for dealing with all diseases within the State and to suppress same and prevent their spread. The president of the board shall have charge of and superintend the administration of all matters pertaining to State quarantine. [Id. Acts 1913, p. 147.]Art. 4420. [4536]

Epidemics are Part of Human History

Understanding the decentralized nature of our Republic and how emergencies can be managed locally are necessary to understand how various communities can react differently, sometimes to their advantage, but also to their detriment.  A lot depends on local leadership at the time.  Over the years local communities and states have managed many different diseases, most of which are forgotten except to students of history:

  • 1633-1634: Smallpox from European settlers – Native Americans were devastated.  In 1796 Edward Jenner developed a crude vaccine from cow pox . The Latin word for cow is vacca, and cowpox is vaccinia.  Jenner called his procedure vaccination. Now only old people have the smooth little scar on their arms from the immunization that was subsequently refined from vaccinia.
  • 1793: Yellow fever from the Caribbean.
  • 1832-1866: Cholera – in successive waves between 1832 and 1866.
  • 1858: Scarlet fever also came in waves until penicillin was developed.
  • 1906-1907: Typhoid Fever – like coronavirus there were healthy carriers.
  • 1918: “Spanish flu”- The 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus) during WW I is a lesson on how not to treat a pandemic.
  • 1921-1925: Diphtheria epidemic. Now mothers only know the name because children get their DPT shot.
  • 1916-1955: Polio – every summer for many years until Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin became national heroes.
  • 1981-1991: another measles outbreak prompting doctors to recommend a second immunization.
  • 2010, 2014: Pertussis again, whooping cough -time to take immunization seriously. Part of the DPT shot.
  • 1980s to present: HIV/AIDS. Good drugs are available for treatment but there is no real cure.
  • Every year: seasonal flu – sometimes severe. 2009: flu pandemic in the United States was a novel strain of the Influenza A/H1N1 virus.


An excellent historical review by Sean McConnell published in the Galveston County Daily News shows similarities between the largely voluntary coronavirus shutdown and measures that were taken in 1918 in Galveston Texas to slow down the spread of flu. Today’s effort is vastly more effective. We are not sending infected soldier off to war on transport ships.  We have doctors who know more than doctors knew in 1918.  There are hospitals with respirators.  Antibiotics, and a host of other drugs help manage concurrent morbidities like bacterial infections.


Our Constitutional form of government, a Representative Federal Republic, has left the power to deal with such problems with the people, municipalities, and states.  It is a mistake to expect the Federal government to do any more than assist with whatever limited Constitutional authority it has.

The fiscal stimulus is probably appropriate. One can forever argue about taxes and debt, single payer healthcare, and the myriad of demands made by people looking to the Federal Government for salvation. Salvation is in the hands of the people, as is their ruin if they if they are too lazy or stupid to accept personal responsibility for their existence on the planet.

The Federal Government has legitimate powers of quarantine within its limited mandate. It can quarantine immigrants and goods entering the country.  It may quarantine soldiers in military service. Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264) allows the executive branch to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states. The President can stop airplanes flying in from China and his opponents are free to say he is racist for doing so and for calling the SARS-CoV-2 virus the “Chinese Virus.”

MLK Holiday- A Day Still Worth Remembering

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK was actually born on January 15, 1929, although this year we celebrated his birthday on the 20th. If he had not been assassinated on April 4, 1968, he would be 91 years old this year and could have looked forward to another 3.78 years of life according to actuarial tables for white American males.

Instead of 91 years of life, James Earl Ray (March 10, 1928 – April 23, 1998) cut him down at age 39.  His untimely death at age 39 did not make a positive contribution to the actuarial tables for black American males.

As with every day that we designate as a holiday, it may be of benefit to the human race to periodically ask ourselves if a day, person, or event is still worth commemorating.

The annual Panathenaia, the ancient Greek commemoration of Athena’s birthday is no longer celebrated, at least not in Texas.

National Holiday

On Nov. 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to make the third Monday of every January a federal holiday commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr . It was to begin in 1986, although it was not observed in all states until the year 2000. Some states have combined it with existing state holidays while others have made the holiday a celebration of human rights more broadly.

Idaho’s Idaho Human Rights Day is a example of expanding the scope of the holiday.

Other examples of the combined holiday are:

Alabama: “Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Birthday”
Arizona: “Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights Day”
Arkansas: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday and Robert E. Lee’s Birthday” from 1985 to 2017, then from 2017 to the present, the name of the state holiday in January is “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday,” and Lee’s is in October.
Idaho as noted above: “Martin Luther King Jr.–Idaho Human Rights Day”
Mississippi: “Martin Luther King’s and Robert E. Lee’s Birthdays”
New Hampshire: “Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day”
Virginia:  Lee-Jackson-King Day until 2000; then Lee-Jackson Day was moved to the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Wyoming:  “Martin Luther King Jr./Wyoming Equality Day”

The fact that a few of these states have combined the holiday with that of  previous heroes suggests that their legislators may not have reached a consensus about what an MLK Holiday actually means.

Confederate Heroes Day

Few Texans know that the 19th day of January is, “Confederate Heroes Day,” in honor of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other Confederate heroes.  This year it falls on Sunday, the day before the MLK holiday.  Our schools no longer teach us about Confederate Heroes.

Confederate Heroes Day could easily be merged with Athena’s birthday and celebrated in July on the 23-30 of Hekatombaion (July), except that the exact date may be confusing because Julius Caesar messed with the ancient calendar. And Athena was not real!

Confederate Heroes Day could also be mercifully relegated to the graveyard of history, where History takes a less impassioned look at people and events. Are the passions of the current “woke” generation by themselves enough to justify jettisoning the memories of long revered heroes?

Rather that an abrupt end to a holiday that some people may secretly enjoy celebrating,  Heroes Day and other holidays can simply be merged like Saturnalia and Christmas.  They could then be promoted as an additional important shopping day.

A more realistic end to the holiday could happen in the legislature, as Texas did to eliminate anachronisms like Article 1, Section 4, the Texas Constitution.


Revolution is occasionally necessary, as are divorce, bankruptcy, and other painfully abrupt changes in human experience. None of our holidays, memorial statues, or buildings named after Everett McKinley Dirksen needs to be abruptly dismantled in a Revolutionary fashion. Time and Evolution will make informed decisions about what to remember.

Evolution is no less violent than revolution. Both involve death. But evolution plays out over longer periods of time and is devoid of human emotion, sentimentality, and immature righteous indignation.

Let evolution deal with statues of Andrew Jackson on horseback.  Let the study of history inform us about the successes and mistakes of our progenitors. Combine the noble instincts of mediocre dead people with the learned writings of our greatest scholars and make holidays to remind us that there were a lot of people who lived who were smarter than we are.

The founding fathers were among the smart people, as were Thomas Payne and John Locke. July 4th is an excellent day to remember them collectively.  Presidents Day is a good day to remember Washington and Lincoln, who rose to greatness because of their circumstances. Lump them all together if remembering presidents is a good idea.

Someday the third Monday in January may be commemorated as Human Rights Day, recognizing the works of MLK,  James Griffin, John Rawls, Charles Beitz, Joseph Raz, John Tasioulas, and maybe Martha Nussbaum  to make sure the list is inclusive. While these people are alive, no one will agree that any one of them is worthy of a day to remember their work. Perhaps “Dead Philosophers’ and Activist Preachers’ Day” will combine them all together with enough anonymity that everybody agrees  that all made a contribution.

Simplicity of the MLK Message

MLK had a relatively simple message: end racial discrimination.  His broader message was that we call all live together united.

He will not be remembered as a philosopher arguing the nuances of Human Rights.  He will be remembered as a gifted communicator and in the mind of many as a martyr to the cause he espoused. He really was not a martyr.  He was just murdered. The man who killed him did not hate his message; he just wanted to become famous for killing somebody who was also famous.

MLK was an agent for social change that the country still desperately needs.

Until his dream has become reality, a day to commemorate his message is appropriate without being complicated by conflicting messages.  Human Rights Day and Civil Rights Day are fine.  Dead generals need their rest.


Impeachment of Donald Trump

The impeachment of Donald Trump began within days of his election.  At the middle of December, 2019, after 3 years in office, house Democrats, “with heavy hearts,” voted two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.

Someday historians will be able to analyze the current emotional spectacle with the same detached rationality that they chronicle the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, with its eleven articles.  A similar emotional climate accompanied Johnson’s impeachment but unlike our current impeachment, much of the enmity carried over into the senate. The failure to convict in the senate helped establish a principle that Congress should not remove the President from office simply because its members disagreed with him over policy or management style. That long standing principle is again being challenged.

The challenge for contemporary observers is to put aside emotional bias and take a cold look at these historic events with the detachment that an honest historian in 2150 will take.  Since it is demonstrably difficult to put aside such bias, an alternative activity is to watch the emotion without getting caught up in it.  The following is a glimpse of the silliness.

Nancy Pelosi prays for Donald Trump.

Intrepid Reporter James Rosen:

” Do you hate the President, Madam Speaker?”

Righteous Christian Mother Pelosi:

“Of course I don’t hate the president, sweet young misguided reporter.  My heart is full of love, for you and the President.  In fact, I PRAY for the President!”

If you think the above is an Adam Schiff style distortion of what she actually said, you are correct. Judge for yourself if Madam Pelosi is using Jesus to justify her indignation. She is praying for the President, but she does not reveal if she is praying for his demise.

Learned Professors educate Congress about Impeachment

Professors witness their humility and impartiality.

The Wednesday, December 4, 2019,   Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing was a bit of a farce. The professors, all Democrats, were called to opine about what constitutes impeachable conduct.

To anybody except the most partisan acolyte, the level of preconceived opinion and bias was blatant. Rather than a scholarly analysis of previous impeachments, three of the four tried to disguise their contempt for the president in sophomoric rhetoric.


This remark from Harvard professor Noah Feldman demands correction.

“The abuse of power occurs when the president uses his office for personal advantage or gain. That matters fundamentally to the American people because if we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy, we live in a monarchy, or we live under a dictatorship.”  (Noah Feldman)

Mr. Feldman is arguing specifically that Donald Trump is abusing his power for personal gain.  He claims that if this is allowed to happen we no longer live in a democracy.  You can read his December 4, 2019 remarks HERE.

The good news is that we do not live in a pure democracy. We live in a Constitutional Federal Republic and the Constitution that Mr. Feldman knows so much about has masterfully devised ways to survive even a hypocritical and hysterical onslaught to get rid of the loathsome Donald Trump.


Michael J. Gerhard, an acknowledged expert on the law of impeachment and its alternatives, was a less emotional in his presentation than Professors Feldman and Karlan.  You can read his opening presentation HERE.    His rhetorical devise of comparing Trump to a Monarch is ludicrous.


Karlan’s opening statement was unremarkable. You can read it HERE

A little research reveals that she is a political activist with so much left wing passion that she was eliminated as an Obama candidate for the Supreme Court. The American Spectator chronicles her anti-Trump bias:

Ms. Karlan embarrassed herself and tainted her entire testimony with what appeared to be a planted question and an overly cute answer:

Jonathan Turley’s Professorial Decorum

Professor Jonathan Turley, although a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton, was chosen by the Republican members of the committee to present his views on the pending impeachment.  His presentation was notable in its humility and apparent objectivity. The 53 page presentation can be downloaded HERE.   (Opens in PDF file.)

In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

On October 11, 2019, President Trump issued a proclamation declaring October 14, 2019, as Columbus day. He did the same in previous years as did presidents before him since the day was made a national holiday in 1937 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

This year whoever wrote the proclamation for Trump cited Columbus’ ” intrepid pioneer’s spirit of adventure.” He also mentioned “16 million Americans who claim Italian heritage and to carry forth the legacy of generations of Italian Americans who helped shape our Nation.”

Tens of thousands of people marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for the 75th annual Columbus Day Parade. It’s more a display of Italian solidarity and ethnic pride than it is celebrating the virtuous life of a presumed fellow Italian.

Christopher Columbus was not Italian

picture of Columbus by Alejo Fernández

Christopher Columbus depicted in The Virgin of the Navigators by Alejo Fernández, 1531-1536.

Columbus was not Italian. He was born in the Republic of Genoa, known in the 1400s for its banking and trading while occupied by the French. It was also known for its slave trade.  Cristoforo Colombo left Genoa and went to Spain, where he became known as Cristóbal Colón, genovés.  His own penchant for slave trading had little to do with his birthplace.  Slavery was endemic. When he could not reward his Spanish masters with gold, he opted to give them slaves instead.

It’s Time to Scrap Columbus Day

It’s time to stop the charade. Americans of Italian descent cannot be proud of the scoundrel.  Spaniards should not be proud of him either. By today’s post enlightenment standards he was a rapist, mass murderer, thief, tyrant, scoundrel, pimp, masochist, sadist, opportunist, fraudster, kidnapper, slave trader, charlatan, deceiver…  But so were many of his coreligionists. He was a man of his time.

Some state and local jurisdictions are changing Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In 1989, South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson proclaimed 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between Native Americans and whites and to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. Alaska, Minnesota, and Vermont officially celebrate  Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Purpose of National Holiday

A national holiday is to commemorate an important event in the nation’s history.  Columbus did not discover North America. He made no meaningful contribution to our history.  If the inhabitants of Hispaniola believe that Columbus made Haiti or Dominican Republic a better place, let them commemorate Columbus’ landing there and decimating the native population.

Making Columbus Day a national holiday was a mistake. The best way to fix a mistake is to cancel the holiday, not rename it to celebrate the victims of European colonization.

Revisionist History

The story of European colonization of the Americas is plagued by revisionism, as is most of the world’s history. Romantic stories of intrepid explorers and colonists fail to portray the brutality of those earlier times. To judge them by our current standards is a mistake and is a form of chronological snobbery. Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples were certainly victims of a clash of civilization. Such clashes have always happened and continue to happen.  How they are portrayed in history falls victim to human imagination.  Author Washington Irving contributed to the pro Columbus myth in 1828 with his fictional biography, “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.” In it he portrays Columbus as a friend to indigenous peoples.

Columbus wrote memoirs of his voyages, mostly to document why the king of Spain should pay him 10% of everything gained from his exploits.

Columbus’ son also wrote a history of his father. We will never know whether the father invented his history and the son believe him and wrote an account of it, or if the son knew the history was false and perpetuated the fraud to enhance is own reputation. The Cristóbal Colón family was in it for the money. The narrative was part of that claim for money.

Columbus and his brothers were eventually charged with crimes and spent time in jail until King Ferdinand released and eventually pardoned them.

Bartolomé de las Casas is known for writing an accurate depiction of Columbus’ and Spanish atrocities.

What Really Happened

Columbus happened to come along at a time that European Monarchs were looking abroad for treasure. Sailing ships and navigation advanced to the point that they were more reliable.  It was the dawn of an age of exploration. If Columbus had not conned the king of Spain into finance his venture,  others would have done so. And indeed, others did.

Early globalism, starting around the time of Columbus  resulted death and destruction on both sides of the Atlantic. Native people died from European brutality and diseases while the royalty of Europe were among the first to experience the wrath of Syphilis, which has been demonstrated archeologically to have existed in the pre-Columbian Americas.  It soon spread among the soldiers of Europe and from there around the world.  This is nothing to celebrate.

Why the Controversy?

One problem with dumping Columbus Day is widespread perception that Columbus actually contributed something.  He did not. Italian Americans have adopted a myth that has taken on almost religious proportions.  The holiday and parades are now tradition. This article in the NY Post illustrates an emotional appeal to keep the holiday.


Rather than trying to substitute Indigenous Peoples’ Day for Columbus Day, expand the scope of the holiday to celebrate the Age of Enlightenment/ Age of Reason that directly led to the U.S. Constitution. It took place in Europe during the 18th century, well after Columbus’ atrocities of the 15th century. It undermined the authority of Europe’s monarchs and paved the way for the American Revolution.

If that is not a good enough reason for a national holiday, simply declare the day as the first day of the Christmas Shopping Season.

Is Self-Defense a Natural Right?

Why would it be even necessary to ask such a stupid question?

Of course self-defense is a natural right and to think otherwise is further evidence of a distorted view of reality prevalent among some factions of society in the United States. Denial of physical and biological reality is finding its way into public discourse in ways that should sound alarm bells for people who believe in personal Liberty and its attendant Responsibility.

Tools for Self-defense are Highly Regulated

Despite the Second Amendment to our Constitution, the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, including knives, swords, bows and arrows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, AK-47s, machine guns, rocket propelled granades, tanks, fighter aircraft, and nuclear bombs has been and continues to be highly regulated. If self defense is really a natural right, to what extent are we able to exercise that right if the tools we may depend on are denied us?  What tools may we rely on besides our teeth, fingernails, fists, and ability to run slower than the wind on a calm day?

Biological Basis of Human Existence

The fact that we are alive is all we have. We exist individually and as a species for just a brief moment on the planet we call earth whose age is almost beyond our comprehension.

Postulating an existence beyond this life further complicates how we interpret our conscious existence. Martyrdom is the antithesis of self-defense, but so is altruistically sacrificing one’s life to save another.

Everything we own, people we know, our ancestors and posterity, real and imagined, are part of our brief trip through life. Most of us will do everything possible to preserve our lives.

image of Byzantine-era mosaic of gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Byzantine-era mosaic of a gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Other living beings also do everything possible within the limits of their physical abilities to stay alive. Gazelles can run in bursts as fast as 60 mph as they try to outrun a pursuing carnivore that depends on catching the gazelle for food to stay alive. Gazelles eat grass and run to stay alive. Lions run to catch and eat gazelles to stay alive. All plants and animals that survive in their environment have developed survival mechanisms to keep them alive long enough to reproduce.

Humans are not alone in banding together to help each other survive. Animals hunt cooperatively in packs for food.  Water Buffalo and Wildebeests defend the herd with their formidable horns. Chimpanzees and monkeys cooperate on many levels to find food and defend each other.

Humans are not alone in defending one-another at the peril their own lives, but humans do appear to be alone among living things when they invent language and words to express intangible ideas like rights, natural rights, natural law, social contracts, constitutional law, statuary law, common law, and regulatory law. Humans hold the law of the jungle in disdain until they couch it in terms like natural law. The law of the jungle sounds harsh. Natural law sounds like the words of an enlightened philosopher. But the law of the jungle clearly allows for both self-defense and the common defense. And so does natural law. They are the same.

Natural Rights

Political theorists and philosophers have long argued that human beings have natural rights. Thomas Hobbs was one such philosopher who stated in his work, Leviathan, that individual humans have a natural right to survive but unless there were some kind of government to protect them life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” A gazelle may agree.

Image of Thomas Paine

Portrait of Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was a philosopher, political theorist, and influential voice in the American Revolution.  He wrote a clear definition of natural rights when he said. “Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence.” He went on to say, ” Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others.”

Paine defined civil rights as those, “which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation, some natural right preexisting in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.”

Paine addressed Hobbs’s observation that without the protection of society, humans would be left to defend themselves against insurmountable odds.  It is within the context of understanding and agreeing with Paine’s definitions of natural rights and civil rights that the Founders drafted the U.S. Constitution.

Natural Rights in the Constitution

When the Founders were drafting the Constitution, they had to juggle conflicting interest of many factions all of whom had rights and privileges that they wanted to defend. State’s rights were high on the list.  Freedom was a difficult objective if it included freedom for everybody. Slavery was an issue that was left for a later time because at that particular moment in history it was necessary to craft a grand compromise.

If it were not for the Amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights, it would have been impossible to have ratified the Constitution. Most people in that day assumed that people naturally had rights, whether they called them natural rights or not, and that a legitimate government must protect the rights of the people. They were certainly aware that civil law can easily conflict with natural law when the King quartered his troops in the houses of the colonists.  That conflict between the King’s civil law and natural law prompted the inclusion of the now immaterial amendment number 3.

Life, Liberty, and Property

John Locke was the English philosopher who expanded on ancient discussions about natural law when he wrote that the most important natural rights are Life, Liberty, and Property.  His writings may have been the single greatest influence that shaped the creation of our limited constitutional government. He asserted that natural law can be discovered through reason alone. An aspect of natural law that he stresses here is each individual’s duty to preserve himself, and then when sufficiently secure in his own safety, he should strive to secure the well-being of others:

“Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully (sic), so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.” John Locke (1632-1704) – The Two Treatises of Civil Government

Self-preservation is not just limited to saving our lives, but also our liberty, health, limb, and goods.  This is why some states have codified the justifiable use of force to include defending the lives, health, and property of ourselves as well as others.

Constitutional Protection of Natural Rights to Self-Defense

Self-defense is often more than protecting only physical safety. We have the right to verbally protect ourselves from what others may say to us or about us. President Trump famously does so using social media.

The first amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from stifling our speech.  Around the world and in some quarters in the U.S., there are factions who want to outlaw certain types of speech that they deem offensive. Pejorative but highly subjective labels like “Hate Speech” are used to justify their attempts to ban speech, publication of such language, or assembly where such ideas are expressed.

The second amendment following right after the important first amendment prohibits government from interfering with the right of the people to defend themselves by force of arms.  Humans are not well suited to defend themselves physically without weapons. When violence is necessary to defend ourselves and others, we have a natural right to do so.

A Supreme Court (opens in PDF) decision reaffirmed that the right to keep and bear arms is a personal right. The mention of the militia in the amendment is a slightly archaic way of  asserting Locke’s argument that while securing our own safety, we “ought,” as much as we can, to join together to “preserve the rest of mankind.”  When Locke says we “ought” to defend others, is he implying that we have some kind of moral duty to do so, or is it just his opinion?

There are many who believe that ethics and morality are ideas hatched in the minds of humans, while others bestow more authority on such ideas by claiming they are mandated by a creator.  This is an argument that is bound to go on as long as humans have ideas that they think are original and try to impose their ideas on others, whether through gentle persuasion or outright aggression. Both methods seem to be part of human nature.

A Moral Argument for Self-Defense

Are there objective standards to establish what is moral or are all moral judgements necessarily subjective? Go back to the Gazelle being pursued by the Lion. Both are doing what the nature of their existence dictates that they do to stay alive.

If you decide that you will protect the helpless Gazelle by shooting the lion, the Gazelle runs safely away. Suppose instead you shoot the Gazelle and treat the lion to an easy meal. Whichever decision you made was likely based on some preconceived notion or bias. Is either a moral decision? Animal conservationists would probably claim that both actions are immoral. Let nature take its course.

Suppose again that you see a lion attacking a park ranger. You would surely shoot the lion to save a fellow human.

The ranger could fight the lion with all his strength but unless he, or you, is in possession of a weapon that is more deadly than the lion’s awesome jaws and claws, both you and the ranger would likely become a meal for the lion. These examples involve a limited number of individuals defending themselves from imminent death.  Morality does not weigh heavily on the instinctive decision to defend individual lives.

Where Self-Defense is not a Natural Right in the U.S.

Most would argue that we have a natural right to defend our individual lives through the use of deadly force.  If I have a handgun with 15 rounds of ammunition, and I am set upon by three murderous assailants and I am able to kill all three, most would agree that I had the right to defend myself. But they would be wrong. A natural right does not translate into a legal right in many jurisdictions. And in some jurisdictions, having 15 rounds is illegal.

Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington DC, and Wisconsin  (15 States) require you to run from an assailant if you are in public, even if you are suitably armed and able to defend yourself. They call it a duty to retreat.  Hopefully if you run but have to stop to defend yourself, the judge or jury will believe that you retreated to the extent required by law before exercising your natural right of self-defense.

Running is all the Gazelle has and they can easily outrun a lion unless ambushed. You cannot outrun or retreat fast enough from most assaults.  You may have only a split second to defend yourself.  Duty to retreat imposes and additional burden of proof to defend yourself from potentially unjust charges.

Stand-Your-Ground States

Twenty-eight (28) states are called stand-your-ground states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Seven (7) other states are not statutorily stand-your-ground states, but do not require a strict duty to retreat: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. In these thirty-five states, you do not have a duty to retreat and grand juries are more likely to find that your use of force was justified if  the circumstances demonstrated that you clearly felt your life was in imminent danger.

Even in stand-your-ground states, it is logical to avoid deadly force whenever possible. Display a weapon, issue a strong warning, and if you are in fear of your life, do what must be done. Save yourself.

Proportional Defense

AR-15 Semi Auto Rifle 5.56 NATO

People using weapons such as firearms need to train themselves in their use as one would with any tool.  The idea of proportional defense suggests that the defense should be proportional to the threat. If a person has a weapon but is not skilled in its use, it is doubtful that the defense will be proportional to the threat.  If a person is skilled in the use of weapons but has an inferior weapon, the defense may not be proportional to the threat.

This idea has important ramifications in the on-going debate about so-called assault weapons. A handgun is often sufficient for self-defense, but when the level of threat increases, the tools available for defense have to increase accordingly. A small caliber semiautomatic weapon like the popular AR-15 looks scary to some people but it may be enough to intimidate a would-be aggressor without ever having to fire a shot. If a more robust defense is necessary, the AR-15 is capable of projecting greater force at a greater distance than a handgun.

A large unarmed man threatening a small woman with a knife is not proportional. She may easily be overpowered, disarmed, and stabbed with her own knife.  A small person aggressively confronted by a much larger person may need a firearm to mount a porportional defense. In 1872, the Colt New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol became known as the Equalizer because it allowed individuals to protect themselves from multiple or more powerful assailants.

Today’s equalizers can be found in such modern firearms as the AR-15 designed by ArmaLite in the late 1950s. The design was later sold to Colt who successfully launched the fully automatic version M16 as a military personal defense weapon.  In 1964 Colt began to offer the semiautomatic Model R6000 Colt AR15 SP1 Sporter Rifle in the civilian market.

People who use a firearm should be very familiar with the meaning and limitations of proportional defense. Often simply displaying a firearm with enough resolve will stop an aggressor. Retreat if you can safely do so. Give warnings. But don’t sacrifice an advantage because of indecision. Most aggressors already know what they are going to do and you don’t unless you have practiced using the tools of self-defense.

Other Tools for Self-Defense

Self-defense does not always involve firearms. A simple walking stick in the hands of a healthy person may ward off an opportunistic attacker. Police style tactical expandable steel batons are easily carried and concealled in a woman’s purse. Stun guns and pepper spray may be useful in some circumstances but they are often over-rated and can provoke an even more violent attack by a large aggressor.

Knives are very effective at close range but like any tool, a person carrying a knife should learn how to use it for self-defense. Blade lengths dictate what may be legally carried in some jurisdictions. What ever happened to swords?

A folding pruning saw is a very effective self-defense weapon that is usually considered to be a garden tool. They are incredibly sharp. Carried in a car, it is highly doubtful that it will be questioned as a weapon, especially if it has a few green stains on it from cutting branches. Leave it laying on the floor along with a few rusty garden tools.

WARNING: This discussion of firearms, saws, knives, or other devices in not intended to suggest that you may legally possess or use any of these devices where you reside. The Constitution is a wonderful document meant to protect our rights, but local and state governments routinely infringe on what we may consider to be a right guaranteed under the Constitution.  It is up to citizens to lobby their elected representatives to change the laws when laws no longer serve or protect the people.

Brass Knuckles are legal for self-defense in most states, but even Texas outlawed them at one time, along with California, Illinois, Michigan and Vermont. Now Texas has seen the error of its ways and will allow brass knuckles, clubs, and those cute wild kat keychains to be used for self-defense.   In South Carolina it is illegal to possess brass knuckles only if “they are used with intent to commit a crime.”

A Few Self-defense Tools

A Kubotan is a 5 inch keychain stick that can inflict painful wounds. They are generally legal everywhere except on airplanes even if made of Lexan.

This ice pick has a threaded cover. It is also unsuitable for travel on airplanes. Its stainless shaft is 2.68 in long. It is not a knife and may presumably be carried for defense in Seattle, WA. But is it a dangerous weapon in WA State under RCW 9.41.250?

A Seattle, WA city ordinance declares it illegal to “carry concealed or unconcealed…any dangerous knife,” defined as a knife with a fixed blade longer than 3-1/2 inches.

Knife Length Laws in the United States

The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) incorporated in the state of West Virginia in 1997 as a 501(c)3 national nonprofit advocacy and education organization embracing every segment of the knife industry. Prior to the AKTI’s pioneering efforts, laws regarding knives in the U.S were hopelesslyconfusing. This is beginning to slowly change as states and municipalities reform their laws to conform to uniform definitions and standards promoted by AKTI. Some of their success can be seen on the AKTI Website HERE.

In 2005, AKTI published their Knife Measuring Protocol, which was the first time standard definitions were applied to knives. Since then numerous states have updated their laws to give citizens a clearer picture of which types of knives are legal under varying circumstances.

AKTI provides information about which knives are forbidden or prohibited under state law; which knives cannot be sold or other restrictions on sale or manufacture; and which knives may be carried and whether concealment is an issue.

Click HERE about knife laws in your state. (Opens in a new window)

Although the information provided by AKTI is not considered legal advice, it is a good place to start to understand what restrictions states have placed on weapons, including knives. Consult local law enforcement, an arms dealer, or qualified attorney in your state to better understand the details of local laws.

For those who do not have the patience to read long boring discussions:

What tools may we rely on besides our teeth, fingernails, fists, and ability to run slower than the wind on a calm day?

In the U.S., and apparently in the whole world, there is a constant fight between the Left, who instinctively deny the existence of a biological human nature, and the Right, who dogmatically assert that Darwin was correct and Utopia is the greatest threat to individual Liberty ever contrived in the Minds of Men.

The Left instinctively wants to disarm the populace, provide cradle to grave security, and eliminate all crime, dissension, mental illness, poverty, and unhappiness.

The Founders of our Republic were pragmatists, , brave and realistic.  They knew that if the Revolution against the English Monarchy failed, they would all hang.  There would be no appeal to a benevolent court. Enshrining individual Liberty in a new nation was their goal. Correcting the errors of the past, including slavery, would have to wait for subsequent generations to achieve by using the Freedoms that the Founders bestowed on their posterity.  We are that posterity.

We have an obligation to understand why we have what has been given to us.

John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) had already made his huge contribution to human understanding of nature.  Adam Smith (16 June 1723 – 17 July 1790) provided the bones to what would become an economic miracle, Capitalism. Karl Marx came later. His legacy is one of destruction and on-going dissention,

Some of the concepts we should understand relate to the basic biological nature of our existence:  Natural Liberty, laissez-faire, the Invisible Hand, self-interest, division of labor, universal opulance, ‘the system of natural liberty.’  We do not want to get carried away talking about economics when we are trying to show that natural law gives us the right and duty to defend ourselves and allow us to have access to the tools to make it not only possible but easy. It’s just that liberty, economics, and self-defense are all tied together.

So we will make one last reference to a modern philosopher who is seldom given the credit he deserves: Malcome X said, “I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence.” In his 1964 speech he stated: “We don’t do anything illegal.”

Indeed the Second Amendment gives us an individual right to arm ourselves in defense of ourselves, our property, and our fellow beings. The problem is that other people and even our own governments try to take these rights away from us under whatever guise is popular at the time.  Right now in the summer of 2019 after several well publicized murders, frantic utopian Leftists are again crying for a general disarmament.  So we too must continue to defend ourselves in the political arena and keep the pressure on our elected representative to protect the Constitution.

So what types of arms are appropriate and who should have them.

Who Should have Them?

First, society has a right to protect us collectively, so there are people who should not have weapons, and there are people who should not have their personal freedom. They should be locked up. But if we cannot lock them all up, we individually must have the means to defend ourselves from them, and we must support those whom we hire to defend us, the police, the FBI, ICE, the military, etc.

Background checks are reasonable and may be strengthened with technology, but safeguards must be built in to prevent background checks from infringing our rights.  Protection orders are also a logical defense of public order. It’s already in Federal Law.  Gun violence Emergency Protective Orders are also appropriate if the are not abused.

What Types of Arms


Because the principle of proportional defense always applies, the type of weapon available in the hands of a law-abiding citizen should be capable of meeting any potential threat.  If the treat does not measure up to the available weapon, the law-abiding citizen is the one to decide proportionality by limiting the use of the weapon to the actual force needed. This is why any semiautomatic weapon with any magazine capacity should not be banned. We need to have them if necessary and we are free to limit their use.

The present laws of taxing fully automatic weapons, although infringing to some degree, is not causing  too much hardship.  If a situation arose where more people need to have automatic weapons, current access to semiautomatic weapons could fill in the gap until more appropriate weapons for the new threat are made available.  To legally own a fully-automatic weapon now requires three things: time, money, and a spotless criminal record.

The bottom line is this: All rifles, shotguns, and handguns, of any caliber presently available, and magazines of any capacity should be available in commerce, subject to reasonable regulations. Many states currently impose unreasonable regulations, particularily in the states of California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ikkinois, Hawaii, and Massachuetts. The City of Washington DC  also abuses citizens rights.

Other Weapons

Any device, concealable of not, that can be safely deployed to protect an individual against aggression by another should be freely available in all the trritory of the United States. Most weapons of this sort should be small and easily accessable. Three of our favorite are pictured above.

Swords, pikes, and large weapons like maces, hatchets, and hammers are obsolete in most circumstances. Hatchets, hammers, saws, screw drivers, ice picks, kitchen knoves, and other tools can make excellent weapons in a pinch. Their possession for any reason should not be restricted.

Chemical and Electrical Weapons

In the right hands, such as law enforcement trained in their use, weapons like mace and TASER can be effective. TASERS are not legal in all states. DC, HI, MA, NJ, NY, and RI ban the civilian sale of TASER weapons. CT, IL, MI, and WI are legal with certain restrictions and requirements. We disagree with the rationale for banning them in those states.

These weapons are used to de-escalate a violent situaltion, but the person deploying the device needs to be prepared if the violence does not de-escalate. What if ist gets worse?  A law enforcement officer carries the equipment to take it to the next level and we believe that civilians using these devices must also be prepared to respond if the Taser or mace doesn’t work.

They have drawbacks that should be considered. Some TASER devices look like pistols and in the dark may be mistaken for a firearm.  Why not just carry a firearm and follow firearm safety procedures, including properly identifying yourself to a law enforcement officer and following directions.

We believe that pepper spray and many low power electrical devices are not effective enough to be reliably deployed.  Take a professional self-defense class to learn what is worthwhile.

screen shot of Fox News broadcast 26JUL2019

Poorly informed Electorate is a Danger to the Republic

We generally refrain from commenting on current events because such events almost always fade into obscurity along with the people responsible for those events. But there is something happening currently that is troubling. It’s not just one thing; it’s a constellation of events and the people behind them that cause us to question where it will lead our country and the Liberty we cherish.  Among these events are clueless voters, illegal immigration, deep state operatives, and pathological educational institutions.

Clueless Voters

There are pockets of voters in certain regions of the country that are electing people who do not seem to share our common understanding of limited government, personal Liberty, and property rights. While we label some rank and file voters as “clueless,” their leaders in the DSA, and public icons like Elizabeth Warren are clearly not clueless idiots. Now, if some polls are to be believed, 40% of Americans are willing to embrace various tenants of socialism. Their numbers are enough to elect inexperienced representatives who are masters at self-promotion but very weak on intellectual achievement.

Among these unusual new representatives are the four congresswomen known as the “Squad.”  They openly call themselves Democratic Socialists. That by itself is nothing new.  There is also the granddaddy of Democratic Socialists, Bernie Sanders, who is mercifully coming to the end of his long political career feeding at the rich bosom of capitalism that he claims to despise.  It is highly doubtful that the  hapless voters who put him and the Squad into power have ever heard of Eugene Debs or Michael Harrington, who have also mercifully faded into obscurity.

Socialism is Incompatible with Freedom

A generation of self-indulgent citizens has failed to learn enough about history and economics to understand that free market capitalism has produced unprecedented wealth for the great mass of humanity. It has lifted people out of starvation around the world.  It is responsible for the freedom that people need to be creative. Despite these obvious lessons of history, many current voters are willing to sacrifice our freedom to once again experiment with failed Marxist philosophy.

Democrats who call for socialist policies stress that their socialism is not that of Venezuela and Nicaragua.  They like to claim that theirs is the “third way,” like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

If anyone was paying attention, these countries did indeed experiment with a few socialist policies in the 1970s, and subsequently corrected their mistakes. They are small enough countries to quickly change direction.  They are now in many respects more free than we are, with no guaranteed jobs, no minimum wage,  and no “Green New Deal.”

James Madison knew that people need to educate themselves if they want to be self-governing. The alternative is for carelessly ignorant people to submit to the tyranny of dictators. In 1822, Madison wrote to his friend William Taylor Barry:

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Illegal Immigration

One of the issues that is popular among Democratic Socialists is globalization and the eventual dismantling of nation states. They may not frame their arguments in this way, preferring instead to advocate for compassion, free medical care, free education, free housing, and sanctuary cities. (Last month we published a lengthy article on this subject)

Some states and many cities are becoming  microcosms for socialists policies. This is actually a good thing because it demonstrates the long-term problems of socialism before too much damage is done.  It also gives current generations of idealistic voters time to mature and learn from their mistakes.

Migration between states is a feature of our Republic.  When one area of the country becomes too socialistic, those who cannot thrive in that environment can move. The opposite is also true. Masses of homeless people and illegal immigrants are flocking to large west coast cities seeking a myriad of benefits, such as Medicaid and Section 8 housing.

Deep State Operatives

The subject of deep state operatives is controversial. Wikipedia classifies it among conspiracy theories. Eventually more information will reach the light of day and it may cease to be a theory.

At a rally in Billings Montana, President Trump referred to “unelected deep-state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.”

Many believe that elements in the CIA, FBI, and Department of Justice, conspired, and may continue to conspire through elected representatives in Congress to remove Donald Trump from office. It is obvious from their public statements that they hold president Trump in disdain.  While a classic coup d’état, South American style, is not a possibility, a more sophisticated campaign to impeach the president or at the very least prevent his reelection is not mere conjecture. It is playing out daily in Congress and on all the news outlets.

Regarding the ongoing investigation by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “I can’t tell you what he found, but I can tell you that if you care about the rule of law you’re going to be very upset about how the DOJ and the FBI behaved themselves during the 2016 election,”  “If you hate Trump, you won’t care. If you love the rule of law, you’ll be very upset.”

Senator Lindsey’s calm characterization of the investigation gives a hint that those involved will fade into obscurity. Then the famous words of the Bard will once again intrude on our skeptical minds:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

Pathological Educational Institutions

Universities are one part of the educational institutions that we address here. They, in contrast to smaller community colleges, have become breeding grounds for theories that interfere with students’ rational thinking and their ability to enter the job market. Ideology is a luxury that should be reserved for tenured professors.

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He has become one of the foremost critics of what Universities have become in North America.

We accept as axiomatic Madison’s assertion that if people are to govern themselves, they have to be smart enough to do it. Prof. Peterson makes a strong case that Universities are actively promulgating spurious ideas that weaken the ability of people to make historically informed decisions.  Watch the video below.

Further educational institutions such as community colleges, trade and technical schools, and military colleges/academies are more targeted to preparing student for an occupation, and so they generally avoid the culture battles taking place on some university campuses.

Another significantly pathological educational institution is the Internet as a whole.


The Internet with the omnipresent screens, both large and small, give us an endless about of information. The great barrier to turning knowledge into wisdom is that most people are not prepared to deal with the vast amount of information. They don’t have the critical skills to know what is true. Nor do they question the concept of truth.

Added to blatantly fake content on the Internet is the reality that the Internet is the hunting ground of thieves, robbers, child molesters, murderers, Nigerian princes, fake IRS, fake banks, and fake people.

Most people think that what they believe is true. Very few people have developed the ability to separate emotional beliefs from potentially empirical truth. And in our zeal to embrace all that is new and exciting, we reject the wisdom of history and tend to repeat the same stupid mistakes.

Current Events

Invariably students don’t understand what a current event is all about. Ideally teachers should train students to use their intellectual faculties to evaluate events and put them into a historical perspective. As much as this would be an ideal outcome, current events in most of the country point to an electorate that makes decisions based on emotions.  And the teachers are themselves part of that emotional electorate.

How can a student, or anyone for that matter, discover the truth behind what is happening. The bias of news outlets borders on criminality. Who has time to spend hours comparing opposing opinions?  And those who spend the time will have a very difficult time separating fact from propaganda. A cynical view of network news is that it’s an extension the entertainment industry, which distracts the populace from their lives of quiet desperation.

If we venture into an arena that should be relatively free of fake information such as medical research, what can we believe?

In the International Journal of Surgery, (2006), and article entitled Deceit and fraud in medical research laments a loss in public trust in medical research and doctors. It shows how researchers misuse statistics to give weight to incorrect conclusions. It reminds us of Benjamin Disraeli’s opinion of statistics, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

7 Fatal Errors Universities Make
“Postmodernism is  just a shell game for Marxism”