Announcing a new site: A Bit Political

abitpoliticalI am pleased to announce a new website: A Bit Political. A Bit Political is the Internet’s first non-partisan “political portal.” It is designed to give busy Americans the information, resources, and encouragement they need to get more involved politically. A Bit Political is here to help you find your voice and fight for the cause(s) you believe in. We’ll show you how to make the biggest difference in the smallest amount of time – with the least amount of effort.

It doesn’t matter if you’re already knowledgeable about the political process, or entirely new to it. It doesn’t matter how old or educated you are. And it doesn’t matter what your political or religious beliefs are. We can help. You don’t need to be frustrated by the political process anymore. With our help, you can make a difference.

I invite you to join me there. Choose a cause. Make a difference.

An end and a beginning

I have been trying to find a way to announce the closing of The Ohio Republic without making it sound too abrupt or surprising to the reader, and have concluded that it is not possible. As long as I have been thinking about it, I have not communicated it – and there is no value to communicating it before I am ready to take action.

The publication and marketing of Governing Ourselves has been a learning experience. I have found many of its lessons difficult to apply, particularly as they relate to this blog and to social networking. Those lessons include such common-sense activities as checking Google keywords and incorporating them effectively into blog content, then using Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to increase exposure. Effectively marketing a blog today almost requires that the blogger design and maintain the blog with a narrow focus – something The Ohio Republic has never had, and which seemed unnecessary five years ago.

Longtime readers will notice that my output has decreased dramatically since I moved the blog to WordPress in March. My readership numbers, compared to my old Blogger site, have also been very disappointing. Oddly, the most read post on this site was my piece April 25, “Rumors of the polar bear’s demise are premature.” Apparently, schoolchildren found The Ohio Republic because of the polar bear image I used – only to discover that the rest of it was boring stuff about politics.

I have not lost my desire to influence the future political course of this state and country. I have consulted with an expert in book marketing to set for myself a more successful course. Plans include a blog in a new domain and additional books. They will incorporate some of the concepts in Governing Ourselves, emphasizing my core belief in radical decentralism in a way that frees it of the emotional baggage that surrounds current discussions of nullification, secessionism, and libertarianism. Being near retirement age, I also need an approach that shows potential for generating income, so I can take all the time necessary to provide the books and services I would like to offer while I am still young enough to offer them.

Ending The Ohio Republic will create one void that I hope someone else will take up – that of following state politics and commenting on their impact on the personal liberties of Ohioans.* In my future writing, discussions of state issues will be out of place.
When I am ready to announce my plans later this year, it will appear on my Facebook page, and in a subsequent post here, which subscribers will receive in an e-mail.

The Ohio Republic has been a wonderful experience. It has led me to many friends, a few critics, and one very interesting enemy in Vermont. They kept me going when I wanted to quit the blog or leave the book unfinished.

Now, it is time for me to move on.
* The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law does cover constitutional issues in both the legal and political arenas, but Ohio could use another source with a broader political focus.

The crickets are chirping

Today is the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution, the foundation document of American liberty.

So far, I have seen no comment on it, other than an almanac listing.

I did not expect huge celebrations, but I did think it was at least inside news; that for two and a quarter centuries, we have at least made a halfhearted attempt to use this framework to limit government excesses and protect our freedoms.

Dream on, Harold, it ain’t happening.

The Constitution is dead. Now, what are we going to do about it?

Think about this before voting for the “lesser of two evils”

I found this quotation on the Libertarian Christians website, but it originated with the foodforthethinkers blog, written by Doug Newman:

Pretend with me that you’re an old German on your deathbed today. Would you rather tell your grandchildren, ‘I voted for the Nazis because they seemed better than the Communists and no other party could win’? Wouldn’t you rather be able to rise up and say, ‘I publicly denounced the Nazis and the Communists? We were a minority – 1 or 2 percent – but we stood up for the truth and we were right! We proved not all Germans were mindless torchbearers for tyranny! We were ridiculed, we were beaten and jailed, but we saved this nation’s soul. Now children, go and live your lives in a way to make me proud’?

– Vin Suprynowicz

Tells it like it is, right? Mr. Newman then reinforces the quotation with several Biblical references; first, stating that Christians are not to choose between evils and second, reminding Christians that they are not to follow the world’s choices.

What are the consequences of following the lesser of the two evils? They could well be those that Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote during the Third Reich:

First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.

(The source of this quotation is unclear — here is the result of research by a German history scholar.)

Thus the only responsible decision is to vote your conscience in November, even if you feel alone in doing so, or think that it will entail risks.

Hagiography and History – II

Investigators in movies and television dramas often advise their colleagues to “follow the money.” If you really want to understand the War Between the States, this is sage advice indeed. In Part I, I explained why the abolition of slavery could not have been the principal motivation for the war. So what was? I noted in that post that economic historian Charles Adams specialized in the history of taxation.

Those familiar with U.S. history may recall that one of the most famous acts of nullification (though far from the only one) was South Carolina’s attempt to block enforcement of the “Tariff of Abominations” in 1828.  Throughout the early history of the United States, the tariff system worked hardship on the South, because the Southern economy depended on the export of cotton to Europe. However, the Congress wished to protect “infant industries” in New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, and increasingly, the Midwest, by levying high tariffs on European manufactures. This meant that the South had to pay a higher price (requiring the sale of more cotton) for either Northern or European goods. The South would be forced to sell that cotton with a cash discount to Europe, since the tariff made European manufactures unaffordable. In addition, some 83% of its revenues were distributed in the North, with the same percentage having been collected from the South. *

With this in mind, it is clear that the “Civil War” could have been avoided simply by negotiating a tariff that was fairer to the South.

The Tariff of 1828 is not the only example of Northern repression toward the South. We could talk about the Morrill Tariff of 1861, which triggered the secession of additional Southern states. Charles Dickens, a British author who opposed both slavery and high tariffs, published this comment in his magazine All the Year Round in December 1861:

If it be not slavery, where lies the partition of the interests that has led at last to actual separation of the Southern from the Northern States? …Every year, for some years back, this or that Southern state had declared that it would submit to this extortion only while it had not the strength for resistance. With the election of Lincoln and an exclusive Northern party taking over the federal government, the time for withdrawal had arrived … The conflict is between semi-independent communities [in which] every feeling and interest [in the South] calls for political partition, and every pocket interest [in the North] calls for union … So the case stands, and under all the passion of the parties and the cries of battle lie the two chief moving causes of the struggle. Union means so many millions a year lost to the South; secession means the loss of the same millions to the North. The love of money is the root of this, as of many other evils… [T]he quarrel between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel.

Since the mortgage collapse of 2008, we have become aware how the decisions of New York bankers – naturally in their own interest — have influenced the economy of the rest of the nation. We are seeing how the Federal Reserve’s “Quantitative Easing” policies have helped businesses “too big to fail,” while failing to reduce unemployment and building the inflation we all suffer at the supermarket and gas pump – facts that few mainstream politicians are willing to acknowledge, let alone remedy. We need to understand, as the critics of the Federal Reserve Bank did a century ago, that the interests of New York financiers have nothing to do with those of Ohio – or the South, Texas, the Great Plains, or the West. New York’s banking interests are more closely tied to Europe, which helps to explain why they favor a European-style welfare state in this country.

In addition, we are rediscovering some deep-seated cultural fissures in the American landscape, gaps that have been patched over for 150 years with a patriotism fueled by a largely false rendering of history. “Red state vs. blue state” is part of it; but that explanation does not account for “purple states” like Ohio, which see no benefit from “progressive” economics, but have little desire to embrace the strictures of religious and social conservatism.

To assert that the “Civil War” settled these issues for the last time is to say that might makes right. And if might did make right, what would that say about the rule of law or maintaining our God-given natural rights?

Far from being praised, Abraham Lincoln deserves our condemnation for systematically destroying Constitutional government, as it was understood prior to his Presidency. Instead, he began the drive to replace the Founders’ federal system with the centralized national government that serves most of us less and less with each passing day.

In writing this, I am not defending the desire by many Confederates to retain slavery, nor am I defending in any way the despicable regime known as “Jim Crow” that prevented Southern blacks from enjoying real freedom for nearly a century. If the South is one day to regain its independence with the culture it desires, its advocates will have to work proactively to ensure that citizens of all races in the new Southern republic enjoy human and political rights to at least the same degree as they do now.

The Confederate government made serious mistakes, both politically and militarily, during the war. However, none of this diminishes the virtue the Confederates had of wanting to preserve the federal system they inherited from the Founders, one that effectively protected the rights of the states and the people from an overbearing “federal” government.

* Violating, at least in spirit, the first clause of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”

Quotation of the Day

One of the reasons why it’s difficult to discuss politics or religion with people is because exchanges about both tend to suggest a shortage — which then causes inevitable disputes. For example, if your political beliefs win, then my politics lose. If one party gets what it supports, then another group must suffer. The same can be said for certain general attitudes and viewpoints. It’s extremely difficult for people to “agree to disagree”; people operate under the assumption that one person’s beliefs cannot be maintained if another person’s conflicting beliefs exist…

The big players do not think in terms of restrictions like this. Instead, they think without limits — something that allows them to soar to levels that many others consider impossible.

– Grant Cardone, The 10X Rule (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), pp. 34-35.

As a business analyst, I was professionally trained to seek out win-win solutions. The only reason we cannot seek win-win solutions in politics is that we do not allow ourselves to think that way.

Hagiography and History – I

The word hagiography literally means “images of the saints,” and is used to describe the study of the lives of holy people. Its second meaning is pejorative – an idolizing biography. I suspect that more hagiography in the second sense has been written about Abraham Lincoln than of anyone else in American history, George Washington included. By contrast, history is a record of significant events. We expect history to contain the truth about the past; but in reading about the causes of the conflict incorrectly referred to as the “Civil War”, we are often disappointed. This issue is important to us today, because critics of state sovereignty like to hide the truth by idolizing Lincoln’s desire to save the union.

The official narrative taught in the North claims that the Southern states seceded from the union to preserve and expand the institution of slavery. It is true that slavery was one of the issues motivating both sides to support the war, and one that Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens unfortunately emphasized in his account after the war ended. However, this explanation leads to several anomalies:

  • Why did African-Americans fight for the Confederacy, and why do H.K. Edgerton and some other Southern blacks passionately defend the Confederate cause for which their ancestors fought? Keep in mind that Mr. Edgerton is also passionate about civil rights, and is a former president of the NAACP in Asheville, North Carolina, a fact that even his critics acknowledge.
  • Why did the Emancipation Proclamation only free slaves in the South, and why did Lincoln repeatedly make clear that he only cared about the issue as a way to preserve the union?
  • If the purpose of the war was to abolish slavery, why did Lincoln, on assuming the Presidency, not even propose to negotiate with the South for legislation or a Constitutional amendment to free the slaves? He could have modeled such a proposal on legislation that worked peacefully for Britain in 1833 or France in 1848.
  • Why would the South care about extending slavery to Kansas and Nebraska, when New Mexico (which also included the present State of Arizona) was a “slave” territory with a slave population of … 24?
  • If the purpose was to extend freedom, why did Lincoln virtually scrap the Constitution during the war by:
    • Suspending habeas corpus without the consent of Congress? (The Constitution is not explicit about whether the President or Congress has this privilege; but its location in Article I Section 9 – and not Article II – strongly implies that they intended for Congress to have this power. Early commentators on the Constitution, including such strong unionists as Daniel Webster, agree with me on this).
    • Summarily arresting and imprisoning without trial members of the Maryland legislature who were sympathetic to the South, to prevent that body from voting on an ordinance of secession.
    • Failing to call Congress until three months after the war started, to approve the expenses of raising 75,000 troops and sending them into action. By that time, Congress was confronted with an accomplished fact and had only two choices: approve the expenditures or impeach the President. The latter choice clearly did not exist in reality, since most Congressmen were intimidated by what Lincoln had already done to his political opponents.
    • Does it make any sense that Lincoln would destroy the Constitution in order to save it?
    • What accounts for the popular support given in Pennsylvania and the Midwest for the Peace Democrats or “Copperheads,” who wanted to let the South go? Racism is not an explanation – a racist could support either Lincoln or the Copperheads (see second bullet point).

If the purpose of the war was to abolish slavery, why did Great Britain, a power that strongly supported the worldwide abolition of slavery, remain neutral throughout the war, instead of throwing its weight behind the North?

These questions came to mind as I was reading Charles Adams, When in the Course of Human Events (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000).*

In Part II, I explain the real reason the war was fought, why many in the South remain bitter about their loss 150 years later, and why this history is especially relevant to our situation today.

* All of the arguments that do not include links come from this book, which further supports them with contemporary historical evidence. Charles Adams is an economic historian. Most of his work specializes in taxation, which led him to the study that resulted in this book.

The Republican National Confusion

Tropical Storm Isaac has passed Tampa, and the Republicans are ready to Party. While Ron Paul is still technically a candidate, there is no question that the one anointed at the beginning of the campaign season, Mitt Romney, will get the blessing of the delegates assembled, along with his hand-picked Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

I am not being snarky. In my lifetime, only one Republican candidate has been nominated against the wishes of the financial interests – Ronald Reagan in 1980; and the social conservatism of his supporters has muddled Republican thinking ever since.

Nor am I defending the Democrats. As wrongheaded as I think Democratic policies are, you at least know where they stand. Democrats in the last century have consistently supported big government, which they see as the only effective agent for resolving social problems. They support debt financing, organized labor, and more entitlements year after year. The only major exception has been waffling on their traditional antiwar stance.

But the Republicans speak with a forked tongue. On the one hand, they want us to believe that they are really libertarians at heart. They claim to favor less governmental control, smaller budgets, fiscal responsibility, and more economic freedom. On the other hand, they used to oppose governmental health care. Now they just want to reform it, even though the American people have spoken out loud and clear against it in the elections of 2010 and the many state issues (including Ohio’s) nullifying all or part of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans support war, any war. They have never advocated a retreat from the USA PATRIOT Act and its Congressional members have never tried to remove the President’s attack on Fourth Amendment rights embedded in the National Defense Appropriations Act of 2012. They want government to regulate abortions and homosexual relationships. Republicans are trying to attack President Obama’s follies in immigration without proposing a reasonable solution that will encourage legal immigration without condoning the illegal.  Once dismissed as a Democratic meme, the Republican Party this year seems to be feeding suspicion that its real goal is to protect corporate interests.

Candidate Mitt Romney is a reflection of the party that wants to nominate him.  He cannot decide what his political principles are, so he is spending his effort and money attacking President Obama without suggesting policy alternatives of his own. Offering Paul Ryan as a Vice Presidential candidate obviously was throwing a sop to the fiscal and social conservatives. Paul Ryan is a stronger candidate than Sarah Palin was four years ago, but he faces the same problem she did: He will be either loyal to his candidate or loyal to his principles. The Party will not let him have both.

As I stated last month, the Republican Liberty Caucus and many rank-and-file GOP members are good people with the right ideas, but they are are attempting to change a Party that is terminally confused.

To put it bluntly, the GOP leadership thinks we are all fools. Instead of propping up the lesser of two evils (which as I keep saying, is still evil), libertarian Republicans need to make their efforts count by offering American voters a real political choice – freedom and prosperity, or servitude and stagnation.

Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

If you want to understand how the leftist mind works, you need to read their playbook. They want a radical transformation of our society into their socialist paradise, and will use any means, fair or foul, to get it. Here is a list of the rules Saul Alinsky wrote in his book Rules for Radicals (1971). As libertarians, we are the mortal enemies of the radical liberal. As such, we need to understand these rules to construct workable counterstrategies. (I say “counterstrategies,” because as Alinsky and The American Thinker point out, defensive moves are not likely to work.) One promising approach for defeating them is to use their own rules against them.

The original rules: [*]

* RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)
* RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)
* RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
* RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
* RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
* RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)
* RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)
* RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)
* RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)
* RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)
* RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)
* RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

Two corrolaries, from The American Thinker:

 * “RULE 13″: “Confound the enemy with allegations he cannot possibly disprove.” Whenever possible, turn the enemy in on himself. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety, and confusion. (Watch how organizations flail helplessly when blindsided by irrelevant arguments they cannot refute.) [†]

* “RULE 14″: “Push the enemy so hard with outrageous situations and allegations that he is forced to push back.” Whenever possible, cause the enemy to respond, and when he does, hold him up for ridicule; then push harder. (By threatening his security and way of life, you will always elicit a reaction that can be turned against him.) [‡]



The more things change…

… the more they remain the same — is an old French saying. Joe Wolverton at the Tenth Amendment Center looked at the Constitutional Convention debates and found that the issues they discussed August 20, 1787, could be front-page news today.

They discussed:

  • The “Necessary and Proper Clause,” which they intended simply to give Congress the authority to pass whatever laws were needed to carry out the objectives stated in the Constitution. Most of the Convention could not foresee that this was a phrase that created room for abuse.
  • A bill of rights, which the Convention then rejected. It later incorporated some provisions, such as allowing Congress (not the President) to restrict the right of habeas corpus in time of invasion — a provision that Abraham Lincoln ignored, and which Congress unconstitutionally delegated to the President in the National Defense Appropriation Act. A more comprehensive Bill of Rights was added as the first ten (and 27th) amendments to the Constitution.
  • The Convention defined treason. It was heavily debated, but a motion to table was defeated. The final wording, which appears in Article III, Section 3, reads:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to the 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.

In other words, only on the battlefield or in direct assistance to the enemy on the battlefield. Luther Martin, a delegate from Maryland, anticipated an event that took place following the War between the States when he suggested adding the following language, which was rejected:

Provided that no act or acts done by one or more of the States against the United States, under the authority of one or more of the said States shall be deemed treason or punished as such.

The event referred to was the proposed trial of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for treason. The trial was never held, in part because the prosecutors realized that it would raise the issue of whether secession was Constitutional. They were not confident that they could win that argument. However, the day may be coming when the omission of Mr. Martin’s clause will come back to haunt us.

We need to watch what the feds are doing — regardless of who wins the Presidential election this fall. “Eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty.” Fortunately, we have lots of help from the Tenth Amendment Center.