Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.—Churchill

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Blonde vs. Gay

On the question of "orientation" vs. behavior, not to mention whether or not DNA is destiny, if we may sideline Ms. Clairol for the sake of discussion—it's still all so confusing in this modern age. A friend wrote:
I think that the parallel between blond and gay fails, at least in part, because
being blonde doesn't have any behavioral component.

I think it fails too.  It's well chronicled that two blondes died in a drive-in theater. Turned out they went to see "Closed For Winter." 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Miscellaneous Americana (Part III): Washington's Cabinet—their vitae—and who was well paid in the early Republic

Between President George Washington and his nine cabinet members (over the course of two terms), half of the group were either Framers or ratifiers or both. See Cabinet Members, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016) (listing Jefferson, Randolph, and Pickering as President Washington’s Secretaries of the State; listing Hamilton and Wolcott as Washington’s Secretaries of the Treasury; listing Knox, Pickering, and McHenry as Washington’s Secretaries of War; and listing Randolph, Bradford, and Charles Lee as Washington’s Attorneys General). Thus, Washington’s nine cabinet members included: (i) Jefferson, (ii) Randolph, (iii) Pickering, (iv) Hamilton, (v) Wolcott, (vi) Knox, (vii) McHenry, (viii) Bradford, and (ix) Charles Lee.  Washington was a Framer (from Virginia), and four of his nine cabinet members were Framers or ratifiers or both, including: (i) Hamilton—Framer and ratifier (from New York); (ii) Randolph—Framer and ratifier (from Virginia); (iii) McHenry—Framer (from Maryland); and (iv) Pickering—ratifier (from Pennsylvania).

See generally Major William Jackson, secretary, Journal of the Conventionin The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (Max Farrand ed., 1911); The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787 (Jonathan Elliot ed., Washington, n.p. 2d ed. 1836) (4 volumes from 1836, and a fifth supplementary volume from 1845). [Both sources and much more are available here

Thus, between Washington and his nine cabinet members, five of ten were either Framers or ratifiers or both. (Interestingly, four of these five Framer/ratifiers came from the three most populous states: Virginia (Washington & Randolph), Pennsylvania (Pickering), and New York (Hamilton). See 1790 census figures. Maybe small-state fear of big-state domination had an element of truth.)

Many good historical sources list the President and Vice President as the two highest paid officials of the early government, at $25,000 and $5,000 per year respectively. But that is not correct. President Washington appointed Ministers Plenipotentiary for the United States at London (Pinckney) and at Paris (Morris)—each made $9,000 per year, and each was also granted $9,000 for “outfit”! 

See Alexander Hamilton, List of Civil Officers of the United States, Except Judges, with their Emoluments, for the Year Ending October 1, 1792 (Feb. 26, 1793), in 1 American State Papers: Miscellaneous 57, 57–68 (Walter Lowrie & Walter S. Franklin eds., Washington, Gales and Seaton 1834)see also Report on the Salaries, Fees, and Emoluments of Persons Holding Civil Office Under the United States (Feb. 26, 1793), in 14 The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 157, 157–59 (Harold C. Syrett & Jacob E. Cooke eds., 1969). [The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has possession of the original document. I discuss this document in detail in Seth Barrett Tillman, Originalism & The Scope of the Constitution’s Disqualification Clause, 33 Quinnipiac L. Rev. 59, 81–82 (2014).]


PS: I am not counting John Jay, who was Acting Secretary of State under the Constitution, as holdover Secretary of Foreign Affairs from the outgoing Confederation government. Likewise, I am not counting Oliver Wolcott. Oliver Wolcott attended the Connecticut state ratifying convention, and Oliver Wolcott was Hamilton’s successor at Treasury. However, the two Wolcotts were father and son respectively. Finally, I am not counting Joseph Habersham. Joseph Habersham was a ratifier: he attended Georgia’s state convention which ratified the Constitution. Habersham succeeded Pickering; thus Habersham became President Washington’s third Postmaster General. See Noble E. Cunningham, The Process of Government under Jefferson 18 (1978) (noting that “Habersham had been appointed Postmaster General by Washington in 1795”). During Washington’s administration and the early Federalist Era, Postmaster General was a senior post, but it was not part of the President’s cabinet. Cf. id. at 87 (indicating that as late as Jefferson’s administration, the Postmaster General was not part of the cabinet).

PPSThere is an online version of all 4 volumes of the first edition of Elliots Debates on the Hathi Trust website. [Available hereSadly, I know of no freely accessible equivalent American website. The second edition, published in 1836, can be found here.

Welcome Instapundit and Chicago Boyz blog readers.

Has conservatism lost its true meaning?

When conservatives become politically obsessed and lose faith in the future because of the fears of the day, we lose any attractiveness we might have. Our charm, even if we are curmudgeonly, is our love of gifts greater than politics and economics, what T.S. Eliot called the Permanent Things of family, hearth, poetry, art, music, literature, history, language, philosophy, and theology, not merely in an abstract sense (or high brow), but in common sense of not letting systems make us rigid, uncaring, and inhuman. It is the radical ideologue (of any stripe) who tries to force the universe into his tiny box of truth, e.g., Pol Pot, Robespierre, or Osama bin Laden. When a utilitarian calls himself conservative, he doesn't know that the conservative is the anti-utilitarian. In other words, a conservative mind should be accompanied by a liberality of spirit. If the conservative appears to be disconnected from urgent modern tyrannies, it is because he or she is connected with beauties which trascend the centuries. I'd rather that "conservative" be dropped as a political term because, like that great word "liberal," it has become caricatured to the point of meaninglessness.
-- James B. Griffin.  James is an attorney licensed in Alabma and Georgia and a former Wilbur Fellow.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Found a peanut

Actually it was a BBQ rib in the back of the fridge. Gnarly as hell, but still compellingly attractive in that 2AM sort of way.

So I ate it, with relish. Tasted great.

Found a peanut, found a peanut, 
found a peanut just now.
just now I found a peanut, 
found a peanut just now.

Cracked it open, cracked it open, 
cracked it open just now
just now I cracked it open, 
cracked it open just now.

It was rotten, it was rotten, 
it was rotten just now,
just now it was rotten, it was rotten just now.

Ate it anyway
got sick
called the doctor
said I wouldn't die
died anyway

As it turned out, I did die. Well actually, I didn't die but wished I had. True story. But it sure did taste great at that moment, all I ever wanted or needed. This is how life works, more or less.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Beyoncé is no Eartha Kitt.

There has been much talk about how Beyoncé used the Super Bowl to challenge America on the issue of Black Lives Matter. Many commentators have praised her willingness to be “political” on a global stage. She and her dancers dressed as Black Panthers while she sang her new song Formation.[1] Some commentators praised her for what is likely to have been her most radical political statement in her 20-year career.[2] Other immediately criticised her for “attacking” police officers.[3]

Does Beyoncé know why the caged bird sings?
For those who wish to promote Beyoncé’s radicalism to show her relevance for today’s youth, it seems a strange situation. They want her radical enough to appear relevant, but not court too much controversy. [4]She, and most importantly her management team, can use artistic licence for plausible deniability.[5] The radicalism of her performance has the hallmarks of a staged event. She and her management team know that too much controversy is bad for business. Yet, it seems more a corporate branding exercise[6] just as Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction was designed to gather publicity.[7]

Is Beyoncé a political vessel to be filled by her management?
Many people would like Beyoncé to be a standard bearer for their political movement. Yet, her career has rarely courted political controversy. She has never challenged the status quo. She is not known for “speaking truth to power”, “forcing power to speak the truth” or risking her career for her political beliefs. It is discouraging to see that Beyoncé’s performance is considered “radical”. Perhaps it is corporate radical chic for a social media age. The focus on Beyoncé will cause us to lose sight of true political courage. We forgot a great American voice who dared to speak truth to power, forced power to speak the truth in the nation’s highest political institution and risked her career for it.

Eartha Kitt stood and delivered on her beliefs in the belly of the beast.
Eartha Kitt was radical. She confronted President Lyndon Johnson at the White House. She protested the Vietnam War at the war’s height and the height of the President’s power.[8] She did not try to package her message with high heels and exposed flesh.[9] She stood up and held the President to account. Most importantly, she did this and accepted the consequences. Her career suffered after she stood and delivered for her beliefs.

What is perhaps a strange irony, Beyoncé sampled Kitt during her song Compromise where Kitt scoffs at the idea that she, or any woman should compromise their lives for a man. The irony is seen in the way that Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, attacked Jay Z for an indiscretion.[10] More directly, Beyoncé claims that she was inspired by Kitt,[11] yet has done little if anything political to reflect her example.[12][13]

A profile in corporate courage?
Perhaps for our jaded, corporate era where courage is reduced to a branding exercise, we find that Beyoncé is a profile in courage. A different era, when artists sacrificed their careers to speak truth to power, required a different form of courage. When it comes time to tell my daughter about a powerful woman who stood up for her beliefs, spoke truth to power, made power speak, and accepted the consequences, I will turn to Eartha Kitt not Beyonce.

[1] These are the uncensored lyrics which were *not* sung at the Super Bowl. I suppose it is indicative that Beyoncé would make a “political” statement but ensure that it Beyoncéd with the commercial imperative that has driven her career.
[4] Even her Black Power salute lacked the overt political content of Tommie Smith or John Carlos (or in his own way Peter Norman )
[5] Beyoncé performed the clean lyrics to her “political” song.
[8] For a full account of the episode see Janet Mezzack "Without Manners You Are Nothing": Lady Bird Johnson, Eartha Kitt, and The Women Doers' Luncheon of January 18, 1968 Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 4, Modern First Ladies White House Organization (FALL 1990), pp. 745-760 
[11] What is sad is how it all seems staged and packaged so that Beyoncé can assume the mantle of a “trailblazer” who speaks her mind. “By inserting her voice among these historically brash and outspoken women, Beyoncé is getting out in front of the next thinkpiece, claiming her spot among the trailblazers before anyone else can question her role. Ever the self-aware documentarian, she's showing fans exactly how she wants to be remembered: a beautiful, self-possessed woman who wants her fans to believe that they are too -- a daring proposition if there ever was one.”
[12] Beyoncé’s silence receives as much attention as if she had spoken. Perhaps this is the perfect political symbol for the social media age Beyoncé as canvas her fans can project their beliefs onto so as to reflect back what they want to see. 
[13] [12] “I played at the inauguration because there were a lot of kids in the audience that I wanted to reach, that’s all. Maybe one day I will speak of my political beliefs, but only when I know what I’m talking about.” 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Is libertarianism a perversion of the American idea?

America is the idea that a people could form a government by consent and intent and not through accident and fraud. The America idea is expressed through its constitution, where We, the People, created a new government. We note that the We, the people, was set against the King, an individual, who ruled tyrannically.

The Americans rejected that the individual would rule the people at the expense of common good. Instead, they created a government born of the common good and created a more perfect union to protect and promote those individual rights. The common good succeeds to the extent that Americans can practice self-government. Self-government, though, is more than the pursuit of individual liberty, it requires that the individual participate in the public domain with a willingness to forego their own individual good to form a more perfect union. For an individual to participate in the public domain, they have to sacrifice their own individual good for the common good just as they relinquish revenge in return for the law as a neutral judge. Far from being the threat to our liberty, government is what binds American together and makes Americans Americans.

At seminal events, Americans have focused on the common good over their individual good. When Lincoln renewed America’s founding when he gave his Gettysburg Address[1], he reminded us of that common good. He spoke of a government, of the people, by the people, and for the people. He spoke of self-government and whether men could design and consent to a government that constituted to promote liberty. Individual liberty, he explained, was found in self-government that required that the individuals devote themselves to something larger and more important than their own interests. The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, refer to a res publica, a public thing that is held in common. Neither document puts individual liberty before the common good. They both are based on the idea that the common good is necessary for individual liberty and individual liberty is necessary for the common good.

Self-government is the surest defense of individual rights, why is it so difficult?
The American idea, as expressed by Lincoln and the Federalists, is based on an implicit trust in the government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Today, though, that trust is at a historic low corroded by an unremitting attack on government and the rule of law. The most vociferous critics have attacked the government in the name of liberty. In this attack, the critics encourage lawlessness and claim it is the only way to liberty. They forget that Americans believe that liberty develops from self-government and law abidingness that is America’s political religion. Those who attack the republic idea of government flatter the people with appeals to individual liberty. Their flattery masks tyrannical beliefs and behaviours.

Throughout the ages demagogues have arisen who would flatter the people about their rights and freedoms and then impose a tyranny. America has known such demagogues who have touted individual good so that they could achieve their political aims. We recall Huey Long who proudly proclaimed that he would make Every Man a King. He would flatter everyone with the promise for their individual good at the expense of the common good. He promised tyranny for what is a king but a tyrant to an American in the name of liberty.

Flattery of individuals is often a prelude to tyranny.
The founders feared demagogues who begin by flattery and end with tyranny.

It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants. (Federalist 1) [2]

If the individual pursues their own good does that lead to tyranny?
As Socrates pointed out, the tyrannical life for non-philosophers is one in which the common goods are subordinated to one’s own individual good.[3] Unlike Socrates who believes that his particular or individual good is derived from the universal good, the libertarian believes that the common good must serve the individual good as it comes before the common good.[4] By contrast, the American founding is based on the idea of a universal good by which we judge any individual good. The individual good, according to the Federalist Papers, is found within the common good. Thus, we see the idea of a people creating a union; it is not individuals, as suggested by Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan, that will create it.

Soldiers sacrifice their individual good for the common good.
Our veterans understand their liberty requires devotion to a higher, common, good beyond their own good. We honour their service because they are patriots. A patriot loves his country and sacrifices their life for it if needed because it is good. Though they may be asked to the “last full measure of devotion”, they do sacrifice their time, their health, to the higher cause. They do this for something that is more important than themselves.[5] To cheapen this sacrifice by confusing sacrifice for selfishness dishonours their memory.[6] The patriot loves his country enough to sacrifice himself for it just as a parent would sacrifice their life for their family. Perhaps in the Libertarian America of Ayn Rand parents are to sacrifice their children for themselves. Our private good comes before the public good.

Can we recover the public life when we are told liberty depends on privacy?
Privacy and libertarianism leads us away from the res publica, the public thing. Are we pursuing liberty or slavery when we surrender the public domain for the pursuit of private pleasures?

[3] Harry Neumann, Socrates in Plato and Aristophanes: In Memory of Ludwig Edelstein (1902-1965) The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 90, No. 2 (Apr., 1969), pp. 201-214  Accessed: 22-05-2015
[4] Ayn Rand had an abiding hatred for the common good. She detested the idea and her hatred for it is found within her followers who never question what it means for the American idea.
[5] Consider the famous saying by Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if not now, when? And if I am only for myself, what am I?”