History

Flag Banning


I’m a native New Yorker. Had I been alive in the past centuries with my current beliefs I would have been a slavery Abolitionist and if possible both an activist in the Underground Railroad smuggling slaves to freedom in Canada and an agitator for slave rebellions against slaveholders in states where slavery was legal.

That said, I oppose the current move by retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Sears and eBay to ban sale of merchandise displaying the Confederate Battle Flag and of Warner Brothers to stop making toy “Dukes of Hazzard” cars carrying the Confederate flag decal.

Dukes of Hazzard General Lee
Dukes of Hazzard General Lee

This wiping out of American history, putting the Confederate flag into an Orwellian Memory Hole, can only benefit a totalitarian view where the honoring of any rebellion against central government is tagged as unallowable. The cause of preserving slavery was an evil motive for rebellion but the Constitution as permitting no exit clause for dissenters against hegemonic centralism is also evil.

I would have agreed with abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison that, if anything, the non-slave-owning states should have seceded from the Union and been a haven for slaves escaping from the slave-holding states.

Libertarians make a mistake if we believe our freedom can only be lost to government edict. The surrender without a fight to trendy historical censorship is as quick a path to tyranny.

When private companies ban merchandise because the fragile among us object, it will never stop. Banning sales of firearms and ammunition when evildoers use them against the innocent will follow. The battle flag of the American Revolution — the “Dont Tread on Me” Gadsden Flag — will disappear if some demented Tea Party zealot commits a lone-wolf act of terrorism and embraces that symbol while doing it.

And when we see drone-strike “collateral damage” burning the Stars and Stripes should Americans pull down their national flag in sympathy as well?

Abandon your past and you condemn your future.

If flags can be banned, so can books and movies.

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Stop and Frisk


Listening to Bill O’Reilly or Dennis Prager denouncing Brown University students for shouting down New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, making it impossible for NYC’s Top Cop to speak, reminds me how almost everything that passes for political discourse these days would have confounded the Founders. (And take that, Cole Porter!)

First, are college students who shout down a government official so he can’t speak thugs, as David Horowitz’s Freedom Center has made a talking point for everyone called a right-wing pundit by left-wing pundits? Americans protesting their government both before and after the American Revolution would have considered shouting down a speaker mild thuggery at worst, considering that tarring and feathering of government tax collectors was not uncommon.

Bostonians Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring and Feathering (1774)
The Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, 1774

But getting beyond the question of whether a government official speaking to justify a police policy should be suffered a hearing at an Ivy League university on general grounds of preserving open political discourse, let’s discuss the policy in controversy.

Stop and Frisk is the practice whereby a police officer upon seeing an individual on the street whom that officer considers generally suspicious — that is, not matching the description of a suspect for a specific crime — is allowed to place his hands on a person in a search for weapons or contraband.

If a private person places his hands on another person without that first person’s consent, it’s the crime of assault — and possibly sexual assault.

These police assaults are not usually of Wall Street Bankers. They’re in minority neighborhoods plagued by violent crime. The argument in favor of this policy is an end-justifies-the-means utilitarian one that it deprives gangs and street criminals of illegal arms that are used in violent crime, and a statistical claim that this police policy can be correlated with a reduction in violent street crimes since implemented.

But buried among political debates about racial profiling is the context that these police searches depend on New York gun-control laws that have violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitutions’ Bill of Rights for over a century, and the Fourth Amendment which requires a warrant before searching a private citizen.

Let’s bring in to this discussion the actual text of these two Amendments:

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I can read the English language and the intent of these two paragraphs is crystal clear to anyone not trained to obfuscate meaning as a lawyer or political operative.

I’ve been listening for days to right-wing pundits calling President Obama a liar because of the accusation he knowingly misrepresented to the American People that the Affordable Care Act would cause them to lose existing health insurance policies and continued treatment by their doctors.

May not I likewise, then, call the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States liars when they rule that New York gun control laws don’t violate the Second Amendment and Stop and Frisk doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment?

I can read these two amendments and reach a clear meaning. Can not Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Prager? And if they instead choose to ignore the clearly written protections of what is intended to be the highest law of the land in favor of inferior law that violates the people’s rights, do they not themselves deserve the appellation of statist liars?

But let’s put aside the question of law for the moment and merely ask if police policy that is intrusive of individual dignity should be allowed in a free society merely because it is speculated that its use correlates with an imagined social benefit — reduction in violent street crime.

If a policy that is not intrusive of individual dignity can be reasonably argued to produce the same result, should not the policy less intrusive be preferred?

The stop and frisk policy is more likely to deter a private citizen from carrying a weapon intended to protect against a criminal attack than it is to deter a gang member who upon seeing a police officer who might stop and frisk him passes his weapon to another gang member who can leave the street and not be searched.

The prior cause of any advantage an armed criminal has is the legal prohibition against private citizens — especially minorities without access to expensive private security – being allowed the means to protect themselves.

Why can’t a so-called conservative claiming to believe in limited government understand that their support for the police is the exact same destruction of individual self-reliance that they denounce when talking about food stamps and other government social programs?

The Framers of American government attempted to set up protections so the people would be free and independent. Today’s so-called liberals and conservatives are both statists who favor disempowering the individual and making them dependent on government for their well-being.

The Framers failed and today’s defender of freedom are blind both to that failure and their own failure to know it.

J. Neil Schulman’s latest book, The Heartmost Desire, which contains his manifesto on how individual liberty is necessary for happiness, is now out. Buy it on Amazon.com. Join discussion of The Heartmost Desire on its official Facebook page.

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9/11 was the “Moneyball” of War

I would have written this earlier on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks, but I was busy looking at actors’ reels all day. — JNS

Osama bin Laden and his cohorts launched the first ultra-low budget indie war. They demonstrated the Moneyball of war a year before the Oakland Athletics demonstrated Moneyball in baseball.

For the price of finding and training a small crew of fanatical acolytes to hijack and pilot four commercial jetliners, the al-Qaeda attacks produced as many casualties and physical destruction as the Empire of Japan — with a fleet of aircraft carriers, bombers, and submarines — inflicted on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The 2011 movie Moneyball tells us the story of how Billy Beane’s under-financed 2002 Oakland Athletics baseball team — whose players kept on getting raided by teams with bigger budgets, to hire away what in the movie biz we’d call A-list players — was able to produce an unprecedented series of 20 unbroken wins by hiring players not by their star reputations but by what hits they could produce on the playing field.

This may have been a genius move in baseball but it’s business as usual to indie filmmakers, who find innovative way after innovative way to make movies on a shoestring budget by concentrating on putting story and performance on the screen rather than explosions, car crashes, and CGI-driven special effects headlined by stars who get “paid-or-played” millions of bucks regardless of whether the movies they headline ever make a profit.

Indie Warmaker Osama bin Laden
Indie Warmaker Osama bin Laden

So in the same way that Billy Beane showed that the under-financed Oakland Athletics could be competitive on the baseball diamond with rich teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and the 2007 movie Paranormal Activity showed that a movie made for $11,500 could produce box-office revenues of $283,000,000, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda showed that a microbudget raid could produce the results only previously achieved by imperial attacks.

In the eleven years since the 9/11 attacks Republicans have chided Democrats for regarding 9/11 as a criminal matter rather than a war.

They’re both wrong. It’s not traditional war. It wasn’t a crime like a bank robbery.

The truth is, al-Qaeda rewrote the rules of engagement forever after.

They made a major war possible for the price of a low-budget movie.


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The Declaration of Independence


The Declaration of Independence

The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen United States of America

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

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776 And just so some wise-acre doesn’t give me grief about it — no, I’m not trying to claim a copyright on this document, which is freakingly obvious in the public domain. :-)


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