Monday, March 26, 2012

Bend a Knee and the Jets

Tim Tebow signs with the NY Jets -- Bend a Knee and the Jets!

Hamilton's Curse -- Assassin's Creed

The Creed of a Character Assassin

Thomas J. DiLorenzo (TJD) is the author of a book called Hamilton's Curse (http:/, published in 2008, which channels the spirit of Aaron Burr to assassinate the character of Alexander Hamilton.  The book masquerades as a work on history but is, in fact, a polemic against Alexander Hamilton (Just as Evan Thomas' The War Lovers was a polemic against Teddy Roosevelt, et al. -- sea earlier post Remember the Maine, Forget The War Lovers 2/20/12.) -- our nation's first and greatest Treasury Secretary.  TJD's wildly-biased account of history finds Hamilton culpable for nearly every ill afflicting the USA from Wilson's imposition of the income tax to FDR's New Deal to corporate welfare.  TJD is a pro-seccessionist, CSA apologist and rabidly libertarian supporter of Ron Paul.
TJD's favorite game?

The author's ignorance or abuse of the historical record is quite shocking.  Hamilton is described and "an aristocratic New Yorker" even though he was an illegitimate child born on Nevis in the Caribbean who was orphaned at age 11. (  He grew up on St. Croix and the key to his identity was that he identified not with any one particular colony, but rather he was the outsider who became an American.  In Hamilton, general Washington found the son he never had and, in Washington, Hamilton found the best of fathers.

It is "passing strange" how Ron Paul and his supporters (Ron Paul blurbs breathlessly on the book's cover, "I recommend this book to my fellow Jeffersonians.") profess a reverence for the US Constitution, but, at the same time, have nothing but contempt for one of its authors and greatest supporters.  Writing in the Federalist Papers, which were written in support of the Constitution's ratification, Hamilton declared, "Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy."  (See earlier post American Bias for Action, 3/12/12)

TJD sets up a cartoonish contrast between the evil statist Hamilton who tortures the US Constitution to advance his own ends and the virtuous Libertarian Jefferson who is a "strict constructionist".  Jefferson did, indeed, philosophize that "Government governs best which governs least" when he was in opposition during the Adams administration.  When he became President, however, he spent $15million to double the size of the original 13 colonies at 10 cents and acre with the Lousiana purchase -- authorisation for which is impossible to find in the US Constitution.  Though TJD accuses Hamilton of imperial ambitions, it was Jefferson who commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore and chart America's course to the Pacific.  Jefferson also imposed steep tariffs that put Hamilton's "protectionist' efforts to shame.  Jefferson launched America's first war, without congressional consent, against the Barbary pirates.  In short, Jefferson as President, was the very embodiment of Hamiltonian "energy in the executive".

Moreover, Hamilton, who TJD labels a "monarchist" was chiefly responsible for setting up the US institution of the Presidency -- an office for which he himself was ineligible on account of his foreign birth.  Does that sound like the action of a scheming power-mad monarchist?

Hamilton's Curse is simply sloppy history with an axe to grind.  TJD quotes from Buchanan and Wagner's Democracy in Deficit "'after 1964, the United States embarked on a course of fiscal irresponsibility matched by no other period it its two century history.' The year 1964 is significant because it was during the Kennedy administration that Keynsian economists achieved their greatest influence."  Perhaps the author has forgotten the events of Novmber 22nd, 1963?

Burr's Curse?

Here is what financial historian Robert E. Wright has to say about TJD's book..."Far from being "the champion of the Leviathan State", Hamilton was a libertarian mugged by reality. He learned from hard experience that a limp-wristed state was just as big a threat to liberty as an autocracy. He therefore sought to create a vigorous government that could protect life, liberty, and property. But that is where he drew the line, and that is the right place to draw it. He wanted privately owned and operated banks, insurers, factories, even roads and bridges. He did not espouse the creation of a social safety net, income taxes, or free floating government fiat paper money.

As I argue in One Nation Under Debt, Hamilton wanted a government that was big only compared to what Jefferson wanted. Compared to today's behemoth, he wanted a tiny government, Jefferson a teensy one. Both would be with Ron Paul today. This is why TJD has to claim that it took "the relentless efforts of generations of his political heirs to install Hamiltonianism for good in this country".  Hamilton, by this definition, was no Hamiltonian! Again, TJD confuses what Hamilton really wanted with the use that others later made of his name. If TJD would have taken the time to read the original sources, or at least the relevant secondary literature (see above), he would have seen this and found a more appropriate scapegoat for his well justified abhorrence of the status quo." Review of Hamiton's Curse by Robert E. Wright, March 7th, 2009

Booth shooting Lincoln
In his earlier works (e.g. The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War) TJD channels the spirit of John Wilkes Booth ("Sic Semper Tyrannus") to assassinate Lincoln's character.  TJD repeats his now familiar, though unpersuasive, rants which cast Lincoln as a tyrant.  TJD identifies Lincoln as Hamiltonian and accuses him of all manner of transgressions against the Constitution, but it was, in fact, Lincoln who saved the Constitution and preserved the Union. As Lincoln said, "the constitution is not a suicide pact".   It was the English Philosopher, Edmund Burke, who made Lincoln's case (Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790) with this observation about the true nature of the state...

"The state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership in a trade of paper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties (my italics).  It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things only subservient to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born."  (http:/

It was surely about this type of partnership that Lincoln had in mind when he gave his first inaugural in which he addressed to his fellow Americans in the South saying, "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

TJD accuses Teddy Roosevelt of being 'Hamiltonian' as well.  "Teddy Roosevelt was a 'progressive era' president (and admirer of Hamilton) who is credited with being a great environmentalist for having nationalised thousands of acres of land and built dams and other 'conservation' projects with taxpayer dollars."  So the US National Parks system is a socialist scheme brought to us by "red Ted" in TJD's eyes! (See earlier post, Conservatism and the Environment, 2/12/12)

Why was Alexander Hamilton one of the greatest founding fathers?  He was the principal author of the Federalist Papers which were instrumental in getting the US Constitution ratified by the 13 colonies.  He was one of the principal architects of the constitution.  He insisted that the US government repay its debts and helped to create the mechanism for restoring the full faith and credit of the United States.  He created a stable currency.  He helped shape the system of checks and balances which included an energetic executive branch (The Presidency) without which the United States would be unthinkable.  He helped rid us of the Articles of Confederation which formed a hopelessly unworkable system of government and would have gotten even worse (e.g. 13 or 50 different trade and foreign policies).  Hamilton was a staunch opponent of slavery, a champion of liberty.  He laid the foundation for property rights and modern capitalism.  Hamilton provided the necessary hard-headed realism that balanced Jefferson's soaring rhetoric of Liberty.

TJD and his fellow Paul-bots seem to share a quaint nostalgia for the Articles of Confederation and for a Jefffersonian agrarian utopia that never really was.  I am looking forward to TJD's next books which I venture to predict will be either, George Washington Unmasked: Founding Father of Socialism or Spartacus -- an Unnecessary Rebellion!

For an additional take on Hamilton's Curse this is an interesting review...

If you are really interested in learning more about Hamilton you can't do better than Chernow's Hamilton.  http:/

Christopher Hitchens on Jefferson

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The US Civil War, Property Rights and Adam Smith

Adam Smith -- Champion of Freedom (Photo: James Hooper)

The Confederate States of America (CSA) mistakenly believed that they were making a stand on behalf of property rights when they seceded from the Union.  It was Lincoln's Union, however, that affirmed the genuine property rights of free men.

Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations (1776) wrote, "The property which every man has in his own labor, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable."  Where slavery exists, property rights are forever compromised. Only when property rights are respected can man be truly free.

As PJ O'Rourke wrote, "Property rights are not an invention of the rich to keep poor people off their property.  Property rights are the deed we have to ownership of ourselves."  P.J. O'Rourke, On The Wealth of Nations, 2007.


Axis of  Evil

1) Iran helped bring down the Carter administration. On April 24th, 1980, helicopters from Operation Eagle Claw went down in the desert in a failed attempt to rescue American hostages held in Teheran.  So we can be grateful to Iran for one thing!

2) Iran nearly brought down the Reagan administration with the Iran Contra scandal which exploited Reagan's naiveté and better nature.

3) From 1980 to 1988 Iran waged a pointless and devastating war with Saddam's Iraq that claimed the lives of 1 to 1 1/2 million of its young men.

4) Iran is a theocratic government that systematically denies human rights to 1/2 of its citizens.

5) Iran is a closed police state where as much as 20% of the total population is in the Basij which is a para-military force. (  Iran is a what Natan Sharansky would call a "fear  state" not a free state.  The Case for Democracy, Natan Sharansky, 2004.  http:/

6) Iran is positioned on a virtual lake of oil (3rd largest oil reserves in the world with over 150 billion barrels) that allows it to finance terrorism throughout the Middle East, shipping  IEDs to Iraq and funding Hezbollah.

7)  Iran's leader since 2005, Ahmadinejad (or "I'm  a dinner jacket") , is given to making a variety of outrageous statements such as denying the holocaust, calling for Israel to "vanish from the pages of time," denying the existence of gays in Iran, and making "truther" claims about 9/11 on his most recent visit to the UN in 2010.  Every time he says something ridiculous the price of oil seems to gyrate upwards.  How moderate would your political views be, dear reader, if your net worth increased every time you made an outrageous political statement?

8) Blessed are the Peacemakers, but not in Iran where the assassins of peacemakers are honoured; there is a street in Tehran named after Khaled El-Islambouli, the assassin of Anwar Sadat.  A movie, Assassination of a Pharaoh, glorifying El-Islambouli aired on Iranian Television.  Last year, El-Islambouli was honoured with a mural in Tehran.

9)  Iran's actions, particularly with regard to its ongoing development of nuclear weapons, are far more alarming than Ahmadinejad's statements.

10)  Iran plotted and funded an attempted assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Washington DC just last year.  The plot was foiled by US intelligence forces, but had it been carried out, it would have been an "act of war."

Commander Kelly asks, "Where is Iran on the OODA loop?" and "Where is the West positioned in relation to Iran on the OODA loop?" (See earlier post, Colonel John Boyd 1/6/12)

Our Choice on Iran

More background on Iran

Friday, March 23, 2012

The American Revolution

Christopher Hitchens points out, quite properly, that the American Revolution is the only revolution which continues to evolve and remain a dynamic force in the world.  The American Revolution was not an uprising by the oppressed and disadvantaged against those in power.  It was a revolution led by planters, farmers and merchants against Great Britain and George III.   It was a revolution that affirmed property rights and the primacy of the free individual.

The American Revolution was and remains a Conservative revolution.

The Russian Revolution is dead.  Mao's revolution is irrelevant to modern China.  The French Revolution belongs to history.

Only the American revolution is ongoing.

Commander Kelly say, "God Bless Christopher Hitchens"!

Why is it that Christopher Hitchens, a socialist and atheist who was born in England, "gets it" and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a US Supreme Court Justice, can't seem to?

For more check out...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cicero on History

Cicero, Capitoline Museum, Rome

"To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child."  Cicero

When Character Was King

Published 2001

I just finished reading Peggy Noonan's terrific book When Character was King about Ronald Reagan.  Peggy was a speech writer in the Reagan White House.  She is an incredible woman who combines of a tough mind and a tender heart.  I don't like Peggy Noonan;  I love this woman!

Her book is full of wonderful revelations about Reagan.  She writes, for example about Reagan's love for his ranch.  It is quite evident that Reagan "cultivated his garden" just as Voltaire would have wished (see earlier post "Voltaire -- Conservative of the Enlightenment 3/3/12)).  Noonan writes, "All those vacations past, during then eighties, when you heard on the news, 'The president cleared brush today,' that's what he was doing.  I was a writer at CBS then and after a few years I thought, Isn't he done yet? How the heck much brush is there?  And when you see it you realise: 688 acres."

Reagan was an environmentalist in much the same way as Teddy Roosevelt (see earlier post Conservatism and the Environment 2/7/12).  "He loved the beauty of all living things, of all things that grew in the soil and flew in the air and slithered and scrambled, all the wildlife, even homely old cows and burros...Reagan thought like his mother: God made them.  He was by nature a conservationist because he believed what she told him: Man was made in God's image and given dominion over the natural things and it was a sin to destroy them or ignore them or dirty the world or be wasteful.  Man had dominion, and if he didn't use it wisely or kindly or generously, he wasn't much of a man.

He hated crudity, cruelty, selfishness and waste, thought the land is our paternity, the physical thing we leave to the next generations.  So being cruel to nature was, to him -- like setting fire to a cathedral."  http:/

Reagan in London (Photo James Hooper)

She illuminates Reagan's remarkable sense of humor, perhaps most on display after those grim days following his assassination.  Just before the operation "he looked up at the doctors and said, 'I just hope you're all Republicans.'  And a doctor, in a moment of great grace, said, 'Today, Mr. President, we're all Republicans.'"  After the operation a hospital nurse held his hand and Reagan asked, "Does Nancy know about us?"  This was genuine wit without the benefit of any speechwriters or tele-prompters.
Commander K. at the Ronald Reagan Library
Simi Valley, CA
Nor does Noonan attempt to gloss over Reagan's personal or political faults.  He had a troubled relations with his children and the Iran/Contra scandal was a huge embarrassment where the Iranians were able to exploit his well-intentioned desire to free the hostages.

She does celebrate his triumphs.  The 1970's were a catastrophic decade with many parallels to our current predicament.  During the Carter administration inflation was soaring, unemployment was rising and the economy was stagnant.  During the Reagan administration, the US economy grew by one third in size and all income groups rose.  When he assumed office, the unemployment rate was 7.4%, when he left it was 5.4%. The Dow Jones average climbed from below 800 at his inauguration to more than 2,400 by the end of his second term.

His principled articulation of the Reagan doctrine, which insisted that USA would stand with those hungering for freedom throughout the world, would help tip the scales during the cold war.  Occupants of the gulag, such as Natan Sharansky, took heart when Reagan call the Soviet Union an "evil empire."  His utter rejection of the MAD (Mutually assured destruction), which had been conventional wisdom for US strategic thinking for decades, was absolutely a turning point in our history.  His refusal to give up on SDI ("Star Wars' defence") scared the hell out of Gorbachev and helped bankrupt the Soviets.  He famously demanded that they "tear down that wall" and they did.

Reagan presided over a period of peace, growth and prosperity.  We often forget how viciously he was attacked and ridiculed during those times.  The distinguished historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. said in 1982, "those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse, ready with one small push to go over the brink are wishful thinkers who are only kidding themselves."

Reagan accomplished all this with a measure of grace and dignity which seems to be fundamentally lacking in all the political options of our own day.

Today we confront a situation that is not totally unlike that of 1979.  We have a failed Democratic administration.  We have economic turmoil and high unemployment.  We have a costly destabilizing invasion of Afghanistan -- for which we cannot even blame on the Soviets!

The big unanswered and perhaps unanswerable question about the 2016 is simply this:  Do any have the character to lead the USA out of the misery of our own times in the way that Reagan led this country out of the despair of the Carter years?


This from 2009 is almost an hour, but has some great bits.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

US Debt up more in three years of Obama than 8 years of Bush!

US National Debt

Even CBS news is now reporting that "The National Debt has now increased more during President Obama's three years and two months in office than it did during 8 years of the George W. Bush presidency.
The Debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office."

Here is the full story...

CBS News!  Et tu Brute!

Romney wins the Land of Lincoln!

Illinois goes for Romney

Romney's win in Illinois yesterday has put a new spring in his step.  It is quite clear that he will, short of heart failure, become the Republican nominee for the fall.

The only major drama left is the question about of who Romney will choose as his VP.  Condi has ruled herself out (see article and interview below).  Santorum would be an interesting choice that would expedite the end of Republican infighting and be a conscious strategy of targeting the Catholic vote which Obama has managed to unnecessarily antagonise.  Santorum could help make Pennsylvania competitive, though he did lose badly in his last senatorial bid in 2006, where he lost by an 18 point margin -- the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent senator since 1980.   Rubio would also be a bid for the Catholic vote as well as Hispanics and would help with Florida.  Due to the 2010 census, the state of Florida has gained 2 additional electoral votes since 2008 making it a bigger prize than ever with 29 electoral votes in 2012.

The three large states that are always "up for grabs" are Florida (29 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20), and Ohio (18).   Win two out of three of these states and you become President.

Catholics are a large and always closely divided voting block.  Win a majority of the Catholic vote and a US Presidential candidate is almost assured victory -- Obama won it 2008, Bush in 2004 and 2000.  A majority of the Catholic vote has sided with the winner of 9 out of the 10 past US Presidential elections (  Romney must also try to neutralise the anti-mormon sentiment with a choice that reaches across the religious divide.

Some platform bones may be thrown to the Paul-bots due to their youth, enthusiasm and the likelihood that many will just stay home on election day in November when Paul loses the nomination.  Ron Paul as Fed Chairman, anyone?

Here's the story on Condi bowing out of consideration...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Daffodils, Joseph Kennedy and Americans Behaving Badly!

Daffodils in London (Photo: James Hooper)

Now in Mid-March, the Daffodils are in glorious bloom again in London and all over England.  They look spectacular and remind me of a saying attributed to  member of the British Foreign Office about Joseph Kennedy, who was the American ambassador to the court of St. James from 1938 to 1940.  The remark was,

"I always thought my daffodils were yellow until I met Joe Kennedy."

Why would he say such a thing about the father of JFK and RFK, two lions of the Democratic party?

Joseph Kennedy's ambassadorial appointment was described by Conrad Black in his FDR biography as "ultimately widely reckoned to be one of the worst diplomatic appointments in the history of the United States."  He was a fervent supporter of Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement.  He had secret meetings with German government officials during World War II -- without informing his boss FDR.  He was, in King George V's words' "a Stinker".

In a November 1940 interview, while bombs were falling on London, Ambassador Kennedy, said, "Democracy is finished in England. It may be here [in the US]."  FDR fired him as Ambassador for that remark.

To read more, you may enjoy these...

This one is a bit kinder...

Commander Kelly wishes everyone a belated St Patrick's Day!

For Robert E. Kelly
1929 to 2008

Some people have a deep abiding respect for this country...

Some people have a deep abiding respect for this country--some people, however, want to give parts of it to Russia!  One of those is our President.

President Obama and the US State department are in the process of ceding 7 or 8 strategic Alaskan islands that contain significant natural resources to Putin's Russia.  One of these, Wrangell island, is 3,000 square miles larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined!  This might be a funny story if it were not true...

Commander Kelly says, "Bring back the Crying Indian!"

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lincoln in London, Ron Paul and Revisionist History

Lincoln in London (courtesy James Hooper)
The Conservative tour of London continues.  Near Westminster Abbey and the houses of Parliament you will find the remarkable statue of Abraham Lincoln pictured above.  The 16th President of the United States faced the gravest crisis in the history of the United States -- the American Civil War.   Lincoln was the first Republican President, the founder of the Republican party.  He was the great Emancipator who helped win freedom for millions and set us on a path to greater justice for all.  He was the ultimate Conservative who preserved the "last best hope for mankind" in our nation's most desperate times.

But not according to one Republican candidate.  Just listen to what Ron Paul had to say in 2008 on the subject of Lincoln...

Paul shamelessly exploits the fallen of the US Civil War in front of a confederate flag to advance his own neo-isolationist agenda...

Ron Paul, who has locked up the John Wilkes Booth wing of the Republican party, has read the works of revisionist historian Thomas DiLorenzo and takes them for the definitive word on Lincoln and the US Civil war or "War of Northern Aggression" as he would prefer to call it.  DiLorenzo is a Libertarian/Marxist professor of economics from Virginia Tech.  According to him, the US Civil war was unnecessary and an excuse for Lincoln  to expand the role of the federal government at the expense of individual liberty.  He cites Lincoln's suspension of Habeus Corpus, the deportation of  the Democratic politician Vallandingham to the Confederate states (his Copperhead body could go 'where his heart already was'), and the institution of  the country's first-ever draft (also adopted by the CSA).  With Lincoln, the gravest crisis in the nation's history was combined with the most eloquent man to ever hold the office--the result was greatly expanded Presidential powers.   

DiLorenzo seems to have discovered that Lincoln was not a Brie and Chardonnay-sipping 21st century liberal with regard to racial politics (e.g. he supported at various times shipment of slaves to Liberia).  He makes much of Lincoln's tepid support of the Corwin amendment in his first inaugural address which would have perpetuated slavery, ignoring the fact that President Buchanan had already endorsed and signed the amendment and the fact that this was a "hail Mary" play designed to avert the coming effusion of blood that was looming.

DiLorenzo is unabashedly libertarian and a strong supporter of Ron Paul.  I label him "Marxist" as well due to his insistence on explaining the outbreak of the US Civil War in terms of economic causation--an argument over tariffs.  Not all political problems, however, are truly economic and it was the moral dilemma of slavery that was the root cause of the US Civil war.   Moreover, Paul and DiLorenzo both express great admiration for the crank abolitionist Lysander Spooner who opposed the Civil war and became a socialist member of the First International.

Ron Paul seems to accept the 21st century, and quite un-libertarian, premise that we can solve problems by simply throwing money at them--that slavery could have been ended with a negotiated settlement.  This is simply a gross distortion of the historical record. During the 80+ years from the ratification of the Constitution to 1860, there was no successful "deal" to end slavery in the Southern states.  Moreover, Lincoln actually DID try to arrange a compensated emancipation during the civil war (see below).

In 2002 a debate between DiLorenzo and the distinguished Lincoln scholar, Harry Jaffa, took place in California.  Here is what Harry Jaffa has to say, " In the first place, the idea that the Federal government in 1860 should have offered to buy the slaves is a political absurdity. Any claim by Lincoln or his party of any jurisdiction over slavery in the states would have been regarded, and justly regarded, as completely unconstitutional, and advocating the overthrow of the Constitution.

Now, during the Civil War, Lincoln did endorse a program of compensated emancipation. In his 1862 message to Congress, he proposed a series of Constitutional amendments that would have authorized the Federal government to reimburse states that adopted programs of compensated emancipation. He was very anxious. This was before the Emancipation Proclamation, the final one, was issued on January 1, 1863.

But he did want to see to it that loyal slave owners were not expropriated by his emancipation policy. But he couldn’t get the Congress to adopt it. He couldn’t get any Representatives, and people from Kentucky, or Missouri, or the border states to vote for it, and so he failed. This is the message to Congress which ended with those wonderful words, “Gentlemen of the Congress, we cannot escape history. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of Earth.” Well, it failed.

And comparing what happened in England—after all, in England the Parliament in Westminster was making laws for the West Indies. The West Indians didn’t have any representation in the Parliament. The laws were made for them, and they had to go along with it. There was no such power within the Federal government to interfere with slavery, except by limiting the expansion of slavery. And it was Lincoln’s belief—and I think the best economic analysis that we have of the American economy in the antebellum United States indicates—that if the expansion of slavery had been ended, and if it was no longer possible for surplus slaves to be sold from the old states to new territories, that the pressure within the states to adopt programs of emancipation would become great enough to do that."

Paul and DiLorenzo assert that the US Civil war, the costliest war in US history with around 625,000 killed, was unnecessary and avoidable.  Was the US Civil war really necessary?  This is a profound metaphysical question not easily answered.  The original US constitution continued fateful ambiguities regarding both the institution of slavery and the right of secession that contained the seeds of the eventual armed conflict. Seven Confederate states had seceded form the Union before Lincoln even took the oath of office.  It was the Southern attack on Fort Sumter on April 12th 1861 that made the war necessary, forcing Lincoln's hand and rallying the North to the cause of Union.

Lincoln believed that when the original 13 states ratified the US Constitution they formed a nation thereby.  Jeff Davis believed that when the states ratified the Constitution they formed an voluntary alliance somewhat akin to NATO today.  The constitutional case regarding the legitimacy of secession was definitively adjudicated in the case of Grant versus Lee, near the Appamatox courthouse.  

Surrender at Appamatox
It was only after Lincoln that we would recite a pledge of allegiance that said that we live in "one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

Did Lincoln expand the powers of the federal government and the executive branch?  Of course he did--he defined what it is to be a successful and energetic executive.  This expansion IS fraught with the potential for abuse.  Power still corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  This is precisely why voters today must be particularly vigilant when selecting our elected officials and particularly our President.

During the Jaffa/DiLorenzo debate of 2002 an audience member asks whether Lincoln violated the Constitution during the US Civil war.  Jaffa responds as follows...

"Well, in the first place, I deny that Lincoln acted unconstitutionally at any time during the Civil War. It was a civil war. There were traitors in the midst of all of the free states. The possibility of recruiting soldiers and keeping them from deserting. There was lots of desertion on both sides of the Civil War, and it just happens that there were more Confederate soldiers executed for desertion than there were Union soldiers. But there were plenty of executions on both sides.

It was a terrible war. The idea that the cost of the war is due to Lincoln is simply absurd. It was a terrible war because the country was deeply divided, and the question of the future of the nation—whether or not it would be based upon principles recognized as principles of individual liberty, or whether the idea of one race dominating another race would be accepted as a means for governance. Let me just read one short statement here that might interest you. “Since the Civil War, in which the Southern States were conquered, against all historical logic and sound sense, the American people have been in a condition of political and popular decay…. The beginnings of a great new social order based on the principle of slavery and inequality were destroyed by that war, and with them also the embryo of a future truly great America.” That has been the position of defenders of the Confederacy from Alexander Stephens through Thomas DiLorenzo. Do you know the man who said that was Adolf Hitler?"  For the full and very interesting debate in which the octogenarian Jaffa trounces DiLorenzo please check out...

Lincoln himself put the matter even more pithily, "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." 

Overlooked by the Paul-bots is the fact that Habeus Corpus was fully restored in 1866.  Nor has been it suspended by any President including FDR during World War II.   Civil war conscription ended at the war's conclusion as well.

Oswald Moseley, British Paulbot!

The lightly-educated Ron Paul is a proponent of peace in much the same way that Oswald Moseley was a proponent of peace during World War II.  Moseley, a veteran of World War I and an English MP, was the founder of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) -- Hitler actually attended his second wedding to Diana Mitford in Berlin at Goebbel's house.  After the outbreak of the Second World War, Moseley agitated for a negotiated peace with Germany.  On May 23 1940, shortly after Churchill became Prime Minister, both Moseley and his wife--in spite of having committed no crime--were interned at Holloway prison for the duration of the war.  Churchill acted just as Lincoln surely would have to protect their respective homelands.

For those who believe that strong federal power is incompatible with liberty I would present the counterexample of the USS Abraham Lincoln -- which I had the privilege to see in the spring of 2011 at Pearl Harbor.  The crew stood on the decks and saluted the fallen heroes of the USS Arizona.  The existence of this nuclear powered vessel is a clear example of appropriate federal power that can be used to protect and preserve the US Constitution and liberty around the world.  For goosebumps check out Whitney Houston singing the Battle Hymn of the republic to the returning Gulf war vets below!

USS Abraham Lincoln
In conclusion, Ron Paul would make an excellent President of the United States -- had we maintained the articles of Confederation!

For DiLorenzo's Revisionist history see...

For Jaffa's works see...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Faces of Conservatism - Gilbert and George

Gilbert and George

Last week Rush Limbaugh got into hot water for using derogatory terms to describe a woman with whom he disagreed on contraceptives.  I have sometimes enjoyed Rush who is brilliant and often amusing.  Anyone who speaks for live 15 hours (less commercials) is bound, however, to make some mistakes.  Rush's error was seized upon by President Obama in a shameless attempt to politicize it and demonise conservatism with with half of the voting population.

As an alternative to Rush's buffoonery, I would like to offer this as a set of new fresh fresh faces for the big tent of Conservatism -- the artists Gilbert and George.  Here's this from a recent Evening Standard article about them...

"By the mid-Seventies they were already a fully fledged double-act. Sexually libertarian, revolutionary even, they have always been politically conservative and are harsh judges of those who do not share their work ethic. They both dismiss the St Paul’s protesters as “hippies” and “idiots” and would rather side with the bankers than “some vegan twit on benefits”, they think Boris Johnson is “a wonderful modern person” and believe fiercely in “making money”.

“We make our art, we try to sell it. We are doing it day and night, we are here at 5am trying to do it every day for the last 40 years. That’s fantastic, no?” says Gilbert."

Here is the full article...

Then there is this from their Wikipedia entry...

"Gilbert & George are an oddity in the artistic world because of their openly conservative political views and their praise for Margaret Thatcher. George claims never to have been anti-establishment: "you're not allowed to be Conservative in the art world, of course", he says. "Left equals good. Art equals Left. Pop stars and artists are meant to be so original. So how come everyone has the same opinion? ... We admire Margaret Thatcher greatly. She did a lot for art. Socialism wants everyone to be equal. We want to be different."  The duo are monarchists and have said of the Prince of Wales: "We're also fond of the Prince of Wales: he's a gentleman."  Source: Wikipedia

Commander Kelly says, "go check out Gilbert and George!"

Gilbert and George: London Pictures opens at the White Cube galleries in Hoxton Square, Mason’s Yard and Bermondsey on March 9, 2012.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Moscow's 65th Anniversary Victory Day Parade

Soviets capture Berlin, May 1945

Americans of all political stripes are far too quick to bluster and be triumphal over our role during World War II.  We are too slow to acknowledge the enormous historic debt owed by the free world to the people of the former Soviet Union.

According to official Soviet estimates that were released in 1993, there were over 8.8 million military killed or missing and over 13.6 million civilian losses for a combined total of over 22.4 million.  Deaths due to increased infant mortality during wartime, death is German labor camps, deaths due to famine and disease in German occupied territory drove the total losses to about 26.6 million--more than any other combatant nation.  That is more than 42X more than the total number of deaths in America's costliest war--the U.S. Civil War which claimed 625,000 lives.  The Soviet Union lost about 13.8% of its total 1939 population during the course of the war, the USA, by contrast, lost 0.32% of its total population with just over 416,000 deaths during World War II.  These are truly staggering numbers.

Soviet War memorial at Imperial War museum in London
Over 36% of Russian men aged 20 to 34 were killed during the Second World War, over 33% of men 35 to 49 as well.  A generation of Soviets was obliterated at places like Stalingrad, Kursk and the three-year-long siege of Leningrad.  Nor were the casualties exclusively Russian; they came from all corners of the former Soviet Union.  Over 1.3 million Ukranians alone were killed in the war.  Stalin cooly remarked that, "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic".

In Paris you will find Stalingrad station on the Metro.  In London, you will find a memorial to the Soviet war dead in the garden of the Imperial War Museum on Lambeth road.

These massive deaths were not in vain.  Four out of every five German soldiers who died in the war perished on the Eastern front (  Please pause a moment to let that fact sink in!  The Soviets effectively won 80% of the war in Europe.

We Americans tend to become somewhat sentimental about the so-called "Greatest Generation".  The brutal truth is that most of the "Greatest Generation" might never have survived the war without the tremendous sacrifice of the Soviet people.

U.S. Army in Red Square, 2010
On May 9th, 2010 Russia marked the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (  For the first time in her history the military forces of all the allied nations were invited to participate in the parades and celebration.  Forces from the UK, France and the USA among many others participated.

The White House put out an appropriately worded press release (  During the 2008 election campaign candidate Obama boasted of of his maternal relatives' military service during the war. On May 9th, 2010, President Obama and Vice President Biden were unable to attend the Victory Day Commemoration.

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The American Bias for Action

Alexander Hamilton, Architect of Liberty -- 1757 - 1804

There is a "bias for action" running like a skein through the thread of American history right from our founding to the present day.  To simply attempt a crossing of the Atlantic in the 16th century required a  huge amount of personal courage--a willingness to "take the plunge."  It was not the "essay", "Op-ed" or "thought piece" heard round the world; no it was shots fired by relatively simple farmers at Concord bridge who, in their frustration with the crown, felt compelled to act.  The absence of a bias for action, on the other hand, was a very poor survival trait for life on the frontier in the American West.

The bias for action is reflected in our US constitution with its three distinct branches of government.  Congress is the deliberative body that passes laws and controls the "power of the purse."  The judicial branch weighs in administering the laws while the Supreme Court judges the Constitutionality of laws passed by Congress.  The Presidency or Executive branch, however, provides the critical active principle which moves the ship of state forward.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist papers, "Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy."  One could argue that Hamilton's own personal "bias for action" led him astray in accepting Burr's fateful challenge.

Due to the "bias for action", even an unpopular President remains, therefore, more popular than Congress.  A President may act badly or foolishly but, at least, he is the energizing active principle that can get something, anything please, done.  It is the executive branch gives us hope that something can be accomplished and that disappoints us if these hopes go unfulfilled.

When McKinley in 1898 faced chaos in Cuba, sixty miles off the coast of Florida and the explosion of the USS Maine, he acted -- America went to war with Spain (see earlier post Remember the Maine, Forget the War Lovers, February 20th, 2012).  When the Japanese bombed Pearl harbor, FDR acted decisively leading the allies to victory in World War II.  When the atom bomb gave Truman the opportunity to end the war at a stroke, saving countless Allied and Japanese lives, he acted with the overwhelming support of the American people.  During the 1950's the American people preferred Eisenhower, the heroic leader of D-day, over the more reflective "egghead" Adlai Stevenson. In 1960 they preferred the JFK of PT 109 over the more cerebral and calculating Vice President Richard Nixon.

Route of the Great White Fleet, 1907 - 1909
TR's Great White Fleet

My personal favourite example of strong Executive action was Teddy Roosevelt's strategically questionable but, nevertheless, awesome decision as commander-in-chief to send the Great White fleet around the world in a peaceful 14,556 nautical mile circumnavigation of the globe from 1907 until 1909.  This was America's coming out party among the nation's of the world.  This was a small step from isolationism towards engagement.  This was peace through strength.  This was a bold demonstration of America's big stick that set world records, but had no butcher's bill.   The sword was unsheathed and flourished, but no one got hurt.  The Great White Fleet made waves that ripple to this day.

 We Americans prefer Fleming's James Bond to Le Carre's George Smiley.  We prefer John Wayne to Gary Cooper.  We prefer baseball players to lawyers and politicians.  Even our philosophers have a more practical bent than their peers around the world.  Benjamin Franklin would invent stoves and start volunteer fire departments (see earlier post A Burning Question, January 19th, 2012).  William James  came up with a philosophy of  Pragmatism that defined truth as "that which works."

More recently, when President Obama continued the policies of his predecessor and dispatched a team of Navy Seals that finally killed Osama Bin Laden America enjoyed a brief cathartic national celebration.

This quintessential "bias for action", which may be summed up as "Ready, Fire, Aim," can occasionally get us into serious trouble.  We had a "bias for action" the day that some of us fired on Fort Sumter.   Ronald Reagan "sent in the Marines" to Lebanon in the 1980's and we lived to regret it.  We need to find the proper balance between courageous action and wise reflection.  We need to know where we are on the OODA loop (see earlier post Colonel John Boyd January 6th, 2012).

As Winston Churchill, who was, after all, half-American and had a "bias for action" of his own ("action this day"), once said, "You can always count on Americans to do (my italics) the right thing - after they've tried everything else.”

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