Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cultures throughout the world have held and continue to hold feasts at the close of the growing seasons after the final harvest. Usually these feasts involve giving thanks to whatever divine being(s) the particular cultures acknowledge. In the United States, the tradition loosely relates to the first “Thanksgiving" feast held by the English settlers at Plymouth, Massachusetts

The original one hundred or so settlers consisted of congregants of a separatist church who refused to worship in the England’s established Anglican Church. They arrived on the Mayflower in November 1620, just in time for the onset of winter. After an exploratory party located an advantageous site, the settlers came ashore that December. The site selected had been a Patuxet village that the natives abandoned after its decimation by small pox. By March 1621, however, about half of the English settlers themselves had perished from diseases contracted spread during the voyage or the harsh winter living conditions.

The new settlement took root that year with assistance from the local Wampanoag tribe. Their help had been secured through the efforts of Squanto, a Patuxet native. (Years before he had been captured and brought to England as a “specimen” by an English explorer. While living in England he learned the language. Later he found himself back in his native land. He served as a translator). That fall, after a successful harvest and hunting, a feast was held with some of the Wampanoag neighbors.

One settler preserved an account in a journal:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

And so a local tradition, although inconsistently practiced, began. Other parts of the English colonies celebrated their own traditions on different fall days. These gradually became unified through proclamations of the government.

Here are a couple:

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (3 October 1789):

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789

And below is Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation (3 October 1863):

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

Thanksgiving became a federal holiday after President Franklin Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress 26 December, 1941.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Atomic Ayatollahs

During the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the arms race that accompanied it, the United States periodically engaged in arms control negotiations and signed off to several arms control agreements.

One of the challenges regarding enforcement of those agreements was the ability to verify that the Soviet Union actually intended to abide by their terms. Uncertainty always remained about whether or not the Soviet Union continued to manufacture and deploy nuclear missiles and whether or not the United States possessed the means to detect such violations.

The same challenges face the United States today regarding the new agreement with Iran about their own nuclear program.

Fortunately, the State Department released this video explaining the strategy by which we will confirm that Iran abides by the terms of the new agreement:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Some Words for Martin Bashir

Occasionally politicians and pundits made some ill-considered statements about some aspect of the political scene in which they draw comparisons to morally offensive experiences from the past like slavery or the holocaust.

Sarah Palin made such a comparison at a Faith and Freedom Coalition fundraiser. She likened  the debt obligations of the United States to slavery. She was no doubt alluding to the well-known Bible verse found in Proverbs:

 "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."  Proverbs 22:7 (KJV)

In a limited way that statement and, by extension, that of Sarah Palin in true. A borrower is to some extent working under duress for sake of the lender, because that is to whom the borrow must pass on some of his earnings.

Although she probably scored rhetorical points with her audience, its not a particularly apt analogy. It calls to mind 19th century American slavery, an aberration from the Anglo-American historical experience that rested on an ideological foundation of agrarianism and the degradation of a people based upon their color.

But then, Palin is hardly the first to make such a comparison. 

Hillary Clinton has used this analogy.

And Bashir himself has used this clumsy analogy.

Palin's comments, however, provoked this obscene response from MSNBC television personality Martin Bashir. Instead of explaining to his viewers why he believes Palin should not be permitted to use this analogy why he should remain free to do so, he engaged in a vile personal attack.

Whether this response has it roots in Bashir's political ideology, his misogynistic Pakistani background, or both, only he knows.

So in the spirit of the MSNBC corporate culture, here are some words for Martin Bashir:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Again, Fifty Years Ago Today

The Beatles released their second album in Britain.

Their first album, Please, Please Me, had been release in March of 1963 and after a month reached number one on the British music sales charts. It remained there for thirty weeks. What knocked the Beatles' first album out of the number one spot?

The Beatles' second album.

Reacquaint yourself with it below.

The Beatles at this time had still been unable to secure an agreement of any  major recording company to distribute their first two albums. Few in America had heard them.

Coincidentally, on this day in 1963, CBS  had scheduled to broadcast a 5 minute segment during their evening news on "Beatlemania" in Britain. CBS was forced to reschedule the segment until the following month, because of another event that happened on this day in 1963: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The original CBS segment below:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gettysburg: 150 Years Ago

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

Hundreds of Americans gathered on November 19, 1863 to hear President Abraham Lincoln dedicate a cemetery as the resting place for several thousand solders killed during the three day battle fought between July 1-3, 1863.

Hundreds gathered today for a reenactment of that special day.

 In only  272 words, the first Republican president of the United States reaffirmed what Jefferson perhaps unintentionally introduced in his Declaration of Independence: a proposition nation.

Other nations in the past based their national identity on a history, a homeland, a language, and a religion.

As the first new nation we lacked those characteristics that almost all other nations shared. Our origins lay in several countries of Europe and Africa. Our history was an episode in the experience of England. Our homeland  was the New World. Our language was the cultural inheritance of a now foreign country. Our religion, while largely Christian, represented dozens of divisions of that faith.

So what held us together?

The ideas of liberty, equality, and republican government.

The national identity of other nations rests on who they were and are.

Ours rests upon what we believe.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Healthcare Rights: A Conflict of Visions

In some of the most well-known words every written, Thomas Jefferson asserted that:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Jefferson never claimed originality for these words. He only claimed that they expressed the sentiments of British North Americans at the time they began their War for Independence. And he never explained exactly what they meant.

While most Americans today still share the sentiments expressed in Jefferson's timeless words, we often find ourselves divided over exactly what they mean for us today. This is especially evident in the ongoing controversy over the Affordable Care Act. This division at root a disagreement over the concept of rights.

Conservatives, when we speak about rights at all, usually establish our philosophical foundation for rights on human nature, whether this nature derives from God or simply natural processes. We see humans as possessors of life as a gift from God or nature that others may not take away. We see humans as possessors of natural liberty, or free will, that we enjoy the right to exercise without obstruction by others. And we see humans as possessors of the right to pursue happiness without interference by others. This last contention, of course, is a source of controversy in itself. Usually today we think of happiness as the psychological or emotional state that comes from acquiring whatever we happen to desire. Jefferson, however,  probably used it in its older,  traditional sense established by Aristotle over twenty centuries ago. When Aristotle wrote of happiness as the ultimate goal of human life (it is the only thing sought for itself and not for the sake of something else), he used the Greek word eudaimonia, which means thriving or flourishing. The pursuit of happiness, then, means the right of humans to seek those things which allow them to thrive or flourish, i.e., live the good life.

Notice two things. First, it is a pursuit. We possess the right to seek the good life and secure the basic natural rights of food, clothing, shelter, and even health care. But there are no guarantees. That is why  both obscure philosophers and popular self help gurus fill library and bookstore shelves with books on how to succeed or live the good life. Second, these basic rights (as well as many others that could be listed) exist as "claims" against others. We claim these rights and impose a negative duty on others to respect them. Our rights claims negate any efforts by others to take away those rights.That is why rights so conceived are sometimes called "negative claim rights."

Finally, conservatives see the Constitution as providing the legal framework for the exercise and protection of those rights. And when conflicts arise over rights claims, the laws seek to resolve those conflicting claims so that each party receive what is his due: justice.

Modern progressives begin with the same premises. They, too, see human beings as possessors of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They tend, however, to conceive of happiness in its modern sense of the psychological or emotional satisfaction of desires. (Each of us manifests the "progressive" inside of us each time we say with a shrug of the shoulders, "Whatever makes you happy.")

More important, they see rights as "positive claim rights." In other words, they see rights claims as imposing a positive duty on others to provide for those rights. In essence, according to progressives, rights claims by individuals exist as claims against society as a whole to act through public institutions to satisfy those claims.

This is why the debate about health care goes way beyond any utilitarian notion of  "what works best." Even if one could prove on paper or demonstrate in actual practice which approach to health care works best, the divide will remain.

It is a conflict of visions about the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

So Who Hasn't Signed Up for Obamacare?

The news recently has noted the embarrassingly low numbers of sign ups for insurance in the market exchanges set up by the federal government. The vast majority of those seeking health insurance so far consist of those who cannot afford it and have enrolled in Medicaid so that other citizens can purchase insurance for them with their hard earned tax dollars.

What about the Representatives and Senators who enacted the PPACA?

Let's see, in the Senate there's . . .

And in the House there's . . .

Maybe they still have not read what's in it and so cannot appreciate the benefits of PPACA.

Or maybe they have.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Let's Grow Up, Conservatives!

The previous post here at Right Detour addressed the folly about the talk of the Tea Party Movement "seceding" from the Republican Party. The Tea Party is not a party, neither can it ever establish itself as a viable party.

What is the Tea party to do?

First, maintain the message. The Tea Party message of constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free enterprise will resonate with voters, especially when if we demonstrate how these constitutional principles serve as the means to conserve the core values of the founders of our nation--liberty and equality.

The adverse impact of PPACA has provided a good opportunity for articulating this message. The government management of the nation's health care constitutes the most egregious overreach by the government in decades, violating the principle of limited government. The government's management cannot be sustained economically, violating the principle of fiscal responsibility.  And the government's regulations regarding specific policy provisions that may be offered permits the government to wedge itself in the middle of the relationship between patient, doctor, and insurer, violating the principle of free enterprise.

And what does NOT constitute "Maintaining the Message?"

Obama's birth certificate.

Obama's college records.

Obama's impeachment.

And even most other peripheral issues such as abortion, Common Core, and immigration.

Second, the Tea Party needs to play as part of a coalition--a team if you will. Too often our zeal for a candidate who best represents our views turns into a inquisition for ideological purity. People and politics are too complicated for that.

Jenny Beth Martin, one of the founders of our movement, recently complained that the Republican Party establishment abandoned a viable candidate for the governorship of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli.  (You can read her protest here.)  She made her point. The Republican Party establishment failed when they were needed the most. She needs to recognize, however, that the Republicans simply gave Cuccinelli  and the Tea Party a taste of their own medicine, er, tea. Too often the Tea Party, after failing to secure the election of the candidate most supportive of our views, sits at home, christens the Republican candidate a RINO,  and refuses to fund or support a Republican who fails to pass an ideological litmus test. Or some high profile Tea Party spokesperson "reads" such a politician out of the movement. (Recall what happened to Marco Rubio when he revealed his plans for immigration reform.)

And with the candidacy of Cuccinelli, the Republican Party establishment turned the tables.

When followers of Barry Goldwater expressed their disappointment over his rejection as Richard Nixon's running mate with boos and catcalls at the 1960 Republican National Convention, Goldwater did not threaten to leave the Republican Party, like Sarah Palin. He did not threaten to defund the Republican Party, like Glenn Beck. He did the threaten to start a third party, like Eric Erickson.

Goldwater's message was "Let's grow up, conservatives."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Republicans: Secession and Civil War?

The Republican Party began in the mid-1850s as a third party alternative to the choices then offered to America by the traditional two-party system. Indeed, they are the only third party to replace and major party and become one of the two alternatives in our two-party system.

The ascension of the Republican Party to power in the Congress and the White House in the elections of 1860 sparked the secession crisis and subsequent American Civil War.

Now there is talk of a secession crisis within the Republican Party, as the Tea Party movement has stalled in its efforts to turn the Republicans in a more conservative direction. Sarah Palin has threatened to leave the Republican Party, disingenuously claiming that it really has left her. Glenn Beck has advocated "defunding the GOP." And Erik Erickson has hinted at that the failure to defund Obamacare will lead to a third party movement that will divide the Republicans.

Such talk is as mad as that engaged in by Southern "fire eaters" in 1860.

Our Tea Party Movement is not a party. Nor has it the makings of a party. Although ostensibly non-partisan, the Tea Party Movement has become a faction of the Republican Party. The attempt to start a third party would be disastrous for both the Republicans, the Tea Party Movement, and the country. Such a move would so weaken the Republicans as to leave the Social Democrats in control of all branches of the United States government. And whatever the nature of a new third party, it would hardly function as a viable alternative to the two major parties. So far we have been unable to establish ourselves as the dominant faction within the Republican Party. We are still working to win over the majority of Republicans to our point of view. What makes us think we have the support among the American public to warrant the creation of a new political party?

Hopefully, the talk of Palin, Beck, and Erikson is just that--talk intended to move establishment Republicans to embrace the ideas of constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. If such threats are real, than I can only concur with Alice:

The Republican establishment, though, needs to move in the direction of the Tea Party. While the Tea Party suffered some high profile embarrassments surrounding the candidacies of Christine O'Donnell, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party was largely the impetus behind the recapture of the House of Representatives in 2010. And with the disastrous roll out of Obamacare, American voters should be more attuned than ever to the message of the Tea Party. As long as we stay on message.

What else can the establishment Republicans to stand on? The "signature accomplishment" of the Bush Administration?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Republicans in Reaction

Republicans should have seen the Obamacare Express and even the subsequent train wreck long before it occurred.

                                                         Image from

The Social Democrats first reached for control of American health care and insurance back in 1994. The Republicans thwarted that attempt. Unfortunately, they made no efforts to improve the conditions by which more Americans could secure health care without government mandates and control. And they failed to recognize that the Social Democrats intended on grasping for control of heath care and the health insurance industry as soon as they secured a majority in both houses of Congress and control of the White House.

So now what?

Without political power, efforts to "pull the plug" on Obamacare will prove futile and will likely backfire.

The recent efforts led by Ted Cruz to defund Obamacare even at the cost of shutting down the government serve as a good example. While a well-meaning stand on principles, these efforts seemed to have no idea about how repeal or defunding might actually be brought achieved. Did Republicans really believe that the Social Democrats would back down and repeal Obamacare--the "signature accomplishment" of the Obama administration? The Social Democrats knew that they had the votes to preserve the PPACA, that the Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular would receive the blame for the government shutdown, and that furloughed government employees would receive their back pay. That is why the Social Democrats won and we conservatives lost.

The frequent calls for "nullification" from some Tea Party groups serve as another. In this case, the conservatives have the power--i.e.--control of the state legislatures, but they have abandoned their principles. While our Constitution does not endorse Obamacare and much of what Congress has enacted in the last several decades, neither does it countenance the idea of nullification. When the Constitution established the limited, enumerated powers of Congress, it intended the laws to be the supreme law of the land, beyond the jurisdiction of individual states. This is why James Madison, the man most instrumental in the adoption of the Constitution, opposed nullification. Three decades after the adoption of the Constitution, John Calhoun of South Carolina advocated an interpretive hermenuetic that empowered that states to nullify laws enacted by Congress. He called nullification a "preposterous and anarchical pretension" without one shred of support in the Constitution. Advocating nullification will not only fail, but  also will  evoke images of John Calhoun, the Confederacy, secession, and slavery.

The way to stop Obamacare is simply the strategy that proved successful in 2010:

Win the elections!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"I'm Sorry"

The President apologized that so many Americans lost their health insurance coverage.

No wait.

The President apologized that so many Americans lost their health insurance coverage.

Monday, November 4, 2013

"We Told You so"

This is the message that the Republican Party should be communicating about Obamacare, but, of course, are not.

Remember the first attempt by the Social Democrats to take over the United States health insurance and health care system. It since has become known, at least among Republicans,  as Hillarycare. In 1993 President Clinton announced the creation of a Task Force on National Health Care Reform. As usual, a few hard cases of Americans experiencing difficulty securing the health care they needed served as the justification for a major overhaul of the whole health care system for everyone. It proved to be another case of a policy preference in search of a crisis to justify it.

He appointed First Lady Hillary Clinton to head this task force.

(You can find the text of the resulting Health Security Act here. Do not be alarmed--its much, much shorter than the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. )

We will never know if the roll out of Hillarycare would have been more successful than that of Obamacare. The legislation died in Congress. About the only thing remembered about the episode was a commercial sponsored by the Health Insurance Association of America:

The Republican Party should refresh the memories of voters by running these commercial again--perhaps prefaced with the opening lines, "We told you so."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tricks and Treats from the White House

Halloween "Tricks or Treats" took place at the White House this week:


 Er, I actually meant the other "Tricks or Treats"--the claims about Obamacare.

A few months back, President Obama reassured the American people that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would permit all Americans to retain both their existing health insurance plans and their personal physicians.

Well, now that the roll out has begun, we know that is not true.

Thousands of Americans have now learned that the health insurance plans that the President promised they could keep--"period"--have been cancelled by their insurers because the plans lacked conformity with the provisions of the PPACA. These provisions could possibly affect the plans of 15 million Americans.

Moreover, we now know that the White House knew that the PPACA would require thousands of Americans to give up their existing coverage and doctors. NBC news in a report this week revealed the "trick" behind that "treat." You can read about it here.

And this is just the beginning.

The current controversy concerns the health insurance market for individuals only. Wait until next year when the requirements of the PPACA begin to impact over 90 million employers sponsors health insurance plans.