Today: The Defeat of ISIS, The Dutch beat the English at Dungeness, 1st Notice of the Holocaust, Royals behaving badly, Christmas Music, . . .
AND MORE [Read more…]
Today: The Defeat of ISIS, The Dutch beat the English at Dungeness, 1st Notice of the Holocaust, Royals behaving badly, Christmas Music, . . .
AND MORE [Read more…]
A look at some of the history and holidays on December 7
The U.S. and Japan were in ongoing peace negotiations when, at 7:48 AM Hawaii time on this day in 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Honolulu, home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The goal of the IJN was to convince the U.S. to come to an acceptable bargain, or barring that, to sufficiently damage the Pacific Fleet that it would not hinder Japanese planned offensive operations in the Pacific against resource rich Islands controlled variously by Britain, the Netherlands and the U.S.
Three U.S. Aircraft Carriers assigned to the Pacific Fleet were operating outside of Pearl Harbor when the IJN attacked. The IJN was aware of this but was operating on the premise, incorrect, that battleships would be the decisive weapons of naval warfare. The reality turned out to be that airpower launched from the carriers was decisive. Thus, the IJN attack at Pearl Harbor, even though it sunk 4 battleships and damaged four others, was not the decisive blow the Japanese had hoped. Moreover, the IJN forces concentrated on the ships in and around the harbor and the airplanes on the ground. The IJN did not attack Pearl Harbor’s support facilities whose loss would have severely hampered the American navy.
Ninety minutes after the IJN attack began, it was over. The U.S. have suffered 2,403 people killed and 1,143 were wounded, Japanese losses were minimal, but they withdrew from the battle thinking incorrectly that they had succeeded in their mission. The U.S. was able to regroup, and with its aircraft carriers intact, scored a strategic victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea six months later.
In 1994, Congress passed a resolution making Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in honor of the Americans who perished and were injured in the attack.
Reparations that economically penalize modern Americans for ancient acts to benefit other modern Americans are not justified by any fair reading of history.
2020 Democrat presidential candidates immersed in race-obsessed identity politics (as a substitute for the class-based politics of pure Marxism) are pushing the for the Holy Grail of victimhood: Reparations for slavery. They are undeterred by the fact that reparations are wholly impractical, utterly immoral, and counterproductive in that they do not address the problems plaguing the lower socio-economic half of the black community.
This will be the second of several posts dealing with the issue of reparations:
Part II – History of Slavery & Equities
Part III – Practical Impediments to Reparations
Part IV – Need for Reparations?
Part V – Marxism versus Melting Pots
The end game for those pushing reparations for slavery (who now include the top Democratic presidential candidates among their number) is to paint people with black skin as separate, permanent victims in a modern day America that is itself a hotbed of racism. That hotbed, they claim, is responsible for all of the problems of blacks. This is all part and parcel of the effort to destroy Western Civilization, starting with America, then to remake it into a socialist paradise. A necessary step in this endeavor is to delegitimize the Founders of this country, the Constitution, and the Judaeo-Christian religions.
Significantly, those who push for reparations for slavery in America almost invariably paint slavery as a sin unique to white Americans. No one ever seriously mentions the world-wide history of slavery, the American Civil War, or the unique role that white Americans and Brits — Christians, Jews and capitalists — played in ending slavery as both an American and a world-wide institution. Sadly (and dangerously) very little, if any, of that history comes to the attention of students in America today:
For 11 years, Professor Duke Pesta gave quizzes to his students at the beginning of the school year to test their knowledge on basic facts about American history and Western culture.
The most surprising result from his 11-year experiment? Students’ overwhelming belief that slavery began in the United States and was almost exclusively an American phenomenon, he said.
“Most of my students could not tell me anything meaningful about slavery outside of America,” Pesta told The College Fix. “They are convinced that slavery was an American problem that more or less ended with the Civil War, and they are very fuzzy about the history of slavery prior to the Colonial era. Their entire education about slavery was confined to America.” . . .
The Declaration of Independence was written for the colonists, to justify our call to arms, and to Britain’s enemies, to assure them of our intent.
Update: Read the Declaration of Independence while you still can. Apparently Facebook recently censored a portion of its publication as “hate speech.”
Historical Commentary: In 1760, Britain was on the verge of finally defeating France in the Seven Years War, the economy was growing, and virtually every American colonist was proud to be a British citizen. Even as Britain, out of misplaced jealousy and greed, slowly tried to strangle its colonies over the next sixteen years, the majority of colonists still wanted nothing more than to remain in the British fold.
That finally changed among a bare majority of patriots after shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, in 1775, and after Thomas Paine published the most read pamphlet in American history, Common Sense, justifying rebellion against Britain. A decision had to be made, though it was not clear that we would declare independence until, after several votes and much debate, we voted to do so on July 2, 1776. The colonists themselves needed a sufficient reason to fight — to create a new nation that would be better than the old. And we needed foreign support, particularly from Britain’s long term enemies, France and the Netherlands. Both would only offer their support to us if we unequivocally proclaimed that our intent was to form a new nation. The Declaration of Independence was commissioned for those two audiences.
Everyone knows Jefferson’s preamble, a restatement of Locke’s natural rights theory that itself is founded on Christianity. It was the high water mark of the English Enlightenment. Jefferson’s preamble provided the philosophical basis for our rebellion and the creation of our new nation.
After Jefferson’s preamble came the specific complaints drafted by joint effort of all of the members of the Second Continental Congress. Everyone knows that the colonists demanded that they only be taxed — and subject to laws — passed by their own governments, not by the Parliament sitting in London. But the members of the Second Continental Congress went far beyond that, setting forth in the Declaration of Independence the “long train of abuses,” to quote Locke, that accumulated over sixteen years and that now justified our rebellion.
As you read this, remember that, in July 1776, the outcome of this rebellion was anything but certain. Moreover, signing the Declaration was a death warrant for the signatories. If they lost the war and were caught, they faced being hanged, drawn and quartered for treason and their families thrown into absolute poverty.
The one high ranking member of the Revolution, Henry Laurens, who was caught by the Brits in 1780, was charged with treason and held in the Tower of London. Fortunately for Laurens, the Brits soon after lost the Battle of Yorktown and Britain exchanged Laurens for Lord Cornwallis, the British commander captured by the Americans at Yorktown.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
[This is a generic complaint against the King for retaining power to veto duly passed local laws and likely a specific complaint about the King’s repeated veto of laws passed by Pennsylvania to restrict the slave trade in that colony. ]
Judge Robert Yates, aka Brutus, warned of the problems of a Supreme Court acting without checks and balances in 1787, in the Anti-Federalist Papers.
Of all the issues facing us today, the one of overriding importance is who will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. It is a lit match atop a dry stack of timber. It should not be this way.
It is this way because, beginning a century ago, progressives on the Supreme Court began enacting their own policy preferences, effectively amending our Constitution and enacting laws by judicial fiat. They did so — and continue to do so — without check or balance, enacting fundamental changes to our nation. It should not be this way.
I have enormous respect for our Founders. By and large, they crafted a Constitution that would last the ages while protecting, to the maximum extent possible, our natural rights to life, liberty and property. They made but two glaring errors. The first was to fail to definitively deal with the issue of slavery, a ticking time bomb that exploded in 1861. The second glaring error was that they provided no check and balance upon the powers of the judicial branch in Article III of the Constitution. That slowly ticking time bomb, small in 1787, has arguably already exploded in this country, if in slow motion. [Read more…]
America’s current ideological civil war replays two core ideas from the late 18th century: America’s Enlightenment liberty vs. France’s socialist tyranny.
I am sure most readers of this blog are aware of the incident that occurred several weeks ago at Claremont MacKenna college, when progressive students — aided and abetted by the school administration and local police who merely stood by — succeeded in shutting down a speech by the scholar and prolific author, Heather MacDonald. Ms. MacDonald has been researching and speaking on law enforcement issues for three decades and has proven an erudite critic of the Black Lives Matter crowd and their progressive enablers in the past administration.
In the wake of the incident, Pomona College President David Oxtoby penned an open letter critical of the rioters who shut down Ms. MacDonald’s speech. I recently chanced upon a letter by three black students at Pomona College responding to Mr. Oxtoby. It is a horrific diatribe that gives some insights into the progressive Left’s most detestable aspects all of which are aimed squarely at undoing the Enlightenment. I’ll quote selectively from the letter, which you can read in its entirety here.
. . . Though this institution as well as many others including this entire country, have been founded upon the oppression and degradation of marginalized bodies, it has a liability [sic] to protect the students that it serves. The paradox is that Pomona’s past is rooted in domination of marginalized peoples and communities and the student body has a significant population of students from these backgrounds.
Given the substantive lack of racism in the American mainstream and the complete lack of institutionalized racism, the victim’s studies programs apparently teach that all governing systems in this country are irredeemably tarred with racism and, by their mere continued existence, somehow de facto function as racist institutions to the detriment of ____________ [fill in your “marginalized peoples” identity here]. The authors obviously see progressive paradigm as giving them absolute moral authority and the right to demand special treatment, not merely for past sins that occurred long before they were ever born, but for a dark fantasy of ongoing sins. [Read more…]
Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., is claiming that, for 238 years, everyone has been misreading the Declaration of Independence. According to her, a floating period, missing from some drafts but not from others, establishes that the Founding Fathers believed that it was the government’s, not the individual’s, responsibility to make sure we get our self-evident rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original.
That errant spot of ink, she believes, makes a difference, contributing to what she calls a “routine but serious misunderstanding” of the document.
The period creates the impression that the list of self-evident truths ends with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” she says. But as intended by Thomas Jefferson, she argues, what comes next is just as important: the essential role of governments — “instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” — in securing those rights.
“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Ms. Allen said. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”
So, according to Allen, the Founders weren’t committed to individual liberties. Instead, they were statists who wanted to vest power in the government, not the individual.
Let me just say as a predicate that the Founder’s own behavior when the established the Constitution and the Bill of Rights puts the lie to Allen’s contention. Had they been the statists she believes, they never would have established a limited government in the first place, one made even more limited when the Bill of Rights vested in the people specific powers that should have made the government, at all times, subordinate to the people.
But if Allen wants to play little games, by all means, let’s play little games.
The best way, of course, to determine the author’s intent, is to ask the author. Thomas Jefferson may have been dead 189 years, but he’s left us a document in which he compares his original draft of the Declaration (his preferred version), with the one that Congress eventually enacted. This document is Jefferson’s 1821 autobiography, in which he carefully spells out how the Declaration came into being.
Here is the pertinent material from Jefferson’s autobiography:
Congress proceeded the same day to consider the declaration of Independance [sic] which had been reported & lain on the table the Friday preceding, and on Monday referred to a commee of the whole. The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offence. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under those censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. The debates having taken up the greater parts of the 2d 3d & 4th days of July were, in the evening of the last, closed the declaration was reported by the commee, agreed to by the house and signed by every member present except Mr. Dickinson. As the sentiments of men are known not only by what they receive, but what they reject also, I will state the form of the declaration as originally reported. The parts struck out by Congress shall be distinguished by a black line drawn under them; & those inserted by them shall be placed in the margin or in a concurrent column.
[Editors note: text in boldface was removed for the final version of the Declaration, and text in italics was added].
A Declaration by the Representatives of the
United States of America, in General
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate & equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and [certain] inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, & 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 abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles, & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses & usurpations begun at a distinguished period and pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, & to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge [alter] their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of unremitting [repeated] injuries & usurpations, among which appears no solitary fact to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest but all have [all having] in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.
So, parsing the sentence, what does the colon mean?
Traditionally, aside from following the salutation in a business letter, colons have four primary usages. Wikipedia has as good a summary as any:
The colon introduces the logical consequence, or effect, of a fact stated before.
- There was only one possible explanation: the train had never arrived.
In this sense the colon introduces a description; in particular, it makes explicit the elements of a set.
- I have three sisters: Daphne, Rose, and Suzanne.
The colon introduces an appositive independent clause. In other words, the sentence after the colon is in apposition (grammatically parallel) to the one before the colon. Please note that this could also be simply considered an explanation of why Bob could not speak, and written without the capital He after the colon. Both would be technically correct.
- Bob could not speak: He was drunk.
- Bob could not speak: he was drunk.
Like a dash or quotation mark, a segmental colon introduces speech. The segmental function was once a common means of indicating an unmarked quotation on the same line. The following example is from the grammar bookThe King’s English:
- Benjamin Franklin proclaimed the virtue of frugality: A penny saved is a penny earned.
- Slut: Doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.
- Doctor: Because you’re always open!
So let’s break down that all important clause as Thomas Jefferson himself wanted it to be, with a colon.
The colon could mean a syntactical-deductive, meaning that the words following “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” are the logical consequences of that phrase:
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. The logical consequence of these unalienable rights is that, in order to ensure that they are given proper deference is the men create governments, the sole authority of which comes from men willingly subordinating themselves to a government entrusted to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This means that, if the government ceases to serve this function, it is a failed government, which the people can abolish.
The colon could mean a syntactical-descriptive, meaning that the words following “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” expand upon and explicitly define the preceding clause. This grammatical usage, however, which is most closely aligned to Allen’s interpretation, actually reduces the sentence to nonsense:
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: What we mean by “unalienable rights,” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” is that creating and destroying governments is the essence of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, or perhaps we mean that governments are the essence of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The colon could be introducing an appositive, independent clause, which an artsy way of tying somewhat independent thoughts together using grammatical parallelism. This makes for hideous, awkward writing, but again makes clear that government is subordinate to man, meant to sustain him, not control him:
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: Self-evident too is that government’s are endowed by man to ensure those unalienable rights and that government’s are destroyed by man when they fail to ensure those unalienable rights.
What the colon cannot do is serve as a segmental purpose, with the material following the colon being a quotation voiced by the material preceding the colon — unless we want to pretend that Jefferson was quoting the Creator:
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: [The Creator said] “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….”
The one thing that’s clear to me is that, no matter how one parses it, one can never escape the fact that the material following the period, dash, or colon is manifestly subordinate to the material preceding that period, dash, or colon. The best way to understand that is through one of my beloved outlines:
I. SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS
A. All men are created equal
B. The Creator endows all men with certain unalienable Rights, which include, but are not limited to:
3. The pursuit of Happiness
II. ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
A. Men create governments
B. Limitations on these man-created governments:
1. They exist to preserve self-evident truths
2. They have no power independent of that which men vest in them.
3. If they fail to protect self-evident truths (and presumably, if they seek to destroy those truths), men can
a. Alter the government
b. Abolish the existing government and create a new one that exists to serve man
Again, the above is just grammatical game-playing. The Constitution, which establishes a very limited representative government, with power doled out amongst three branches, so as to prevent the tyranny of any single branch; and the Bill of Rights, which establishes vast zones of human behavior that government cannot touch, establish unequivocally that Jefferson’s “colon” was intended to protect individuals, not to make them subordinate to the government.