"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Today is the Ides of March, the traditional anniversary of the day, in 44BC, that Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of senators, among them his friend Brutus. Lest we forget that it is the free man's duty to defend freedom, here's a bit of Brutus's speech from Shakespeare:

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
--Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

It isn't a far cry from Brutus via Shakespeare to our own founding documents. With the previous quote in mind, read this from the Declaration of Independence:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

The Oldest Known Reference to Robin Hood

The Hot Air blog has posted a piece on Robin Hood brought on by a newly discovered margin note in a 15th century history text referencing him. The note, written by a monk, refers to Robin Hood as nothing more than a thief and trouble for the law-abiding folks around Sherwood Forest. Here's the passage from the AP story:

An academic says he's found evidence that Britain's legendary outlaw Robin Hood wasn't as popular as folklore suggests.

Julian Luxford says a note discovered in the margins of an ancient history book contains rare criticism of the supposedly benevolent bandit.

According to legend, Robin Hood roamed 13th-century Britain from a base in central England's Sherwood Forest, plundering from the rich to give to the poor.

But Luxford, an art history lecturer at Scotland's University of St. Andrews, says a 23-word inscription in the margins of a history book, written in Latin by a medieval monk around 1460, casts the outlaw as a persistent thief.

"Around this time, according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood, with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies," the note read when translated into English, Luxford said.

Hot Air, and others apparently, are using this passage to suggest that Robin Hood wasn't the man of the common people as he is popularly portrayed. I think a bit of historic perspective may be in order.

Robin Hood has been made famous for "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor." That he probably did, but who were the rich in the England of the mid 1300s? They were not capitalists or entrepreneurs who had risked their own wealth to create more. They were landed nobility who had inherited their wealth and land and the attendant political power. The government and the nobles, the rich, were one and the same. They made their income to supplement their inheritance by taxing the serfs who lived on their land and worked it raising food and necessities. In return they offered some physical protection, but it wasn't a good deal for the serf and wasn't optional for him either.

The fact that a monk would bad mouth Robin Hood has been taken by some to suggest that he was just a common thief. The assumption here is that the Church was on the side of the "common man" and is just plain untrue. The Church in England at this time was in large part just as corrupt, greedy and political as the nobility. I'm not suggesting every country priest was evil, but it isn't too far of a stretch to imagine the monk who wrote the newly discovered passage naturally preferring the "law-abiding" peasants who made regular tithes to his church and didn't make waves to a populist robber who stood up to the status quo.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bi-Partisanship, as it were

Camille Paglia, a very liberal lesbian feminist Democrat columnist, agrees with yours truly about the Obama administration's attacks on Rush. From Ms. Paglia's Salon.com column:

Case in point: The orchestrated attack on radio host Rush Limbaugh, which has made the White House look like an oafish bunch of drunken frat boys. I returned from carnival in Brazil (more on that shortly) to find the Limbaugh affair in full flower. Has the administration gone mad? This entire fracas was set off by the president himself, who lowered his office by targeting a private citizen by name. Limbaugh had every right to counterattack, which he did with gusto. Why have so many Democrats abandoned the hallowed principle of free speech? Limbaugh, like our own liberal culture hero Lenny Bruce, is a professional commentator who can be as rude and crude as he wants.

Yes, I cringe when Rush plays his "Barack the Magic Negro" satire or when he gratuitously racializes the debate over Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is a constant subject of withering scrutiny for quite different reasons on sports shows here in Philadelphia. On the other hand, I totally agree with Rush about "feminazis," whose amoral tactics and myopic worldview I as a dissident feminist had to battle for decades. As a student of radio and a longtime listener of Rush's show, I have gotten a wealth of pleasure and insight from him over the years. To attack Rush Limbaugh is to attack his audience -- and to intensify the loyalty of his fan base.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whitehouse vs. Rush

The New york Times reports that senior Obama advisor David Axelrod ordered the recent White House attacks on Rush Limbaugh. The Sister Toldjah blog asks, "Where's the outrage?"

There should be no outrage. Obama is acting like the rookie he is by using the force of the Presidential bully pulpit against a radio talk show host. Sure Rush is influential, but never more so than after these attacks. If Obama gets Rush's message to just a few more people, we've won this battle. It's a no-win for the administration. If Rush is smeared, they look small. If he comes out looking fine, they look smaller.

Budget In Trouble, For Wrong Reasons

Obama's huge Omnibus Spending Bill lacks the votes to pass the Senate, say the budget committee's leaders. Don't get too excited though, it's not because it's a bloated pork-o-rama that sells our children and grandchildren into financial slavery.

Nope. The major hurdles are cutting subsidies to farmers making over half a million dollars a year and a lack of "help" for industries negatively affected by the President's new carbon tax/cap-and-trade scheme.

Look for the new and improved bill that passes the Senate to be even more expensive.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pile o' Pork

Hot Air has posted a video of Rep. Tom Price plopping down the stack of paper containing all 9,000 earmarks attached to the Omnibus Spending Bill next to the text of the bill itself. The picture is truly worth a thousand words. Check it out.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smithsonian Magazine Interviews the Night Tripper

This is a really good talk with a really interesting man. Who would have thought the Smithsonian Institution's magazine would ever print an explanation of why someone would bite the head off a live chicken on stage.

Gris gris, indeed.

"The Sinews of Peace"

That is the name Sir Winston Churchill gave to the speech that made famous the term "the Iron Curtain." Churchill gave this speech on March 5, 1946, at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri and was introduced by President Harry Truman.

We can still learn today from the wisdom of Churchill. He was one of the most far-sighted politicians of the twentieth century and a lot of bloodshed could have been avoided had his words been headed earlier.

Here's a piece of the beginning of his speech:

The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American Democracy. For with primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future. If you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done but also you must feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement. Opportunity is here now, clear and shining for both our countries. To reject it or ignore it or fritter it away will bring upon us all the long reproaches of the after-time. It is necessary that constancy of mind, persistency of purpose, and the grand simplicity of decision shall guide and rule the conduct of the English-speaking peoples in peace as they did in war. We must, and I believe we shall, prove ourselves equal to this severe requirement.

When American military men approach some serious situation they are wont to write at the head of their directive the words "over-all strategic concept." There is wisdom in this, as it leads to clarity of thought. What then is the over-all strategic concept which we should inscribe today? It is nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands. And here I speak particularly of the myriad cottage or apartment homes where the wage-earner strives amid the accidents and difficulties of life to guard his wife and children from privation and bring the family up in the fear of the Lord, or upon ethical conceptions which often play their potent part.

To give security to these countless homes, they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny. We all know the frightful disturbances in which the ordinary family is plunged when the curse of war swoops down upon the bread-winner and those for whom he works and contrives. The awful ruin of Europe, with all its vanished glories, and of large parts of Asia glares us in the eyes. When the designs of wicked men or the aggressive urge of mighty States dissolve over large areas the frame of civilised society, humble folk are confronted with difficulties with which they cannot cope. For them all is distorted, all is broken, even ground to pulp.

When I stand here this quiet afternoon I shudder to visualise what is actually happening to millions now and what is going to happen in this period when famine stalks the earth. None can compute what has been called "the unestimated sum of human pain." Our supreme task and duty is to guard the homes of the common people from the horrors and miseries of another war. We are all agreed on that.

Our American military colleagues, after having proclaimed their "over-all strategic concept" and computed available resources, always proceed to the next step - namely, the method. Here again there is widespread agreement. A world organisation has already been erected for the prime purpose of preventing war, UNO, the successor of the League of Nations, with the decisive addition of the United States and all that that means, is already at work. We must make sure that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action, and not merely a frothing of words, that it is a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can some day be hung up, and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel. Before we cast away the solid assurances of national armaments for self-preservation we must be certain that our temple is built, not upon shifting sands or quagmires, but upon the rock. Anyone can see with his eyes open that our path will be difficult and also long, but if we persevere together as we did in the two world wars - though not, alas, in the interval between them - I cannot doubt that we shall achieve our common purpose in the end.

Here's the whole speech.

Here's audio of Sir Winston Churchill himself speaking of the Iron Curtain.

Frying Pan Light Tower Gets New Life

Who says private enterprise won't work? The Frying Pan Light Light Tower has been slowly languishing 35 miles off the coast of North Carolina sinc ethe Coast Guard decided it had outlived its usefulness six years ago. Deemed to expensive to clean for artificial reef purposes, the platform rises 125 feet out of the sea and features 5,000 square feet of living space and a helipad.

The structure was put out for bid by the U.S. government in October and yesterday the bid was won by Shipwrecks Inc., based in South Carolina. They plan to use the tower as a base for SCUBA trips, education and research.

Hooray for private enterprise!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Articles of Confederation

On this date in 1781, two years after the new states won their independence from England, our first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, went into effect. The preamble has none of the eloquence of the Constitution, and the Articles themselves proved too weak and unwieldy, but it is good to understand what held the nation together before the ratification of our Constitution.

Here's a link to the whole document, but I'll pull out two especially interesting articles.

Article VIII basically levies a property tax on the states as a way to fund the central government.

ARTICLE VIII. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all land within each state, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.

The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several states within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.

Article XI invites Canada to join our new nation. Wouldn't that have been interesting?

ARTICLE XI. Canada acceding to this Confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union: but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.

Maybe They Could Dump Evian

A report on the Rhymes With Right blog tells of a Tea Party Gone Horribly Wrong. Seems that tea is a pollutant, and the partiers did not acquire the necessary permits to dump said beverage into the Cedar River. From the Des Moines Register:

Tea, although natural and quite tasty, is considered a pollutant that can’t go into a body of water without a permit, said Mike Wade, a senior environmental specialist at the DNR’s Manchester field office.

“Discoloration is considered a violation,” Wade said.

On the one hand, this is just about the most depressing thing I've ever heard. On the other, it sounds like a Monty Python skit.