history, historiography, politics, current events

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just A Thought

Joe Biden said it was Patriotic to pay taxes....

Monday, January 19, 2009

This is Insane!!!

From ABC News:

"Obama's Inauguration Has Been Financed Partially by Bailed-Out Wall Street Executives"

"The country is in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, which isn't stopping rich donors and the government from spending $170 million, or more, on the inauguration of Barack Obama ."

"The actual swearing-in ceremony will cost $1.24 million, according to Carole Florman, spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies."

"It's the security, parties and countless Porta-a-Potty rentals that really run up the bill. "

"The federal government estimates that it will spend roughly $49 million on the inaugural weekend. Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland have requested another $75 million from the federal government to help pay for their share of police, fire and medical services.

"And then there is the party bill..."

full article.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is...Obama"

This is from Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard:

"Barack Obama is the apostle of hope. But he also arouses the flipside of hope--fear. And while the fear he stirs may turn out to be unfounded, it's not irrational. People don't know who Obama really is or where his ideological center of gravity rests, to the extent it rests anywhere. He was a liberal in the Senate and the campaign, a centrist in the transition, and who knows what he'll be as president. He's elusive."

"I count four separate fears. Whether he's a crypto-Marxist is not one of them. Neither is the absurd fear that he's secretly a Muslim, even a closet jihadist. Nor is the groundless claim Obama was actually born outside the United States and isn't really an American citizen. Forget all those. They're nonstarters."

"He doesn't know what he's talking about. This is a legitimate fear. Obama throws around numbers like confetti. In the campaign, he said he would create 1 million jobs. After the election, he put out a plan he said would produce up to 3 million jobs. Then in a radio address on January 10, he said the number could reach 4.1 million and said 500,000 would be jobs in the alternative energy field, 200,000 in health care. Does he really believe he can achieve this? The fear is that he might."

full article.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Eric Foner on "Our Lincoln"

This is from The Nation:

"Abraham Lincoln has always provided a lens through which Americans examine themselves. He has been described as a consummate moralist and a shrewd political operator, a lifelong foe of slavery and an inveterate racist. Politicians from conservatives to communists, civil rights activists to segregationists, have claimed him as their own. With the approach of the bicentennial of his birth, the past few years have seen an outpouring of books on Lincoln of every size, shape and description. His psychology, marriage, law career, political practices, racial attitudes and every one of his major speeches have been subjected to minute examination."

"Lincoln is important to us not because of his melancholia or how he chose his cabinet but because of his role in the vast human drama of emancipation and what his life tells us about slavery's enduring legacy. The Nation, founded by veterans of the struggle for abolition three months after Lincoln's death, dedicated itself to completing the unfinished task of making the former slaves equal citizens. It soon abandoned this goal, but in the twentieth century again took up the banner of racial justice. Who is our Lincoln?"

"In the wake of the 2008 election and on the eve of an inaugural address with "a new birth of freedom," a phrase borrowed from the Gettysburg Address, as its theme, the Lincoln we should remember is the politician whose greatness lay in his capacity for growth. Much of that growth stemmed from his complex relationship with the radicals of his day, black and white abolitionists who fought against overwhelming odds to bring the moral issue of slavery to the forefront of national life."

full article.

Abe on Family Guy

Annette Gordon-Reed, "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bernard Lewis on Middle East Peace

This is from

"The current fighting in the Gaza Strip raises again, in an acute but familiar form, the agonizing question: What kind of accommodation is possible, if ever, between Israel and the Arabs?"

"For a long time it was generally assumed, in the region and elsewhere, that peace was impossible, and that the Arabs’ struggle against Israel would continue until they achieved their aim of destroying the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Israel could survive and even serve a useful purpose as the one licensed grievance in the various Arab dictatorships, providing a relatively harmless outlet for resentment and anger that might otherwise be directed inward. In this phase, the only peace that could be expected was the peace of the grave."

"The more recent history of the Middle East shows a significant change and, notably, two possible paths toward peace. One of them is limited and therefore more feasible; the other is comprehensive and therefore remote and problematic."

full article.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ralph Peters on Israel and Hamas

Writing in the New York Post, Ralph Peters argued that Israel's very existence is on the line in this struggle against Hamas. Peters wrote:

"Dead Jews aren't news, but killing terrorists outrages global activists. On Saturday, Israel struck back powerfully against its tormentors. Now Israel's the villain. Again."

"How long will it be until the UN General Assembly passes a resolution creating an international Holocaust Appreciation Day? "

"Israel's airstrikes against confirmed Hamas terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip were overdue, discriminating and skillful. So far, this retaliatory campaign has been a superb example of how to employ postmodern airpower."

"Instead of bombing empty buildings in the dead of night in the hope of convincing bloodthirsty monsters to become peace-loving floral arrangers - the US Air Force version of "Shock and Awe" - the Israeli Defense Force aimed to kill terrorists."

full article.

Hamas Needs To Be Defeated

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi made the argument that in order for the peace process to continue and maybe be succesful Hamas must be defeated. They wrote:

"A quarter century has passed since Israel last claimed to go to war in the name of peace."

""Operation Peace for Galilee" -- Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon -- failed to convince the international public and even many Israelis that its goal was to promote reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world. In fact, the war had precisely the opposite results, preparing the way for Yasser Arafat's disastrous return to the West Bank and Gaza, and for Hezbollah's ultimate domination of Lebanon. And yet, Israel's current operation in Gaza is essential for creating the conditions that could eventually lead to a two-state solution."

"Over the past two decades, a majority of Israelis have shifted from adamant opposition to Palestinian statehood to acknowledging the need for such a state. This transformation represented a historic victory for the Israeli left, which has long advocated Palestinian self-determination. The left's victory, though, remained largely theoretical: The right won the practical argument that no amount of concessions would grant international legitimacy to Israel's right to defend itself."

"That was the unavoidable lesson of the failure of the Oslo peace process, which ended in the fall of 2000 with Israel's acceptance of President Bill Clinton's proposal for near-total withdrawal from East Jerusalem and the territories. The Palestinians responded with five years of terror."

full article.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Justin Townes Earle Singing About The Civil War

As I have mentioned in a previous post I have been listening to my iPod quite a bite lately. For the past two days I have been listened to Justin Townes Earle's debut album The Good Life, which is just amazing. One of the stand outs on this album is the song "Lone Pine Hill" which is song from the perspective of a confederate soldier. Earle, in an interview, claimed that he has spent much time reading about the Civil War and that this has inspired many of his songs. In this song, Earle's soldier exclaims: "I've never known a man who has ever owned another and I never owned nothing of my own, and after four long years I just can't tell you what the hell I've been fighting for" (If these lyrics are inaccurate please let me know)

Huffington is an Idiot!!

This is David Harsanyi's response to an idiotic article by Arianna Huffington:

"Celebrated progressive doyenne Arianna Huffington recently penned a brilliantly absurd piece, titled "Laissez-Faire Capitalism Should Be as Dead as Soviet Communism.""

"Huffington argues, in effect, that communism and "laissez-faire" (minimal-intervention) capitalism are equivalent ideological extremes."

"Sure, one of these philosophies spurred the murder and misery of hundreds of millions worldwide; the other promotes liberty, innovation and welcomes foreigners to lounge around in expansive mansions paid for by their former oil baron husbands."

"So we can agree; there is no such thing as a flawless ideology."

"Yet this serious, but temporary, recession -- and we've had at least four of them since 1980 -- is, evidently, the ironclad justification "to drive the final nail into the coffin of laissez-faire capitalism by treating it like the discredited ideology it inarguably is.""

"When a pundit informs you that a point is "inarguable," one instantaneously recognizes that the point is, in fact, remarkably arguable. Hordes of economists quarrel about this very idea each and every day. So the disaster narrative offered by Huffington and fellow panic-mongers, you can imagine, is riddled with underlying problems."

full article.

The Fort Dix Five and Bill Ayers

This is an interesting post from Ron Radosh on his blog a Pajamas Media. Radosh wrote:

"What is the difference between the five Muslim immigrants convicted in a Federal court in Camden, New Jersey on Monday, and Bill Ayers and his comrades in the Weather Underground?"

"The answer: not much, except for the outcome. The men were convicted for conspiring to kill American soldiers in Fort Dix. They had taken concrete steps to train and arm themselves. The government had taped conversations about their plans between them and FBI informants; propaganda videos, and proof of the purchase of machine guns. The jury was evidently not impressed with the defendants’ arguments that they were not serious, and had been coaxed into making incendiary arguments by the informants. If that was so, any sane juror realized, it would not explain why they actually purchased the weapons for the planned attack."

"In the case of the Weather Underground, as Bob Owens recounts on his blog today, the FBI had only one inside informant- Larry Grothwol. Like today’s informants, Grothwol had first hand knowledge of terrorist plans of the communist cell, and of actual attacks they carried out. But the Bureau didn’t need this to find evidence- the Weathermen group did it themselves when their home made bomb went off prematurely, killing only themselves."

full post.

The question one asks after reading this is why was this man and his comrades never prosecuted by the federal government? What is even more baffleing is how during the election the media soft peddled this disgusting man's past. They portrayed him as merely a patriotic man who let himself get carried away. This man is truly a horrible individual.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joshua Berman on "The Bible, Home Ownership, and the Housing Crisis"

This is from the History News Network:

"In the wake of the mortgage crisis, a growing chorus of economists today questions the status of home ownership as the fulfillment of the American dream. An argument supporting home ownership is found – of all places – in the Hebrew Bible. Although usually read as part of a religious text, the Bible's economic prescriptions may be mined to recover the roadmaps by which past thinkers navigated, even if no longer fully applicable today."

"Economic commentators Paul Krugman and James Surowiecki argue that the American dream increasingly ends with a rude awakening. With the market value of houses falling, many Americans are now trapped in mortgages that exceed the value of their homes. And for many more, they argue, the hassles of buying and selling a home make it harder for underemployed home owners to move to where the jobs are."

"But consider the original context of a touchstone of American political culture, the biblical inscription on the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall in Philadelphia: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof." Contrary to popular conception, the verse in question, Leviticus 25:10, addresses neither despotic rule nor slavery, but is an economic prescription. When read in the larger context of that biblical chapter it emerges as a call to ownership stability, part of an economic plan that was radical for its time."

"Elsewhere in the ancient Near East, land was held chiefly by the kings and by the temples. The Hebrew Bible, for the first time, sought to put the vast majority of landholdings into the hands of ordinary people. Land -- the means of production in an agrarian society -- was apportioned to extended kinship groups. The vision was that you never dwelt alone, but as part of a deeply intertwined social fabric of extended kin. If a landowner suffered crop failure, or illness, he could sell his land, but would then find himself alienated from his property with no means of getting back on his feet. The Bible's solution was that every fifty years property was restored to the original owners: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof, for the Jubilee year it will be for you, and each man shall return to his property and each man unto his kin." The "Liberty" is from debt, and the prescription is for stability of property ownership in the company of one's kin."

"The Bible sought to empower citizens by granting them equity. The distribution of lands was similar in spirit to the Homestead Act of 1863. Opening the Great Plains to mass settlement, nearly any person 21 years of age could acquire at virtually no cost a tract of 160 acres that would become his after five years of residence and farming. For 2 million new arrivals and other landless Americans, the Homestead Act was an opportunity to acquire assets and to bring equality of economic standing in line with equality before the law."

full article.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Welcome to the End (Beginning) of Political Dialogue [And Click the Link to Find Out Why]

Post-Modernism. One of those pithy, esoteric philosophical terms that both mean nothing and everything simultaneously. Any good student of Post-Modernism (PoMo) will tell you that transformation of America’s epistemology is not complete (or if you are crazy enough, has already ended), but there is a clear distinction between Modernism and Post-Modernism. [Or Post-Post-Modernism…that’s right…Post-Post-Modernism, be afraid, be very afraid.]

Logistically, PoMo has meant many things for America, and the world as a whole. Greatly inspired by the philosophical movements of French Existentialism and Deconstruction, Post-Modernism embodies pluralism, tolerance, and individuality—to the extreme. In that sense, PoMo is very much a post-1960s world view. The “enlightened” masses have come to accept basic human rights as valuable, that civil rights and equality are necessary regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, and embraced the pluralistic “don’t-judge-me-unless-you-know-me-but-you’ll-never-know-me-so-forget-it” mentality of my (unfortunate) generation. [Some philosophers put it one generation back, for those who reached puberty in the 1980s.]

Here’s the big question, I guess: What does PoMo mean practically, and how will it affect me (if I even realize it exists)? I read one commentator who compared Modernism to Post-Modernism as one would compare Kennedy Space Center to a shopping mall. Modernism represents the collective will, the triumph of the human spirit, the progress and enlightenment of man. When President Kennedy proclaimed that we would send a man into space, it didn’t matter that Joe Six-Pack would not be the one to do it. It was his goal. It was his desire. He would support and uplift it as a symbol of the power of America and its spirit.

Conversely, PoMo lacks the collective will (or even the capacity) to unite behind a single idea. Every idea is valid, every pursuit worthy, every cause noble. Thus, Joe Six-Pack has no need to unite with his fellow Americans and shop at Wal-Mart, and drive a Chevy, or pursue the American Dream. Joe want’s to shop at Hollister, he wants to drive a Honda, and he wants to be left alone in his world of consumption. In PoMo, everyone can experience space—space in one’s individual conception of space.

PoMo is changing everything, one just has to look. PoMo has an emphasis on connection (though it remains disconnected). PoMo has and emphasis on the individual (though it feigns community). PoMo desires clarity and sincerity (though it is bogged down my meta-narratives). PoMo wants honest dialog (though everyone’s language is incomprehensible). PoMo desires change (though it is the afterthought of real change). PoMo promises a world of both/and (though it works under the past of either/or).

I will admit (and I’m kind of ashamed to admit it) that I fell in love with the idea of Post-Modernism. It was not about the promises of “community,” “sincerity,” or “individualism.” I was attracted to the pluralism of its politics. I don’t consider myself a Republican or Democrat. I hate the term “independent” and “undecided” is even worse (effing fence sitters). To be completely honest, I have some very hodge-podge political views. I support smaller government, but believe there is a need for government involvement in education and civil rights. I support the right to privacy, yet oppose gay marriage. I do not support abortion, but recognize its need to exist. I’m a free market capitalist who would support property redistribution if Americans understood and held a “collective” good. I believe that environmentalism is important, that poor people should be helped, that hungry people should be fed, that homeless people should be sheltered, that equality (social, political, economic) is desired; but I also believe in rugged individualism, social Darwinism, and traditional progressivism. Thus, PoMo was very attractive to me. It seemed to have a place for me politically. It could have been my home.

[I also struggled with much of the same issues in my personal faith. I am a Christian, but was looking for the middle. I though I had found it in PoMo.]

However, like a kid finding out for the first that Santa Clause is not real, I found out that PoMo and its movements were not what they appeared. After hours of contemplating Christian and political PoMo, longing for sincerity and truth, I discovered that the movements were a guise for political liberalism. The Emergent Church—the forefront of PoMo Christianity—preached moderation and middle-ground. However, when they released their causes and goals that they hoped to focus on for 2008, I finally understood PoMo in its true light. There document was a point-by-point reiteration of the liberal platform—from social justice, to abortion, to damn-near socialism.

I was heart broken.

But the pain gave me insight. Post-Modernism is the ultimate meta-narrative. Post-Modernism promises things it cannot deliver, in an effort to surpass and disguise its true intentions.

The Presidential Election of 2008 embodies Post-Modernism like no election has. First is the makeup of the candidates. There is Barack Obama who is calling for Hope and Change—meta-narrative themes if I’ve ever heard them—looking for more accountability and sincerity in government. It was not a reality based campaign; people were moved, at an almost spiritual level, to follow Obama. (The Right didn’t call him the “messiah” for nothing.”). Obama’s candidate surpassed the nominal level of everyday politics. Col. Powell called Obama a “transcendent” figure. Obama was not a person or a candidate. He was an idea. Never mind his experience. Never mind his thoughts or beliefs or relationships or affiliations. At the end of the day, Obama represents two things—Hope and Change.

However, the democrats were not the only party to evoke PoMo. Both John McCain and Sarah Palin used PoMo to attract voters. John McCain is a “maverick” who challenged his own party on sincerity, honesty, and openness. “Joe the Plumber” represents the ultimate meta-narrative. Yes, there is a Joe, yes he is a plumber, yes he is a conservative, and yes he is fearful of Obama. But that information had no bearing on the context of “Joe the Plumber.” He represented “Joe Six-Pack” (another awful meta-character) Americans. He became a verbal weapon used to bash opponents. Sarah Plain, and her small-town ethic, represented PoMo to the extreme. Almost all of her images were “meta” in nature. Pit bulls, hockey moms, lipstick, Joe Six-Pack, terrorists, small towns. PoMo removed there initial value and substituted instead other values, above their normal context.

What is the result?

Never before in the history of America, has there been an election where we knew less about the candidates, less about the issues, less about foreign policy, and more about Hope, Change, and a Plumber from the mid-west.

PoMo does not offer any clarity; it only blurs the issues into negligibility.

Worse yet, the feigning of sincerity attract those Americans who are looking for honesty in politics. Do you think it is coincidence that Obama invoked the methods of Lincoln and Regan in his political addresses? Where is the bipartisanship promised? Tax cuts or tax credits? Middle-class equality or social welfare? The language used to discuss policy has made sustentative debate impossible.

When Obama says he will cut taxes for 95% of Americans, he invokes traditional conservative values. But these “tax cuts” are actually tax credits. His policies result in a net tax increase and more money back after taxes. But because the tax credits will make those increases (in some cases) negligible, he can claim them as tax cuts, despite the meaning of “tax cut.” Likewise, when Obama plans on “balancing the budget” and “pay-as-you-go,” they are polite ways of saying tax and spend (which in itself is loaded). How can Obama balance a budget but offer trillions (literally) in new spending?

The problem is the narrative has surpassed reality. And in a PoMo world, perception is reality. The meta-narrative complicates what is actually being said. It is much like doublethink and doublespeak in 1984—except real. When one word (like tax cut) means something to a majority of people, but can mean something different to other people, how can we understand the word “tax cut?” The political narrative no longer focuses on strong and fair tax policy, but the definition of even the word “tax cut.”

Aye, there’s the rub: In a PoMo world, language is individual amongst groups and individuals. To understand one another, we must speak each other’s language. Thus, people’s stories, their lives, their personal selves are necessary to understand one another. This explains the shift in art, literature, and film towards narrative type story-telling. It is emotionally driven; character development is key. Tricky plot lines are difficult to follow, but understanding the characters is key. Shows like Lost, Heroes, 24, etc. are popular because they are a series of little stories, about characters and centering on character development, while at the same time offering plot. PoMo explains the huge success and growth for TLC and Discovery Channel.

The biggest argument against Post-Modernism is that it rejects absolute truth. Although the philosophy does not directly state this, the logical conclusion of its pluralistic nature and view of “language” leads to that assumption. I though I could fight this view. Here is how:

If PoMo is represented by the various languages spoken by groups and individuals (no languages as in French and English, but nuance, sarcasm, idioms, inside jokes, etc.), and the only way to understand those languages is through narrative communication and involvement in a group or with an individual, then in theory, Post-Modernism should allow for a heightened need and desire for dialogue. PoMo, by its very nature should promote substantive dialogue—political, social, and religious, etc. PoMo however does not do that.

Post-Modernism, by blurring what language means, and by focusing more on the individual, while feigning community, completely obliterates the opportunity for dialogue. After all, we can never truly understand each other! So much for round tables! So much for diplomatic missions!

How the hell does Obama expect to talk to crazy fucking ARABS WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS IN A POSTMODERN WORLD? DAMNIT!

Now that that is out of my system, I would still like to offer a critique of Modernism & Post-Modernism.

Before I discovered Post-Modernism, I thought I was in the middle of the political spectrum, leaning mostly to the right. After my tryst with Post-Modernism, I’m confused. I am now in the middle of the middle?

There is certainly more to come, about why post-modernism makes everything worthless. I’ll write about it late. I’m too pissed off to continues.

The dialogue is a like, the meta narrative is empty, and lacks of absolutes only result in more separation and worthlessness.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nat Turner's Rebellion

I came across this on Civil Warriors.

Who Is To Blame?

This Victor Davis Hanson article was published on

"When someone screams about a terrible policy of the present administration, just pose four questions:"

"First, was the controversial decision taken with bipartisan support? Second, were there precedents for such action in prior Democratic administrations? Third, will such polices continue under the newly elected Obama administration? Four, have the media changed their position on the issue since the November election?"

"If the answer is yes to these questions, then the acrimony was probably about politics and style, not principle and substance."

"Take the so-called war on terror. The Patriot Act passed Congress in October 2001 by majorities in both parties — and was reauthorized in 2006. The original versions of the FISA wiretapping accords were enacted under the Carter administration in 1978."

"Both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were given authorization by Congress. The pre-9/11 precursor for the removal of Saddam Hussein was the unanimous passage of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act — prompted by then-President Clinton’s warnings about Saddam’s dangerous weapons: “Some day, some way, I guarantee you he’ll use the arsenal.”"

full article.

The South, Race, and Rock 'n' Roll

I have been listening to my iPod a lot lately. For some strange reason music helps me write and since I am in the midst of writing my graduate thesis my iPod has not left my side. Recently I have realized something that I haven't noticed in the past. During the late 1960s and early 1970s there were numerous songs recorded that dealt with the South and issues of race.

First, there is "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by The Band. This song is about a white soldier, Virgil Caine, who served in the Confederate Army. In the song Caine claimed "Like my father before me, I will work the land, Like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand. He was just eighteen, proud and brave, But a Yankee laid him in his grave..." This song embraces the myth of the Lost Cause and makes no mention of slavery or slaves.

Then there is The Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar," which is about interracial sexual relations in the Slave South. Here is the song's opening verse: "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields / Sold in a market down in new Orleans / Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright/ Hear him whip the women, just around midnight / Brown sugar how come you taste so good?/ Ah, brown sugar just like a young girl should." I don't know why, but this song makes me think of Thomas Jefferson.

There is also the well known feud between Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Young's "Southern Man" was a scathing attack on the South's treatment of African Americans. This attack angered the members of Skynyrd, who responded with "Sweet Home Alabama."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A People's History of Sports?

Dave Zirin's new book, A People's History of in the United States, looks very interesting. Zirin recently wrote about this book for the History News Network:

"There are those who insist that sports and politics don't belong in the same sentence, the same zip code, or the same universe."

"They mouth platitudes about how these two worlds must be hermetically sealed from one another, lest the dirty world of politics infect the sanctity of the playing field. Before the 2008 Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said that "political factors" must be kept away from Beijing."

"USA basketball Mike Krzyzewski chimed in, "None of these athletes (has) a responsibility to be political. They have the responsibility to represent their country." The chief of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Dick Pound, also thundered to the Canada's Olympians, "If it is so tough for you that you can't bear not to say anything, then stay at home.""

"This is rank stupidity and stunning hypocricy. It's a lie. People can say all they want that sports and politics have nothing to do with one another, but as the saying goes, "you don't have to believe in gravity to fall out of an airplane.""

full article.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New C-SPAN Book on Lincoln

From the website:

"To mark the February 2009 bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, C-SPAN's CEO Brian Lamb and co-president Susan Swain have opened the network's archives to create Abraham Lincoln. This book is an effort to chronicle the life and legacy of America's 16th president through the eyes of 56 of the country's leading Lincoln historians, journalists, and writers."

"Fascinating, little-known anecdotes about the president are brought to light in richly detailed essays drawn from C-SPAN interviews. Extras include 16 pages of color photos and four maps that detail where Abraham Lincoln lived, the location of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln's Inaugural journey to Washington and the path his funeral train took when returning him to Springfield. A timeline of Abraham Lincoln's life, brief biographies of the 56 contributing authors, and Lincoln's most famous speeches are also included."


Friday, November 21, 2008

The Myth of Lincoln's "Team of Rivals"

Matthew Pinsker wrote this for the LA Times:

"People love Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on the Lincoln presidency, "Team of Rivals." More important, for this moment in American history, Barack Obama loves it. The book is certainly fun to read, but its claim that Abraham Lincoln revealed his "political genius" through the management of his wartime Cabinet deserves a harder look, especially now that it seems to be offering a template for the new administration."

""Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet," is the way Obama has summarized Goodwin's thesis, adding, "Whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was how can we get this country through this time of crisis.""

"That's true enough, but the problem is, it didn't work that well for Lincoln. There were painful trade-offs with the "team of rivals" approach that are never fully addressed in the book, or by others that offer happy-sounding descriptions of the Lincoln presidency."

"Lincoln's decision to embrace former rivals, for instance, inevitably meant ignoring old friends -- a development they took badly. "We made Abe and, by God, we can unmake him," complained Chicago Tribune Managing Editor Joseph Medill in 1861. Especially during 1861 and 1862, the first two years of Lincoln's initially troubled administration, friends growled over his ingratitude as former rivals continued to play out their old political feuds."

Full article.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Taking a break....will be back soon.

I apologize to the few readers of this blog about the light posting lately. I am taking a break for a week or so to finish writing my masters's thesis. I will start posting again shortly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change We Can Count On

We must take an honest look at the reasons for Republican losses in the House, Senate, and Presidency. No flourish no dishonesty, no rhetoric, an honest, soul searching look at the state of the Party.

Is it true that the Republican brand is declining? Is it true that to succeeded, conservatism must be re-imagined, recreated, and reorganized? Is it true that this Democratic victory is a philosophical shift?

Republicanism is not in decline, its just momentarily unpopular do to Bush’s un-conservative policies and widespread unpopularity. Conservatism does not need to be remained—it is a timeless universal truth and traditional. This is not a philosophical shift, but a backlash. The whims of the demos, vacillating through campaign promise after campaign promise.

If conservatisms is not dying, as libs are so glad to say, what the hell is going on? Simply put:

The Right had pandered to special interest groups and the Left for too long; hurting its core principles, its moral base, and strength in the name of “bipartisan cooperation” and “working across the isle.” It is time to cut the shit!

Democrats talk a high and mighty game—bipartisan as they would like you to believe—but do they cross isles to transform their opinions. Is the Liberal-Conservative dialogue an actual dialogue, or a Liberal monologue in a Conservative tragedy? When have liberals ever crossed the isle to:

• Limit the availability and frequency of abortion
• Cut the national debt and reign in spending
• Cut pork barrel spending, line item expenditures, and fluff
• Taken an active role in ending corruption
• Minimized the size of government, the services offered
• Equalized taxation
• Promoted the growth of business
• Limited and redefined immigration

Don’t rack your brain too hard. The answer is obviously: NEVER! So I have to say one thing:

F***k them!

We will not apologize for being the “racist, bigoted, sexist, religious cooks”—WHICH WE ARE NOT! We will stop pandering to the Liberals who despite out best efforts to appear amiable and affable STILL HATE US! We will embrace and reiterate our core principals:

• Small government
• Less regulation (He that governs least, governs best)
• Economic growth
• Rugged individualism
• Socially conscious decisions
• Strict and original interpretation of the Constitution
• Less taxes
• Less services
• More local involvement
• More individual rights
• Stronger military

The angry Left succeeded in pandering to American voters. But it will be the angry Right that reclaims the nation with conservative values.


*Welcome to Dissent*

Yes We Can--A New Role

Having surveyed the damage done to Republicanism—both last night and over the past five years—a role in dissent seems the likely place for me, and if I may speak counterpart, and this blog. Having voted and subsequently lost, it is not my prerogative to make the next four to eight years miserable for the ruling party. If this was a coalition government, in parliamentary style, I can only predict that after four scathing yeas of opposition, a vote of no confidence would be cast and the tide of this new Liberal wave would be broken.

However, this is America, and we have no such luck. However, my initial message is to take heart. As opposition leaders and the dissenting minority, we are following in the footsteps of great men from as far back as 4000 BC. Here are just a few famous dissenters:

  • Moses against Pharaoh
  • Brutus against Caesar
  • Savonarola against Catholicism
  • Galileo against Catholicism
  • Martin Luther against Catholicism
  • Lord Bolingbroke against Walpole
  • The Founding Fathers against England
  • Jefferson against Adams
  • Calhoun against Clay
  • Radical Republicans against Johnson
  • Disraeli against Gladstone
  • Roosevelt against Wilson
  • Berkley against FDR
  • Churchill against Chamberlin (Post-WWI)
  • Churchill against Chamberlin (Post-WWII)
  • Goldwater against the Christian Right
  • The Christian Right against everything

And the list goes on…

So we join the ranks of dissent!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Standing Athwart History, Yelling Stop."

I have decided to kick off Publius's life as a voice dissent with a statement from one of the original Conservative/Libertarian dissidents. This was William F. Buckley's statement from the first issue of National Review from November 19, 1955. Buckley wrote:

"There is, we like to think, solid reason for rejoicing. Prodigious efforts, by many people, are responsible for NATIONAL REVIEW. But since it will be the policy of this magazine to reject the hypodermic approach to world affairs, we may as well start out at once, and admit that the joy is not unconfined."

"Let's face it: Unlike Vienna, it seems altogether possible that did NATIONAL REVIEW not exist, no one would have invented it. The launching of a conservative weekly journal of opinion in a country widely assumed to be a bastion of conservatism at first glance looks like a work of supererogation, rather like publishing a royalist weekly within the walls of Buckingham Palace. It is not that, of course; if NATIONAL REVIEW is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."

"NATIONAL REVIEW is out of place, in the sense that the United Nations and the League of Women Voters and the New York Times and Henry Steele Commager are in place. It is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, with the relationship of the state to the individual, of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic."

""I happen to prefer champagne to ditchwater," said the benign old wrecker of the ordered society, Oliver Wendell Holmes, "but there is no reason to suppose that the cosmos does." We have come around to Mr. Holmes' view, so much that we feel gentlemanly doubts when asserting the superiority of capitalism to socialism, of republicanism to centralism, of champagne to ditchwater — of anything to anything. (How curious that one of the doubts one is not permitted is whether, at the margin, Mr. Holmes was a useful citizen!) The inroads that relativism has made on the American soul are not so easily evident. One must recently have lived on or close to a college campus to have a vivid intimation of what has happened. It is there that we see how a number of energetic social innovators, plugging their grand designs, succeeded over the years in capturing the liberal intellectual imagination. And since ideas rule the world, the ideologues, having won over the intellectual class, simply walked in and started to run things."

"Run just about everything. There never was an age of conformity quite like this one, or a camaraderie quite like the Liberals'. Drop a little itching powder in Jimmy Wechsler's bath and before he has scratched himself for the third time, Arthur Schlesinger will have denounced you in a dozen books and speeches, Archibald MacLeish will have written ten heroic cantos about our age of terror, Harper's will have published them, and everyone in sight will have been nominated for a Freedom Award. Conservatives in this country — at least those who have not made their peace with the New Deal, and there is a serious question of whether there are others — are non-licensed nonconformists; and this is a dangerous business in a Liberal world, as every editor of this magazine can readily show by pointing to his scars. Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality of never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity."

"There are, thank Heaven, the exceptions. There are those of generous impulse and a sincere desire to encourage a responsible dissent from the Liberal orthodoxy. And there are those who recognize that when all is said and done, the market place depends for a license to operate freely on the men who issue licenses — on the politicians. They recognize, therefore, that efficient getting and spending is itself impossible except in an atmosphere that encourages efficient getting and spending. And back of all political institutions there are moral and philosophical concepts, implicit or defined. Our political economy and our high-energy industry run on large, general principles, on ideas — not by day-to-day guess work, expedients and improvisations. Ideas have to go into exchange to become or remain operative; and the medium of such exchange is the printed word. A vigorous and incorruptible journal of conservative opinion is — dare we say it? — as necessary to better living as Chemistry."

"We begin publishing, then, with a considerable stock of experience with the irresponsible Right, and a despair of the intransigence of the Liberals, who run this country; and all this in a world dominated by the jubilant single-mindedness of the practicing Communist, with his inside track to History. All this would not appear to augur well for NATIONAL REVIEW. Yet we start with a considerable — and considered — optimism."

"After all, we crashed through. More than one hundred and twenty investors made this magazine possible, and over fifty men and women of small means invested less than one thousand dollars apiece in it. Two men and one woman, all three with overwhelming personal and public commitments, worked round the clock to make publication possible. A score of professional writers pledged their devoted attention to its needs, and hundreds of thoughtful men and women gave evidence that the appearance of such a journal as we have in mind would profoundly affect their lives."

"Our own views, as expressed in a memorandum drafted a year ago, and directed to our investors, are set forth in an adjacent column. We have nothing to offer but the best that is in us. That, a thousand Liberals who read this sentiment will say with relief, is clearly not enough! It isn't enough. But it is at this point that we steal the march. For we offer, besides ourselves, a position that has not grown old under the weight of a gigantic, parasitic bureaucracy, a position untempered by the doctoral dissertations of a generation of Ph.D's in social architecture, unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups, uncorroded by a cynical contempt for human freedom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaves us just about the hottest thing in town."

Friday, October 31, 2008

World F@cking Champions

Studs Terkel Dies at 96

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

"Studs Terkel turned the voice of average Americans into a font of history."

"The Pulitzer-Prize winning author, television pioneer, theatrical actor, long-time radio host, unrepentant leftie and friend of the little man, died peacefully at his home on the North Side of Chicago this afternoon."

"He was 96."

""He had a very full, eventful and sometimes tempestuous life ," said his son Dan. "It was very satisfactory""

"Studs — calling him "Mr. Terkel" always seemed overly formal — was a character. He liked to wear a red-checked shirt, a rumpled suit and had a stogie jammed in the side of his thick-lipped mouth. He enjoyed a martini well into his 90s."

"Though his dozen books were national best-sellers — Division Street America, and Working and The Good War — Studs was best known to many Chicagoans as an interviewer who hosted a talk show on radio station WFMT from 1952 to 1997."

full article.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sherman's March in Myth and Memory

This book looks interesting. From the publisher:

"Legends and myths about Sherman began forming during the March itself, and took more definitive shape in the industrial age in the late-nineteenth century. Sherman's March in Myth and Memory examines the emergence of various myths surrounding one of the most enduring campaigns in the annals of military history. Edward Caudill and Paul Ashdown provide a brief overview of Sherman's life and his March, but their focus is on how these myths came about-such as one description of a "60-mile wide path of destruction"-and how legends about Sherman and his campaign have served a variety of interests."

"Sherman's March in Myth and Memory looks at the general's treatment in the press, among historians, on stage and screen, and in literature, from the time of the March to the present day. The authors show us the many ways in which Sherman has been portrayed in the media and popular culture, and how his devastating March has been stamped into our collective memory."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Who has the Offical Right to Claim Thomas Jefferson?

Josh asked me to write this, but he may be disappointed in the response.

It is a well know fact that both political parties like to reach into the past and pick and choose famous Americans who would support their cause. Republicans call upon Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt; Democrats call on FDR, Kennedy, LBJ, and interestingly enough, Thomas Jefferson. But which political party has been more influenced by Thomas Jefferson and may in fact better represent a Jefferson America? The facts may surprise you.

Central to Jeffersonian political ideology is the concept of the "Country critique." First enumerated by Tory and gentry forces in England following the Glorious Revolution, the Country critique served as a opposition to the growing greed and corruption that drove English politics. Simply put, the Country critique was fonded on certain key assumption, resulting in a generalized world view:
  1. The key to creating a government that protected the life, liberty, and property of its people was virtue.
  2. Virtue was promoted through self-sufficiency; through separating oneself from outside influence that may sway the authenticity of ones vote
  3. Those forced to labor under another's will (mainly day laborers and "wage-slaves") lacked the capacity for virtue because their position necessitated dependence on another
  4. The key to forming a virtuous citizenry, therefore, was to promote an agricultural society, where one was the master of himself and his family, independent and virtuous.
  5. Key modern developments--national debt, patronage, an expansive army, large centralized governments, and overly involved legislation--threatened the virtue of a society
  6. Inequality (at least among white men) threatened virtue, but only when it infringed upon one's independence.
The Country Critique failed in England, due to limitations on land, the influence of the First Minister over patronage throughout the country, and by necessary modern developments in the military and economy. However, the Country Critique thrived in colonial America. In fact, the Country critique was a necessary component in identification the tyranny of England (it rapacious military, greedy King, and attempts to make American dependent). Despite the widespread acceptance of the Country ideology in 1776, by 1789 it had spiraled into anarchic democracy and the abuses of demos against the state.

It is necessary to understand that in Jefferson's political ideology--heavily influenced by the Country critique--the virtuous citizenry was supposed to look past their individual needs in favor of the national ones. If bogged down by special interests, the system failed.

In response to the Anglification of American economic forces under Hamilton, it was necessary for Jefferson and Madison to create a grassroots upswell to country the tyranny and forced bifurcation of American society, as offered by Hamilton. It is important to note that any popular democratic ends promoted by Jefferson were not intentional nor long lasting. Jefferson expected to mobilize the people, right the wrongs of Federalism, then take control of the government in more capable hands than the demos. For the most part Jefferson succeeded.

However, several key factors caused the decline of the Jeffersonian political ideology, including:
  • The market revolution in the North, which for the first time in American history, produced long lasting and irreversible differences in wealth. The market revolution ended the possibility for egalitarianism and started modern class conflict by destroying traditional deference systems (i.e. the master-journeymen system)
  • The necessary reliance on slavery in the South to continue the egalitarianism and Country ideology in the South. When it became necessary for southerners to define their independence and virtue on the dependence and slavery of another group, they doomed themselves to failure. Yes, the South was more egalitarian for whites, but what would happen if and when the slaves were freed?
  • The War of 1812 reduced the success of Jeffersonian policy. It enlarged the debt, promoted a standing army, and forced American politicians to reasonably look at the size and object of government. After 1800, the party system was inherently Jeffersonian, however, the modern consequences of the War of 1812 (debt, increased government, and a national bank) made it possible for Jeffersonians to purse the Country ideology from outside an agrarian frame
Therefore, we come to meat of the argument. Key factors are necessary to promote a Jeffersonian world view: (1) widespread egalitarianism, (2) availability of land and self-sufficiency of the people, and (3) an active local political sphere in place of a large, involved national government. Thus, we turn to the modern goals of Republicans and Democrats

Republicans promote:
  • Reducing the national debt
  • Reducing the size of government
  • Fair tax structure
  • The autonomy of the individual from the government
  • Free markets
Democrats promote:
  • Egalitarian social policy
  • Egalitarian fiscal policy
  • Increasing the size of government
  • A greater role for the government in people's lives
  • Controlled markets
Thus, by these standards alone, one could claim that the Republicans accurately recreate the nature of Jeffersonian political theory. However, to make this point would be to miss the argument and goal of Jefferson, the man, and the Country thinker.

Although i do not believe that Jefferson would support expanding the electorate or property redistribution, i do believe Jefferson would support the "independence" of American from outside forces. Thus, if necessary to create an egalitarian state, Jefferson might support an Obama-ish plan to redistribute wealth from the top to the bottom, providing those in the middle with increased self-sufficiency and limiting their dependence on those above. Currently, the entire American social structure is not conducive to Jeffersonian thought. By default, American is an in-virtuous nation. 70% of America's revenue comes from the top 10% of tax payers. In Jefferson's view, this is as bad as the specter of absolutism when Walpole controlled the ear of the King and Parliament through patronage. What, after all, is the modern lobby system but patronage.

Before i discuss Jeffersonian thought for the 21st century, i feel it is necessary to determine which party has more of a claim to Jefferson--the Democrats or Republicans? I believe the answer is both and neither. The Republicans offer Jeffersonian policy, but not his social structure based on virtue. Democrats offer Jeffersonians egalitarianism, but without the necessary policy components to avoid Socialist and Marxist leanings. Thus, neither deserve to defame the name of Jefferson. The Republicans (more accurately, the Neo-Cons) should claim the oligarchical Hamilton; the Democrats the Socialist Eugene Debbs. Neither deserve the endorsement of Jefferson, nor do they have a right to claim it.

In conclusion, i offer at stark contrast to my earlier, more conservative, Hamiltonian and Smithian economic rants, a seemingly opposite view of how best to recreate Jeffersonian society. I know this is scary, but take it for what its worth--the nostalgia of a history student who wishes with all his being to be a virtuous, self-sufficient land owner, mast of my own destiny, and important for the future of our young republic. Here is my idea:
  1. We must start with a near socialistic/Marxian property redistribution. As our founding fathers before us, we must redistribute wealth to guarantee an equal opportunity to own land and share wealth. Look at the distribution of Loyalist and Feme soli following the American Revolution. Historian John Murrin suggests that it was the largest single act of leveling and property redistribution before Lenin and the Communists took control of Russia. If we are in fact committed to virtue, then social and economic inequality are threats to the virtue of every individual. Independence comes from self-sufficiency, which comes from egalitarianism
  2. We must limit the electorate to people who own their own land, or are on the way to owning their own land. Anyone who rents or is dependent on the will of another (including the government) lacks the capacity for virtue, and must therefore, be excluded from the vote. Landowners and independent voters are free from the constraints of special interests and influence from outside forces
  3. Lobbying, pork barrel spending, and congressional earmarks would end. Unequivocally!
  4. The size of the military would be decreased
  5. Government services and bureaucracies would be slashed. Anything deemed necessary would be relegated to the state's unless specifically noted in the Constitution or Judicial review.
  6. The tax structure would be revised and reversed. As an independent landowner and virtuous citizen, it is your responsibility to actively participate in local politics. Only in local politics should regional and special interests come into play. As one moves further away from local, community politics, so to does the effect of special interests groups and tax money. Under Jeffersonian thought, the local government should receive a maximum amount of tax dollars, followed by the state, and national government.
  7. The national debt would be decreased, until it was paid-off. Following the absolution of the national debt, any deficit spending would be discouraged, except in the case of extreme need and unexpected circumstances
  8. American would end its support of foreign nations, but would become a bastion of free trade and free markets
  9. Infrastructure would be increased and maximized
  10. Tolerance, equality, and freedom would be unequivocally extended to all people. Every person has the latent capacity for republican virtue, but only those willing to excuse themselves from dependence or own land have accepted that latent possibility for virtue
This, i believe, is the most accurate platform for Jeffersonian policy in the 21st century.

This may be crazy, an uncharacteristic, but in the name of Jefferson, i would support property redistribution and leveling. However, to produce my idealized Jeffersonian utopia, everyone would have to understand the importance of the Country ideology, strive to be a virtuous citizen, and look towards a common good above self-interest.

I long for the past, yet have only the future to comfort me.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Obama as Jimmy Carter

During this election cycle I have seen this election be compared to just about very previous presidential election like 1968, 1960, 1964, and more recently 1932. I have tried to resist make an such comparisons myself, but I have wasted much time reading articles making such comparisons. Tonight I found a comparison that I haven't thought of before. Historian Mark Moyar (Moyar's Triumph Forsaken is a great revision of the Vietnam War and I highly recommend it.) has made the argument that an Obama presidency may look very similar to Jimmy Carter's presidency. Moyar wrote:

"A newcomer to national politics, he claimed to transcend partisan labels. He moved to the center during the campaign, at a time when the Democrats held large congressional majorities. In a troubled economy, he told voters he would keep taxes down for most Americans, limit spending, and balance the budget, all while implementing ambitious social programs. He planned to cut military spending to free money for other purposes, but assured moderates and conservatives that when it came to America’s enemies, he would be tougher than the Republicans. The media, droves of moderates, and some conservatives believed him, having pegged him as a man of character."

"His name was Jimmy Carter, the year was 1976, and he won. His presidency helps us predict the likely results of an Obama victory in 2008."

This was interesting:

"Carter also threw out his professed hawkishness on foreign policy. Declaring America liberated from its “inordinate fear of Communism,” he sought better relations with the Communists in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and Vietnam. He was much less nice to America’s allies, withdrawing support from those who did not accept his self-righteous demands for human-rights reforms. Friendly regimes in Nicaragua and Iran fell to hostile tyrants."

Moyar concluded:

"Before casting a vote for Obama, Americans must consider the likelihood that he will follow the path of Jimmy Carter — that he will wreck the fragile economy by reneging on promises to cut taxes and spending, that he will be tough on America’s allies and soft on its enemies. The odds of Obama staying true to his current rhetoric are so poor that not even the boldest gambler should bet on it."

full article.