Citizenship, Compleat Idler, Homeschooling, Preparedness, Technology, Tool user

Tool User Manifesto

 

© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole or in part as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

 

 

Using tools is not a “retreat to a semi-frontier past.” The past is important because it shows what could have happened and why our retreat from the way forward will eventually create a present worse than the past. By not using the tools of the past, how can we build the tools of the future. This is not the first time I have discussed this, but it is the beginning of a concerted effort to talk about something in non-ideological terms and build an argument for the future.

My friends and I had been discussing rocketry and space flight and drawing rockets for about three years before 04OCT1957. On that date, the Sovs launched Sputnik. Sphincters tightened in governmental and educational circles. In our juvenile world we were already discussing propellants and experimenting. At Christmas of 1956 I took out a rocket powered by the compression and release of water which was guaranteed to go 300 feet in the air. Without accurate means of measurement we figured they were right because it went a long way.

We continued to do experiments—it was the “nerd” culture. I often have remarked that we have a government agency devoted to our culture—the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Anyway, hobby stores still sell rocket kits and engines and you can still get CO2 canisters which were sold at the time by an outfit called Johnson Smith Co to power rockets, model boats and model cars.

The way rocket fuel, liquid, solid or compressed gas, propels the rocket is the same way steam or petrol gas moves a piston or gun powder propels a Minié ball. The same principle drives air brakes and nail guns with compressed air. Anyone working with basic tools understands this. We all worked with tools—we all had blown up a balloon and let it go. Many of us had detonated cherry bombs in rural mail boxes to observe the speed with which they opened—the fact that this was considered destruction of federal property made it even more daring. And we were all ready to get out to the desert on any given weekend with our small rockets.

In the meantime we had school and homework to attend to, German and Latin to learn, algebra, geometry, trig, calculus. This was in addition to the applied chemistry experiments that some unknown students attempted involving a combination of chemicals dropped into the trash cans in the lunch courts causing immediate and violent oxidation much to the consternation of the lunch court monitors.

This enthusiasm for space and science went beyond the nerd community. Television brought on a lot of new heroes—Robert Goddard, Werner von Braun, and Ludwig von Drake. There was competition for the advanced science and math courses. Even those outside the advanced courses preferred electronics, auto tech and metalworking to woodworking and graphic arts. For those who made it into the advanced track, competition turned to comraderie and we often passed off slide rules to those headed for tests in chemistry, physics and military science. We would meet for study and discussion in the Public Library after school.

The human population, according to Johnny Keufel, was divided into tool users and lotus eaters. I met few of the latter, one had a view that the world was divided into the workers and the elites and he resented shop because it might damage his manicure. I got plenty of grease, oil and printers’ ink under my nails in those days even though I considered myself elite. He took military science to avoid gym and then was upset that he was expected to take orders from his “inferiors” and to clean his issued weapon. He finally transferred to a private school that would value his status.

The other one I was aware of was an exchange student from Argentina who told his girlfriend she needed to shave her arms—he did not like gym class or the suggestion that he demean himself to take shop. Again the idea that getting dirty was for peasants.

I will say that the aversion to tools was not real common, even in the upscale neighborhood, probably because of the times. Parents were of the World War II generation. Men who served in the war became acquainted with what was necessary for the effort and a lot were on the farm before that. Many mothers had worked in the defense plants. There was in my case also a strong influence from the New England puritan culture and the necessity of the Depression era.

Another thing about the generation previous to mine. They grew up making, repairing and salvaging. It was not uncommon for a group of young men to rescue a vehicle from the landfill and do a rebuild, which is why they would cannibalize shot up jeeps along European roads to keep others running, while the Germans let theirs sit and oxidize. These were stories heard when we gathered in multi-generational settings such as family dinners or neighborhood picnics.

When a bicycle became necessary, the best way to get it was to buy a used bike for five to ten bucks and repair it—new bikes with all the bells and whistles went for $50 and up. $50 was a week’s pay for a lot of parents and odd jobs were hard to find in the urban setting—I had made about seventy five cents a day topping sugar beets (a tool using task) in the midwest, but other than throwing papers there were few tasks for a 13 or 14 year old in urban California. I did cut my dad’s lawn, sometimes for a quarter, but the only offer I got from a neighbor involved a payment that could get me severely beaten if I were caught. Nobody was buying squirrel pelts so trapping was out.

The United States is in financial trouble and politicians feel we should accept that we are a service economy and that we need to “work smarter” because industry is dirty and by extension tools are dirty. There is a proposal for a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. For a business to be able to pay $10.10 an hour, an employee has to provide greater value than $10.10 an hour. This is a gimmick to create the illusion of doing something to create prosperity.

Minimum wage is supposed to be for the unskilled at entry level. If a company has a pool of $100,000 a year for wages, can it absorb a 37 percent wage increase with the same number of employees in the absence of a greater than 37 percent increase in revenues. And if the minimum is increased by 37 percent, then skilled rates go up by a similar percentage—this is built into labor contracts. Also, the folks getting $10 an hour currently would expect, in the name of equity, to be compensated at $13.70 an hour. Then prices rise and income may or may not increase because the unemployed struggle with purchasing at current prices which means less purchasing and less hiring.

The beginning workers see a dead end because they are not skilled enough to adapt quickly to automation, in addition to the fact that 27 percent will no longer be employed. There is likely to be a greater percentage of the non-skilled out of work because the skilled employees are necessary to handle the automation.

In other words, the State cannot mandate individual prosperity. Nor can policy makers understand that labor and skilled labor are separate entities. Only by rebuilding a society that makes things can a highly populated nation like the United States prosper—we are too large to do subsistence agriculture, plantation crops require a different social structure and the rest of the world has its own service sector.

Whatever one says about the causality of slavery and the plantation crop system relating to the War or 1861-65, it most assuredly contributed greatly to the defeat of the Confederacy. Aside from fervor of Northern troops imagining themselves on a “holy crusade,” the institution of slavery made the southern states a mercantile colony dependent on plantation agriculture and not able to develop an industrial culture despite resources. The textile mills were in New England. Further the plantation system produced exports, not food. The North, with its agriculture geared to the food chain and its heavy industrial capacity as well as greater population, rolled over the South—it could have done so more quickly had the military officer corps (a product of Jefferson Davis’s reorganization and Robert E. Lee’s superintendency of the Academy) not split into the two sides.

The Yankee culture was built around tinkering. In the War for Independence, there had been small time German gunsmiths and surreptitious shops throughout the northern colonies. The prohibition on manufactures rankled New England more than the southern colonies which were geared to the production of cotton, tobacco and sugar for export. Farming on the rocky ground in New England was small scale, but in the northwest and the plains grain and fruit were important.

On every farm was a shop. And “tinkering” was a Puritan value. 30 to 40 percent of immigration to Michigan during the period 1830-1850 was from New England. NOTE: Our denigration of Puritan culture ignores the rise of Puritanism with the Enlightenment rather than the Reformation. And Puritanism arose among the new middle class that later formed the Industrial Revolution.

The problem we now face is that industry has left the building forced out by the idea that it is irrelevant to a modern, safe and environmental society. We could not, even if the capital was as available as the raw materials, immediately reconstitute an industrial economy given the regulatory structure and the convenience culture of the society.

This brings us back to Johnny’s reference in passing to the chasm between “tool users” and “lotus eaters.” He and I both came out of a youth culture where at least one weekend a month was devoted to tuning someone’s carburetor. For my younger readers a carburetor was a device which regulated the flow of petrol and oxygen into the cylinders where it was fired by spark in order to drive a piston. Piston driving was (is) essential to the function of an internal combustion engine. If I still had my 1984 Suburban I could, theoretically, continue to rebuild the engine and transmission and carburetor.

This would be contrary to the need for jobs because union dogma contends that only UAW workers should build cars. And repairs should only be done by factory authorized mechanics. A few independent mechanics still exist. Maintenance functions—such as oil and filter changes—are largely performed by minimum wage employees at WalMart. (Keufel’s definition of minimum wage work was anything less than twice minimum wage.) As a result of the infirmities of age, I have resorted to taking my truck to an independent shop but I remember getting an 84 Ford Escort in the early nineties and immediately changing out the plugs and tuning the carburetor.

The whole culture has changed. By the time my brothers were in high school most of the car culture was gone. By the time my children were in high school it was a nostalgia series on television. Some changes are good—I like my electronic fuel injection better than my weekends being shot tuning somebody’s carb wearing an oil soaked t-shirt and smelling like grease. I like being able to afford the electric motors from Shanghai which make my work easier. I like the duty free Noconas from Mexico.

On the other hand I dislike the throw away attitude of our society—I dislike the fact that the DSLR camera I bought in 2008 was introduced six months earlier and made obsolete a month or so later. I still use it and will until it fails because I cannot really afford to replace it for convenience and cannot, as a practical matter repair it—I use film cameras going back to 1959 that are still functional and can be repaired and yet they are considered as wasteful and harmful to the environment.

So I remember the shade tree mechanic culture of the fifties and sixties. A lot of people do—mostly they are retired. There was also a custom car culture at the same time that pushed Detroit’s designers beyond their comfort zone. It was an age when people were comfortable with tools and with building. It was a time when a full year of shop was available to any high school student in my district—I took electronics and we wound coils and joined wires and tubes to build a super heterodyne radio. Some in the class ran the school’s 20-year-old AV equipment that baffled the faculty and often required adjustment or repair on the spot. (When I was teaching on my own, this ability meant I could leave a projectionist in class.) And we used tools, read schematics and tested equipment. Other options included woodworking, metalworking, graphic arts and automotive.

Flash forward to the mid eighties. My son took a course in “world of construction” where the project was a model of a “dream house” made from styrofoam board. My daughter’s review of the course was that it bordered on insipid—she took two years of mechanical drawing. At that time metalworking, automotive technology and other trades classes were available to those not in the college prep program. So the “dummies” learned measurement and tolerances in a real world environment while the college bound did not.

I did not observe the after school study groups while my children were in high school. They were often preempted by fantasy and role playing games. The closest thing to a rocket they had was a golf ball cannon that one of the gang built in metal shop—they stored it in my garage because I was the parent who tolerated it.

Flash forward to 1999. In addition to telling customers we did not have generators and selling splitting axes and kerosene, I recall talking to architecture and engineering students complaining about having to get tools to make models to match drawings—they even offered me money to build the models for them. They talked about computer simulation that creates the model and the necessary calculations—no math, the computer has it programmed. I also arrived at the conclusion that anyone studying architecture needs work experience in the building or mechanical trades.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Industrial Revolution began in small shops by men who were thinking of ways to improve their production and make money doing so. They did not write grant proposals. They were craftsmen and engineers, not policy experts or elected officials and they were not afraid of making money. They worked with tools and built things—they were not “project managers” or “brainstormers.”

So the answer begins in every home workshop. There is nothing in our culture that requires people to have only one skill. For most of our history have been fixing, building and inventing in addition to “regular” work. The joke about technology from people’s garages is not something from the computer age—it is a logical carryover of the way innovation has occurred in history. Thomas Edison did not begin in some company’s R&D section. Graham Bell worked in his house, not an unattached shop. Henry Ford did not have a TARP grant.

In Germany, licensing mandates require that roofing be done by those licensed to roof: the same with painting, glazing, replacing circuit breakers, etc ad infinitum. This concept comes from “scientific management” writings of Frederick Winslow Taylor and the sociological/political writings of Max Weber. Taylor believed in the factory as an organism where the individual would perform a specific task only and the result would be the product of the factory as a whole under the direction of a manager. This led to the assembly line which made the machines of World War II. To an extent, however, modifications were made in the field by soldiers with mechanical backgrounds. The top down environment led to stagnation of American industry and the ultimate collapse of GM.

As I homeowner, I replaced an entire box of breakers. As a photographer, I designed the plumbing and lighting for nine photographic laboratories, occasionally doing a significant portion of the execution. As a photographer, I built lighting controls some of my own design. Okay, I could have passed the electricians license at some point in my life, but my formal education is in liberal arts and prison administration paid the bills. I also would have had to pay a fee to take the test. I have done roofing, I have done glazing, built shelves and even a drawing table. Until I hit fifty I did ninety percent of my auto maintenance. And I am still a damn good bench electrician—slower but still good.

I believe the more home workshops the better. And I believe everyone should learn to use tools and make things. My friend Johnny built a workshop into a walk-in closet in his apartment—he did not let me take pictures because he was going to do the article himself. He had a drill press, bench grinder and industrial grade vise and he used a propane soldering tool—I would have used a electric soldering gun in that space. But the thing is that he did it and built things.

Expense was a real barrier to building a shop in earlier times. But there is competition. Read the real men’s magazines—Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, numerous hobby magazines, car magazines—and even gardening and home magazines. There are ads for cut rate tools and tool companies. Back in the seventies and eighties, I used to haunt the “truckload tool sales” at hardware, discount and grocery stores. Harbor Freight, Cummins and Grizzly have stores in many major cities as well as catalog sales. There are tool shows in various venues and at one, I calculated that a decent machine shop could be outfitted for less than a thou. The trick is having a thou to spend and sneaking the tools past your spouse. In another article I will cover a systematic way of putting it together.

Back in 1970, my wife and I came back from our studio apartment in Washington with an ammo box half-full of tools. By borrowing from friends and relatives we were able to build furniture we needed. In 72 we started doing house repairs and grinding—adding a 3/8 inch drill and grinding wheel which took up a second ammo box. And sometime in 74, I snagged a real tool box out of a dumpster—the lock was screwed up, but that’s what a hasp and padlock are for. And after moving into our house in 76, the projects and tools seemed to multiply. [To be fair, in Washington our three books multiplied to where they filled a three shelf bookcase and took up the shelf in the closet.]

The moral here is that either tools or more expensive help are necessary for maintenance of home and vehicles. And knowing how to use tools is going to be necessary as the craftsmen retire and die off. Further, we need to be able to build generation equipment as the power lines become more flaky. Electric current that travels through the grid becomes less efficient the farther it travels. Also there are places in the west where miles of transmission line gets stolen for underground cash. Sun spots also impact the long lines.

Home power, whether solar or wind, is insurance. Problem is that a commercial install may cost as much as a house did thirty years ago. It helps to build with friends—especially if they have tools.

The point is to start somewhere and build something. And then build something else. It will either turn you off completely or you will become addicted. And when you need the skills you will have them.

I have written much in the past about politics and I illustrated the policy approach. Building something is much more positive. Feeling the power of the angle grinder in my hands as the voltage shot through it gave me a more positive feeling than arguing with a populist trying to get my vote with buzz words. And in a skilled society, minimum wage becomes irrelevant.

I am seventy years old. I do not know how much longer I can use the skills I have developed over my lifetime or whether I will be able to use the MIG welder when I can afford it. But I am pursuing the dream because the way of the future is in skilled work.

 

 

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Citizenship, Education, Free Society, Media, Writing and diction

Piers Morgan Redux

© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

We still hear rants from Piers Morgan on how America ought to be. A comparison seems appropriate, though in a sense it is rather embarrassing to compare him with Alistair Cooke.

 

Alistair Cooke came to the States on Commonwealth fund scholarship to study. Among other things he happened to be hired as a film critic and had a Letter from England program on NBC in the thirties and is noted for his coverage of the Abdication of Edward VIII. Reporting from America after WWII, he developed the Letter from America which lasted 58 years.

 

Cooke was a journalist and scholar. He studied the United States before speaking and he did not shoot his mouth off on subjects he did not understand. While in the States he was employed as a journalist for the Guardian, one of Britain’s more reputable papers and he wrote extensively. He oversaw the research and writing of Alistair Cooke’s America. And he understood what he was writing about. No ranting, just objective reporting.

 

On the other hand, we have Piers Morgan. Piers, a product of state schools and the Harlow College (roughly equivalent to a Juco or Vo-Tech in the US), has a career in tabloid newspapers and celebrity television. Prior to taking over for Larry King, he was fired as editor of The Mirror for publishing dubious photographs. He had been a “presenter” rather than a correspondent for BBC.

 

His role as a “host” is not that of a journalist. Larry King made no pretensions that the show was anything but entertainment. Unlike his predecessor, Morgan lines up guests who disagree with him for a session of hectoring and rants, bypassing rational discourse. He does not attempt to learn or to educate himself on America. His assumption is that celebrity trumps research and education.

 

In fact he is woefully ignorant, not only of American constitutional history but British as well. Our Declaration of Independence cites the 1689 Bill of Rights. Our second amendment guarantees all citizens the same right to keep and bear arms as the 1689 Bill grants Protestants. Unfortunately for our cousins across the pond there is a waiver of the Bill of Rights in time of war—ever notice that the UK has been in a state of war most of the time since. He looks at what are essentially “black swan” events which are not subject to real analysis since there origins appear to be random and comes to a definite solution that does not work—it has not worked in Britain, a far more violent society than the US, and it has not worked anywhere.

 

The British finally, about 1775, ordered the colonists in Massachusetts Bay to surrender their weaponry. On the night of 18 April 1775 they marched a column of 800 or so grenadiers and marines out of Boston to arrest two “traitors” at Lexington and seize munitions at Concord. In the morning they stood facing a small group of armed colonists on the green—while they were facing this group, John Hancock and Sam Adams slipped out of the Rev John Emerson’s residence and headed south unnoticed by the Redcoats. Shots were fired and the colonists retreated. At Concord they found the cache of munitions empty and a larger force (growing by the minute). As the British forces (I should say English because the term UK is a sop that does not recognize where the power is) started to retreat the colonists kept firing and picking up more Enfield muskets along the way. There was a war.

 

When, in the ratification process, the anti-federalist faction demanded a Bill of Rights that included the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The Assize of 1181 and the 1689 Bill of Rights were precedent to the US Bill of Rights. The fact that the UK Parliament has gutted Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as the people have adopted a stance of European serfdom, is not something one gets in a technical trade school.

 

Piers asks about the AR-15. In the 19th Century case of Dred Scott v. Sanford, the court remarked that if blacks were given citizenship, they would have the right to “musket and cannon,” the military weaponry of the day. This is, of course, what lawyers refer to as dicta which has less legal standing than the arguments in the decision. Dicta is most of what we get out of Supreme Court cases since judges want to leave employment opportunities for attorneys and judges. Prior to Heller, most second amendment cases (with the exception of Cruikshank which was overturned by Congress) have more dicta than decision. US v Miller, for instance, was decided as an excise case with dicta that there was no regulatory power and that the weapon in question was of no military utility.

 

A “host” with a liberal arts background would probably realize that there are arguments from various perspectives on the question. And the purpose of the interview should be to broaden the discussion, not browbeat the interviewee with the pretense that authority comes from a BBC accent. And yet there may be hope—in an interview with Ann Coulter, Piers did admit that his visceral reaction to pro-second amendment guests may have been counter to his cause.

 

We shall see.

 

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Citizenship, Free Society, Writing and diction

Treason?

© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

Politicians, prosecutors and pundits throw the term treason around like they understand it without going to the source. (Note the three sets of alliteration in the first eight words.) I went back to my scripture on the matter—The Constitution of the United States.

Article III, Section 3 reads as follows:

1:  Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.  No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

2:  The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Since 1946, the United States have not been in a state of declared war. Therefore there is no “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Otherwise the current Secretary of State could be charged with treason for carrying messages from the North Vietnamese delegation to the committee in the House of Representatives led by Ron Dellums in 1973.

In the matter of current affairs, Edward Snowden could be charged with violation of official secrets legislation, but not treason. Note that the Rosenbergs received the death sentence under the Espionage Act of 1917, but could not be charged with treason because there was no state of war with the Soviet Union. Jonathan Pollard, a civilian analyst, was convicted in 1987 of selling secrets to Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment. He is the only person sentence to life for selling secrets to an ally.

Also, Maj Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist, was charged with murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and convicted. In court statements, Major Nidal claimed that he was at war with the United States. Had treason been charged, he could have been convicted of treason, the elements being there. Instead, the Administration, the Attorney General and Secretary of Defense chose to characterise the attack as workplace violence.

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Citizenship, Economy, Free Society

We fought a war for these freedoms

© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

In 1743, Sam Adams and James Otis, Jr, were admitted to the degree of Master of Arts with Honours by Harvard College. These two gentlemen were both allies and rivals over the next few years and the intellectual fathers of the American Revolution in Massachusetts Bay colony.

James Otis, Jr, was appointed advocate general of the vice admiralty court in Boston where he was an advocate enforcing the onerous Acts of Trade of 1751. As the residents of Massachusetts Bay sought extra-legal relief (Messrs John Hancock and Sam Adams being involved in such activity) Parliament came up with the use of “General Warrants” which allowed the Kings officers to search what they chose, when they chose and where they chose without specifics.

In 1761, partly because Gov Bernard appointed Thomas Hutchinson rather than James Otis, Sr, as Chief Justice, the younger Otis resigned his position as advocate general and took up the cause of the merchants of Massachusetts Bay. He did this pro bono or without fee.

His five hour argument in February of 1761, included the following:

A man’s house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court may inquire.

Does this sound familiar? Does the justification of NSA surveillance by such “defenders of our freedom” as Rep Peter King (R-NY) ring familiar?

James Otis, Jr, had begun his argument with the following.

I was desired by one of the court to look into the (law) books, and consider the question now before them concerning Writs of Assistance. I have accordingly considered it, and now appear not only in obedience to your order, but likewise in behalf of the inhabitants of this town, who have presented another petition, and out of regard to the liberties of the subject. And I take this opportunity to declare that whether under a fee or not (for in such a cause as this I despise a fee) I will to my dying day oppose, with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand and villainy on the other, as this Writ of Assistance is.

John Adams, Sam’s more conciliatory cousin who had doubts about independence characterized this as the first act of resistance. It was the first action in an intellectual war of small actions which culminated in the shots fired at Lexington Green on 19 April 1775.

The court, presided over by the corrupt Thomas Hutchinson, rejected the argument. But the speech was amplified and published over the years. In December of 1773 Hutchinson was to be the recipient of a shipment of tea that would be forfeit to his warehouse on 17 December of that year. James Otis, Jr’s classmate Sam organized a costume party (it took place on Beethoven’s third birthday) that result in the tea being tossed into the harbor so it could not be unloaded.

Through the assistance of the anti-federalist movement which in the newly free and independent Commonwealth of Massachusetts included Sam Adams and the sister of James Otis, Jr, Mercy Otis Warren, ten amendments restricting governmental powers were adopted and ratified. These included the Fourth Amendment which reads:

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.

After “9/11” supposedly changed “our democracy forever” the United States passed the USAPATRIOT Act which greatly expanded the powers of the US Department of Justice, the NSA (LBJ’s Secret Police) and government in general—we now have a Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security with seemingly unlimited powers. (I could posit that the events of 11 September 2001 did not substantially change the risk level for the United States but only the fear level.)

This legislation is not “the law of the land” in that it is passed, not pursuant to the powers granted in the body of the Constitution and contrary to the limits on federal power bluntly stated in the fourth article amending that Constitution. In other words, the argument is that an emergency grants extraordinary powers to ignore the basics of governing in a free society. In the 1688 Bill of Rights, the British Parliament objected to standing armies in time of peace—and since 1688 every monarch has assured military adventurism as a means to keeping standing armies. In 1798 John Adams wanted emergency powers because he had a gotten into a shooting conflict with France—his successor refused to enforce those powers. Since 1914 the United States has been in conflict with one or more foes—only twice, 1917 and 1941, have there been formal declarations of war although Bill Fulbright posited that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution might be so considered.

The advantage to the powers that be of “emergencies” is that the electorate, with a dire threat from the outside, is willing to forgo freedoms in the belief that such willingness will diminish the threat. Ergo, since Muslim extremists were capable of flying a couple planes into buildings we are under threat—although we currently have no enemies with industrial capabilities, having reached a rapprochement with Red China and having caused the downfall of the Soviet Union through a massive spending war. However, we have a “Global War on Terror” as a result of G.W. Bush acting like John Adams on steroids and Barack Obama not being Thomas Jefferson in any sense.

Going back to the Fourth Amendment, James Otis, Jr, began a revolution of thought. As the kernel of the idea grew, it was added to and built up pressure. By April of 1775, the American Revolution was over—what lay ahead was a War for Independence. Yes, for these ideas and freedoms we went to war, not to give power over to a government that took crises as a rationale for going back to a time before it all happened and back to a government that made Leviathan look like a gila monster.

 

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Citizenship, Economy

It started with Hoover(?)

© 2013 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

Herbert Hoover was an engineer and a manager. Never before or since has that combination sat in the Oval Office. Hoover liked the idea of a coherent executive budget instead of each agency or faction lobbying for their own turf. In theory this makes good sense—a President with managerial expertise looks over the entirety of the Executive Branch and makes sure everything necessary is covered within the means (funding) provided by the available revenues. It only makes sense—or to use the most misused term in political debate common sense.

A note here. My favorite line from Common Sense, a hot headed tract by Thomas Paine under the pseudonym, An Englishman, begins, “Government at its best is a necessary evil….”

Mr Hoover liked the idea of controlling the elements of the country. As Secretary of Commerce he seized control of the airways with the assistance of Congress and the help of an outlandish broadcaster named John R Brinkley. The Federal Radio Commission (now the FCC) was created at the request of the broadcasters to be less arbitrary than the Secretary of Commerce. Hoover also appointed himself assistant secretary for interference in all other departments. He expanded regulation after the Federal Reserve tanked the Stock Market in 1929, which weakened the economy. He did, however, veto the Smoot-Hawley Tariff which was the proximate cause of the 1931 recession—it was passed over his veto.

Hoover’s successor Franklin D Roosevelt turned his economic relief over to Frances Perkins, Hugh Johnson and other progressives who based their solutions on Woodrow Wilson’s war mobilization tactics and the writings of Max Weber and Benito Mussolini. So instead of attacking the regulations that had caused the downturn and returning to sound money as promised (Barry Goldwater said he could have run on FDR’s 1932 platform) we got the New Deal. The New Deal expanded the scope and powers of the Department of Labor (Perkins’ empire) and began the entitlement state through social security which was designed to get older workers out of the workforce.

With the growth of entitlements under Lyndon Johnson and later presidents the national budget became one in which borrowing became necessary to cover the newly essential functions of government in addition to wars and military adventurism. The Johnson through Carter Administrations vastly expanded the role of the federal government in welfare, medical care, education and public safety/emergency management to the point that states and localities are dependent on federal funds—as an aside, the general taxation authority the feds got in 1913 has increased to the point that the states are limited in what they can tax.

Congress decided in 1917 to limit the Treasury’s borrowing authority. This was in response to Wilson’s public entry into World War I—he already had troops occupying much of Mexico where he intervened in the civil wars as well as many areas of Central America and the Caribbean where United Fruit had interests. Domestic affairs did not generally require borrowing before the second world war.

Increasing the borrowing limit may be necessary for a short term obligation but if it becomes necessary to fund the essentials of government then it is a long term problem and the answer has to be to cut spending, cut programs, cut the interference which depresses the economy. Ultimately we will have to stop borrowing and start paying down or most assuredly we will default. On the other hand, the entitlement spending has become a third rail in politics—DO NOT TOUCH. Neither the rock nor the hard place is safe.

So we will continue to have shutdowns, gridlock and dissension. All are culpable.

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Citizenship, Free Society, Trivia

Death of Parties

© 2013 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

I read of the death of the Republican Party. I have read this many times about both parties. Ross Perot was going to replace both. Political parties come and go and evolve.

A number of Federalists in New York affiliated themselves with the Tammany Hall wing of the Democratic-Republicans sponsoring Aaron Burr in 1804 as their gubernatorial candidate against against Morgan Lewis of the Clintonian (or anti-federalist) Wing. Burr’s program included his support of the secession of the Northern States (New York and New England) to form a confederation more favorable to Britain than to France. Federalists from Massachusetts actually supported Burr for Governor of New York because of his willingness to sign a bill of secession. There were those who feared the Louisiana Purchase would give Jefferson too much power. The Federalists had no candidate so two Democratic-Republican Candidates went head to head.

In steps Alexander Hamilton who wants absolutely nothing of secession because it would be bad for commerce. Hamilton disliked Jefferson and loathed George Clinton politically because they opposed the ratification of the Constitution. He also happened to despise Aaron Burr as a rival in New York Banking. An off-handed insult by Hamilton was perceived by Burr to have given the victory of Lewis and was the “proximate cause” of the oldest sports rivalry in the Ivy League. (Dueling: Princeton 1 – Columbia 0) While some credit the duel as the end of the Federalists, the party had become a northeastern parochial party after 1800.

The Democratic-Republicans, on the other hand were experiencing a similar breakdown. Morgan Lewis, while having some moderate support, was the last of the anti-federalist crowd. A supporter, DeWitt Clinton (George’s nephew who inspired a future governor to build canals) shifted to Tammany to run for Governor and even ran as a Federalist for President in 1812 to oppose Madison’s War.

TRIVIA WATCH

George Clinton was the longest serving governor in American history. He was the first vice-president elected on a party ticket rather than as runnerup for President. He served as vice-president for both Jefferson and Madison. His greatest accomplishment was in chairing the Ratification Convention in New York where New York’s entry into the compact was made contingent on the Bill of Rights. Some scholars believe he was the author of the Anti-federalist Papers attributed to Cato, but others say the authorship is still in doubt—fortunately dueling has been outlawed.

Speaking of dueling: Aaron Burr was the grandson of Jonathan Edwards and a well educated banker. He was involved in a plot to form an empire in Spanish Territory—That had to wait for Pres James Polk who was a cousin to Bishop Leonidas Polk who married a Granddaughter of Jonathan Edwards. The Burr family formed the Manhattan Company (not to be confused with the Manhattan Project) to transport water in Manhattan Island—it also had authority to issue notes and hold deposit. It remains in existence as JP Morgan Chase and owns Alexander Hamilton’s pistols.

DeWitt Clinton had a steam engine named for him. He is best know for the Erie Canal—in opposition campaign literature it was called, “Clinton’s big ditch.”

Modern Republicans are divided and ripping in several directions, but there will always be dissension. The great political philosopher of the 19th Century, Finley Peter Dunne, speaking in the persona of Mr Dooley, said, “if ye’re in a room where a man in one corner is shouting miscreant and in the other corner is one shouting thraitor, you know its only two loyal demmycrats trying to reunite the party.”

Remember: tags are invitations to research.

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Citizenship, Preparedness

21 August 1863 – The cost of non-resistance

© 2013 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

Today is August 21, 2013. 150 years ago, Major William “Bloody Bill” Anderson led his raiders into Lawrence, Kansas, and committed murder and mayhem on the civilian population although the killing was limited, for the most part, to males of military age—remembering that in 1863, young en as young as twelve were found in the military service of both the United States of America and the Confederate States of America.

About 10 am, William Clark Quantrill, Anderson’s “commander,” arrived in town, ate breakfast, gave orders to spare a hotel where he had once resided, and left. This was an irregular band or conglomeration of bands of raiders and command structure was sometimes confusing, but Bill Anderson had loose command.

What had happened in Lawrence that I find disturbing is that armed resistance was rare and sporadic. A Colonel Bullene and two of his sons were on leave. When raiders rode up to the Bullene residence, they were greeted with gunfire and decided to go elsewhere. There was a farmer named Levi Gates who grabbed his muzzle loader and went hunting and got two or three raiders before being cut down.

Three weeks before the raid the New England contingent among the city fathers had decided that the militia weapons would be “safer” in a central armory than in homes—anyone who thinks this bit of information did not get back to Quantrill and company needs a reality check.

It is not that the city did not know about the possibility of a raid. On 21 May 1856, the Sheriff of Douglas County, Samuel Jones, sacked the city to destroy free state and abolitionist newspapers and the Free State Hotel. However, the lessons of vigilance fade in time.

A personal note: My family were of the New England Puritan culture. When I went to a candlelight vigil some years back, there was a reading of names which included a number of Palmers and Griswolds—not ancestors but probably related.

In September of 1863, the Confederate Congress amended the Partisan Ranger Act to apply only to those partisan units operating also as regular cavalry. Neither Quantrill nor Anderson survived the war but a remnant of Anderson’s men in Western Missouri reconstituted themselves as the James-Younger gang.

On February 13, 1866, a group of about a dozen former members of Anderson’s outfit—including Frank James and Coleman Younger—robbed the Clay County Savings Association. This was the first daytime bank robbery during peacetime and netted $60,000 according to the robberies page of angelfire.com. For the next ten years, the James-Younger gang was unstoppable in Missouri.

On September 7, 1876, the gang ventured into “Yankee” territory again. This time it was Northfield, Minnesota. This time, however, there was armed resistance. Townspeople grabbed weapons and the gunstore handed out new Winchesters. Frank and Jesse James managed to escape through the Dakota territory and got back to Missouri—the armed response and ensuing manhunt resulted in death or incarceration of most of their confederates. The total take was $26.70 because they took the word of the acting cashier that there was a time lock on the safe.

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