Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Well, I'm off to Seattle in just a couple of hours. I'll be away until the new year, so postings between then and now are unlikely.

During the interim, let's get some feedback on books in general. What are your favorite novels and why?

For me, any such list would include

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
1984, by George Orwell
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Brave New World, by Alduous Huxley
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

These books demonstrate the greatness and the depravity of humankind. They offer us hope while reminding us all of the most basic human frailties that so often prevent us from achieving our ideals. After reading each one, I felt enlightened. Atlas Shrugged, in particular, changed the way that I looked at the world.

So I bid you adieu. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Kingdom for an Ounce of Talent

I've finally mastered picking arpeggios in various forms on my guitar. My current choice songs to practice include Johnny Cash's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman," and a version of Bob Dylan's "He Was a Friend of Mine" combined with Willie Nelson's cover from the film Brokeback Mountain. Say what you want about the film (it was well written, well acted, and well made--to the point that only a low-class bigot can object), but none can deny the perfectly melancholy sorrow of Nelson's vocals:

He was a friend of mine.
He was a friend of mine.
Everytime I think of him,
I just can't keep from cryin'.
'Cause he was a friend of mine.

He died on the road.
He died on the road.

A thousand miles from home,
He never reaped what he could sow,
And he was a friend of mine.
(Dylan's version differs in this verse. In lieu of the third and fourth lines, he says, "He never had too much money / To pay his room and board")

I stole away and cried.
I stole away and cried.
'Cause I never had too much money,
And I never was quite satisified,
But he was a friend of mine.

He never done no wrong.
He never done no wrong.
A thousand miles from home,
And he never done no harm.
And he was a friend of mine.

He was a friend of mine.
He was a friend of mine.
Whenever I hear his name, Lord,
I just can't keep from cryin

Were it not for my only mediocre talent at the guitar, my slightly bad--but not stlyistic Bob Dylan bad--vocals, and my lack of stage presence, I probably could have pursued a career in music.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Zoinks, like Scoob!"

I have been discussing scary books and movies with some people. I mentioned the novel The Shining as a very creepy novel (though I noted that 1984, with its realistic relevance is perhaps even scarier), and I talked about several creepy movies. Over the past few days we have examined the art of creating suspense and fear in literature and film.

For a coveted spot in the What I Hate (Usually) hall of fame, right above the name Science Guy (winner of the "I used to comment but am now too lazy and/or unable to challenge Aristos" award), post a comment about your scariest read or view. Don't just name it, but tell how it got to you. I'm not concerned if it "grossed you out," but if it really disturbed you on a higher level (e.g. the orginal version of "The Omen.").

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yadda, Yadda, Yadda

A recent article pointed to the fact that this is the time of year in which the smuggling of children across the U.S.-Mexican Border reaches its apex. Much was mentioned about children who suffered at the hands of their smugglers.

Is the fact that desperate parents wish to see their beloveds the real problem, or is the tyrannical immigration policy that makes "illegal immigration" a necessity the culprit? Think about it. Immigration policy essentially requires children to be chaperoned by less than respectable citizens.

Indeed, it's not the smugglers or the parents who are to blame. It is the United States Congress. How ironic that a nation dominated by the decendents of immigrants takes such a position against immigration. Or is it just that these immigrants happen to be Mexicans (Dios mio!)?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Been Busy ("Sorta")

In case you're wondering--and I flatter myself to think that you do--I have not posted much lately because I am a gaming neophyte.

That's right. I have become an XBox convert, having purchased an XBox 360 and Call of Duty 2.

As an XBox man, I am a converted Playstationist: a reprobate to some, I suppose, but perfectly happy as I now am.

Sony's Playstation3 had two things working against it. First, it was cost prohibitive when compared to the Xbox360. Compared to Nintendo's Wii--which I also considered--the PS3 is even worse. Second, it took too long. I waited and waited for the PS3, but there comes a moment when enough is enough, and that moment came on Thanksgiving.

So, the next time I go nearly two weeks without posting, you might wonder which new XBox 360 game I've picked up.

A Christmas Album

I usually dislike when musicians try their hands at original Christmas songs. Even some of my favorite singer/songwriters just seem to get it wrong.

Yes, I love the classics. On iTunes, I have over 50 versions of "The Christmas Song" (Chestnutt's roasting on an open fire..."), 25 versions of "Let it Snow," 80 versions of "Silent Night," 38 versions of "Winter Wonderland," 50 versions of "White Christmas" (nothing like a Christmas song written by a Jew), 20 versions of "What Child is This?" and lots of the other standards ("Jingle Bells," "Silver Bells," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," etc.

In all, I have over 2,500 Christmas songs, most of which are traditional songs like those above.

And yet, perhaps my favorite Christmas album is The Statler Brothers' Christmas Card. Yes, it has several old-fashioned Christmas songs, but the ones that I enjoy most are their original ones. Consider the lyrics on a few, and then go out and pick up a copy of this remarkable Christmas album.

To the following song there's a sincerity and a longing that is either grateful or melancholy, depending upon your mood.

"I'll Never Spend a Christmas"
The year you were snow queen
At the high school Christmas ball.
The night we got snowed in
And prayed it wouldn't thaw.

The year I bought your bracelet,
And you bought me one too.
I'll never spend a Christmas
That I don't think of you.

The year I helped your daddy trim
The outdoor tree with lights.
You worked part time at Penny's
And I took you home at night.

The year the senior class sold
Christmas trees and mistletoe
And we never thought that someday
This would seem so long ago.

The Christmas Eve you told me
You loved me, and I knew
I'd never spend a Christmas
I wouldn't think of you.

The night we planned the party
To decorate the tree.
It snowed so hard, no one could come.
No one, that is, but me.

The Christmas Eve I told you
I loved you, well I do.
And I'll never spend a Christmas
I won't be loving you.

The following song begins with a drawn out cello and 4/4 beat. It's mood is similar to the one above.

Christmas to Me
Christmas to me
Is wherever she might be.
Singing carols With the choir
Haning stockings by the fire.
Making Christmas bows.
Hanging mistletoe.
'Cause where she is, I want to be
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to me
Is as far as I can see.
Pasture fields covered with snow,
White Christmas on the radio.
Children and sleds
And momma's gingerbread.
At home with just the family,
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to me
Is a tall cedar tree.
Decorated and adorned.
With Christmas balls and strings of popcorn.
Tinsel wrapped with care
With webs of angel hair,
A final star atop the tree
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to me
Is the new born baby.
Lying quietly in the hay
When the angels came to say,
"Peace on Earth to men."
And I pray for peace again.
Scenes of the nativity
That's what Christmas is to me.

Christmas to you,
May it never be blue.
And may all your dreams come true:
Merry Christmas to you.

While the next songs is a bit hokey in some ways, it sounds very good at this time of year.
Something You Can't Buy

The greatest Christmas present
Is something you can't buy.

When World War II was over,
We trimmed the tree alone
But we saved the star for daddy,
'Cause daddy was coming home.
We bought mamma a new dress.
We bought daddy a tie.
But he brought us each something
That money couldn't buy.

The greatest Christmas present
Is something you can't buy.

I talked to pa this evening
For an hour on the phone
He said, "Don't spend your money on presents
We just want you here at home."
But we'll buy momma a new dress
And daddy another tie.
And we'll spend lots of time together
And that's something you can't buy.

The greatest Christmas present
Is something you can't buy.

Someday, and I know it's coming
When all of us won't be together every Christmas,
You know daddy's seventy-three.
And to pay back all he gave me,
I can't, but I will try.
I'll pass along to my kids
That something you can't buy.

Who Do You Think?
There are people who are whispering,
And the rumors are running wild.
There's a woman who's not married,
But she's gonna have a child.

Her name is Mary. She's a virgin
From down in Nazereth, now listen close.
She's gonna marry a man named Joseph,
But the baby's father is the Holy Ghost.

And who do you think could believe such a thing?
Could believe that this story is true?
And who do you think could believe such a thing?
Well, here's hoping to heaven you do.

Now they're saying she had the baby
In a barn in Bethlehem.
And a star moved round the heavens
'Till it stopped right over there.
Then some shepherds said an angel
Came and told them about the birth.
They always knew men went to heaven
But now God had come to Earth.

And who do you think could believe such a thing?
Could believe that this story is true.
Who do you think could believe such a thing,
Well here's hoping to heaven you do.

To Dear Old Aunt Mardi

I have been called an imbicile because I wrote in my own name on the ballot this past November. Alas, I may be. However, I must submit that I am far less the idiot than those who were listed as official candidates.

Until this greater issue is resolved, I will continue to vote for the man most qualified--even if it is a "wasted," and/or "absurd," and/or "inappropriate" vote.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's Christmas Time (Call the Lawyers)

What does this guy think? That Christmas is a time of peace and love? What a freaking hippie.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Humble Pie

It's time to be a man and admit that I blew it. I cost my good friend his first buck because I was either selfish, foolish, or both.

So let this moment mark a moment in time.

I apologize, "BA." I shouldn't have shot at (and missed) what was rightfully your buck.

Still, I bought you coffee that morning, so I guess we're even?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Hunt

I am a hunter. Many acquaintances act surprised when they learn this for the first time, as if a man so well educated and highly intelligent cannot possibly enjoy firing arrows and bullets into the hearts of defenseless animals--as if hunting can only be enjoyed by the ignorant and stupid. Nonetheless, I am a hunter, and it appeals to both my education and my intellect.

I really only hunt deer and rabbits, but given the opportunity, I would probably hunt just about anything.

In the formerly great state of Michigan, this is now "gun hunting" season for white tailed deer.

I went today, along with my sidekick, the boy wonder, whose secret identity must be kept. He can only be named by his super initials, "BA" He is called "BA" because a client of our place of employment once called him an arrogant bastard. Even though that should make him "AB," not "BA," we'll let that one slide--especially since we're letting slide that I am the most arrogant bastard at our place of employment. Instead, I am left with the nom de plume "Hannibal" because I apparently come up with the good ideas. So tell me, then, why do my ideas matter for crap when it comes to Election Day?

That's right, I'm confessing to being an arrogant bastard. What's more, since the "AB" is changed conveniently to "BA" in order to fit within the nomenclature necessary for an A-Team allusion, I am doubly more qualified to be "BA." Yes, my sidekick is an "AB", but he is not a "BA." I, on the other hand, am an "AB" and a "BA." However, I will bow gracefully, with just this trifle of an objection because at least "Hannibal" gets to smoke the good cigars.

But back to hunting.

"BA" and I went deer hunting today. "Murdock" wasn't there, because he is a wussy. "Face" wasn't there because the three of us are unable to forge friendships with enough people who don't mind being pigeonholed as members of the A-Team.

We went hunting on a farm in southeast Michigan, about 1.5 hours north of Detroit.

"BA" picked me up at about 5:25 AM. We stopped for coffee and reached our destination by about 6:25 AM. He looked decent in his mossy oak bibs and coat, and I looked stellar in my blaze orange camo jumpsuit. He carried an excellent 12 gauge rifled-barrel shotgun, and had decent skills to back it up. I carried an adequate 12-gauge smoothbore "slug" barrel shotgun, but I had peerless skills to back it up. Before you dismiss this description as merely the product of a "BA," note that I have killed three deer--two with a bow and one with a rifle--and he has killed none.

We had a short walk from the farmhouse to our tree stands, and we were both ready to hunt before dawn.

By the way, if you don't know what deer hunting means, it means being able to sit for long hours in semi-to-unbearable cold.

That's what we did.

He was on an "island" of small trees, centered around a giant oak, all of which were right in the middle of a large field of recently plowed soybeans.

I was on a medium-sized birch tree before a carefully groomed oasis of clover surrounded by brush and woods.

Not much happened as the sun rose around 6:50 AM. I heard many squirrels and bird, but I saw no deer. However, sometime between nine and ten in the morning, I heard a commotion in the brush. Shortly thereafter, I saw a very large doe bounding into "BA's" soybean field. She moved pretty fast, so he never got off a shot, even though we had a doe tag between the two of us.

I noticed something about that doe, other than the fact that she was very big. She seemed to be running away from something. In fact, when she reached the opposite end of the soybean field, she looked across from whence she came.

That's when I figured that there was a buck on her tail.

For those of you whose entire knowledge of deer hinges upon having seen Walt Disney's Bambi, I hate to break this to you, but male deer do not court female deer. Deer are not like people. When a doe is in heat, she gives off a scent. That scent triggers a primeval instinct in the buck--men, you've felt this before whenever you've been around an attractive woman or climbed the rope in gym class. When a buck finds a doe-in-heat, he simply takes her. She usually tries to run, but he catches her. I've seen it, and it's less than romantic.

As it turns out, there was a buck on her tail. He was a bit more cautious about running across the field, but he cannot be blamed. After a few days of gun season, he had almost certainly learned that there were dangers lurking everywhere.

This particular buck was huge. "BA" tells me that he had at least eight points to his rack. I was too far away to count his tines, but I could still tell that he would make a fine trophy and dinner for several meals.

The buck bounded toward the doe, and he stopped about twenty yards away from "BA." I could see it all, and yet "BA" did not shoot.

I wondered if perhaps "BA" had fallen asleep, for this tends to happen to hunters who wake up two hours before dawn.

I checked the buck out through my scope. He was a big one, that's for sure. Moreover, he was standing broadside to me. This means that I had a clear shot at his side--where both lungs and the heart are vulnerable.

"BA" still didn't shoot. I was about 100-120 yards away, so any shot of mine would be tough--given my gun. Still, I thought that a deer like this does not come around every day. And if "BA" wasn't going to shoot him, then, damn it, I was. So I zeroed in on the kill spot--right behind his right shoulder blade.

The shot was there, and I took it. Little did I know that my brother-in-law--to whom the gun belonged--had sighted the thing in at fifty yards. I was firing at at least one hundred yards, which meant at least a four-inch drop.

Three things happened when I fired. First, my right ear began to ring. Second, that deer jumped up and started to run. Third, "BA" opened fire.

I thought for sure that the buck was wounded mortally as it ran into the woods opposite the soybean field.

"Did I get it?" I shouted to "BA."

"Which one?" he yelled back.

"The one by you," I replied.

"The one about ten feet from me?" he countered.

"Yes!" I sang.

"I don't know," he answered.

I took my time climbing down from my ladder stand, for a good hunter knows not to chase wounded game before it dies. I crossed my clover field, through the brush and into "BA's" soybean field, and saw that he too had climbed down from his stand.

We spoke briefly about how big the son-of-a-gun was, and I apologized for shooting before him--since the buck was obviously in his hunting-zone. However, I maintained that my broadside shot was good.

We quickly found the tracks. They weren't hard to spot. However, as we followed them toward the opposing woods, I noticed that there was no blood trail. "BA" countered that it sometimes takes a while for a blood trail to show up, so we followed the tracks into the woods.

However, no matter how far we followed the tracks, we could find no blood. That's when I had to admit that I had missed. Since I was shooting at between 100 and 120 yards, I figured that the drop would be no more than an inch or two. That was why I had aimed between the heart and the spine. However, since my brother-in-law had sighted the gun in at 50 yards--which I only just learned--my shot passed just below the deer's torso.

To make matters worse, "BA" was ready to shoot but was only waiting for the dear to turn broadside to him--a straight-on sternum shot runs the risk of perforating the stomach and intestines, something that you want to avoid if you plan on gutting a deer (the last thing you want is to find a bunch of crap--literally--strewn throughout the otherwise delicious meat).

In an instant, after my shot missed, the buck ran. That made "BA's" shot miss. So even though the both of us shot at the same deer, we both missed. I confessed my part, and we both admitted that the buck had escaped unscathed.

While "BA" saw more deer afterwards, all that I managed to do was grow colder. I moved to a couple of other spots, but for the most part, I stayed in the same spot until dark.

We were skunked, and it was my fault. I am very sorry, "BA." Next time, I'll lay off for a second--just so long as you take the damn shot!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson has released a new Album called "Songbird." It is brilliant, and I suggest checking it out.Nelson has become a cross-genre legend, in the same way that Johnny Cash managed in his final decade. However, while Cash's "American Recordings" (his last five albums from 1994-2005) betray the artist's frailty--such that I was not surprised when I heard that Cash had died--"Songbird" betrays nothing but Nelson's genius.

By all means, the man should probably be dead, but he sounds great.While Cash's final albums sounded tired and weary, Nelson's sounds more poignant and reflective. He is tired, but not exhausted. He is old, but not ready to die. (Contrast this with the message and tone of Cash's final song--the last one he wrote--"Like the 309," in which he begins, "It should be a while before I meet Doctor Death..." but anyone listening knows that "a while" is measured in days, not years).

Since Elvis's passing, no one else comes close to Nelson's vibrato. And while Elvis sang vibrato like no one else, there is more lingering emotion in Nelson's. He sings his lyrics with a sighing "alas," but not necessarily a depressing one. His are the vocals of an aged man with, as Frank Sinatra sang so brilliantly in "My Way," "Regrets...a few, but then again too few to mention." For all of you youngsters out there, I recommend that you dip into Willie Nelson's discography.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Democracy, Shmemocracy

Today is election day, that day of the season upon which we all fool ourselves into believing in popular sovereignty--not unlike how those chaps fool themselves into thinking that they get a whole bunch of virgins if only they blow themselves and a bunch of Jews or Christians with them.

I went to vote for Proposal 4--to place restrictions upon the state's ability to seize one man's home in order to sell it to another (it's all under the guise of "eminent domain"). I ended up voting for Proposal 3 also (if you don't like dove hunting, then don't hunt doves), for Proposal 2 (I have a dream that one day my children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character), and for Proposal 1. I did not vote for any people, unless you count my having written myself in for governor and the state board of education. I also did not vote for Proposal 5 because I saw it as a conflict of interest at best. If I don't believe in forcibly redistributing my wealth to others, then I cannot ask for others to be forced to distribute their wealth to me. Furthermore, trapping the funding of education at the level of inflation is short-sighted and a bad idea. Again, I must reiterate that I did not vote for any people. I do not respect anyone who presumes to govern me.

But something happened at the polls that turned my stomach, and forced me out of my not-posting-sloth.

I was in line waiting for my ballot, explaining why I wasn't going to vote for Dick DeVos, even though mommy was going to do so. As Natalie and I stood in line, a slack-jawed 300 pound-er with a two sizes too small jacket and hair to make the rattiest of mops attractive approached and said to one of the equally pathetic (but "official") folks behind the desk (i.e. ugly folding table), "I'm in adolt edjicashon, an' I git credit if'n I kin prove that I voted. Kin you give me some kinda reseat?"

That's when my heart sank. It was bad enough being surrounded by obviously very blue (think navy blue x10) collar types who couldn't even define the word constitution, let alone identify provisions of the constitution. Now there's some adult ed. teacher who's encouraging his obviously "challenged" (i.e. stupid) students (let's be honest: there's a reason why they're in adult ed.) to vote.

If you want to say that everyone has the right to vote, then fine. However, that doesn't mean that it's right for everyone to vote. There's a reason why the founding fathers feared democracy, and I saw (and smelled it) at point-blank range.

My education no longer mattered. My careful reasoning and recognition of Natural Law was out the door. My disinterested approach--I didn't vote for or against Proposal 5--became a footnote at best. Because of universal adulthood suffrage, someone who in a scientific study could probably disprove Darwin’s theory of evolution canceled out my votes.

More and more, I agree with the original idea of restricting the right to vote to those who hold property. This would avert what Bastiat calls "legal plunder."

More and more, I believe wholeheartedly that anyone who receives federal or state monies should be disenfranchised, lest such people use their "right" to vote as a tool for theft.

Bravo, democracy. Ave Granholm. Veni, vici, deplori.

Ubi sunt?

Saturday, November 04, 2006


All is vanity.

I've been reading (and I'll read some more of) the King's wisdom.

Tomorrow I'll be more apt to write something worth reading.

Friday, October 27, 2006


My historical rant was not directed toward any particular individual. It was meant to combat an idea, not a man. Please keep that in mind, commentators.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Blind Target

An organization for the blind is suing Target because its (Target's) web site is not user friendly for the visually impaired.

Then don't buy crap from Target. No company should have to cater to the blind. If the blind don't like it, then they can shop elsewhere online or in any other fashion.

Whatever happened to a person's right to property?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not a Tax Revolt

So some assert that the average colonist was just fine with the British, and that the war and move for independence were engineered merely by wealthy men who did not wish to pay taxes.


It was not a crowd of wealthy men who threw stones and snowballs at redcoats in downtown Boston on March 5, 1770 (The Boston Massacre). There was no conscription (draft), so why did so many poor and modest Americans enlist to fight the British if they were essentially happy with British policy?

Americans of every class fought fiercely for independence. It was not to avoid paying taxes that wealthy men risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor; and it was not because they were hoodwinked that the middle and lower classes chose to suffer eight long years of war.

Had Hancock, Washington, Franklin, et alia been captured, they would, in Franklin's words, "hang separately." Wealthy men do not risk their lives for a few pence.

Remember that the Battles of Lexington and Concord happened because the General Gage was determined to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Hancock especially was extremely wealthy and would have stayed extremely wealthy without a war for independence. Actually, since Hancock was a well-known smuggler, he actually benefited financially by British mercantilist policies. Without all the duties on imports, Hancock would not have had any business in smuggling.

Many of the wealthy leaders during the war saw their fortunes suffer. John Rutledge, of South Carolina never recovered financially from his war losses. Are we to believe that he sacrificed the bulk of his estate because he disliked paying duties on tea?

Redcoats pillaged Francis Lewis’s home on Long Island, and his wife was taken prisoner for several months. John Hart suffered similar losses. Carter Braxton, whose massive wealth was heavily invested in commercial enterprises, lost a fortune over the course of the war as many of his ships were either captured or destroyed. During the war, the British occupied the homes of Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Hancock. Much of Philip Livingston's property was occupied and looted by the British.

Such fortunes are not risked by an aversion to relatively small taxes.

As far as sacred honor ("sacred Honour" in the Declaration of Independence) goes, let's not forget that had the Americans failed, they would have gone down in history as criminals and traitors. Had these men simply sat on their hands during the 1770's, they would have enjoyed status and privilege in the colonies. They valued honor far more than we do. They probably valued it more than their lives and their fortunes. The historical degradation that they would have suffered had they lost does not even approach equality with the tax burden they felt under the Townshend Acts et alia.

But perhaps a wealthy person might risk his life and fortune. However, what kind of father sacrifices his children to avoid paying taxes? Abraham Clark's son was captured by the British and imprisoned in miserable conditions on the HMS Jersey, and John Witherspoon's son was killed at the Battle of Germantown in 1777.

On top of this, let's not forget that once independence was secured and the Constitution ratified less than a decade later, these men who supposedly risked so much to avoid paying taxes to the British established a government that could tax them just as easily. If they really fought to avoid taxes, wouldn't they have made a government that couldn't tax them?

There's a well-known tribute that includes many of these names and similar details, but it is not a specimen of accurate research. Nonetheless, the point is that these men risked their fortunes.

Those who argue that this war was a mere tax revolt led by wealthy white men are stricken with Marxism: a disease of the mind that spreads to the soul. Marxism is often not fatal to those most stricken with it. However, it causes its victims to organize governments and economies that lead to famine and death. Millions of Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Cubans and others have died due to Marxism. Some people need to realize that Howard Zinn is not a great historian, and that his "research" is biased toward socialist ends. Since socialism leads to poverty and death, and Howard Zinn promotes socialism, then it follows that Howard Zinn promotes poverty and death. Those who follow Zinn are either fools or villains. There is no in between.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Alan Jackson's New CD Sucks

I've got to tell you. If you're an Country/Western fan in general and an Alan Jackson fan in particular, you will utterly despise Jackson's latest CD: Like Red on a Rose.

Perhaps it has some artistic merit. Jackson certainly does step out of his pigeonhole for this one. However, I liked his little genre peg, and this one not so much.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Historical Rant

In 1775, a group of farmers from the areas of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, armed themselves with their own firearms and faced a well-equipped and well-trained professional army of redcoats.

These farmers wanted three things. Two were immediate and practical. Governor/General Thomas Gage had deployed the redcoats with two objectives: arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams (both "Sons of Liberty" who, in today's language, would be called either "terrorists" or "insurgents;" and to seize the local militia's arsenal in Concord, which would render that region's colonists unable to resist the continued revokation of their rights.

The third reason was more idealistic. However, contrary to popular "textbook" opinion, it was not revolutionary. Englishmen had valued the concept of limited government and a social contract for over 500 years, going back all the way to Magna Carta (1215 AD).

The Proclamation of 1763 deprived colonists of their liberty and property rights (in the Ohio Valley, for which they fought the French and Indian War). To enforce the proclamation line, thousands of redcoats were garrisoned in forts scattered along the Appalachian frontier. This standing army during a time of peace was meant only to intimidate colonists--and government should fear the citizens, not the other way around. On top of this tyranny, taxes were necessary to fund these very same soldiers' quarters.

A year later, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. A basically direct tax with no purpose other than to raise revenues for the British government. The problem with this was that it taxed Englishmen (colonists) who had no representation in parliament. Magna Carta prohibits this, as did hundreds of years of English/British tradition. Colonists resisted this tyranny via organized protests/petitions (e.g. the Stamp Act Congress), boycotts on British goods, and "extra-legal" forms of Civil Disobedience, including the physical destruction of stamps as well as the tarring and feathering of royal officials.

Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1765, but replaced it with the Declaratory Act, which served as an effective "Blank Check" for Parliament. According to this act, they could tax and govern colonists regardless of representation in Parliament.

The Declaratory Act was followed by the Townshend Acts, a series of tariffs that would probably have been accepted by Americans as necessary to regulate trade. However, in the wake of the Stamp Act et al, Colonists were quite angry with the Townshend Acts. That the Townshend Acts allowed for writs of assistence--basically these were search warrants which required no probable cause and virtually no limits--only hastened the conflict. These were enacted in order for royal officials to better police colonial commerce--to catch and punish smugglers. While this seems perfectly correct in terms of government's power to maintain "law and order," colonists saw it as a tyrannical jab at their property rights. Remember, these taxes should never have been put in place to begin with. Boycotts and protests led to the repeal of most of the Townshend Acts, except for the one on tea.

The British East India Company enjoyed a state-established monopoly on the colonial tea industry. However, like all government subsidized industries, it ran its finances inefficiently and was in trouble. The tax on tea was meant to support The BEIC, and even though the tea was to be sold at bargain prices, agitators in Boston knew the real deal. Thus the Boston Tea Party was born. While many saw the attack against private property as a crime that was actually detrimental to the principles by which colonists were resisting British policy (I'm sorry for the complicated verbage), most colonists saw it for what it was. A bold act of civil disobedience. It's not like the BEIC was acting alone. It was acting as an arm of the British government, a tryannical body that no longer respected colonists' rights.

The Boston Tea Party was followed by the Coercive Acts, a series of punitive measures laid mostly against Boston (e.g. The Port Act closed the Port of Boston until the Tea from the Tea Party was paid for). It also called for further quartering of soldiers in colonists' (mostly Bostonians' homes), and a Quebec Act, which threatened to rob New England's local communities of their relative autonomy by placing them under the French laws of now British Quebec.

As things got worse in Boston, this led to the hunt for Hancock and Adams and the militia's arsenal (what I mentioned in the beginning).

A month before the battles of Lexington and Concord, Patrick Henry asked the House of Burgesses in Virginia what the British Ministry had done in the past ten years that had not been tyrannical and aimed at depriving colonists of their rights. He also called for war. He wasn't a prophet. He was a student of history.

Oh for the times when men stood up for their rights and did not content themselves to essentially meaningless rants....

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The More They Stay The Same

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A recent article in the New York Times complains that immigrants are sending billions of dollars to support their families in other countries. The neo-mercantilists (i.e. typical pseudo-economists and politicians) condemn this.

At least real, old school mercantilists were concerned about real gold. These neo-mercantilists are concerned about worthless script.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I apologize for not having much in regards to recent posts. I have been busy. I will continue to be so until the weekend.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Quick Jot

My daughter is thrilled with the prospects of a new sibling. She wants a little sister--even though I told her that a little sister would place severe budget restrictions on weddings (since I would be obliged to pay for two instead of one). She says that will be fine. She'll just marry someone who has lots of money and can pay for it himself, someone like a doctor or a teacher. To her, apparently, I seem to be wealthy; for while she needs to save money in order to buy Slurpees, I just whip out the magical debit card.

My son doesn't quite get it. He thinks that the baby needs to get out of mommy's tummy. Asked if he wants a brother or a sister, he replied, "I want a toy gun."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Mild Rant

I'm still pretty much in the dumps, so this is fairly brief.

People are complaining because some are paying more for their Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Perhaps the best way to deal with this griping would be simply to cut them off. Which is worse: more expensive drugs, or no drugs at all? Is it not enough for these people that young, productive workers already subsidize the bulk of their drug costs?

Need is not a justification.

I think that I'll head over to the grocery store and complain when they tell me that I've got to pay for the food. When production and distribution costs rise, I'll complain that I'm being ripped off with higher prices.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Down With the Sickness

There are such things as absolutes, but most of our experiences are relative.

For instance, I feel terrible. My throat is sore, my nose can't decide if it wants to be stuffed up or runny, I've got a mild cough, and almost demobilizing lethargy.

On the other hand, I was able to go to another room while my wife watched Dancing With The Stars.

I could have been so sick that I could not have moved, and I would have been forced to watch that rubbish.

It reminded me a bit of what Groucho Marx said (I'll quote it, but it's probably at least partly paraphrased), "Television is very educational. Everytime someone switches one on, I go to another room and read a good book."

I guess it's true. There's a silver lining on every cloud, though from here it looks as though my clouds might be lined with mucus.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Forward This If You Love God

This blog is entitled "What I Hate (Usually)," so this is the proper forum.

I hate those Goddamned chain-emails with a Christian message (Hell yes, I used "Goddamned" for its irony. "Hell" however, was just plain vulgarity).

So what's the real message with these poorly written pieces of trash that even the Pope would delete? If I don't forward it to all of my friends, I'm going to Hell? Is that it? If I do forward it to all of my friends (i.e. both of them), then there's a mansion reserved for me in Heaven? (This is what the last Christ-Chain-Link message implied). What kind of theological nonsense is that? When Jesus was on Calvary, did that one thief text to several of his friends that Jesus was awesome in order for Jesus to say that they will soon be together in paradise? Seriously, I'd rather blow myself up for 40 virgians than have a mansion, even if getting the mansion meant nothing more than pissing off everyone of my email contacts.

Often, these messages say, "If you love Jesus, then forward this to X number of people." What a scam. The next time that you get one of these, send a new one back to whomever sent you the original, but end it with "If you love Jesus, then sign all of your assets over to me and kill yourself with a dull butterknife." That ought to put the damn idiot in a real predicament.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh Baby.

Science has proven something, and it's going to cost me a lot of money.

In the words of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, "...the rabbit done died."

I'm going to be a dad, again.

Let my experience be a lesson to all. It doesn't matter how smart, charming, and attractive you are. You can still have mishaps, and some mishaps are very, very consequential. These mishaps especially occur in conjunction with a few glasses of any given fermented beverage.

About two and a half weeks following just an occasion, I was cooking up some hamburger for lunch (I'm on a low-carb diet--down ten pounds in thirteen days). Suddenly, from the bathroom I heard the all too familiar "Honey, come quick!" Usually, this means that I am on bug stomping duty. Needless to say, I was somewhat annoyed at being called away from the stove to kill an insect that was probably the size of a pencil tip.

I stood outside of the bathroom door and asked "What's up?"

I expected to hear, "Big spider. Kill it." Instead, I heard, "Look."

Although I knew that she was late on her period, I was not prepared for what I saw when I opened the door. Her cycle is pretty regular. She should not have been ovulating, and I should not have had an entire army at my disposal--if you get my meaning.

There she was, holding a pregnancy test. Her hand was trembling, but I got the picture really fast.

"Holy crap," I said (actually, I said something else, but it was one of George Carlin's Seven Words That You Can't Say on TV).

Although there are no false positives when it comes to these tests (only false negatives), I went to Rite Aid in search of a second opinion. It also was positive. I'm pretty sure that at some point I uttered a few other words that cannot be said on network TV. Hell, I'll bet that even HBO would be squeamish about what I said.

In an instant, I saw my Harley riding away--being driven by a baby, no less. I am also certain that this baby needed its diaper changed and would eventually go to an expensive college.

In that same instant, I saw myself--as all soon-to-be-parents do--seated at the Nobel Prize Awards ceremony, watching my offspring accept an award (the category is irrelevant).

I was torn.

Oh well. It's unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. I thought that I was done changing diapers and such, but that's not how it's meant to be (which is an ironic way to put it, since I don't believe in fate).

We spent the bulk of the afternoon looking for a bigger house, one with four bedrooms, and discussing potential names. I immediately excluded any names in the top ten most popular of both genders. We're thinking, for a boy: Robert Frank (after two of our dads--I have two, as my biological father has been deceased since I was five, and I already have a son named after him), Nicholas Scott (I have a deceased cousin by the name of Nicholas, but that's not what draws me to the name), Thomas More (one of my historical heroes and my confirmation name--yes, I'm the dorky adult neophyte who chooses such a confirmation name), or Thomas Jefferson (another historical favorite). For a girl, we might be settled on Alyssa Danielle (Alyssa was the hottest girl whom I knew from eighth to twelfth grade, and my wife wants an "Ally").

It just occurred to me that the PS3 and big screen TV will probably have to wait a few more years [insert any number of words that you can't say on TV. The combination should be lengthy to the point of disbelief].

Friday, October 06, 2006


I'm in a pretty melancholy mood. I blame Neil Diamond for writing and performing, "I Am, I Said."

Damn it, I knew that I should have listened to "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

An Admission and an Observation

When I was much younger (late teens), I imagined a special, covert department of the executive branch that had essentially one purpose: to assassinate dangerous individuals.

I was, at the time, a hard core "conservative" who believed that, in the hands of the right people (e.g. other hard core conservatives), government could be good, and that decent from this "good" was, by definition, "evil." I was so deluded that I actually considered a "Domestic Affairs" branch of the same department. I admit this with a deep sense of shame.

I have since denounced my former state of ignorance (but it was bliss).

By the way, before my left-wing readers rejoice (e.g. my great-aunt, in particular), I am not in your camp either.

The problem with left-wingers, right-wingers, and even the indecisive centrists is that they still imagine a powerful state. History teaches us that no people are safe when the state is powerful. The people are not secure in their property--the sin of left-wingers (e.g. taxation and the redistribution of property).

The people are not secure in their liberty--the sin of both wings.

And they are not secure in their lives--the sin of both wings.

Secondary level social studies teachers are directed to praise the so-called "Social Contract" of John Locke, that government exists to protect life, liberty, and the ownership of property. Ironically, it's government that most threatens these rights. Quantify and qualify the loss of property, liberty, and life to "private sector" thugs. Do the same with government thugs. I'll bet that Stalin alone wins for the statists.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Have you ever wondered exactly how many people have died waiting for the FDA to authorize a treatment that cures a fatal disease?

Do we blame the disease for these people's deaths, or do we blame the FDA? Perhaps its the drug manufacturers who simply didn't bribe the FDA officials enough to get the drug on the market faster.

To Science Guy, Et Al.

Based upon all of my past discussions of the last ten years or so, I would have to say that scientists--not theologians--are the most arrogant and illogical fellows thus far.

"Science types" like to think of themselves as the owners of empirical knowledge, but just listen to what they so often say. Nothing of it is either empirical or particularly knowledgeable. And yet when I make such an assertion, they will balk aloud with nonsensical complaints.

Bring it on, ye who claim to know but do not! Simply being able to identify mitochondria and to distinguish mitosis from meiosis does not make you a wise man. Your philosophy is like the vacuole: quiet suitable for non-thinking vegetation, but not valuable for the thinking man.

Science without the scientific method is not science. It is pseudo-science at best. It is the offspring of phrenology--a fine hypothesis, were it not for all the facts against it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Narrative

There was no good reason for the traffic to be so slow on Utica Road between Hayes and Schoenherr at 6 P.M. From my vantage, it appeared as if some idiot was trying to turn left. However, from my vantage I noticed that he had every opportunity to do so but didn't.

Soon cars began to pass on the right shoulder. I could have, but I didn't. I figured that this Yahoo would eventually turn.

That's when I noticed--about seven cars in front of me--that there was no Yahoo. Each car was rolling up to something, stopping briefly, and then passing it on the right.

There must be some kind of debris in the road, I thought.

After a few moments passed, only one car remained between me and the supposed debris. Still, I could see nothing. The car in front of me paused for an awkwardly long period of time before skirting along the side, and that's when I saw the debris.

It was a dog, dead (or dying) in the middle of the road. I pulled forward a few feet, but felt my heart sink as I began to process what laid before me. It was not just a dog. It was a beagle. I have a beagle, and she's small with a thick red collar. This beagle was small and wore a big read collar. My heart sank.

"That's my girl," I said aloud to no one. I threw the transmission into park--to hell with the people behind me--and I got out. While I was doing so, two thoughts ran concurrently through my mind: Why is she so far from home? And my dog is dead. I'm pretty sure that in those same seconds, I also managed to envision myself consuming a bottle of scotch later in the evening.

I approached the dog and quickly felt ill with sadness and revulsion. The dog was dead, and recently so. It lay in a pool of its own blood. It's eyes were wide open, as was its mouth, from which spewed the puddle of fresh blood.

I knelt beside the dog and began to turn its collar over to look for the ID tag that would confirm that it was mine. The thick smell of blood was thick in the air.

I saw no ID tag, and a better look at the dog told me that it wasn't mine. It was a little bigger (mine's a runt), and it's tail was normal (mine has an L-shaped bend in it's top 7th). Furthermore, mine has well-worn (blackened) paws, and this one's paws were predominantly pink. This dog was less than a year old, and it was dead. Killed by a car on Utica road, 6 P.M. on September 26, 2006.

Thank God, I thought to myself as I looked at the once beautiful but now gory display of an animal. Only then did I realize that my car was parked in the middle of a busy two-lane road, and I stood in front of it, on one knee, before someone else's dead pet.

I knew that I needed to get into my car and drive off. I felt the urgent need to call home to confirm that my dog was indeed safe and sound. However, I felt obliged to move the carcass off to the grassy curb.

I reached around (as best as I could) the blood, and grasped the beagle's midsection. As I lifted it up, blood poured from its mouth, and I could feel shattered bones beneath its tri-colored coat. I'm not really much of a sentimental guy, but I heard myself whispering kind words to the dog as I carried it over to the curbside, "Don't worry. You're OK, now," I said, as I laid it down. I took one last moment to look at him--half in plain sadness and half just to reconfirm that it wasn't mine--and I uttered "I'm sorry" before turning towards my car.

One thing I noticed was that everyone behind me was stopped, and not a one of them was honking or seemed angry in any way for the hold up. Granted, the whole thing happened in less than a minute--probably less than 30 seconds, but for that moment it seemed to me that they all understood. They knew that my need to remove the dog from the road and to whisper a kind word and offer one last pat on its head was more important than them being a paltry minute late.

I slowly, solemnly crossed the front of my car, opened the door and sat down. I jumped into my car and shifted into drive. That's when I noticed that my hands were covered in blood. They felt, looked, and smelled the way that hands do after they have dressed a newly shot deer. Still, I reached into my pocket for my phone, and I called home.

I was on the phone, driving down Utica Road. My hands were coated with blood, and I was not yet completely sure that I had not just found my dog, dead in the middle of the road.

The damn phone kept ringing, and my heart started pounding.

After about five rings (though it felt like one hundred), my wife answered the phone. She was laughing about something, but I didn't care. All I said was, "I just found a dead beagle in the road. Is Nala there?"

"Oh my God," she said, and she began to call Nala. I could hear her shout, over and over, "Nala! Nala! Come here, girl!" She probably only said it three times, but I was going crazy. Before long (though it did not feel so), I heard the word, "She's here, and she's fine."

Thank you, God, I thought to myself (as if the life of my beagle was atop God's list of concerns), but I felt calm begin to settle in on me. Nonetheless, the first thing that I looked for when I walked through my door was that little dog, who always, when I arrive, shakes with excitement at the edge of the kitchen (she's not allowed in the living room). When I saw her there, I felt a feeling that I have only felt perhaps two or three times: pure relief.

Of course, I ran to her, but my hands were still covered with gore, so I went to the kitchen sink and washed them (it took three applications of soap to rid them of the blood). Once they were clean, I knelt down for her, and she came up to me to be patted.

What is it that so draws a man to his dog?

I think that I'll now listen to Elvis's version of "Old Shep." Maybe I'll cry, but if I do, don't expect to read about it on this blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Holy Shi'ite, Batman!

Click here for an article regarding a car dealership's ad. The following is a brief reply, of sorts.

So there's no uproar when a mufti (i.e. Islamic scholar) issues a fatwa to kill a man for writing a novel (remember Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 death sentence on Salman Rushdie?). The Council on American-Islamic Relations made no campaign against Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa to declare war on the United States). These things are apparently OK.

However, should an Ohio based Mitsubishi car dealership declare "jihad on the US auto market" and distribute toy swords to kids, that's going too far.

So, to all of you culturally insensitive infidels, please note: Issuing a fatwa for jihad that encourages mass murder and giving real swords (or AK-47s or Rocket Propelled Grenades) for the business of killing is OK. Issuing a fatwa for jihad that encourages people to buy your cars instead of another's and giving rubber swords to little tykes is bad.

How outraged would the imams be if there was Russ Milne's Krystalnacht Extravaganza (kids get free swastika arm bands and foam stones).

Seriously, the ad is in poor taste, and I bet that it will be a miserable failure if it happens. Instead, people are trying to stop it and giving the dealership free advertising. Let them be idiotic, and don't buy a Mitsubishi from them. It's time to stop bitching about every little thing that's offensive to Islam. Christianity is mocked far worse on a daily basis, but Christians in this country have an amazing--and apparently rare--ability to shrug it off. It's called turning the other cheek, which is something that some guy said somewhere.

The Church of Fantasy Football

Scientology is not a religion. It's a scam.

Fantasy Football is not a religion, but it is much closer.

Let's compare Christianity to Fantasy Football. Admittedly, some are simply more about just football in general, but the comparisons were too good to omit.

Christianity: Service/Mass on Saturday evening and Sunday.
Fantasy Football: Games on Sunday and Monday night

Christianity: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Fantasy Football: Payton Manning (Like the Holy Trinity, he's all and one).

Christianity: Wine and crackers
Fantasy Football: Beer and chips

Christianity: Ave Maria! gratia plena, dominus tecum
Fantasy Football: Hail Mary! full of grace, send this ball to outer space!

Christianity: Lots of praying
Fantasy Football: Lots of praying

Christianity: Satan
Fantasy Football: T. Owens

Christianity: Preachers
Fantasy Football: Pre-game analysts

Christianity: Wedding vows for the wife include, "to serve."
Fantasy Football: "Honey, bring me a beer."

Christianity: Eternal Damnation
Fantasy Football: The Detroit Lions

Christianity: Lent
Fantasy Football: The two weeks before the Super Bowl

Christianity: A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Fantasy Football: Da Bears Defense

Christianity: Barabbas (see Mark 15:7)
Fantasy Football: Ray Lewis

Christianity: Speaking in tongues
Fantasy Football: What you sound like when your receiver drops a pass in the end zone.

Christianity: Mormons
Fantasy Football: Fantasy CFL

Christianity: Church leaders
Fantasy Football: League Commissioners

Christianity: Limbo
Fantasy Football: January-September

Christianity: The Inquisition
Fantasy Football: When my players get medieval on your ass.

Christianity: Non-believers, skeptics, and heretics
Fantasy Football: Wives

Christianity: Circumcision
Fantasy Football: Zipping up carelessly and really fast to get back to the game.

Christianity: St. Mary, who bore and cared for the infant Jesus.
Fantasy Football: Mrs. McNabb, who bore and fed him Campbell's Chunky Soup

Christianity: The Passion of the Christ
Fantasy Football: Brian's Song

Christianity: The Pharisees, Pilate, and Longinus
Fantasy Football: Refs

There are more to come, perhaps, but for a later date.

Where's the Hippo?

We were at the Zoo today, bit the hippos were nowhere to be found. Mark (age 3) asked, "Where the hippos at? They go bye-bye?"

To which Natalie pondered, "They might have been abducted."

"Abducted?" I asked.

"Yeah, animal-napped." She answered. "Like when a kid gets abducted, it's kidnapping."

I was a little surprised that she knew the word, though I don't know why. On another occasion she asked me if I was melancholy because I apparently looked sad.

Her vocabulary is pretty advanced for her age, and I chalk it up to reading her novels instead of "kids books" (i.e. crap). We started with Old Yeller when she was three, and have completed a slew of them since, including (these are the ones that I can recall off the top of my head):
Because of Winn-Dixie, The Wizard of Oz, Holes, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm, Mary Poppins, The Chronicals of Narnia (all of them), Black Beauty, Stone Fox, The Giver, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkeban, and we're about 250 pages into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (let me predict now that Harry dies by decapitation in the final novel).

Call it bragging, if you must (and you probably should).

The Sting

I just finished watching The Sting, starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. I had long heard that it was a great movie. I am now able to second that.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

California is Dumb

The State of California has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against automakers (including the Big 3), charging that auto emissions have poluted California's air and contributed to a climate change that has adversely affected Californians.

Holy crap! What will the Governator do with his Humvees?

My goodness, sometimes I just freaking hate people. My wife says that I'm a bit arrogant at times. (OK, she says that I'm usually very arrogant all of the time). Who can blame me? Doesn't it seem that people are just getting dumber and dumber?

Weird Al Yankovic's new album, Straight Outta Lynwood, has a song on it called "I'll Sue Ya!" (lyrics include: "I sued Dell because I took a bath with my laptop, now it doesn't work / I sued Fruit of the Loom, 'cause when I wear those tighty-whitey's on my head, I look like a jerk" It just stopped being a funny song. It's true.

I cannot even begin to put more thoughts into words. They are too jumbled by a combination of disbelief and rage. Also, CSI is on in a few minutes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My Anti-Lincoln Post of Last Week

Golf Guy--I challenged you to rebut my thesis on the Civil War. You've said nothing, and that's unlike you. Do you agree with me?

Where's God?

Today my daughter asked me why God doesn't do miracles anymore. I told her that miracles happen every day, but they often go unnoticed.

Then she clarified, why aren't there any more miracles like those in the Bible?

I find this question profound and rather important. Think about it. There are no more burning bushes, no walls of Jericho tumbling down, no parting of the Red Sea, no water into wine. All the great miracles that were supposed to inspire faith have passed. We are left with a book and preachers. Since most Americans don't read good books, and most preachers are about as welcome as a kick to the groin, I think that we really need something.

If God were to consult an agent (and I am not really trying to give the Lord advice--I'm just tinkering, hypothetically), I think that the agent would try to arrange something big for the Big Guy. This doesn't need to be a full-blown "Comeback Tour" (I'm not ready for that one, yet; so please leave the pale horse at the stable for a while yet), but something to attract the media's attention would be awesome. How about just a "Studio Album" of sorts, or a spot on Leno, just to remind us all that He's still got it? That would be great, and I sure as Heaven would download it off of iTunes (I wouldn't dare pirate it. His wrath makes an RIAA lawsuit look like a single grain of sand in the darkest chasms of space).

This isn't a challenge. It's just a wish. While I'm wishing, I wish I could drop 80 pounds and win the lottery. Since I eat like a pig and don't buy lottery tickets, I guess I'm just left with the one. Still, that would be cool. Even cooler would be if the miracle was that I lost 80 pounds and won the lottery.

One thing that annoys me is when people answer the "Where's God?" question with that infantile, "He's everywhere. Just look around. Everything is a miracle!" That's another problem. Too many of God's spokesmen are dorks. Not everything has to be a miracle. It is not a miracle that the sun came up this morning. The Earth spins on it's axis. That accounts for the sunrise. It's not a miracle when a baby cries its first breath. It cries because it's breathing air for the first time. It's not a miracle that American Idol is a popular show. People are stupid and have poor taste.

These and other classic "examples" are awesome (meaning they have the power to fill one with awe--not "awesome" like an ollie), perhaps, but not miraculous. There's some who would say that science has stripped miracles of their meaning. That's nonsense. Science has simply, in some cases, demonstrated how some of the things that were once considered miracles are perfectly natural.

Think about the bona fide miracles recounted in the Bible. Science would have a hard time explaining how Jesus turned plain H2O into fermented grape juice. That's a change that cannot occur naturally. Scientists cannot explain how the Red Sea parted to allow for the exodus of the Jews and the demise of Pharaoh's soldiers. Science would be unable to tell us how a guy with a simple horn could knock down stone walls. Those and others recounted in the Bible are real miracles, and they simply don't happen anymore--at least not until Ben Affleck makes a movie worth watching.

Then there's those who counter with, "What about the fact that there's even a sun and an earth, or that life exists at all. Now that's a miracle."

No it's not. It's a mystery. We don't know the process of creation. You can say that you have faith, but that just means that you don't know, and you don't care to wonder.

When intelligent people ask "Where's God?" They mean, "Why doesn't God do today the kind of stuff that he did 2,000-5,000 years ago?" That's what Natalie asked, and it's a darn good question.

I'm not rejecting my faith. I'm still a half-way good (as opposed to a half-way bad) Christian. In fact, recent events (e.g. the Pope's big--but right-on--mouth) have really energized my thoughts. I'm tired of people who say that a person with faith has no reason for questions and answers. It's always, "You need to have the faith of a child." Well, this whole post started because my six-year-old asked me a question. I'm asking the same question, so it's fair game.

Oh well, I'm tired and cranky, and re-reading anything but C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, or God on the Dock (four separate and exceptional apologies--this latter word, "apology" has a classical meaning that the unlearned amongst you or maybe even you yourself have yet to grasp) will not satisfy me.

Golf Guy, do you have something for me?

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Hand in the Fire

Gee wiz, I guess that the Pope was wrong...,,1875811,00.html

From the above source:

The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organisation of Sunni Arab extremist groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, issued a statement on a web forum saying the pontiff and the west were "doomed". The message, the authenticity of which could not be immediately verified, said: "We shall continue our holy war and never stop until God enables us to chop your necks and raise the fluttering banner of monotheism when God's rule is established governing all people and nations." (My emphasis)

And yet another

"If the stupid pig is prancing with his blasphemies in his house . . . then let him wait for the day coming soon when the armies of the religion of right knock on the walls of Rome."

From the same article:

"Those who take benefit from Pope's comment and drive their own arrogant policies should be targeted of attack and protest."

And one more reasonable comment:

"His comments really hurt Muslims all over the world," Umar Nawawi of the radical Islamic Defenders' Front said Monday in Jakarta. "We should remind him not to say such things which can only fuel a holy war."

This latter comment is at least not violent in nature, but it assumes that violence is the answer to what Pope Benedict said ("...can only fuel a holy war.")

It doesn't have to fuel a holy war. Muslims can ignore what the Pope said, just as I can ignore what they say. Why does a fatwa have to be issued everytime a public person publicly disagrees? This doesn't seem very adab (or dare I say kosher?). Isn't it time for sensible people (including all true mujtahidun) to stand up to these fajarah and their lagwh? Surely the wise ones must know that this is not the way to taqwa.

If reason doesn't prevail, then perhaps Pope Benedict needs to read one of Urban II's famous addresses. Deus vult. Jus ad bellum est. Deo vindice.

Pax vobiscum

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stop the Violins!

Christian Churches in Gaza and the West Bank have been shot at and firebombed, and the Vatican has been threatened specifically due to a recent speech in which the Pope indirectly (he quoted a Byzantine emperor from the 1300's) criticized Islam's policy of spreading the faith by the sword.

What a way to prove how wrong the Pope was and that Islam is innately peaceful. I surely hope that mainstream (i.e. peaceful) Muslims will speak out as critically against their impious brethren as they have against the Pope.

A high-ranking Turkish official stated that the Pope's earlier comments place him in the same category as Hitler. I don't recall any Pope in centuries advocating genocide or the physical destruction of rival faiths. On the other hand, I can think of what Al Quaida and the Taliban stood for...

Friday, September 15, 2006


The Pope must not apologize, but his critics could sure use a serving of humble pie. I just hope that the old man keeps dishing it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

God Wants Us to Be Rich?

Check out the cover of the new Time Magazine, and read this article.

My question:

Didn't Jesus talk about laying up our treasures in Heaven and not on Earth?

If God wants us to be rich, then why did He have His Son live a life of poverty (ended by an excrutiating death)? Why did every one of the apostles (except for John), live similar lives without material comforts and die as martyrs? Why did wealth and temporal power (De Civitate Homo) not enter the picture until the Roman government embraced Christianity? Even then, monks and holy men lived humble lives.

It's trash like this that makes skeptics believe that Christians and Christianity are stupid. Why is it that the worst so often speak the loudest?

Avoid the Call!

I received a telephone call from a Republican organization. The caller started to tell me all about Governor Granholm's broken promises et al., but I stopped him short with the following (pay heed, for it might serve you well, young padawan):

"Excuse me, but I'm an anarchist who stops just short of believing that all polticians should be executed as public enemies. Needless to say, I'm not the one to whom you wish to spend your time talking."

I said it calmly, but with just a hint of possible insanity. To the caller's credit, he did conclude with, "O.K., then, as long as you're not voting for Granholm."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Note and a Challenge

Golf Guy, the winner of this season's award for best comments (he received one vote because no one else voted, and he was the one who cast that vote), will be the only person to post a well argued and knowledgeable response to my Civil War essay (previous post).

This is a dare to Golf Guy and to anyone else (care to take me on again, Science Guy?).

Also, I have no idea why the font on the final paragraph of the essay differs from the preceding paragraphs. I tried to fix it, but since I don't know what caused it, I can't fix it.

Apologies & a Minor Discourse

Yes, I know that I haven't posted in awhile. It's been a long week+2.

I've been leaving for work before 7 P.M. and not returning until close to 7 P.M. This will persist until November.

Alas! but I promise to be more vigilant in my complaints, rants, and casual observations. Here's a short one for now.

A lot of people (myself included) think that George W. Bush employs tyrannical methods of governance. However, not to excuse him but to get a clear picture of things, his record proves far better than Abraham Lincoln's.

What did Lincoln do?

Among other things, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus--even though this power is reserved for Congress (Article I of the Constitution)--and tried civilians (e.g. C. Vallendingham) in military courts for such atrocities as speaking against the Lincoln administration's tyrannical policies.

He closed down newspapers who depicted him and his administration unfavorable, going so far as to arrest editors, journalists, and even vendors.

When the Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court demanded a writ of habeas corpus for one of Lincoln's unconstitutional prisoners, Lincoln tried to arrest Taney!

After the Navy conquered New Orleans, he placed the political general Benjamin F. Butler in command of the military district. Following reports of Butler's cruelty (he executed a man who took down a U.S. flag) and corruption (you will grow weary following the money trail), Lincoln promptly did nothing.

Let's talk about underestimating your enemy's resolve. Following South Carolina's capture of Ft. Sumter (it was squarely in the state's territory), Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the "insurrection."

Abraham Lincoln called for a reconstruction plan based upon "malice toward none." That's an easy thing to say once you have impoverished and disenfranchised all enemies who weren't slaughtered by his war machine.

Here's a little essay that I wrote a couple of years ago.

After what many deemed a “long train of abuses” by the federal government, the states of the Confederacy formed for one purpose: to establish an independent.[1] The Civil War was thus a secessionist movement, not unlike the American Revolution.[2] On the one side, Confederates fought for recognition as an independent country; and on the other side, Unionists fought to secure federal supremacy and to abolish entirely the notion of constitutional secession. The United States was to be either a loosely bound collection of sovereign states (as under the Articles of Confederation), or it was to be a single entity with a single zeitgeist, along the same pattern as the established nation-states of Europe (e.g. Great Britain) and those developing concurrently (e.g. Germany).

Secession was the main issue of the Civil War. Had there been no secession, there would have been no war. Still, individuals fought for a number of different reasons. Many on both sides simply joined because they thought that it would be an adventure, while others did not enlist at all but were conscripted. Secession (for or against) was the legal justification for both sides. The next question is why did Southerners want to secede, and why did Lincoln refuse a peaceful secession? The reasons are plenty. The war more was about economics, politics, and culture; and less about morality and idealism. These various causes coalesced into Southern secession and Northern aggression.

The Southern states seceded because they were a declining minority, and they knew it. They had for decades been well behind Northern states in the House of Representatives, and they had recently lost parity in the Senate. With the election of Abraham Lincoln as president (though Lincoln won not a single electoral vote from a southern state), only the Supreme Court remained friendly to Southern interests. However, since members of the Supreme Court were appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, Southerners knew that it was only a matter of time until they lost support from the judiciary branch as well. There was thus no separation of powers, no checks and balances, no federalism, no Constitution for Southerners; they were to be dominated politically by the North: a section that had for the past several decades been at odds with Southerners economically and politically.

That Southerners fought for the right of secession is not sufficient to explain the war; for the questions of why did Southerners wish to secede and why did Northerners wish to refuse secession remain. Of course Southerners wanted to secede because they wanted to be independent, but it wasn’t just that they fancied independence. Had they been confident that they would have been able to maintain their local customs and institutions and not have to live under a federal government lorded over by Northern interests, they would have stayed in the Union. However, they were not confident in this. In fact, they feared (and realistically so) that the political domination of the federal government by the North would mean that Southern interests would be ignored or outright bullied and assaulted; and the rise of the imperialist Republican Party meant that this usurpation was already in progress.[3]

Many historians have identified slavery as the chief cause of the war. The clearest evidence of slavery’s role in the war was its long-time status as the sectional dispute. The Republican Party was essentially born of anti-Nebraska (free-soil) factions. The Republican Party was a vast hodgepodge catering to various special-interests throughout the North, but its most basic tenet was that slavery must not expand into new territories. Knowing that such a policy was unconstitutional (see Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857), Southerners cringed at the notion of Republican control of the White House. Of all the slave states, only four remained in the Union after that fateful Spring of 1861. Of the four "loyal" slave states, only Delaware was not rife with Confederate sympathy—for only a nominal slave-based society existed in that state. When Lincoln's armies were losing on the field, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The ratification, in 1865, of the Thirteenth Amendment ultimately ended the debate.[4]

So slavery was certainly an essential division and helped to facilitate hostilities, but what about slavery was so divisive? First, the Civil War was not a moral crusade waged by abolitionists in the North to redeem the nation of its sin. Slavery was an economic and political issue, and because of its obvious immorality has always been the most visible political, socio-economic difference between the antebellum North and South. Behind the issue of slavery are a number of specific economic issues ranging from the contest between an industrializing, free-labor based North and an agriculturally based South with more than four million slaves employed in the various tasks of cash-crop agriculture; however, most Southerners who fought and died in the war were not slave owners, and most Northerners who fought and died in the war were not abolitionists.[5] Yes, there were radical abolitionists in the North and radical pro-slavery men in the South, but overwhelmingly few men in either section possessed moral inclinations for or against slavery that were so strong as to inspire them to die for their causes. Furthermore, while there were many Southerners who had invested a great deal of capital in slaves (and who thus possessed a vital economic interest in its preservation and expansion), most Southerners were yeomen who owned few if any slaves. Minor slave owners would have been severely inconvenienced by abolition (which was not even Lincoln's or the majority of Northerners’ goal), but they would not have been fiscally destroyed by it. For the many yeomen who owned no slaves at all, the economic threat posed by the anti-slavery North was miniscule.[6] Slavery as an economic issue merely is simply not an adequate conclusion. Most Southerners opposed anti-slavery sentiments and policy, but not on economic grounds; and most Northerners disliked the idea of slavery, but not because they were civil rights crusaders.

The problem with identifying economic divisions as the cause of the Civil War is that the economic divisions were political in nature. Economics means the study or organization of production, distribution, and consumption. Yes, a slave society is economically different from a free-labor society, yet the problem with slavery was not an economic one.[7] Southerners were not worried that slavery would become economically unfeasible by itself; they feared that Republicans would use the coercive power of government to eliminate slavery in the territories first, and slavery in the slave states second. Free territories become free states, and free states have Northern interests and elect Northern-minded representatives and senators. This means that slavery and anti-slavery were decisively political issues.

The persistent noise made by radicals such as William Lloyd Garrison and the bold action of John Brown at Harpers Ferry (though neither man was particularly popular, even in the North) made the threat of Northern aggression against slavery seem all the more immediate. Although moralists in the North were a well-organized force, they were in no way representative of the bulk of Northern society. While many a Southerner would have enjoyed lynching William Lloyd Garrison, the most immediate threat to Garrison’s life came from a mob in Boston. Generally, abolitionists were not politically powerful (Seward’s abolitionism was a chief reason why Republicans nominated Lincoln, the free-soiler, and not him); however abolitionists’ incessant preaching provoked fear and indignation amongst Southerners.

Many Northerners were indifferent to slavery when it came to moral issues, for Northerners were every bit as racist as Southerners. In fact, the American Colonization Society was established not to free slaves but to ship freedmen back to Africa or to some undetermined Central-American colony.[8] Many Northerners did not want to abolish slavery because they were afraid that freedmen would move north, take their jobs, and mingle with their wives and daughters.[9] On the other hand, most Northerners resented the dual advantage of slaveholders: (1) The ability to farm at low-cost and (2) due to the 3/5 Compromise of the Constitution, slaves were counted for Southern representation in the House of Representatives. The Republican Party sought support from many Northerners by promising them essentially free “homesteads” in the western territories. Those who received homesteads were likely to be poor or modest Americans who could not afford land otherwise. Since these people were economically modest (at best), they would not be able to afford slaves, so free-soil went along with homesteading (free-free-soil). Northerners—the only supporters of the Republican Party—who sought to seek opportunity out west did not want to compete with Southerners’ slave labor, and they did not want to live near African-Americans. Most Northerners who really thought about it, wanted the territories to be white. That means no slavery. That means free-soil, and that means that Southern interests were at odds with Northern interests.

The “economic” issue of slavery was thus largely a political and social one, and what Southerners heard from their Northern brethren was hardly the sound of fraternal goodwill. Although few in overall numbers, the abolitionists were insatiable in their moralizing that Southerners—via the institution of slavery—were evil, corrupt, backwards, and essentially violent people (Preston Brooks did nothing to help this); and although still a minority movement, abolitionist sympathy was visibly growing in many parts of the North, especially since Harriet Beecher Stowe’s publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This forced Southerners always on the moral defensive. Abolitionist groups could nearly logjam Congressional sessions with anti-slavery petitions, and when Southerners protested they were derided for opposing free speech. Anti-slavery politicians (whether for economic or racist reasons) were seeking to bar slavery from expanding into territories. John Brown slaughtered pro-slavery settlers in Kansas. New Englanders were flaunting their disregard for the Fugitive-Slave Act—a central part to the compromise that had allowed for California’s admission as a free state—with personal liberty laws. Writing for The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison damned Southerners to Hell. John Brown killed men and seize the federal armory in Harpers Ferry and attempted to distribute weapons to slaves who would then massacre white Virginians, only for Henry David Thoreau to eulogize him as the only true man and epitome of a hero in America. To top it off, Abraham Lincoln, who was so unpopular in the South that he failed even to gather enough support to be on the ballot in some states, seized the Presidency without gaining a single electoral vote south of the Mason-Dixon line. And what did Abraham Lincoln support? He was a staunch Republican: free-soil, protective tariffs, internal improvements, and central banking. He was the first president whose entire platform was essentially hostile to Southern interests.

Slavery aside, the institution of a high (some might say prohibitive) protective tariff was another polarizing issue. Protective tariffs deal with economics, for they seek to alter the distribution and consumption of certain goods; however, like slavery, tariffs are really political policies. It’s one thing to say “Buy American,” and its another thing to use the coercive powers of the state to inflate artificially the price of imports. Furthermore, protective tariffs clearly favored Northerners at the expense of Southerners. Southerners grieved, for while the Constitution empowers Congress to enact tariffs as a means of generating revenue for the federal government, it does not grant Congress the right to use its legislative powers to influence the economic choices of free citizens and funnel money from one section to another.

To Southerners, who manufactured little, protective tariffs were a Northern scheme, promoted by special interests, to rob Southerners of their money. Many Northerners claimed that protective tariffs fostered industry in America, which was good for the country as a whole. As they continued to mature, the American textile industry would thus consume more Southern cotton, but this argument did not sway Southerners. First, whether the British or New Englanders purchased cotton did not really matter. It was still being purchased. Second, a protective tariff rang eerily similar to the mercantilist policies (Navigation Acts, Hat Act, Iron Act, Sugar Act, Townshend Acts, Tea Act, etc.) of the British, who had argued that what was good for the motherland was good for the colonies. Just as the citizens of Massachusetts had denied the right of Parliament to tax them in order to rescue the British East India Company, the citizens of Charleston et cetera refused the right for Washington, D.C., to tax them in order to benefit textile mills in Massachusetts. Southerners were farmers, the most influential of which were cotton planters. Due to the South's unique geographical disposition, cotton plantations were in no need of “protection.” New Englanders could not produce cotton in New England, nor could the British or French grow cotton in Wales or Burgundy. Since no money was taken from Northern interests to help Southern interests (no such money was needed), Southerners, by opposing protective tariffs, simply invoked the golden rule.

Federal funding of internal improvements was a political-economic issue similar in nature to tariffs. For decades, Whigs led by Henry Clay (and later Republicans led by the likes of Lincoln—who had started out as a Whig die-hard) had tried to secure support from powerful, special interests in the North by lobbying for federal subsidies of certain projects, namely canals and railroads. For which section of the country did most of these projects apply? Not surprisingly, the bulk of internal improvement designs were for the North. This would mean that federal tax dollars, much of which was taken from Southerners, would be spent “improving” the North. For the same reasons that Southerners opposed tariffs, they opposed these internal improvements. It’s not that Southerners disliked canals and railroads, but they resented the notion that money from Mississippi, Georgia, et alia should be used to build canals in Illinois (a favorite plan of Abraham Lincoln’s).[10] As largely independent yeomen, Southerners were not generally helped by tariffs or internal improvements, so they resented having their coffers looted anytime a Northern special interest cried foul over international competition or developed a grandiose scheme to dig a canal across Michigan.[11] If Michiganders, New Yorkers, or the citizens of any northern state wanted a canal, railroad, or such, then let Michigan, New York, or whomever foot the bill.

Like tariffs and internal improvements, a central bank was clearly a Northern favorite and stood well against the interests of most Southerners. This debate had deep roots in American sectionalism. The first national bank was the brainchild of Alexander Hamilton, a centralizer who saw the bank as an opportunity to plant the national government firmly in the economic life of the United States.[12] Thomas Jefferson had opposed the national bank for exactly the reason that Hamilton had supported it. After Hamilton’s Federalist Party declined into nothingness, Henry Clay’s Whig Party picked up its pieces, a chief one of which was the national bank. When the Whig Party died, Republicans carried on the tradition.

Republicans wanted to influence the value of currency and manage credit via a central bank. Southerners recoiled in distaste. A national bank was yet another weasel-concept, designed by Northerners to enrich themselves at Southerners’ expense. Southerners still held Andrew Jackson’s fear that such control over the nation’s money supply would only foster corruption in the government and disaster in the market. A national bank would hold a tyrannical power over credit, doling money out to its favorites (Northern industrialists and speculators). A national bank also would wreck the economy by weakening the currency through paper money schemes. This is why Jackson and fellow Southerners had long promoted states as the best arbiter in banking and specie—not paper notes—as the only secure form of currency. When state banks gave reckless amounts of credit to speculators and printed their own notes to use as currency, Jackson ordered that all federal land transactions be made in specie. This was as far as Jackson believed the national government could go into banking, for the Constitution provided no basis for which to establish a national bank. Paper money was a bad idea too, for it is inflationary and hard to resist printing more and more. Paper money schemers are special-interest inclined, supported by those who wish to have instant money but do not have enough on hand or sufficient capital to acquire it. The fact the Confederacy would go on to commit most egregious paper money schemes shows not their rejection of sound monetary policy but their fiscally desperate condition.

Too often historians overlook tradition as a fundamental cause of secession. After all, the American Revolution was, at its heart, a secessionist movement.[13] The American colonies seceded from Great Britain because they were tired of being exploited by the English in Parliament; so too did Southern states secede when they were sick of being looted by Northern special interests. Of course for American colonists the issue was one of not having representation (a political issue), which Southerners undeniably had. However, if the Americans had had representation in Parliament, they would have been a minority so small that it would have been impotent in promoting the colonies’ interests. Such was exactly the case of the Southerners. Government is supposed to be based upon the consent of the governed, but consent suggests majority support. In light of its minority status in the House and the Senate, Southerners could refuse consent to any number of things but still been unable to stop them. Although Hamilton #9 and Madison #10 of The Federalist Papers argued eloquently that no faction in a country as large as the United States could ever grow strong enough to oppress minority rights, neither man could have realized how sectional the United States would become. The Republican Party was completely sectional, and it had just seized control of the White House. Appreciating the tradition of secession that ran deep in American heritage and recognizing the error of Federalist #9 and #10, Southerners could rationally latch on to secession as their last, great hope.[14]

As an agriculturally based society, Southerners were prone to a very distinct political philosophy. Farmers—even subsistence farmers—tend to be of a very independent-minded ilk; and while most Northerners still farmed the land, the North was more and more being characterized by its bustling metropolises and commercial-industrial economy. To a Southern farmer, the government was an idea, not an actual force, with the mission to protect life, liberty, and property; and owing its existence to popular consent. Understandably, a man's rights in a rural setting are minimal; so Southerners had very little need for any government at all, let alone a Northern controlled federal government. The only government active in the states should be the states’ own governments, and state governments’ activity should be relegated only to measures that protected the lives, liberty, and property of their citizens. Southerners believed in strong state governments, but strong is not used to modify “state governments”; rather, it is used to contrast states with federal power. A Mississippi Delta planter expected noninterference in his affairs, but, if there must be interference from a government, it ought to come from Jackson, not D.C.

The American colonial experience had demonstrated how oppressive an “active” government could be. As traditional republicans (irony not intended), Southerners wanted a latent, not an active government. Southerners were opposed the ambitions of both forms of political activists: special-interest groups (e.g. canal diggers and railroaders who sought subsidies for “internal improvements”) and the idea of an “active” government empowered to use its force to direct socio-economic policy (e.g. protective tariffs and free-soil). Northerners, especially New Englanders with their underlying streak of Puritanism, tended to see the government as an instrument of social change and economic influence. Besides, Northerners were in the majority, and a majority unchecked will always use its power to exploit minorities.[15]

Seen in this light, the economic conflicts between Northerners and Southerners were so thoroughly mingled with political issues that they were essentially political in nature. The question of slavery in the territories was really a question about individual property rights, states’ rights, and federal incursion into these matters. If, as the Dred Scott decision stated, slaves were property and, like other forms of chattel (e.g. mules) could be brought from one place to another with no change in their status, then the federal government possessed no right whatsoever to meddle with it in the territories. Southerners thus believed that the territories should be open to all Americans and that the federal government could not justly discriminate against legal property. On the contrary, the function of the executive branch is to protect a man’s property. If tariffs and internal improvements do not “promote the general welfare,” but benefit only the welfare of a special interest, then protective tariffs and internal improvements are unconstitutional.[16] Furthermore, internal improvements are state issues, not national issues. Federal funding of them is thus an usurpation of state prerogatives.

Most white Southerners owned their own land, so they resented the Republicans’ desire to elicit support by offering (virtually free of charge) large tracts of land—land in territories in which Republicans hoped to refuse Southern interests with their catchy slogan: “Free soil, free speech, free labor, free men.”[17] Southerners had the right to ask, “Whose government is this?”

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln supports “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but Southerners knew which people he meant, and it was not they. When they seceded, they thought that they were establishing a government of their people, by their people, and for their people. Unfortunately for them, Lincoln, the Republicans, and most other Northerners refused to recognize the right to secession. Fearing that secession would lead to a decline in stature for the United States (it certainly would have weakened the power of the federal government if the states possessed such a massive check to its ambitions) and wanting to lead the only empire of the Western Hemisphere (and avoid losing consumers of its goods to the British), Northerners waged war.[18]

In every political-economic issue, Southerners, for the most part, sided against the federal government; while Northerners, for the most part, tended to support the expanding powers of the federal government (which they controlled). It was the old argument between Alexander Hamilton, the New Yorker, and Thomas Jefferson, the Virginian.[19] And just as Hamilton took the field at Weehawken to maintain his exalted station, Northerners and Southerners alike took to other fields: Manassas, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, etc.

So the economic issues behind the war were really political issues. Then again, these economic issues tangled in political issues were also rife with cultural entanglements. Of course there were a myriad of cultural similarities between Northerners and Southerners: language, religion, and a common history; but these alone did not suffice to suppress sectional divisions. In a way, sectionalism is about culture. The word culture is rooted in the word cult, and a cult is a group of people loosely or strictly connected by similar beliefs. All religions are cults. The scientific community is a cult—or many different cults depending upon the issue (e.g. quantum mechanics versus Einstein’s theory of relativity). Political parties are cults, as are Marxist and Austrian economists.[20] In short, different “cultures” can exists amongst and within very similar groups of people, and the differences between them can often be surprisingly minor (e.g. moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans)—but these differences seem minor only to those outside of the disputing cultures’ spheres of influence.[21]

Culturally, the South had not changed much since the Revolution. When the United States achieved its independence, both the North and the South were overwhelmingly rural. Even the North’s “big cities” (e.g. Philadelphia, New York, Boston) were relatively small. By the time of the Civil War, the South was still overwhelmingly rural, but the North was changing into an urban-industrial giant. When the United States achieved independence, every one of the 13 new states was a slave state. By the time of the Civil War, slavery remained only in the South. The 19th Century saw the North’s population skyrocket through combinations of natural reproduction and massive immigration, the population of the South—while it increased—fell well behind the North and was increased by no significant waves of immigration.. Everything, it seemed, was changing in the North. Nothing much since the invention of the cotton gin had changed in the South, and the cotton gin had really only entrenched agriculture in the South. In many respects, Southerners were simply recalling their heritage. As changes in British policy and imperial arrogance had alienated American colonists from the motherland, changes in the North and Northern political and socio-economic designs for the United States had alienated Southerners.

So at first it seems like a contest over the economic policies of the federal government; then it seems that the contest is really over the political power of the federal government to support economic policies; only for it to become clear that the economic and political quarrels are both rooted in a cultural conflict. However, to say that the war was over this or that is to exclude far too much. Economics played a role in the conflict. Northern economic interests certainly played a role in their hostility to Southerners, while Southern economic interests led them to resent Northerners. What made the economic issues worse was that Northerners sought to use federal power in achieving their goals, and Southerners, who were in the minority, could not stop Northerners from doing so. Behind all of this was a generally static culture in the South resisting a generally dynamic culture in the North.

The bottom line is that Southerners did not believe that their culture was safe in the Union, so they left the Union. The conflict comes down to a changing, ambitious North and a reactionary, anxious South. To Southerners, the Republicans planned to turn the government into a fearsome leviathan, and secession was their only method of resistance. Since Republicans were essentially “empire builders” whose imperialistic and sectional plans would deteriorate upon secession, they made war upon the South. Northern democrats joined in because patriotic sirens and Southern hostility hypnotized agitated them. Southerners who stood to gain no tangible political, economic, or social advantage in the war were also nonetheless lured by patriotism to the South and a general hatred for the North. Apolitical men on both sides—and there were many men who fought for no real objective at all—took up arms because they wanted to participate in what was surely the great event of the century or because they were conscripted into service. There is no practical way to generalize the causes of the war.

One great question remains. Were the fears that led Southerners to secede reasonable? One need look no farther than Reconstruction to see that, once sufficiently empowered, the North would dominate the South and its economic, social, and political institutions. Many historians talk about Reconstruction as something of a revolution, but they tend to miss something important.[22] Southerners did not experience Reconstruction as a revolution within the South of Southerners who sought to change their culture, and what the North did was not so much revolution as exploitation.

What did Reconstruction mean to Southerners? It meant a loss of political rights, an invasion of Northern carpetbaggers seeking to exploit the Southern economy (which had been wrecked by Northern armies), and the abolition of slavery. To regain “official” statehood, Southerners had to consent to virtual extortion by ratifying Northern constitutional amendments. Known Confederate sympathizers and abettors were prohibited from voting, while freedmen were given the right to vote because propertyless, illiterate freedmen would elect Republicans (their liberators) who meted out nothing but empty promises (how many freedmen were given 40 acres and a mule?). The few Southern whites who did vote Republican were branded as scalawags, ostracized, and often terrorized by their angry, betrayed peers.

For Southerners, Reconstruction meant having to live in a country with a protective tariff, federally funded internal improvements, and a federalized bank system. All their nightmares had become true, and all that they had fought to ward off was forced upon them. Reconstruction shows clearly that Lincoln and his party fought to cement a federal presence in the South, to abolish all that it detested (for whatever reason), and augment all that it desired. And what of the moral and idealistic aspects of the Northern war effort? Reconstruction saw the end of slavery (the Thirteenth Amendment), but the end of slavery simply meant a new form of suffering for freedmen. Now they were free to starve and die. The great moralists who had talked so much of elevating the black man’s station did pitifully little to help the freedman come “up from slavery.”[23] The Freedmen’s Bureau and other "charity" organizations often served for little more as fronts to corrupt, exploitive designs.[24]

Reconstruction failed to bring about an economic revolution in the South. The South remained cotton land. The only difference was that tenant farms replaced plantations; slaves became sharecroppers. Industry did not take root in the South. Free labor was perverted into peonage, and blacks remained at the bottom of the socio-economic strata. Since they were no longer a master's property, individual blacks lost all "value" to whites except inasmuch as they could be exploited.

Reconstruction also failed to secure democracy in the South, for it temporarily eliminated most of the white franchise. The North did enact the Fifteenth Amendment to secure the right to vote for blacks—to a certain extent. Where they were practically guaranteed to vote Republican (the South), blacks were enfranchised; where the Republicans did not need a new voting bloc (the North), blacks were not enfranchised. The only black men who were given the right to vote were the men who owed their freedom to the Republican Party and remembered clearly the Democratic Party’s position on slavery. So, while Southern states were being forced to allow blacks to vote, no federal power whatsoever was exerted in “loyal” states to do so. The reason can only be that the freedmen in the South represented a massive opportunity for the Republican Party to expand its political power into Southern states. So long as blacks in the South were voting, Republicans were being elected in the South. In spite of this ulterior motive, many are willing to excuse the Republicans because it was at least a step in the right direction. However, for every step forward, Republicans took two steps back. Reconstruction was an empty victory for black civil rights. They were freed from bondage and granted suffrage, but before long most were trapped in peonage, tenancy, or marginal sharecropping. As for enfranchisement, the Ku Klux Klan soon effectively kept blacks from the voting booths. There is no lack of correlation between the “redemption” of the Southern states and the loss of black political rights in the South. As Democrats regained power in the South, new state laws circumvented the Fifteenth Amendment making disenfranchisement of freedmen a legal fact.[25] By the 1890’s only the bravest (and perhaps most reckless) blacks were voting in states such as Mississippi and Alabama.

Just because the Civil War resulted in a Reconstruction Era that saw the enactment of civil rights based Constitutional Amendments, suffrage for freedmen, and Civil Rights Acts does not mean that the Civil War was about morals or idealism. Republicans waged the war relentlessly, cutting a path of destruction everywhere the army went; and they incurred extreme losses themselves in doing so. Why were they not equally as relentless in "reconstructing" the South? Because they waged a war of conquest, not of revolution. Lincoln was honest when, in the “Gettysburg Address,” he stated his mission to ensure that Union soldiers had not died in vain. His goal was to preserve the Union, to end the idea of secession forever, and in doing so enhance the power of the federal government and achieve his political-economic agenda. Slavery died in the process, which solved the question of slavery in the territories; but beyond emancipation, the federal government did little for freedmen. If the North had truly been dedicated to a new South, then it would have done much more to ensure actual change in the South. Instead, the North let the South back into the Union, and except for the absence of slavery, considerably harder economic times for whites, and the lack of any secessionist movement of any substance, the South was pretty much as it always had been.

Confederates seceded in order to resist the implementation of Lincoln’s Republican agenda. Lincoln waged war in order to preserve and enhance federal supremacy. The Southern desire to leave an industrializing nation left them at the mercy of an industrialized army, and once the South lost, the Republican agenda showed its true colors very clearly. Republicans had political and economic motives, and Southern culture stood in its way. Once Southern culture was brought to its knees, the “revolution” was complete, and it went no farther. Since a special interest in civil rights was never at the heart of the Northern war effort, nothing other than abolition was effectively accomplished by the Civil War and Reconstruction. The various, initial overtures toward civil rights were nothing more. Once soldiers were removed from southern states, the North and the South were on the road to reuniting; but not before that. Once Republicans abandoned the freedmen and left them to their former bondsmen, the South was ready to forgive. They had fought the good fight, and after nearly three decades, the Yankees went home. Time and a Northern policy of salutary neglect, certainly not the policies of Reconstruction, healed the wounds.

[1] “Long train of Abuses,” is taken from Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence.

[2] The Declaration of Independence is nothing more than a declaration of secession from the British Empire.

[3] I use the word “imperialist” loosely to delineate the Republicans’ innate “Northerness” and desire to use the federal government as the ultimate instrument of expanding (forcing) their ideology throughout the continental United States. “Imperialist” has a very strong, negative connotation; and my decision to use it is based not out of a personal hostility to the Republican Party (then) but more to modify accurately “Republican Party” in Southern terms. It’s not so important whether or not Republicans were actually imperialistic, but that Southerners believed that Republicans were imperialists.

[4] The Three-Fifth’s Compromise, the Missouri Compromise, the gag rule, Texas’s delayed admission to the Union, opposition to the Mexican War, the Mexican Cession, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown’s Raid, etc.

[5] The best study written thus far to explain why soldiers on either side fought and died in the Civil War is James M. McPherson's For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

[6] Non-slave owners might have faced an increased competition in the market and for land from freedmen, but that topic is debatable. When slavery finally did end in the South, the economic competition of freedmen was not a serious threat to anyone, for freedmen generally lacked the capital and the credit necessary to acquire land, farm it, and sell their harvests.

[7] For a good analysis of free labor's hostility to a slave labor see Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970).

[8] See Thomas DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, 2002).

[9] Non-slave owning Southerners also opposed abolition because they feared living amongst freedmen.

[10] Again, see DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln.

[11] At the heyday of “canal fever,” ambitious Michiganders actually planned and began construction on a canal that was to cut across the lower peninsula of Michigan from Lake St. Clair to Lake Michigan. The plan failed when its master planners forgot to consider the cost of such a venture.

[12] Robert E. Shalhope, The Roots of Democracy: American Thought and Culture, 1760-1800 (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990), 147

[13] Again, see DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln.

[14] The Federalist Papers is within the public domain and can be accessed through numerous on-line resources. Or see Alexander Hamilton et al, The Federalist Papers (New York: Signet Classic, 2003), 66-78. Also, an astute reader recognizes that I have used Lincoln’s words (last, great hope) for anti-Lincolnites. I omitted quotation marks because of the reverse context in which the words are used.

[15] “Minorities” denotes those not in the majority. It should not, in this case—or possibly any case—be understood as an innately racial term.

[16] See the "Preamble" of The Constitution of the United States of America.

[18] Once again, see DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln.

[19] Although Hamilton was not a New Yorker by birth (he was born on the British Caribbean Isle of Nevis), it was his theory of an active and powerful central government that would characterize “Northern” political philosophy. Hamilton’s ideals would be most forcefully expressed through Henry Clay and the Whig party, which in turn molded the political philosophy of Abraham Lincoln—whose election in 1860 as president sparked secession.

[20] The term Austrian economist does not refer to Austrians per se; rather, it refers to the national identity of it founders: Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Austrian economists are free-market economically and laissez-faire politically. But I digress.

[21] For example, this author wonders why so much is made of the contest between John Kerry and George W. Bush; but only because he is a Libertarian who believes that both men are essentially bad for the country.

[22] See Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Perennial, 1988).

[23] Booker T. Washington’s autobiography is entitled Up From Slavery.

[24] For a fine analysis of such corruption see Carl R. Osthaus, Freedmen, Philanthropy, and Fraud: A History of the Freedman's Savings Bank (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976).

[25] The Fifteenth Amendment simply prevents states from barring the franchise to men because of their race. State laws requiring literacy and the ability to comprehend selected sections of the Constitution were used to prevent the largely uneducated black population from the polls. Those blacks who could make these hurdles were then “discouraged” by “other means.”

Bill of Rights