Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reflections on the Revolution in the UK: Part 2: The U.K.’s Bradley/Wilder Effect Is Enough To Swing Elections

Part 2

The U.K.’s Bradley/Wilder Effect Is Enough To Swing Elections.

The polls immediately before the election leaned “Remain” or showed a 44%-to-44% tie, with 12% undecided. The referendum’s result was 52%-to-48% “Leave.” The idea that the undecideds broke 2-to-1 for “Leave”—against the status quo—is not tenable. That said, the pollsters are not at fault. The pollsters cannot conduct an accurate poll because voters are unwilling to tell pollsters how they intend to vote. It is that simple.

Why are the voters doing this?

The UK now has its own version of America’s Bradley/Wilder effect: people—decent, ordinary, hard-working, law-abiding people—are afraid of abuse and reprisals if they reveal their true political preferences. People are tactically deceiving the pollsters because the pattern-and-practice of British politics is now:

(i) to demonize opponents;
(ii) to invade and shut down their peaceful political meetings and conferences (and then to “justify” speech suppression as “free speech” or other lawful protest);
(iii) to threaten and physically assault their party leaders and members;
(iv) to destroy their political posters and/or to paint over them (and then to call their vandalism “art”); and,

Some on the political left are doing this, but it is not just the left. It is nationalist hooligans in Scotland, and the Tory leader. Eg: Cameron calling UKIP supporters “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.”

Unfortunately, this behaviour is not entirely new. As one MP warned many years ago:

In the hundreds upon hundreds of letters I received when I last spoke on th[e] subject [of immigration] two or three months ago, there was one striking feature which was largely new and which I find ominous. All Members of Parliament are used to the typical anonymous correspondent; but what surprised and alarmed me was the high proportion of ordinary, decent, sensible people, writing a rational and often well-educated letter, who believed that they had to omit their address because it was dangerous to have committed themselves to paper to a Member of Parliament agreeing with the views I had expressed, and that they would risk penalties or reprisals if they were known to have done so. The sense of being a persecuted minority which is growing among ordinary English people in the areas of the country which are affected [by mass immigration] is something that those without direct experience can hardly imagine.

Address to the Annual General Meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre (Birmingham, Midland Hotel 1968). It goes without saying that, when the author of those words made that statement, he was called—wait for it—a racist.

If a society permits those who engage in wilful violence and those that command the police & the revenue office to drive normal political expression underground, then that society will not have normal political expression. One consequence of the lack of normal political expression is that every poll will lack validity.*

* Mrs T takes this claim one step further: there is no good reason to believe the frequently asserted claim that Britain’s “Youth” voted “Remain” (that is, voted “Remain” more than any other demographic). Who is more likely to be shamed into hiding their political preferences? Who is more likely subject to peer pressure?


Twitter: (@SethBTillman ) 

My other Brexit posts include: 

Reflections on the Revolution in the UK: Part 1: It Is All Cameron’s Fault

Part 1

It Is All Cameron’s Fault.*
The Remain camp now claims that it is all Cameron’s fault, and that Cameron never should have called the referendum. Of course, this completely rewrites history.

The referendum came about because of a statute: European Union Referendum Act 2015.** That statute passed the 650-member House of Commons (on the key second reading) by a vote of 544 to 53! It was supported overwhelming: (1) by the Tories—by both its pro-EU and the Eurosceptic wings; by Labour—by both of Labour’s wings; and by all but one of the Lib-Dem members. (Courageous Nick Clegg, the former Lib-Dem party leader, did not vote.) The Referendum Act was only opposed by one party:*** Scottish National Party (“SNP”). Pro-EU Tory, pro-EU Labour, and pro-EU Lib-Dem members and their supporters would do better to blame themselves rather than place all the blame on Cameron.

Second, in the 2015 UK general election (which took place before the referendum), both Labour and the Lib-Dems campaigned against holding an in-out EU referendum. Both parties were clobbered at the polls, and that is why they both supported the European Union Referendum Act 2015, which was enacted by the Parliament which met after the general election. Everyone knows this, except those who want to blame it all on Cameron.

Finally, you might ask why did Cameron promise the referendum in his party’s election manifesto? It is simple. Even with the promise of a referendum, Cameron barely overcame the UKIP surge: a 3.8 million vote surge. It was only by peeling off voters from UKIP—through the promise of the in-out referendum—that made him PM. Had he not made this election pledge, any number of marginal Tory seats would have tipped: Labour, Lib-Dem, or UKIP. There was no blunder here by Cameron. It was not the referendum which destroyed Cameron’s ministry; rather, it was the promise of a referendum which made Cameron the Prime Minister in the first instance.

So let’s understand the let’s put all the blame Cameron meme. Those that blame Cameron are saying that he should have never promised a referendum in the lead up to the general election. But the opponents of the referendum had a full, fair, and free opportunity to contest the Tory (i.e., Cameron’s) position in the general election. Those who opposed holding the referendum lost; they lost big. And after losing the general election, Labour and the Lib-Dems joined with the Tories in passing the statute implementing Cameron’s promise of a referendum. (SNP opposed the referendum before and after the 2015 general election: SNP acted with more democratic scruples than the other main opposition parties.) Those that put all the blame on Cameron are really saying: So, he made a promise in his election manifesto—he should have reneged on it in spite of the fact that we supported him at the time! More importantly, there is no principled explanation in regard to how Cameron would or could have justified his reneging, except their taking exception, after-the-fact, to a result they don’t like, and taking exception to the result after they had joined in authorizing, campaigning, and voting in the referendum. But somehow it is all Cameron’s fault.

Parties who have been rejected at the polls twice should engage in meaningful introspection, at least, if they expect to be taken seriously in the future. The let’s put all the blame on Cameron position lacks just the sort of gravitas that one hopes to see in serious opposition parties.

* My use of “blame” and “fault” is only for expositional purposes. I am not suggesting that Brexit is a bad result. It is a political question: different people are likely to have different views. It is precisely because the right result to such questions is contested that elections and referenda are held.

** There was a separate act permitting Gibraltar’s participation in the referendum.

*** My analysis leaves out the 8-member Democatic Unionist Party (with members from Northern Ireland), several other smaller parties (which have 5 or fewer members), the 1 independent, and, of course, the Speaker.


Twitter: (@SethBTillman ) 

My other Brexit posts include: 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A note to our readers: Never Mind—The Constitution is Obsolete

What a relief! As it turns out, this has all been a gigantic waste of time. As celebrity intellectual and federal judge Richard Posner writes at the reliably leftist Slate:

And on another note about academia and practical law, I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation (across the centuries—well, just a little more than two centuries, and of course less for many of the amendments). Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post–Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today. David Strauss is right: The Supreme Court treats the Constitution like it is authorizing the court to create a common law of constitutional law, based on current concerns, not what those 18th-century guys were worrying about.
In short, let's not let the dead bury the living.

About time the Left were honest with us about what they really think. Screw the Constitution and the horses it rode in on. Let the good times roll!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Letter to the Editor at The Irish Times, The Message of the UK’s Brexit Referendum and Fintan O’Toole’s Fantasy

Opinion Editorial/Letter to the Editor
The Irish Times

RE:   The Message of the UK’s Brexit Referendum and Fintan O’Toole’s Fantasy, The Irish Times, June 25 & 26, 2016                                                                                                

After Napoleon fell, Talleyrand—a leading French diplomat—purportedly said of the returning Bourbons: They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing. And here in Ireland, our modern Talleyrand—Fintan O’Toole—can find nothing good to say about Brexit, and nothing but bad on behalf of its many supporters. He casually compares those supporters to: fantasists, drunkards, xenophobes, authoritarian nationalists, racists, chauvinists, chancers, impersonators, etc, etc. But a collection of insults do not make an intellectual argument. More than half the U.K. voted for Brexit. They did so despite the fact that the Remain camp had the support of: the BBC and all of the elite media; the Tory and Labour parties; Prime Minister Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition; the universities and the unions; and the multinational bankers and the City of London. One might think that if Brexit’s supporters overcame all that—and more—they might be entitled to some minimum grudging respect. But Fintan O’Toole, like Marie Antoinette, would rather tell us that—yes, the peasants are revolting.

After losing a fairly fought election, the proper response—among serious people who hope to win the people’s confidence in the future—is to ask: What did we do wrong? What is wrong with our side’s message? What can we do to improve our position for the next time—because in normal democratic politics, there is always a next time. If one’s best response after losing an election is to malign one’s opponents and to call the electorate stupid, then, just maybe, the electorate will give their ear to advisors who show them more respect. It is also possible that losing an election is a sign that one’s position is weaker than one thought. In short, losing an election, including a referendum, is an opportunity for thoughtful introspection, not lashing out at the victors and their supporters.  
As for reasons to vote for Brexit: there are many, but one stands out. The European Union is not a meaningfully democratic body. Members of the European Commission—the EU’s powerful executive arm—are not appointed by simple majority action in the European Parliament; likewise, members of the European Commission are not removable by simple majority action in the European Parliament. Had the Remain Camp and the EU’s leadership put forward a real programme to make the Commission subject to normal, parliamentary democratic controls, then a majority of the U.K. electorate might very well have voted to continue with and in the wider European project. But the EU has proven time and again to be incapable of substantial reform along democratic lines.*
Giving up a component of one’s national sovereignty to a larger entity can make sense. It makes sense if, in return for the democratic control one gives up in one’s national entity, one receives a comparable amount of democratic control in the larger entity.** But the voters of the member states of the EU have no such democratic controls through their elected members of the European Parliament, and until such time as they do, those who supported Brexit can justly claim the mantle of 1776, 1789, and—while we are at it—1916. 

Seth Barrett Tillman
√Čire—19 Sivan 5776 

Seth Barrett Tillman, Submitted as a Letter to the Editor at The Irish TimesThe Message of the UK’s Brexit Referendum and Fintan O’Toole’s FantasyNew Reform Club (June 28, 2016, 2:42 AM), <>; 



*As one Irishman explained: “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).

**Kaisa Helmbring, Procedural Reforms of the EU Legislative Process—Increased Power for the European Parliament? 6 (circa 2008) (“There is a discrepancy between the powers transferred to the community from the national Parliaments and the control of the E[uropean] P[arliament] over these powers. The EU suffers from a democratic deficit.”),

Compare Professor Laurent Pech & Professor Steve Peers, Referendum Briefing 3: Does the EU have a ‘democratic deficit’?, EU Law Analysis: Expert insight into EU law developments (June 15, 2016, 01:40 AM) (“Furthermore, it’s possible for the Commission [as a whole] to be dismissed by the European Parliament—just like the UK’s House of Commons can pass a vote of non-confidence in a government.”), with id. (failing to mention that dismissal requires an absolute majority of all members AND two-thirds of those voting, which is hardly in line with common parliamentary practice).

Twitter: (@SethBTillman ) 

My recent prior posts (on Brexit) include:


Monday, June 27, 2016

Dear Gay Rights Advocates: You're Welcome. Signed, Christians.

"Homophobia" is not an invention of Christians or any of the Abrahamic faiths. Gay rights activists and smug self-righteous atheists can stop with the smear campaign now.

As someone who has supported gay rights going back to the 1980s, back when there was some real social scorn associated with having gay friends, I have noticed in recent years that a lot of gays and other "gay rights" activists have become terrific bullies of religious people. They particularly like to scapegoat Christians, and portray the Gay Rights Struggle as a long struggle against repressive religious forces. A particular focus of their ire is often Catholics, followed closely by organized, mainline Protestantism (Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc.).

This is ironic considering what you see when you look at the attitudes of religious Americans:

Mainstream Christians in overwhelming numbers always supported treating gays as deserving of respect and compassion for their dignity as human beings, which has only grown with time. Were they wrong?

You can view the full survey at the Pew Research Group. Yes, anti-gay attitudes existed in these religious groups in greater numbers before, and anti-gay sentiment still exists. However, Catholics and Mainline Protestants are only slightly distinguishable from the nonreligious, and Catholics and Mainline Protestants are still, overwhelmingly, a group few politicians can ignore. By comparison, self-righteous secular atheists look miniscule and ridiculous in the general voting populace.

This is mathematically inescapable: No support for gay rights among Christians=no gay rights. It wouldn't have happened because it couldn't have. Even the US Supreme Court, which has delivered many pro-Gay decisions, is overwhelmingly made up of religious people--even while certain secularist bigots complain that there are too many Jews and Catholics on the Supreme Court. ("Progressives" used to recognize religious bigotry. Apparently not so much for modern "secularist" atheists huh?)

Here's another problem for the anti-Christians who portray the gay rights struggle as being purely about poor oppressed gays having to overcome Christian bigotry: first off, it turns out that "homophobia" is genetic and universal regardless of religion. And furthermore, countless atheist regimes have imprisoned, tortured, mutilated, and murdered gays--generally in ways far more extreme than you find in most of Christian history I might add.

Christians, as it happens. have a set of values you can usually hold them to. While Biblical "evangelicals" and "fundamentalists" generally can come to any conclusion they want to by Prooftexting, the teachings of most mainline, organized Christian denominations has always been the same: These people are human, they deserve dignity and respect as human beings, and they shouldn't be denied their rights or treated like animals.

Indeed, given the full context of the Bible, even sections that seem to condemn gays as evil must be read in light of Romans 2, which makes it clear Christians would be utter hypocrites to want to stone or otherwise harm people for sexual sins. Paul was living in a time when most people, not just most Christians, found homosexuality deeply disturbing; Pagan Romans were no different in this regard. It turns out that from Roman times until now, many Pagans have been anti-gay.

Also, atheistic libertarians have nothing to brag about, given how many libertarians like Ayn Rand were and are anti-gay.

Oh, Hindus and Buddhists? No outright condemnation of homosexuality, just general distaste and negative cultural attitudes.

In the meantime, thoughtful Christians have long noted that hating gays just isn't Christian.

Yes, there are even some liberal Christians who go too far, suggesting we have to just accept gay marriage as being exactly the same. Most Christians probably will never fully accept such an unorthodox view of marriage as spiritually sound of course, but there is a growing consensus that the State can issue whatever marriage licenses it wants. Christians and other religions can have their own rules and ignore the state license completely for spiritual matters, viewing the marriage license as to be avoided or just used for legal purposes only. Which means that gays can have the legal protections without the rest of us having to worry about it.

This "live and let live" attitude is the default attitude of almost all Christians I know, including those who were on the "anti" side of the gay marriage debate. But for some reason, it doesn't seem good enough for some secular activists, who demand 100% agreement and 0% reservation on LGBTQ+ issues--which is where we get abusive secularist atheists ramming their morals down other people's throats, such as in the "Bake the Cake" incident, where a small store run by Evangelical Christians was brutally told they had to bake a gay wedding cake whether they wanted to or not.

What “Gay Rights” increasingly looks like to millions. Are you good with that, Christian-haters, or will you double-down on the anti-Christian bullying?

The fact is that the gay rights movement is increasingly seen as a pack of moralizing, preaching, judgmental, controlling, demanding, and even potentially violent jerks who will smash anyone who expresses any reservation about things like gay marriage or massive gay pride parades.

Which is not a situation I created, it's merely a situation I observe as reality.

We were told all gays wanted was to be treated as humans no worse than we are, deserving of all the rights we have. Now we're increasingly told Christians are sub-human primitives if we have any reservations, at all, about anything LGBTQ+.

So I will say this again: without Christian support, there would be no gay rights in America. And if you look across the world, in regimes run by other religions, or specifically atheist regimes? You see a far worse record of mistreatment of gays than you do in most historically Christian nations. Yet Christians often wind up being the most hated instead, for civil disobedience or any other balking.

Did Christians make a mistake to back gay rights? When Christians are abused by atheist secularists and self-righteous LGBTQ+ activists, we have reason to wonder. How far does the bullying of dissenting Christians go, for sometimes saying "hmm we're not sure?" or even "that's gross?" Should we more tolerant Christians change our minds and decide we were betrayed, and that the most conservative among us were right to scorn us for being tolerant?

These are real questions, not rhetorical. If Christians are going to be scapegoated and spat upon for being Insufficiently Gay Friendly, fast enough, why shouldn't Christians re-evaluate the relationship? If you hate us, you "enlightened pro-gay antireligious secularist progressives," how enlightened and tolerant are you really?

Indeed, might not the constant Christian-bashing on gay issues not now be seen as blatant proof that our "homophobic" minority was right along and we were stupid not to listen to them?

PS: On behalf of Catholics everywhere, you're welcome for the free AIDS hospices that we've been running since the 1980s.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

Some Late Thoughts on the American Civil War and Southern Identity

The breath which condemns submission to laws this nation has not made condemns submission to scales of value which this nation has not willed. To both sorts of submission I ascribe the haunting fear, which I am sure I am not alone in feeling, that we, the British will soon have nothing left to die for.
That was not a slip of the tongue. What a man lives for is what a man dies for, because every bit of living is a bit of dying. At the beginning [of this lecture] I refused to define patriotism; but now at the end I venture it. Patriotism is to have a nation to die for, and to be glad to die for it—all the days of one’s life. 
—E.P. 1977*

I am just old enough to have had the opportunity to participate in the 1980 election of Reagan. During the campaign, I had the opportunity to meet a good sized contingent of traditional Southern (mostly white, male) Republicans. On election night, after some drinking—actually after a lot of drinking—the subject turned to the War Between the States (as they called it). [My own view is that calling it The Great Rebellion or, more simply, treason, in keeping with contemporaneous nomenclature, is more appropriate.]

What I learned was that these gentlemen were entirely comfortable with their U.S. identity. They did not pine for the Confederacy to rise again. They did not blame the U.S. military for Confederate wartime deaths. There was no anger in connection with Sherman’s march, and the destruction of southern cities, farms, infrastructure, and other public & private property. So what exactly did bother them--what precisely was their beef? It was The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It upset them to no end. I was young then. Perhaps, I should have understood why it upset them so much. In my defence, I can say, after some years (decades) of reflection, I figured it out.

It is one thing to lose a war to superior force. The losers must expect that the winners will believe their (i.e., the winner’s) cause right, and the loser’s cause wrong. But The Battle Hymn goes further than that—it is a constant, present reminder that their great-grandparents cause was not merely wrong, but unchristian.** Compare The Battle Hymn, with The Battle Cry of Freedom: the Southern Version (refrain). Generally, 1776, 1812, 1846 and America’s post-1865 wars were about (normal) politics and ideology. Those wars may have had a moral purpose (as understood by the combatants), but they were not fundamentally about religion. However, for those whose material world was wholly destroyed by the Civil War, the consolation of religion was all that they had left. Thus The Battle Hymn was an attack on everything which remained to them. So when all the other political and ideological poses of the old Confederacy fell away, only a generalised loathing in regard to The Battle Hymn remained. Only that was inherited.

I suppose if church attendance falls in the South and as The Battle Hymn’s place in the iconography of American culture is displaced by transgender bathrooms, even this limited revulsion shall pass away. I wish I could say that will be a good thing.

Seth Barrett Tillman
√Čire—19 Sivan 5776

Twitter: ( @SethBTillman )


Patriotism, in Wrestling With The Angel 1, 8 (London, Sheldon Press 1977) (lecture given at the invitation of Basil Watson, Rector, S. Lawrence Jewry, London). 

Country Under an Empty Sky

"'In our world...a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.'
'Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of."  ---C.S. Lewis

Writing in the middle of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis saw the flood of facts that would drown a world still full of real things. By the end of that century, philosopher Paul Karl Feyerabend wrote: “Most scientists today are devoid of ideas, full of fear, intent on producing some paltry result so that they can add to the flood of inane papers that now constitutes ‘scientific progress’ in many areas.” 

By our century, we had learned the price of life but forgotten its value. So when Alison Hume fell sixty feet down an abandoned mine shaft in 2008, the rescue crew deferred to a memo, the product of much expert research and analysis, that banned the use of rope equipment for rescuing members of the public. It could only be used to rescue other firefighters. So rather than challenge policy, rescuers watched Alison Hume die.

As Chesterton liked to say, you cannot go clad crimson and gold for this.

And yet still do our experts boast the confidence to replace our meaning with their facts. But their facts come from Borges’s Library of Babel, which contains every true book that could ever be written, but also every false book, thus losing truth and falsehood together in an ocean of nonsense.

Again, this was all predicted. Eric Voegelin, writing in 1952 in The New Science of Politics, said:
This may sound trivial, but disregard for elementary verities happens to be one of the characteristics of the positivistic attitude; and hence it becomes necessary to elaborate the obvious. . . .
As a consequence, all propositions concerning facts will be promoted to the dignity of science, regardless of their relevance, as long as they result from a correct use of method. Since the ocean of facts is infinite, a prodigious expansion of science in the sociological sense becomes possible, giving employment to scientistic technicians and leading to the fantastic accumulation of irrelevant knowledge . . . . The present concern is with the principle that all facts are equal--as on occasion it has been formulated--if they are methodically ascertained.

Aldous Huxley developed the theme even earlier in his 1931 Brave New World. According to Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985):
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Truman Capote wrote a sad and lovely line in his 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany's: “It’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.” Mid-century writers were keenly aware of the nothing that was enveloping them.

Space, the sky and the expanse beyond, truly was our last frontier. Our world and beyond teemed with life and beauty before we emptied it. We hunted and killed all the real things to harvest their facts, and discarded their meaning. There is nothing real left in the world. But we hardly notice, because there is nothing real left in us.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Melodies for Brexit

Time to say goodbye - Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman;

Softly As I Leave You! (By Giorgio Calabrese & Tony De Vita);

A Nation Once Again (N/B: Just replace “Ireland” with “Britain” – apologies all around); and,


Twitter: ( @SethBTillman )

My prior Brexit posts include:

Seth Barrett Tillman, Dewey beats Truman ... Dewey beats Truman ... Dewey beats Truman ..., The New Reform Club (June 24, 2016, 10:32 AM).

Seth Barrett Tillman, Betting on Brexit, The New Reform Club (June 24, 2016, 3:49 AM).

Dewey beats Truman ... Dewey beats Truman ... Dewey beats Truman ...

Dewey beats Truman ... Dewey beats Truman ... Dewey beats Truman ...

---Front Page, The Times (London), June 24, 2016

Twitter: ( @SethBTillman )
My prior posts:

Seth Barrett Tillman, Betting on Brexit, The New Reform Club (June 24, 2016, 3:49 AM)

Seth Barrett Tillman, Alexander Hamilton on Brexit, The New Reform Club (June 22, 2016, 3:30 PM)

Betting on Brexit

Sadly, I only got 7-to-1, the high was (reportedly) 9-to-1! Still ... Brexit made me some moolah.

Twitter: ( @SethBTillman )

My prior post is: Seth Barrett Tillman, Alexander Hamilton on Brexit, The New Reform Club (June 22, 2016, 3:30PM)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Alexander Hamilton on Brexit

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.
—Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1 (1787)


Let there be no misunderstanding the [British electorate] can regain that status [as an independent nation state], that future, if they will. There is a gratifyingly neurotic tone creeping into the voices of those who proclaim, with an insistency which belies conviction, that the future national status of the United Kingdom—or rather its permanent loss of national status—was settled once and for all by the referendum in 1975. The owners of those voices would fain deny or forget the Government’s official statement, made at that time that after the referendum “continued British membership will depend upon the continuing assent of Parliament.” For all the anguish of the Europeanists, it becomes more evident with every passing month that the issue of Britain inside or outside the Common Market is not just one live issue among many but is the central political issue of coming years to which all roads in politics lead back.
The battle over Britain’s national existence and parliamentary independence is a battle which will be fought through to the bitter end, however long it lasts. It is a battle in which no quarter will be asked and none will be given. It is a battle in the course of which all other political lines and links will continue to be overrun and broken, as it surges one way or the other. It is a battle in which the bitterest foes of the past will stand together and the closest of old alliances be destroyed. I say these things in no spirit of bravado. They are cold and sober deductions from fact, the fact that the fight is about the continued existence of the nation itself, an issue to which by definition all other political issues and causes whatsoever must be subordinated, as to the greater which subsumes the less.
In wartime, conservatives and socialists—nay tories and communists—sank their past differences and postponed their future divergent ambitions to fight together for the survival of the political nation itself. It is so again. The lesson which has been taught to the British electorate since it made its grave but recoverable mistake is that in small things and in great things alike there is no future for the British people which they will find tolerable except as a sovereign, self-governing nation state.
. . . .
The battle for and against the survival of the British nation will be fought again upon that battlefield . . . this time it must be won.


Twitter: ( @SethBTillman )

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Guns in the Constitution

A lot of people don't like the Second Amendment to the Constitution. They argue that if the Second Amendment really means what it says, private citizens should be able to own tanks. That is clearly absurd.

Except it isn't.

Most people, even many pro-gun people, don't realize the Constitution does say precisely that. Keep in mind that George Washington used artillery that was loaned to the Revolutionary Army by private citizens in the colonies. Many towns had artillery clubs, wherein the members maintained pieces of artillery. Plantations bought cannons in order to protect their property from Indian attack. Ship owners bought muskets and cannon to protect their ships from pirates. Many of these private citizens loaned their pieces to Washington under the proviso that they would be returned when the war was over - which they were, insofar as was possible.

George Washington was our first President. When we think "George Washington," we think "government", but that's not correct. The American Revolution and its Washington-led army was really just a bunch of armed citizens. These citizens were running around with the deadliest weapons produced at the time, weapons they purchased themselves, and all of these private citizens were shooting at government employees. That's the American Revolution.

That's the mind-set one has to have to read the Constitution correctly.  We have to remember: from the Founding Fathers' perspective, armed citizens shooting at government employees was fine.

And, we should also notice that private ownership of weapons is not just a 2nd Amendment right - it is also in the body of the Constitution.
Article 1, Section 8: [The Congress shall have the power] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.
A "Letter of Marque" was a contract between a private citizen and the government that authorized private ship owners to use their ships to capture shipping from the enemy. A Letter of Marque allowed a private ship to act as a warship. Without the Letter of Marque, the ship owner would just be a pirate. With the Letter of Marque, he (and his ship) became a mercenary for whatever government he contracted with.

But the Letter of Marque did not equip the ship - that was done at the owner's expense. Most ships at the time carried some kind of defensive cannon and musketry for protection against pirates and mercenaries. The ships were already armed. The Letter of Marque simply protected the ship in case of capture, assuring the captain and crew that they couldn't be hung as pirates. As for terms, the letter would primarily describe how the profit from successfully capturing an enemy ship was to be split between the government and the contracting ship owner. The Letter of Marque was really just a government rental agreement for the use of a privately-owned warship.

Why would the US Constitution do this? Because the Founding Fathers wanted the central government so weak that the governement couldn't even keep a standing army or navy. The Continental Army and Navy were both disbanded as soon as the Revolutionary War ended. Thus, the Constitution was ratified in 1789, but the Department of the Navy was not created until 1798, in order to combat Muslim Barbary pirates. For the first decade, the Congress expected they wouldn't need a standing Navy. Letters of Marque, government rentals of private warships (at least 2200 private warships were issued such letters), were supposed to take care of that need. Indeed, as late as July, 1815, Thomas Jefferson issued a Letter of Marque to the Grand Turk, authorizing the Grand Turk to operate against the Barbary Pirates on America's behalf. Although the United States government gave up issuing Letters by 1856, it continued to honor the Letters of Marque issued by the Confederacy during the Civil War.

But, in order for the Letter of Marque to even be listed as a possibility in the Constitution, the Constitution has to assume that private citizens had already bought and were already using the most powerful weaponry then available: fully-equipped warships. Put bluntly, Article I of the Constitution shows that the Founders originally intended to rent military power from private citizens. A similar agreement today might have a civilian purchase a tank, F-16 or nuke, and then rent the use of these weapons out to the US government. The Second Amendment has to be read within the context of the full Constitution and the full intent of the Founding Fathers. Once it is, there is no question about every citizen's rights.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

If America is ripe for Trump as a tyrant what does that say about Obama?

In a provocative essay, Andrew Sullivan suggests America is an extreme democracy ripe for tyranny[1].  America’s multiculturalism, sexual freedom, disrespect for any authority or expertise and intolerance of any inequality—whether earned or natural—characterise its extremism. These characteristics challenge the previous moderate democratic order the result is a descent into public domain dominated by an incoherent mess of views, identities, and demands. From this incoherent public domain, a tyrant emerges with a promise to defend the old order and return stability to the public domain. From this promise or intent, he will find supporters in those who want to protect the old order as well as those dislike the extreme democracy.

Sullivan comes to this conclusion via Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, who provides his analytical focus. Plato, in his famous dialogue, the Republic, described a process by which an extreme democracy emerges and with it a tyrant to change a democracy into a tyranny. Sullivan relies on this analysis to explain Donald Trump’s emergence as a viable candidate for the presidency. He his analysis rests on three premises. First, he accepts that Trump fits Plato description: a member of the elite who takes his chance to rule by using the mob who support him to his attack rival elites such as the wealthy. Second, Trump, like the tyrant, promises to bring order to the incoherency of the extreme democracy. Third, America is an extreme democracy ripe for tyranny.

OK, OK, we know you don’t like Trump, but why do you hate America?
Sullivan wants us to focus on Trump, for he despises him and what he offers. Despite his prejudice, it provides no lasting insight for his essay remains at this superficial level of personalities. He avoids the difficult questions of why or how democracy changed, what motivates Trump, and why America’s political institutions have seemingly become fragile to the point of collapse.

What marks the change from democracy to extreme democracy? Sullivan describes the characteristics but does not address the causes. To say it changed has to indicate that it had a turning point or a point of departure from when it stopped being a democracy and became an extreme democracy. A democracy and an extreme democracy are both marked by freedoms. How do the freedoms or the extent of the freedom differentiate a democracy from an extreme democracy?

Sullivan does not look within the democracy, or Trump, to find what animates either one. He remains on the surface of symptoms and outcomes where many freedoms and the appearance of political, social, and moral incoherence which has made many people fearful. Perhaps it is what lies beneath the surface that scares him. 

A superficial analysis overlooks what motivates a tyrant or an extreme democracy
If he focused on what animates democracy, and Trump, he might have seen a different, darker, more disturbing message. Trump is only a symptom and is not a symptom of an extreme democracy but a potential harbinger. The deeper problem, and the more difficult problem, is how to reform American democracy, if it can be reformed, to avoid the extreme future that Trump appears to foreshadow. Even if Trump is defeated in this election we will not see America return to a healthy democracy that is less susceptible to the fate of becoming an extreme democracy unless the sources of extremism are addressed. However, such an analysis is problematic if not impossible within his essay for the fundamental problem is within his essay—America is not yet, nor is it close to becoming, an extreme democracy.

America is not an extreme democracy even if Andrew Sullivan wants it to be
Sullivan’s argument is based on the premise that America is an extreme democracy. He believes that the symptoms he describes indicate that extremism. In this analysis, he is mistaken and he is mistaken because he has relied on Plato for his analytical framework and not Aristotle. Had Sullivan relied on Aristotle rather than Plato he would have seen that an extreme democracy is a tyranny that lacks a tyrant. That America is not an extreme democracy, for it is not tyrannical, helps us to understand why it is not waiting for a tyrant. With Aristotle he would have seen an extreme democracy is tyrannical which is why it gives birth to or is receptive to a tyrant. Trump is not a tyrant in waiting, for he can only be a tyrant if he taps into the tyrannical ethos of an extreme democracy. Sullivan confuses great freedoms and great discontent, political incoherence, and political factions for extreme democracy. In other words, the political uncertainty with great freedoms does not indicate that extreme democracy exists. What America appears to suffer from is each of these elements; symptoms of extreme democracy, an apparent tyrant in waiting, oligarchic support for the apparent tyrant, without the necessary ingredient: the extreme democracy or the extreme democracy that has become tyrannical. Aristotle, who lived through extreme democracy, was able to describe its characteristic in his book the Politics.[2]
Sullivan has confused social media for what is
If Sullivan had considered Aristotle, he would see that America only has the shadow of extreme democracy, as do all democracies. The extreme democracy is more prevalent on social media than in the public domain. Without these characteristics, it cannot be considered an extreme democracy. If it cannot be considered an extreme democracy, then America is not yet ripe for tyranny. No matter what we may think personally of Trump, he is not a tyrant waiting to emerge from within an extreme democracy. He may be something else, but he is not going to rule as a tyrant nor is he able to draw on extreme democracy.

If we are to accept that America is an extreme democracy and Trump is a tyrant in waiting, what does it say about the incumbent?

The article is an extract from the full essay which can be found here: