Today: Slavery, Dunmore’s Proclamation, Small Pox & The Ethiopian Regiment in the Revolutionary War; England’s Glorious Revolution; Lutefisk; John Milton; Christmas Music . . .
AND MORE . . . [Read more…]
Today: Slavery, Dunmore’s Proclamation, Small Pox & The Ethiopian Regiment in the Revolutionary War; England’s Glorious Revolution; Lutefisk; John Milton; Christmas Music . . .
AND MORE . . . [Read more…]
In America, the term Right Wing is misused to imply that conservative Americans are fascists lusting for world domination; in fact, the opposite is true.
(As my regular readers (to whom I am endlessly grateful) know, I was away from my blog for some time caring for a relative who had surgery. Being away that long gave me time to think about “going a little crazy,” as Bob Ross likes to say when he adds another tree to a painting. In my case, “going a little crazy” meant wondering if I could do a video as well as a podcast.
In addition to the time spent researching how to do go about making a Power Point video (I’ve got to start somewhere), it took me six hours to create a 35 minute video and companion podcast. They both are a little glitchy, but not bad for a first effort. I will get better. But I will never forget my readers, so here is the same content in written form.)
The idea for this video came when I ended my trip with a much-needed massage. Because this is Tennessee, my masseur is a liberty-oriented man so, in the midst of a far-ranging conversation, he asked this question: “Why are conservatives called “fascists,” when fascism is a socialist doctrine?” An excellent question, and one I wanted to answer here.
The reality is that, even though the media loves to talk about “right wingers” (although never left wingers), there is no “left wing” versus “right wing” in America, at least as those terms are understood in the rest of the world. Instead, we only have liberty versus tyranny, along with the supporters of both those ideologies.
Ironically enough, although the French Revolution post-dated the end of the American revolution by six years, the terms “right wing” and “left wing” are leftovers from that overseas kerfuffle. Let me explain.
The French Revolution had as its slogan “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Liberty, equality, fraternity! In the context of the French Revolution, those words were always lies.
At the start of the Revolution, France had an absolute monarchy that sat on top of a large, equally absolutist aristocracy. It was not a sustainable system, and the revolutionaries intended to topple it. However, unlike the American revolutionaries who envisioned limited government coupled with individual liberty, that’s not what the French wanted. Instead, the revolutionaries imagined an absolutist commune, with the monarchy and aristocracy replaced by an equally controlling cabal of “the people.”
With Rep. Clyburn admitting that the proggies don’t like our Constitution as is, it’s time to take a look at what they want in a constitution.
Let’s face it. Progressives have gone a long way to making our Constitution a dead letter already. But as Rep. Clyburn makes clear in the video below, they are not yet wholly satisfied with the result. Work remains to be done.
What progressives want is nothing more than permanent power. That would be impossible to accomplish were they starting from scratch, but clearly they aren’t. A lot of the most important groundwork has already been laid over the past century. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the state of our Constitution today, how it has already been altered, and how it would look once the proggies are done rewriting it. [Read more…]
In their desperate grab for power, the Left is abandoning the unity of America’s ideas in favor of tribalism, with all its attendant violence.
(If you prefer listening to reading, the companion podcast is embedded below, or you can listen to it at Libsyn or at Apple podcasts. I’m trying to make a go of my podcast so, if you like it, please share it with your friends and on social media. Giving it good ratings helps too.)
One of the books I’ve recommended for some time now is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The title pretty much says it all: We live in a safer, less violent world than at any time in human history. It’s the kind of book people should read if the news is getting them down. While our media operates on the “if it bleeds it leads” principle, the real world operates on an “it’s never been better” principle even in the worst parts of the world.
Pinker wrote the book in 2012, before the world felt the full effect of Obama’s lead from behind policy in Syria, his attack on Libya, and his passivity regarding the Arab Spring, all of which turned large parts of the Middle East and North Africa into blood-soaked hellholes, with Angela Merkel then helping the violence to leak into Europe, which means that his book is based on a less violent time than the one in which we live. Nevertheless, his greater point is still a good one: Over the centuries . . . no, over the millennia, we humans have become less violent. We’ve become less violent in warfare, less violent in daily life, less violent in dealing with criminals, and less violent in entertainment.
Just think that a “mere” 2,000 years ago, the Romans were the apex of civilization, complete with their “Pax Romana” (or Roman Peace). For those who forgot to pay attention in Roman history class, the Pax Romana was a relatively peaceful period from about 27 B.C. to about 140 A.D. when there was minimal strife within Rome itself.
Of course “minimal strife” is a relative term. Rome expanded rapidly during this period, so there was actually constant warfare. Indeed, it was during this time — in 70 A.D. — that the Siege of Jerusalem took place and it proved to be one of the bloodiest wars in which the Romans engaged. Josephus, who wrote the history, believed that over 1.1 million non-combatants died in Jerusalem alone. He was probably exaggerating, but a good guess is still about 350,000 non-combatant deaths.
This was also the time during which Tacitus said of Rome’s conquering tactics, “They make a desert [or desolation] and call it peace.” In other words, it was not “peace” as we think of it. [Read more…]
The Second Amendment is an unalienable right; plus, even assuming for the sake of argument that Trump has racist thoughts, his principles are not racist.
For those who want to listen to the podcast, you can find it embedded below, or at this link, or (at last) you can hear it at Apple/iTunes podcasts. If you think the podcasts worthy, please share the links with your friends.
In today’s podcast, I’m still chewing over the shootings this past weekend. I leave it to others to tackle the shooters’ motives (other than just being evil people) and the media’s haste to emphasize the allegedly conservative El Paso shooter (even though he seems terribly affected by the Leftist’s climate Armageddon rhetoric) while ignoring entirely the passions driving the Leftists shooter in Dayton. Instead, I want to discuss the Second Amendment and why it matters in the context of our relationship to the government. Long-time readers will recognize this discussion, but it may be new to others.
The right to bear arms is one of our premier constitutional rights. Too many Americans take our Constitution for granted without considering its centrality, not to government, but to the individuals being governed. Unlike the various federal statutes that impose laws on the people of this land, the Constitution imposes its restrictions on the federal government itself. The predicate to these individual rights is the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Without this acknowledgement of our unalienable status and dignity, the explicitly listed Rights in the Bill of Rights are meaningless. These unalienable rights – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness — are the abstract foundational concepts that justify a citizen’s more concrete “right” to have spheres of activity (or inactivity) upon which the government cannot impinge.
Which gets us to the Bill of Rights. What exactly is it? I mean, we all know what’s in it, but I don’t think most people stop and really think about how important it is to them, as individuals.
The Constitution is a contract between the People (acting through their state-elected representatives) and the government. The main body of the Constitution, however, has nothing to do with the People, and everything to do with defining a functioning government. Thus, while it seeks to make sure that the executive can’t overwhelm the legislature or that the courts can’t overwhelm the executive, there’s nothing in the Constitution about whether the government as a whole, or any of its individual parts, can overwhelm the citizens under its rule.
The Founders realized in the wake of the Constitution’s ratification that creating a government is not the same as protecting the People’s unalienable under that government. If the government can “giveth” something and then “taketh it away” again, that something is not a right, it is, instead, a mere privilege. [Read more…]
American conservatives, Trump included, by definition cannot be Right Wing, because their primary goal is to lessen government control over the individual.
John Lott wrote an article challenging the media’s contention that the New Zealand mosque shooter is “right wing” and, naturally, tying that right-winged-ness to President Trump and his supporters. Lott based his challenge on the fact that the shooter’s manifesto, aside from some trolling about Trump and Candace Owens, aligns perfectly with the Left’s ideology and is utterly unrelated to Trump’s words or policies. It’s a good article and I recommend it.
I want to head in a slightly different direction which is to say, as I have said before, that there is no Right Wing in America, meaning that neither Trump nor his supporters can or should be smeared in that way. Moreover, there is almost no relationship between ostensible conservatives outside of America and those of us in America who identify as conservatives. We are entirely different breeds. I have a tendency to be wordy, but I’ll try to keep this as streamlined as possible.
I’ll start with the absolutely true statement that there are only two forms of government: Bigger Government and Smaller Government. No matter the label affixed to the governing entity, it’s either Bigger, which means fewer individual rights, or Smaller, which means more individual rights. This is true whether the government is a monarchy, an aristocracy, an oligarchy, a republic, a democracy, a theocracy, a junta, or whatever. It’s not the label that matters; it’s the amount of government control versus individual liberty. Of course, socialist governments, whether denominated as socialist, communist, or fascist, are all Big (indeed, Biggest) Governments by definition.
“Right Wing” and “Left Wing” are purely European concepts, dating to the French Parliament in the lead-up to the French Revolution. The people to the right of the Speaker were monarchists; the people to the Left were revolutionaries in what came to be understood as the socialist mold. Both sides demanded Biggest Government with total control over the individual.
The battle between Bigger Government political powers raged in Europe through the 19th century and continued in continental Europe right into the 1930s. During that decade, the two rising political movements were both socialist. One socialist movement, communism, demanded nationalizing all private property as party of its Biggest Government plan. The other socialist movement, fascism, agreed to leave private property in private hands, provided that the government called the shots. It was therefore still a Biggest Government ideology.* [Read more…]
England, once the cradle of liberty, summarily imprisoned Tommy Robinson for his daring to report on the trial of accused Muslim sex groomers.
I have an unhealthy weakness for Britain’s Daily Mail, a crazy amalgam of news, gossip, and human interest. Right now, there’s a story playing out in England that ought to be on the Daily Mail’s front page, with the 26 point headline . . . but it’s not, and the Daily Mail’s silence is part of the story. Its silence perfectly symbolizes that liberty is an endangered species in the West. To understand quite how bad things are, though, I need to take you through two preliminary discussions, one talking about England as the cradle of American liberties and the other talking about Tommy Robinson, a familiar name in England if not in America.
We Americans like to think that we originated the liberties embodied in our Bill of Rights. You know the ones I mean: No state religion nor any prohibitions against practicing our chosen faiths, speech free from government constraints, a free press, the right to peaceable assembly, the right to petition government, the right to bear arms, the right to due process of law, and so many more rights.
The truth, though, is that these core rights of individual liberty originated in Britain. They were part of a long process beginning with the Magna Carta and culminating with the English Bill of Rights of 1689. That document was limited to Protestants and had other constraints our Founders jettisoned, but it was the Founders’ inspiration inspiration. Other inspirations came from British writers and thinkers such as John Locke and Adam Smith. Indeed, up until the Revolution itself, all of the Founders would have called themselves Englishmen, both free and proud.
So it was that our Revolutionary War came about, not because Americans had discovered new rights, but because they were protesting the British government’s policies denying them their old rights. It is no exaggeration to say that England is the cradle of American liberty — although I would argue that the infant liberties nurtured in that British cradle came to glorious maturity in America.
Meanwhile, back in England, those liberties have slowly been stifled in the cradle and have now begun to rot. The stifling began back in the 18th century. It was then that, to strike back against the nascent America rebellion, the British announced that any limitations on government power set out in the 1689 Bill of Rights applied only to the crown (which has steadily decreased in power and authority until now it’s nothing more than a glorified wedding theme park), and placed no limitations at all on Parliament, the fount of all English law.
Despite Parliament’s position, for almost two centuries the British still believed in those rights. That’s why both Parliament and the Courts kind of, mostly acted as if the English people had inherent rights to freedom of worship, speech, press, assembly, arms, etc.
Beginning with the socialist takeover after WWII, and continuing with accelerating, exponential fury since then, those rights have vanished from England. The same identity politics that American Progressives started with Obama and hoped to finish with Hillary (hence their rage at Trump’s victory), are ascendant in Britain. Any speech that is not pro-Islam, pro-LGBTQWRSTUV, pro-third wave feminism, or pro any of the other shibboleths of the ascendant Left is considered hate speech and criminalized. All of England is like some giant Ivy League campus, except for the addition of the power to arrest and imprison anyone who violates those totalitarian norms.
One need only look to recent stories out of England to understand how far gone that country is. The government imprisoned a man for the stupid prank of teaching a dog to do a Nazi salute on command, convicted a man for giving the finger to a traffic camera, and arrested a woman for saying “Have a gay day.” While the British are busy policing any thought deviations, the flip side is that their police did nothing for decades as Muslim gangs all over Great Britain groomed and pimped thousands of non-Muslim children (see, e.g., Rotherham, the most famous, but not the only example). The police also sat on their hands despite knowing that thousands of highly placed British officials and entertainers had been engaged in vile, widespread acts of pedophilia for decades.
In a nation in which only the government carries guns, acid attacks and knife attacks have spiked so much . . . that the government responded by banning sharp objects in London. Meanwhile, an elderly man who wrested a screwdriver from a robber threatening him in his own home, and who killed the robber in the ensuing struggle, was arrested for murder. An Englishman’s home is no longer his castle; it’s the antechamber to a government prison. The streets are prisons too, for Britain is watching its citizens’ every move with millions of close-circuit cameras. [Read more…]
Wolf Howling is working on a novel about the American Revolution and would like to get some feedback — specifically, your feedback. Check it out.
I decided, in my hubris, some time ago to try my hand at writing a series of books – works of historical fiction – tracing a South Carolina family from 1760 through adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Below is the first half of book 1. I am a neophyte at writing fiction and have no idea whether I am a hack or actually writing something of interest. I will say nothing more then, if you would read and criticize, I would be deeply appreciative.
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: My goal is actually deeper than crowdsourcing the proofing, though that is proving of great benefit. I’ve never written fiction, let alone fiction wrapped around in-depth history as I understand it. I am at the point where I have written just enough of the first story that I can put it out publicly and, in essence, ask if I am wrapping interesting characters and events around history. If not, then that’s fine, I have no intention of putting in the thousand plus hours to finish this project just for my own personal gratification. Basically, I am hoping to get an honest thumbs up or thumbs down from as many people as possible before deciding to dedicate myself to this project for the next three to four years. I know how bookworm feels about the book, but she has been editing it for months. I need many neutral third parties to weigh in. [Read more…]
For 150 years, Democrats used the Big Lie about race to justify slavery and Jim Crow, and now they’re using the Big Lie technique to challenge gender norms.
I want to share a thought with you that starts with slavery and ends with transsexuals. To get from one to the other, I have to start with one of the few decent classes I had when I was at UC Berkeley. That senior seminar looked at the history of race relations in America versus those in Brazil.
When I took the class, I had no interest whatsoever in the history of race relations. I was an English history major — the English isle, to be precise — and everything else was a distant second. Still, it became apparent to me very quickly that I was not alone and that I would not get into my preferred seminar. You see, back in the day, when it came time for enrollment in senior seminars, the history teachers would seat themselves at random intervals in the big lecture room at Dwinelle Hall. Students would then approach the teachers as supplicants, begging to get into this or that seminar.
As soon as I walked in the room, I saw that the professors teaching the seminars in which I was interested were besieged. I had no desire to hurl myself into that scrum. Instead, I checked out the teachers who were not surrounded by adoring students.
Only one of the other teachers caught my interest because he was so darn handsome. After I ascertained that he had openings in his seminar and that it worked for my schedule, I signed up, not even caring what he was teaching. And so it was that I ended up learning about the history race relations in the US and Brazil.
Fortunately, for me, that handsome young graduate student was an excellent teacher. It made up for the fact that he was happily married, had a baby, and would in any event not have been interested in me. It also made up for the fact that the reading materials were deadly dull.
Thirty years later, the only takeaway I had from the class is that America was rather unique in its “one drop of blood” approach to racism. In Brazil, there’s a great deal of racism, but it’s on a graduated scale. The darker you are, the more racism you face and the lower your status in society.
Meanwhile, in America, it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you’re known to have even a drop of black blood in you, you’re black. Nor is that a racial view that’s changed since both slavery and Jim Crow ended. After all, Barack Obama, half-black and half-white genetically, was our “first black president.” He wasn’t really, of course. He was our “first half-black president” — but that’s not the way things roll in America.
The stigma against that single drop of blood has been so strong in America that it made for a great subplot in Edna Ferber’s Showboat, which started as a book, made it to Broadway as a groundbreaking musical, and then got made into two Hollywood movie musicals. (The 1936 version of the movie is the one to see.)
If you’re familiar with Showboat’s plot, you know that, when the showboat passes through Mississippi, a vengeful man, furious that the beautiful Julie LaVerne has rebuffed him, reports to the authorities that she is, in fact, a black woman. Given that her husband, Steve, is a white man, they have violated Mississippi’s miscegenation laws and he demands their arrest. The couple avoids arrest when Steve cuts Julie and licks her blood, enabling his friends on the boat to state honestly that he has that “one drop of black blood” in him. [Read more…]
I had the great pleasure today of attending a phenomenal talk by Prof. David Bobb, president of the Bill of Rights Institute. BRI uses original source documents to help teachers and students understand America’s founding document and to see how it’s still relevant today. Its ultimate goal is to bring to an end our nation’s intellectual disengagement from the Constitution and to lead young people to “think the vote,” which is mindful, informed approach to elections, rather than to “rock the vote,” a mindless, drone-like approach to important issues that profoundly affect America’s young people.
Prof. Bobb could not be a better spokesman for his organization. To begin with, his bio is impressive:
David earned his Ph.D. in political science from Boston College, where he was the recipient of fellowships from the Pew, Earhart, and Bradley Foundation, as well as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
David joined the Bill of Rights Institute in December 2013. Previously he was the founding director of two national centers for Hillsdale College, the Washington, D.C.-based Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, and the Hoogland Center for Teacher Excellence, a civic education program. From 2001 to 2013 he also was lecturer in politics at Hillsdale College, where he taught courses in American politics and public policy.
David is the author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue (Thomas Nelson, 2013) and a contributing editor to The U.S. Constitution: A Reader (Hillsdale College Press, 2012). He has written articles and reviews for the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Washington Times, Boston Herald, and the Claremont Review of Books, among other publications. He has spoken widely to audiences in twenty-five states on topics including education reform, civic engagement, and the American Constitution.
In other words, Prof. Bobb knows his stuff and he is a natural communicator and teacher. His speaking style, something that always matters to me, is the essence of clarity. No fudging, no obfuscation, no blathering. Frankly, it was a challenge to take notes, because Prof. Bobb had no spare words or sentences in his speech. Every sentence was interesting and to the point. Since I don’t do shorthand, of necessity I had to condense some ideas and I know that I missed others. This means that, to the extent there are any errors in this post, they are definitely mine, not Prof. Bobb’s. With that warning, here goes:
If I were a more detail-oriented person, I would undoubtedly have noticed long ago that, on our one dollar bill, under the pyramid, there is a Latin inscription stating “novus ordo seclorum“:
And if I were a more curious person, I would have gone online to translate that phrase. For those who, like me, don’t remember their Latin and or who aren’t too curious about our dollar bill, the phrase means “New Order Of The Ages.” It is the Founders’ announcement to the world and to posterity that they were embarking upon a grand governmental experiment, one that had never been tried before. In the Federalist papers, Alexander Hamilton noted that Americans were about to take a step no other people had taken before:
It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.
Back in the day, then, the Founders, with a great deal of trepidation, were about to embark upon a planned government, one that would vest the maximum amount of power in the people and that, at the governmental level, would guard against the possibility of tyranny. After all, only a few years before, they had declared themselves free to part ways with England because, in their eyes, George III had become a tyrant by taking upon himself the powers of the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. They understood that human frailty is such that no one person should ever hold that much power over others.
The unique aspect of the new Constitution was the notion — the product of one hundred years of Enlightenment thinking (powered by an increasingly humanist Christianity) — that each person comes into the world with certain rights vested in him (or her). These are not gifts from the government that the government can then take a way. Instead, when a government infringes on these inherent rights, it’s the people who have the power to destroy the government and initiate a better one — and our Constitution was intended to define that better government.
The most exceptional thing about the Constitution — which is a contract between government and the American people — is the notion of separation of powers. England, of course, led the way with that idea, wresting from the King certain powers reserved for Parliament. This was a notion that was first institutionalized in the Magna Carta; was then tested under Charles I (who lost his head for picking “King power,” rather than “People power” when asked the question “who’s in charge here?”); and was re-tested under George III, who kept his head but lost America because he too thought that he could vest in himself the full powers of government.
The Articles of Confederation, the governing document that preceded the Constitution, did not have a tripartite approach to power. It created an executive office, but had no judiciary or legislature and, significantly, it did not give the executive office the power to tax. The office had, on the one hand, too much power and, on the other hand, no way to put all that power into effect. The Constitution would do better.
At this point in his talk, in light of the upcoming 2016 election, Prof. Bobb narrowed his his focus to the executive office. He noted that, although Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the intellectual powerhouses behind the Constitution, devoutly believed in diffuse power as a bulwark against tyranny, they also understood that, to the extent they vested power in a specific institution, that power had to be meaningful. To that end, they didn’t try to create a weak executive by splitting that power among different individuals or groups.
It was Hamilton who envisioned as president an individual who, while hedged about with constitutional safeguards, could act with “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.” After all, in times of national emergency, one can’t have a committee laboriously working its way to a tame and untimely bureaucratic response.
While the president could be active, decisive, and secretive, he still had to have limitations — and control over these limitations had to be placed in an organization equally invested in protecting and advancing its power. Or, as James Madison said, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” The Constitution decided that three entities, each jealously protecting its power, would ensure that no single part of that trio would be able to aggregate too much power, the inevitable path to tyranny.
At the Constitutional Convention, George Washington sat quietly in the room as the Founders hashed out the separation and balance of powers. They all knew that Washington would be president under this new Constitution, and they all trusted that this man of extraordinary rectitude and hard-won humility would not abuse that power. But they also understood that they were writing a Constitution, not for one man, but for the ages, and that there was no guarantee that another Washington would emerge any time soon — or ever.
For every power that the Founders granted the new executive, they included an important countervailing limitation. They wanted ambitious people, so there were no term limits, but the president had to make his case to the people every four years. They wanted visionaries, but if the visions veered into unconstitutional territory, the president could be impeached (a better end than that which Charles I experienced). They gave the president a veto over legislation, but granted Congress the power to gather together most of its force to defeat that veto. They made the president the Commander in Chief, but denied him the authority to declare war.
Significantly, the Founder explicitly denied the president “spiritual jurisdiction” over the American people. Unlike their former monarch, the King of England, there was to be no national church in America. Government was to stay out of affairs of faith. (Bookworm here, speaking on her own behalf and not trying to paraphrase Prof. Bobb: Let me add that Americans have always recognized some limits on religious practice in our borders. Historically, the most aggressive fight to limit religion was the all-out-attack on Mormon polygamy. Currently, of course, the big fight is to determine how far the government can push traditional religions by demanding that they pay for abortions or marry same-sex couples. Now, back to my attempt to summarize Prof. Bobb’s speech.)
Significantly, the goal was to make a president who was responsible to the people, but not responsible for them. His job was to mind the government and the People’s job was to mind themselves, secure in a stable framework with maximum individual freedoms.
Having summarized the Founders’ goals and the steps they took to institutionalize these goals, Prof. Bobb then looked at the situation today, which he characterizes as the inverse of the Founders’ plan. Nowadays, at townhalls across America, after a President has heard a citizen’s sad story, he’ll almost invariably say something along the lines of “I’ll help you. I’ll get my people to be in touch with you and fix your problem.” In other words, rather than being a statesman responsible for the nation and subservient to the Constitution (the Founders’ goal), the president has come to define and even supplant the Constitution.
Indeed, when polled, American students routinely say that the man (or woman) occupying the Oval Office is of greater significance than the Constitution. To them, the “will of the President” is the most powerful, significant aspect of American government. This faith in a single human, rather than in the limited office, is not the rational, reasonable approach to government that the Founders desired.
If you want to know who to blame for this situation, you only have to look back a single century to President Woodrow Wilson, one-time dean of Princeton University. While in this role, Wilson wrote disparagingly of the restrictions the Constitution placed on the president. As he saw it, natural rights and law, and the separation of powers, all of which gave a say to the unwashed masses, were bunk.
(It occurs to me, Bookworm, that Wilson’s view was the result of immigration and emancipation. A committed racist, a eugenicist, and a xenophobe, the thought of all these “inferior” people having a say in government must have appalled him. Had he lived one hundred years earlier, in a time of limited suffrage, he probably would have been less dismissive of the Constitution.
Were Wilson alive today, he would still be completely at home on any American college campus. He believed that an educated elite knew better what would benefit the masses than those masses knew themselves. Wilson believed, as professors and journalists across America believe, that this cadre of intellectuals and fellow-traveling elites shouldn’t be bound by an antiquated document giving inherent rights to those with dirty or melanin-rich skin. If you want a good rundown of what a disgusting, fascist, racist guy Wilson was, check out Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change. And now back to Prof. Bobb.)
The three Republican presidents who followed Wilson (Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover) managed to restrain their ambition and, as is especially true for Coolidge, none tried to expand executive power. Franklin D. Roosevelt, though, was cut from exactly the same cloth as Wilson. Having used his government power aggressively in ways that prolonged the Depression, Roosevelt used WWII as the opportunity to create a “Second Bill of Rights,” one based not on rights inherent in all people but, instead, on government handouts. Thus, in January 1944, at the start of his fourth term as President (a little taste of tyranny there, right?), Roosevelt laid out his Second Bill of Rights (emphasis mine):
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
Every president since Roosevelt has actively encouraged or passively accepted the above “add-ons” to the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution.
The original purpose behind the Bill of Rights Institute was to peel away 100 years of Constitutional “add-ons” and to enable teachers to understand our actual Founding documents and to appreciate why those principles are timeless and do not need reinterpretation. As Prof. Bobb said, most teachers love America, but they are unable to understand fully what makes this country lovable and therefore they are unable to pass that love on to their students. Students, of course, need substance, not platitudes to realize what makes America unique and why this uniqueness is a blessing, not a Howard Zinn-esque curse.
Currently 50,000 American history teachers subscribe to BRI’s mailing list. (Bookworm here: I have my doubts about Marin teachers’ participation in the list, but maybe I’m unduly cynical.) BRI sends emails to these teachers directing them to source documents (all of which are accessible through the BRI website) and giving them questions about current issues that they can ask students to debate in light of the intersection between those source documents and these current issues. For example, immediately after the grand jury decision in Ferguson, BRI had an email on its way to America’s history teachers offering source documents and topical questions.
Prof. Bobb said correctly that high school students are routinely shortchanged because we deny them these debates. (As I, Bookworm, often say, we teach our kids the “how” of learning, packing them with data like geese being stuffed for nice pate livers, but we routinely forget to challenge them with the “why” questions: Why does the information we’re feeding you matter?) Prof. Bobb and BRI want to give the kids those “why” questions and to let them use those “why” questions, in the context of our Constitution as written to piece together their world into a coherent whole.
BRI’s work is especially important at this junction in history. This may be our last chance to reach young Americans. When young people in the 18-24 year old age cohort were polled, only 1% said that they were worried about losing their Constitutional rights. Mostly, in light of the relentless headlines about events in Ferguson or Baltimore, young people have lost confidence in our justice system. Even more importantly, they believe that the justice system is irrelevant to them. No wonder 40% of America’s young people are willing to ditch the Constitution. (Bookworm here: It seems appropriate to link here to my post about the way in which people have also lost faith in free market capitalism, despite the fact that the system currently failing in America isn’t free market capitalism at all, but is more akin to fascism-lite.)
For decades, our classrooms have been controlled by Howard Zinn version of history, one that says that the Founders were “evil” rich, white men who were concerned only with guns and greed. Prof. Bobb made the completely unnerving statement that for years, every year, Zinn’s books and their spinoffs are more popular than they were the year before.
With this relentless anti-Americanism — and anti-Constitutionalism — rife in our system, young people don’t believe that our system can offer hope. Hope lies only in the president, who is viewed as a “savior” but too easily becomes a demagogue. (Bookworm here again: You all remember back to 2008 with its newspaper riffs about “magic negroes” and the endless photographs of a haloed Obama.) Moreover, despite government’s obvious failures, young people look to all government — local, state, and federal — for money, which they believe, if it rains down on them, will somehow remedy their personal ills.
Prof. Bobb sees the election of 2016 as one that pivots on constitutional issues and hopes that the crowded Republican field debates those issues in a meaningful way, without the candidates cancelling each other out. Before Prof. Bobb started his talk, he and I discussed the fact that several of the candidates bring interesting constitutional questions to the table: Ted Cruz wants to abolish the IRS and have a purely constitutional government; Rand Paul advocates a form of libertarianism that waivers between hardcore conservativism and, funnily enough, extreme Leftism; Ben Carson discusses the intersection between individual-responsibility and government handouts; while Carly Fiorina is attacking the crony capitalism that is morphing into fascism-lite. Both Carson and Mike Huckabee have suggested that a president is not obligated to implement Supreme Court rulings that are blatantly unconstitutional (unlike President Obama, says Bookworm, who feels he’s not obligated to implement Supreme Court rulings he doesn’t like).
As all of us have noticed, the current president has aggregated greater power than ever before, but it’s not entirely his fault. Congress, whether under Democrat or Republican control, meekly rolls over and allows him to go forward with blatantly unconstitutional initiatives. Prof. Bobb says that, whenever Senators put proposed bills in the hopper, they’re supposed to attach a piece of paper explaining the Constitutional authorization for the bill. Too often, their reasons are nonsensical (e.g., “right and proper clause”) or, even worse, they completely abdicate any responsibility — “let the Supreme Court decide.” The ambition that Madison believed would keep the tension between the three parts of government, preventing tyranny, is gone, as lazy legislators can’t be bothered to look beyond their little club.
Because politics, like nature, abhor a vacuum, Congress’s abdication is creating a perfect space within which an all-powerful administration has room to grow. Without any input from “We, the People,” federal agencies are implementing Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights and, willy-nilly, superseding the original Bill of Rights.
We should all worry about this trend, and we should all act to educate our children, grandchildren, and friends. So, check out the Bill of Rights Institute’s web page, where you can find source documents and useful texts, all aimed at informing the citizenry about their unique rights — rights that, once can, can probably never again be recovered.
(I sent Prof. Bobb a link to this post. I hope he checks it out and corrects the mistakes I’m sure I’ve made. If his busy schedule precludes doing so, let me reiterate — all mistakes are solely my responsibility.)
I’ve been reading on Facebook what my Leftist friends, and their Leftist friends, have to say about Obama’s imperial pronouncement on amnesty. One comment struck me especially strongly, because I have no doubt that Obama already has something prepared on his desk. I’ve changed the wording slightly to protect the Facebook author’s privacy, but the substance is unchanged:
Earlier today, I put together a post saying that the Bill of Rights trumps the Civil Rights Act. It is so because the Rights are inherent in individuals, meaning that Congress has no power to pass a law abrogating those rights (at least not without a very good reason). I even prepared a nice little chart to walk people through my thinking in this regard. As part of the chart, I noted that, in theory, Muslims can use the Bill of Rights to justify subordinating women. Just a few hours later, a friend sent me a link to this news story out of Canada (which does not have a First Amendment):
Barbers in Toronto who refused to cut a woman’s hair have become the target of a human rights complaint, in a case that pits religious freedom against gender equality.
When Faith McGregor went into the Terminal Barber Shop requesting a short haircut, she was told the shop only grooms men.
The reason, co-owner Omar Mahrouk said, was that as a Muslim he could not cut the hair of a woman who was not related to him.
But for McGregor, the rejection of her patronage amounted to sexism.
“Fundamentally, my hair is the same as their male clients, so why would they have a problem with that,” she told CTV News.
“I felt like a second class citizen, like it was hard to hear that they refused and there was no discussion.”
So the 35-year-old filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Read the rest here.
One can make a very good argument that the reason the First Amendment had such a good run for a couple of hundred years was because, while Americans might have had doctrinal differences, they shared the same values about core issues: marriage, sexual orientation, self-reliance, etc. Now, though, with Leftism ascendent and an increasingly large Muslim population, the tensions being placed upon the Bill of Rights have become unsustainable. Something’s got to give — and the Left is well-situated to make sure that it’s the Judeo-Christian tradition that cries “Uncle” first.
Fellow Weasel Watcher Greg, at Rhymes with Right, came up with a good poster likening every woman’s right to have a gun to a black woman’s right to sit anywhere she wants in the bus. That poster, combined with a discussion I had with some young ‘uns about the Bill of Rights got me thinking about the expression “Civil Rights,” which is something the Left bandies about freely.
Lately, the Left has taken to calling government control of American health care a Civil Right. We all know that’s wrong, but it’s worth understanding precisely why it’s wrong. I’m still trying to organize my thoughts here, so please bear with me as a waffle my way through this.
The beginning of any discussion of civil rights must be the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This single sentence is the “whereas” the precedes the Constitution. Without this acknowledgement of God-given human status and dignity, the explicitly listed Rights in the Bill of Rights are meaningless. These unalienable rights are the abstract predicates that justify a citizen’s more concrete “right” to have certain areas of functioning upon which the government cannot impinge. Unless we acknowledge that humans — all humans — are equal and deserving of Life, Liberty, and the ability to make their way in the world, all the other bulwarks against government overreach are meaningless.
Which gets us to the Bill of Rights. What exactly is it? I mean, we all know what’s in it, but I don’t think most people stop and think about what it is.
The Constitution is a contract between the People (acting through their state-elected representatives) and the government. Its sole purpose is to describe what form the federal government will take. It’s a rather dull document that’s given over to defining the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch, and then apportioning power and responsibilities between the three of them.
The main body of the Constitution has nothing to do with the People, and everything to do with defining a functioning government. Thus, while it seeks to make sure that the executive can’t overwhelm the legislature or that the courts can’t overwhelm the executive, there’s nothing in it about whether the government as a whole can overwhelm the citizens under its rule.
What the Founders realized in the wake of the Constitution’s ratification is that creating a government is not the same as protecting the People’s declared rights under that government. “Rights” aren’t things that the government gives people and that it can take away from people. Things that the government can “giveth and taketh away” are merely privileges. Rights, on the other hand, belong to the People outside of the government. Rights have nothing to do with government control over people, and everything to do with the People’s right to control government. They preexist the government and will continue to exist long after the government is gone. Rights are independent of government.
That rights are independent of government does not mean that the government cannot use its aggregated power to destroy those rights. That they are destructible, despite being unalienable, is what concerned the Founding generation and what led them to create the Bill of Rights.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution recognize that the rights described are fundamental rights that transcend government, but that a tyrannical government can nevertheless destroy these fundamental rights. Rather than assuming that a beneficent government will automatically protect these rights, the Founders erred on the side of caution and warned the government that it had (and has) no power to touch rights that exist in the People, irrespective of the government.
Combined, that extraordinary sentence in the Declaration of Independence and of the first ten amendments to the Constitution create a bright line of human inviolability into which government cannot intrude. For example, from the Declaration of Independence, we have a controlling principle that explains why, even though sitting in the front of the bus isn’t set out explicitly or even implicitly in the Bill of Rights, it is still a fundamental Right that is a necessary predicate to the Bill of Rights. Rights must be applied equally to all humankind, because humankind is created equally.
Freedom to speak, worship, and assemble are unalienable rights. The right to be armed, for whatever the heck reason you want, is an unalienable right. The right to have your home free from American troops in an unalienable right. The right to be protected from torture and coercion aimed at forcing you to convict yourself out of your own mouth is an unalienable right. The state has the right to execute you if a properly constituted trial finds you guilty of a capital crime, but you have the right to an execution that is neither cruel (death by torture) nor unusual (death by bizarre forms of torture). There are other unalienable rights.
Let me say again what these rights are: They are a bright line of human inviolability and power that the government, despite its concentrated strength (police forces, armies, taxing powers, etc.) cannot attack or abridge.
Once one understands the difference between Rights (which are unalienable) and privileges (which depend on the government we elect) we can see why it’s so ridiculous when the Left describes health care as a “civil right.” It’s not. True civil rights recognize that citizens and the government are adversaries: the government constantly attempts to impose itself on the citizens, and the citizens have as their bulwark the Declaration and the Bill of Rights to protect them from this government overreach. Good health is not a matter of government overreach — except, of course, when the government uses health as a means of undermining the Bill of Rights.
This then, is the problem with ObamaCare: Rather than upholding a civil right, it is created to undermine people’s civil rights. Its death panels contravene the unalienable right to Life. Its abortion and contraception mandates directly impinge upon the unalienable right to freedom of worship. It’s proposed requirements that doctors ask prying questions about guns infringes upon the unalienable right to keep and bear arms. And Justice Roberts’ decision to the contract, its penalties for inaction are a direct infringement to people’s liberty.
As I said, this is a work in progress, so I don’t have a rousing or neat conclusion. I’m not even sure what to do with these thoughts, but I did want to get them down while they were still swirling in my head. Please feel free to add to or refine upon what I’ve written.
This video is a year old but, especially with the latest Koran burning “scandal,” is as pertinent now as it was when first made:
Hat tip: W”B”S
Civil rights are much discussed lately, primarily because Progressives with bully-pulpits are furious that Glenn Beck held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous civil rights rally at that same location. To hear them tell it, in the wake of the “Civil Rights Movement,” civil rights are entirely a black thing, and whites who parade around in the civil rights mantel are manifestly racists.
It says much about the Orwellian twists the Progressive mind takes that its spokespeople can, with a straight face, confine civil rights to a single race. The whole Progressive concept is oxymoronic, because civil rights, by definition, extend to all citizens within the civitas, not just citizens of a specified color. (And isn’t that the point King was trying to make?) The idiocy emanating from the Left might be merely amusing, but for the fact that the Left is working out to ensure that this definition applies to all future generations. After all, it was Arne Duncan, Obama’s Education Secretary, who appeared at Al Sharpton’s poorly-attended counter rally to announce that education is “the civil rights issue of our generation.”
All of this points to the fact that, in the years since Martin Luther King’s pivotal moment in the sun, the Left has redefined civil rights into a concept that would be utterly alien to Martin Luther King — and that is alien to most people who aren’t Progressives or self-styled “liberals.” It’s therefore time, in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ memorable words, for some “reeducation.”
To me, and perhaps to you, “civil rights” are those inherent rights that automatically extend to all citizens in a free country. Thomas Jefferson articulated the broadest outlines of these rights in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Jefferson stated unambiguously that these unalienable rights — the ultimate civil liberties, if you will — do not come from government. They exist independent of government. Government’s job is not to create those rights, but to safeguard them. Government cannot hand them out, not can it take them away. They just are. And if government fails to provide the proper safeguards or, worse, itself threatens these unalienable rights, it is not the rights that are illegitimate, it is the government.
Very soon after the American Revolution ended, our Founders recognized that the federal government needed some guidance if it was to maintain its legitimacy and provide a stable structure for its citizens without destroying their rights. To that end, in 1791, the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution). They are short and sweet, and are notable for the way in which, rather than extending government power, they severely restrict its power over citizens:
Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment 2 – Right to Bear Arms.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment 3 – Quartering of Soldiers.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment 6 – Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Amendment 7 – Trial by Jury in Civil Cases.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
To summarize in modern English, our “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” “unalienable rights” that come from “the Creator,” are preserved only if we have a federal government that, as to the citizens within its borders:
All of the above are the explicitly stated limitations the Founders placed upon the federal government. It took eight amendments to drive those points home. But to reiterate just how severely constrained the United States’ federal governments’ power is vis a vis the citizens within its borders, the Founders made two further points: While the amendments are to be understood to control the federal government, they cannot be read to mean that American citizens have only those rights enumerated in the first eight amendments (9th Amendment). Instead, those ostensibly stated affirmative “rights” are actually limitations on the government. All else remains to a free people.
And if that isn’t clear enough, the 10th amendment says that, unless the Constitution specifically reserves an affirmative right for the federal government, or prohibits it to a state, all other rights — the universe of rights, whether or not articulated — belong to the states or the people within those states.
This is small government writ large. Civil rights mean small government, with the government limited primarily (although not entirely) to protecting citizens from itself.
Martin Luther King understood this. The Civil Rights movement was a stand against overt government encroachment on the rights of black people. The Southern States, ignoring the Declaration’s acknowledgment that all men inherently possessed civil rights, used the government as a weapon against the black people within its borders. The real problem blacks faced wasn’t that their fellow white citizens behaved hostilely, and even murderously, towards them. Had the government fulfilled its policing responsibilities and stepped forward to protect those citizens, Jim Crow would have been a short-lived phenomenon. The real problem was that Southern government itself encroached on citizens’ freedom.
It was Southern government that legislatively segregated schools, segregated housing, segregated business establishments, segregated marriages and enacted barriers between blacks and ballots. It was Southern government that was a “Form of Government [that had become] destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for black people],” making it the civil “Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
In the sixty years since the Civil Rights movement, the Left has entirely perverted the whole notion of civil rights. Civil Rights as the Founders intended meant the right of all citizens, regardless of race, color, religion, sexual, gender, etc., to be free of government constraints (although the government’s police powers certainly required the government to protect citizens when others amongst them worked to injure them or constrain their basic freedoms). Civil Rights as the Left demands it has become an all powerful government that is responsible for redistribution wealth, property, access to government and even happiness, from whites to blacks.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News