Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why It Is So Hard To Have A Reasonable Diaologue

Have you noticed how difficult it is to have a discussion politically today that actually has any depth? What is normally found is nothing more than people throwing talking points back and forth. Frankly, if you turn on the television so called experts, that is what they do as well. Little substance ever comes to the surface. Why? I have found in debating that I will put forth a blog that I had written from a deep dive study reading several books by several authors on the topic, but it is dismissed out of hand since I wrote it. Yet they counter it with an opinion piece from the media, not even an investigative article, or with a Wikipedia post. People Wiki is fine if you know nothing about a topic and want a quick overview, but please do not take it as a factual account because you never know how accurate it might be.

I believe it is caused by several things, but nothing more so than the lack of quality education in our school systems going back into the 50s when we as a nation quit teaching our children history, economics, philosophy, and civics well. There was, starting then an assault on our history revising what those Progressives who took over our education system wanted us to learn. It truly began with the five volume American History written by President Woodrow Wilson in 1902. Wilson, a devoted racist, erased the stories of all the African American heroes of the Revolutionary and Civil War, as well as those who were early Congressmen after Reconstruction. It wasn't until recently some have been reinstated.

One of the most quoted books about American History by historians is Alexis de Tocqueville "Democracy In America," written during the Andrew Jackson administration. This book was reedited in 1956 and this "new" edition was reduced from the 804 pages plus another 166 pages of Appendix and became only 317 pages, removing every mention of the vital importance faith in God and religion had in the American system of government and every day life. One of the most important books, and if you read it published after 1956 you only read 35% of what Tocqueville wrote.

Our history has been taught in the most boring, irrelevant, and most forgettable way possible. History is rife with stories of daring adventure, bravery, selflessness, good and evil, men and women who did extraordinary things against all odds. It is edge of your seat compelling stories, that our schools make as dry as dust, where dates are more important than what happened and why. Could this be on purpose so people will not "like" history and never learn it? If it was done intentionally it couldn't have been more effective and destroying a nation of its heritage. I am not sure it wasn't intentional.

Our news media has been bought and paid for by political parties starting in the early 1800s. By 1840 partisan concerns linked the post office branches and the party-controlled newspapers by reducing the cost of distribution through the mails. From 1800 to 1840, the number of newspapers transmitted through the mails rose from 2 million to almost 140 million at far cheaper rates than other printed matter. Postal historian Richard John estimated that if newspapers had paid the same rate as other mails, the transmission costs would have been 700 times higher.

"The new party system with its media partnerships, by 1840, had compromised the independence of the mails and a large part of the print media with no small consequences. Among other defects, the subsidies created incentives to read newspapers, rather than books. This democratization of the news produced a population of people who thought they knew a great deal about current events, but who lacked the theoretical grounding in history, philosophy, or politics to properly ground their opinions." Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen.

If that was true in 1840, how much more so today with the 24/7 news cycle. We are bombarded nonstop with news on the Internet, Television networks, cable, radio, and print. However, without the depth of understanding of history, economics, civics, and philosophy people are tossed too and fro like a bobber on the never ending waves of the news reports.

We need to embrace our history, we need to learn it, understand who we are by understanding where we came from. Our schools won't teach it, so it is up to you to learn it and then to make sure that you kids learn it from you. Better yet, learn it together with your kids. Your Republic depends on it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

James Madison Had A Dream

The summer of 1787 changed the world when a group of men came to Philadelphia to take a look at the weaknesses that had been exposed in the Articles of Confederation. Uprisings such as Shay's Rebellion, a group of farmers who were threatening to overthrow the local governments,and courts to stop foreclosure proceedings on their farms.

The Convention was called, and it carried enough weight to actually see the states to assemble their representatives, probably due to learning that George Washington himself endorsed it and would himself attend. Obviously the General by his very presence and reputation made him a key player without saying hardly a word in session. Washington was a strong believer in throwing the Articles of Confederation out and creating a more robust document that gave much more power to a central government. He believed that the Union hung in the balance of just that. In his own experience of fighting the Revolutionary War he knew the destructive flaws in the Articles of Confederation and it's weakness to override the states by the central government when needed. His army starved and froze and was often understaffed due to states not contributing their promised provisions and recruits unless the battle was near them and threatening their own interests.

Another attendee whose very name and reputation was key to the eventual outcome and to the seriousness of the Convention was Philadelphia's own Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Franklin had spent twenty five of the previous thirty years before the Convention overseas. His experience during the decade following independence had convinced him of the need for a central government with the requisite "energy." He had learned that American diplomats abroad operated in a world of fierce rivalries and struggles for dominance. France and Spain, though nominally America's allies in the struggle for independence, were ultimately guided by their sense of national self-interest. Franklin came to realize that the new American nation would have to present a united front if it were to hold its own in the treacherous world of European diplomacy.

The youngest delegate, at 28, James Madison was the scholar. He had been working in the Congress under the Articles of Confederation and knew of its weaknesses and was the major driving force for throwing it out and starting all over with a new Constitution. He believed that those weaknesses posed at least an equal threat to liberty and, equally important, American unity. He watched frustrated as many of the independent state governments thwarted efforts to give the Confederation government the power to levy taxes or regulate commerce. In the spring of 1786, he began making extensive notes on the history of "ancient and modern confederacies," a project that led him across more than three thousand years of history, from ancient Greece to the cantons of Switzerland. In April 1787, he composed a private memorandum - thought one he obviously intended to circulate to others, which he titled,"The Vices of the Political System of the United States." It laid out in systematic fashion both his assessment of the weaknesses of the existing American governments, state and confederated, and his thoughts on the best remedies for those weaknesses. It was this writing that moved Washington to attend the convention after Madison had mailed him a copy. Washington wasn't interested in attending a convention of half-measures of trying to "fix" the current government, he wanted an entirely new one as did Madison.

Madison identified a dozen "vices" he believed to be fatal to the health of the republic. Several of those vices lay in the ways the newly independent states had overreacted to prior abuses of power by British royal governors. It wasn't surprising that state constitution makers deprived their new governors of the power to dissolve assemblies or to exercise and absolute veto over legislation, but Madison believed they had gone too far. Most of the new state constitutions vested the legislatures with the power to elect governors and most denied the chief executive even a limited veto. The result, in Madison's view, was that states frequently enacted "vicious legislation," too often prompted by the whims of public opinion rather than sober reflection. He was horrified by the irresponsible actions of the Rhode Island legislature, which allowed its citizens to pay off their debts in depreciated state currency.

The problem didn't lie with irresponsibility of state legislatures alone. Much of Madison's analysis focused on weaknesses in the Confederation government that allowed the self-interests of any one state to overwhelm the public interest of the nation. He chronicled the instances to which states had ignored their obligations to the union. He spoke of the many times that states wouldn't support their financial obligations to the war effort. "This evil, has been so fully experienced both during the war and since the peace," that he believed it could well be "fatal" to the very existence of the union. Equally upsetting to him were frequent instances in which the states encroached on the authority of the continental government,as in the case of Georgia's brutal war against the Creek Indians, waged without the Confederation government's consent. There were routine cases of individual states violating the terms of the Treaty of Peace with England, as in continued persecution of Loyalists, when it suited their interests.

Madison was also troubled by the tendency of "courtiers of popularity" - men like Patrick Henry, who possessed all the oratory skills that Madison lacked, to please their local constituencies while at the same time pursuing policies harmful to the broader interests of the Confederacy. Madison accepted the inevitability that citizens would work to promote their interests at the expense of others. However, contrary to the widely accepted view that liberty could best be protected in republics of limited geographic size, Madison argued that only in a large republic, where "society becomes broken into a greater variety of interests, of pursuit of passions, which check each other," could one prevent the provincialism and attendant injustice that afflicted states like Rhode Island, where Madison believed, a small faction of self-interested politicians had gained control of the legislator and subverted the public good. Only a shift in power from smaller state governments to a larger and stronger federal government would "render {government} sufficiently neutral between the different interests and factions, to controul on part of society from invading the rights of another, and at the same time {remain} sufficiently controuled itself, from setting up an interest adverse to that of the whole society." He believed that this shift of power was essential if America was to become a unified nation rather than a chaotic assemblage of quarrelsome states.

Madison's acknowledgement of the existence of "interests" in society and his desire to create a large, energetic government designed to neutralize - but not eliminate - those interests pointed in an entirely new direction. In Madison's conception, governments were designed not to embody virtue and the public good, but, rather, to mediate among the various interests in society and, in the process, allow the public good to be served. However, in other ways his vision of the virtues of an extended republic was distinctly traditional, reflecting classical republican attitudes about the importance of selecting virtuous political leaders. Voters who selected their leaders from larger districts would be choosing from a much wider pool of talent, a circumstance that would encourage the voters to select only "the purest and noblest characters," thereby ensuring that their representatives would be more likely to rise above purely provincial concerns and petty self-interest, and to represent the concerns of all the people.

Madison's "Vices of the Political System" ended on that conservative note. Never an optimist about human nature, he nonetheless hoped that he could persuade the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention, who, after all, were more likely to resemble to the pure and noble characters he hoped would govern the extended American republic, that it was time to transform a weak confederation into a strong unified nation.

Wouldn't you love to see those values come back again? Wouldn't be nice to have men and women of "the purest and noblest characters?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Cost Perfection

As we watch the ongoing debates and campaign cycle for the 2012 GOP nomination the standard so many set for their candidate makes it impossible for a human to attain without either being the single most boring person to live, or a liar.

The "conservative" voters are the most guilty of having no political savvy. They eat their own, the candidate has to be perfect, has to have 100% purity on conservative values throughout the entirety of their lives. No room for any indiscretions or change in thinking, once a flaw is found, scorched earth is used.

With these standards far too many of the political neophytes who populate the Tea Party movement and make up nearly all of the Libertarian population, would not support Ronald Reagan today even as they hold him us as a marble statue. I loved Ronald Reagan, worked on his campaign barnstorming from Indiana through Oklahoma and Texas for his campaign in 1980. However, Ronald Reagan wasn't perfect. For today's "conservative" voter, the fact that he was a lifelong Liberal Democrat voting for FDR four times would disqualify him for suspicion of RINOism. His being a president of a labor union, in Hollywood no less would be sure of it. If that wasn't enough, he was divorced and remarried Heaven forbid.

For that matter I am not sure which one of he Founding Fathers would pass today's standards. George Washington, married for money, was involved in some very shady land deals, was single handed responsible for the French Indian War. As a General he lost every battle but two Trenton on a surprise attack on Christmas 1776, and the final battle in Yorktown. Rumors ran rampant of his potential womanizing, including his favorite General Nathan Green's wife Kitty. Who always seem to show up in camp at the same time Washington would send the General on the road. Did they or didn't they, who knows? Is that why Martha burned all Washington's letters and papers at his death?

John Adams was known for his violent temper, and many feared he was a monarchist wanting to bring back hereditary royalty to America.

Thomas Jefferson, ran for the hills abandoning his role as Governor of Virginia for fear of the British. He likely fathered children out of wedlock with his slave, was thought to have had an affair with the wife of a friend in Paris. He paid James Cavander to write yellow journalism to destroy the political careers of one of Jefferson's best friends, John Adams, and of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was able to side step the accusations of Cavander by confessing he was not paying bribes to his post as Secretary of the Treasury, but in fact was paying bribes to the husband of a woman he was having an affair with. When Jefferson didn't pay off Cavander with a job in his administration it was Cavander who broke the story of Sally Hemmings.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, partnered with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers to sell the Constitution ratification. He then turned on them and was the pen to attack them for his mentor Jefferson. Was he the first flip flopper, or was it Jefferson who has the uncanny ability of holding passionate beliefs for and against almost any subject of the day at the same time.

We can go on, Benjamin Franklin and his opiate habit, all night forays with women married and single. His son born out of wedlock and more.

I am not bashing any of the founders, I adore them one and all. However, they were men, not granite or marble. As men, they were not perfect. All of their decisions were not perfect, but their collaboration was miraculous.

So when I hear that Newt Gingrich is the most brilliant, most experienced, BUT, he has flaws, I want to scream.