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Thomas Jefferson’s 275th Celebration 

Studying Jefferson should be a guiding star.

Jamie Gass and Will Fitzhugh write: “Students of reading, writing, and common arithmetick . . . Graecian, Roman, English, and American history . . .,” Thomas Jefferson advised that democratic education “should be… able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens.”

Mid-April marks the 275th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday. Given his world-changing achievements, this milestone is worthy of recognizing – and of being taught in our public schools. His contributions to the American civilization are incalculable; he was a revolutionary, statesman, diplomat, man-of-letters, scientist, architect, and apostle of liberty.

Rather than forcing a titan like Jefferson to conform to our era’s often Lilliputian-style narcissism, we should study history by entering the past with imagination and humility.

In drafting the Declaration of Independence, the most elegant and universally quoted political document in history, Jefferson displayed his greatest talents. He powerfully combined literary language and self-evident truths to shape the legal and political future of the United States.

The first member of his family to attend college, Jefferson loved books and classical learning. He could read six languages, including ancient Greek and Latin, while his 18th-century education taught him timeless principles.

Jefferson’s trinity of great thinkers – Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke – embodied what’s been called the Enlightenment’s “science of freedom.”

But his favorite writer was the ancient Roman historian Tacitus – a brilliant chronicler of warped, tyrannical emperors. Jefferson’s liberal-arts-centric education instilled in him a vigilance for liberty, which made him ever wary of threats to his republican experiment in ordered self-government.

Legal scholar David Mayer effectively summarized Jefferson’s strict federalism: “constitutions primarily [served] as devices by which governmental power would be limited and checked, to prevent its abuse through encroachments on individual rights…” Jefferson despised the corruptions of kings, standing armies, banks, and cities, which he identified with the Roman and British empires. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] ‘Don’t Be a Sucker’: Post-WW2 Anti-Fascist Educational Film, 1947


[VIDEO] Hilarious: ‘Common Sense Gun Control’ People Know Nothing About Guns

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Political commentator and actor Steven Crowder decided to set up an experiment to see just how well people that want “common sense” gun control knew about firearms.

He set up a tent for “Citizens Coalition for Common Sense Gun Reform” to ask people that do not own or are interested in guns to see how much they knew about firearms and which ones should be banned based on “common sense.”

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Crowder quickly finds out that the people who are in favor or “common sense” gun control know very little about guns in the first place and what they are capable of. The people justdecided which guns should be banned based on how it makes them feel.

[See John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]

For example, many people wanted more “tactical looking” firearms banned, but yet other kinds of rifles displayed on the table were fine, such as hunting rifles. Crowder does point out on the side that the AR-15 is actually a popular small game hunting rifle but because it looks tactical, it should be banned.

People were also not well informed on what types of guns were used in crimes and thought that the AR-15 is used in many cases, but as Crowder points out, from 2007 to 2015, 70% of shooting murders are from handguns.

Source: American Military News

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“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”.

— H. L. Mencken

Democracy? In Moderation, Please.

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Buried somewhere in the above Daily Beast article is probably a perfectly decent, arguable case for a certain kind of small-ball, incremental legislation. Unfortunately, but predictably, its case is comically undermined by hateful, shallow, silly, dishonest writing.

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Ohh! Those evil Republicans! They should be taken out and horsewhipped! Here, hold my drink. I’ll do it. Get outta my way. I’ve got some GOP ass to beat. Oh, never mind.

Never mind that this advocacy item masquerading as journalism doesn’t even attempt to demonstrate how the measures will have any impact whatsoever, to “avert mass shootings”. Which is understandable. One; averting mass shootings is not, and never was, the goal of activist gun-control legislation. And two; There’s no evidence that “averting mass shootings” can be accomplished by legislation in the first place.

Think the gun debate isn’t polluted with toxic stupidity from the Left? Read on:

“…But with the substantial distortion of our democracy around guns, they are the issue with which this particular method most adheres to the original intentions of the progressives who created it a century ago, at a time when large interests such as timber and railroads blocked popular reforms in legislative bodies around the country.”

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The progressives who created it a century ago. Right.  Wait, you mean the puritan, racist, anti-constitutional Wilsonian reformers of that era, the progressive activists who gave us segregation, prohibition, and Jim Crow laws, those guys?

The early 20th-century progressives’ “original intentions” are in stark contrast to the intentions of our founders. Cautious, deliberative men, keenly aware of the historically destructive effects of “direct democracy“.

Ever notice how our most sacred and treasured rights are intentionally safeguarded, hardwired in the Bill of Rights? Completely out of reach of voters? 

Everett Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), portrait by David Martin, 1767

The founders were no fans of democracy.

“When two wolves and a sheep decide what to have for dinner.”

Benjamin Franklin definition of democracy is as clear now as it was over two centuries ago. Read the rest of this entry »


Zappa on Civics

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CATO: Happy Bill of Rights Day!

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Today: 224th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 15: Ethan Kasnett, an 8th grade student at the Lab School in Washington, DC, views the original constitution. (Brendan Smialowski/GETTY IMAGES)


Women’s Rights: My Body My Choice

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[VIDEO] Norman Lear: Donald Trump is America’s ‘Middle Finger’ to Establishment 

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Daniel Nussbaum writes:

…In an interview with Jeanne Wolf’s Hollywood blog, Lear told Wolf that it was “interesting” that she compared Trump to his character Archie Bunker from the hit 70s TV show All in the Family….

“I want to believe that the American people are holding up Donald Trump as they might their middle finger and they’re giving the middle finger to the establishment, to all of us – left and right – because they are badly served by the establishment…”

“At least he’s shaken up the conversation. He’s made everybody stop talking and stop accepting the idea that they can talk in these canned messages, yes?” Wolf pressed.

“…We are a culture of excess. That’s our biggest product: excess. In everything. He is excessively assholian. I think the American people understand that and this is their way of saying, ‘This is how you’re taking care of us? You leaders? Take this.’ Then they give us Donald Trump.”

—  Television producer Norman Lear

…At the Television Critics Association press tour in August, the 93-year-old creator of hit shows like The Jeffersons and Good Times told reporters that he thinks of himself as a “bleeding-heart conservative,” despite decades of advocacy for progressive causes. Read the rest of this entry »


Oregon Shooting: How Gun Rights Advocates Think

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editor-commen-deskThis is one of the more insightful essays from a non-conservative writer about conservative gun owners we’ve seen all year. A refreshing sight. It’s unfortunate that the irrational, anti-democratic, reactionary urge for massive government control by the increasingly radical anti-gun left–and the increasingly irritable impatience of the strident pro-gun right (of which I proudly belong) predictably leaves little room for any hope of mutual respect. Sophia Raday’s article is a step in the right direction, exposing and addressing the false accusation of heartlessness. For this alone, conservatives should be grateful.

Perhaps Raday unnecessarily mythologizes the protective instincts of conservative gun owners. And needlessly refers to Hollywood stereotypes about Good and Evil that trivialize the subject. But her main points are well-reasoned, and valid. I’d prefer the word ‘realist‘, than pessimist, myself. But these are minor disagreements. Maybe pessimist is the right word. To her credit, Sophia Raday’s effort hints at an under-explored potential for honest dialogue between opposing camps.

Parting question: does a person actually have to be married to a member of the opposing camp, in order to reach these conclusions, and this level of understanding? I hope not!

Sophia Raday writes:

“How can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?” President Barack Obama asked on Friday.

I can answer that question. I’m in the progressive camp, but I’m married to my political opposite, a Republican police officer and soldier. We’ve had eighteen years to compare notes on many political issues, and out of all those arguments, I have gained an understanding and a measure of respect for the conservative worldview.

When something as horrible as the shooting in Oregon happens, progressives want to pull some shred of meaning from it. So let’s do something already, we say, in increasingly exasperated and angry tones. Let’s learn. Let’s change things. But we might be more effective in getting something done about mass shootings if we actually understood the opposition. Researchers studying conflict and extremism believe you can get a lot further in negotiation with an adversary if you acknowledge what is sacred to them. And believe it or not, gun-rights advocates—at least by virtue of their politics—are not heartless.

[Read the full story here, at Politico.com]

It must be understood that gun-rights advocates, like many conservatives, tell a very different story about the world than we progressives do. In their narrative, the earth is an inherently dangerous, often hostile, and definitely competitive place. Unlike us, they do not take as given that deep down, all people are basically good. They believe there is evil in the world, that there will always be evil in the world and that evil must be consistently and stalwartly confronted. In their story, it’s up to every one of the good people to stand up against malice. Otherwise, evil gets the upper hand. So, when a mass shooting occurs, their view of American society as overly permissive, and therefore an insufficient bulwark against ever-threatening evil, is only confirmed.

Liberals scratch their heads at the NRA member’s passion for firearms. People like Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin—whose post-Sandy Hook letter refusing to enforce any additional gun regulations is now going viral—seem like callous monsters to us. We find it odd and twisted to be so attached, so passionate about an amalgamation of metal and explosives whose raison d’tre is destruction. What we don’t get is that for conservatives, and Second Amendment defenders especially, the supreme virtue is self-reliance. The unconscious story underlying much conservative thought is a tale of good versus evil. Think of movies such as the Dark Knight, or Braveheart, or Star Wars. The virtuous individual must draw on his own talent and courage to defeat evil within and without. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Hillary Supporters Call For Repealing Bill of Rights


[VIDEO] The Grammar of The Second Amendment

Tired of listening to Progressives tell you that the Second Amendment only allows people in militias to keep and bear arms? Or that the Founders would have never intended the Second Amendment to apply to modern weapons? In his latest FIREWALL, Bill recounts a remarkable conversation about the precise wording of the Second Amendment, and sums up why the document says what it means and means what it says.

 YouTube – h/t rdbrewer Ace of Spades


The Madison Paradox and Obama’s Constitution Day Stealth Comment: Referring to Our Constitutional Rights as ‘Privileges’

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 15: Ethan Kasnett, an 8th grade student at the Lab School in Washington, DC, views the original constitution. (Brendan Smialowski/GETTY IMAGES)

Maybe James Madison was right. Maybe the Bill of Rights wasn’t just unnecessary, it was a bad idea, destined to be viewed in the distant future exactly the wrong way

For United LibertyJason Pye catches Obama’s shaded wording, and writes a welcome blast of corrective historical clarity. Though I can’t resist including my own comments in the margins, the piece stands as testament to the power of word choices. Pye writes:

…In his presidential proclamation marking Constitution Day, President Barack Obama offered some insight into how he views the Bill of Rights. “Our Constitution reflects the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a society,” Obama said in the release. “It secures the privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”

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“It secures the rights privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”

Given that this White House is known for its expansive view of executive power, the assertion that the rights guaranteed and protected under the Bill of Rights, the fact that President Obama views these fundamental liberties to be “privileges” isn’t too terribly surprising. After all, President Obama treats the legislative branch — which, again, is supposed to be a co-equal branch of the federal government — as an afterthought as it arbitrarily changes statues and even refuses to founding-brosenforce laws.

[Check out Joseph J. Ellis’ “Founding Brothers” at Amazon.com]

But words matter. To say the rights secured by the Constitution are “privileges” implies that they can be revoked. Let’s put this another way: a high school-aged kid is given the privilege of taking their father’s car out to go hang out with friends, that is until they abuse it by getting caught speeding or into a car accident. The disappointed father would, no doubt, take away the privilege.

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Rights and liberties, however, are based on a solid foundation. They can’t be taken away by some paternalistic president. The view of the framers was that the rights protected under the Bill of Rights existed before the formation of the federal government under the Constitution. In short, they were natural rights.

In fact, James Madison believed that a list of specific rights was unnecessary.

editor-commen-deskThough we celebrate the ratification of the Bill of Rights, I can’t help but interrupt to expand on Jason Pye‘s oversimplification — Madison didn’t believe that a list of specific rights was unnecessary, Madison and others believed listing individual rights would set a dangerous precedent. As illustrated in my half-remembered reading of Joseph J. Ellis’ “Founding Brothers” the dissenters wisely understood that making a special top-ten list of rights could lead to a troubling misperception that individual rights are limited, reducible to a specific list. Which could then be used to mislead future generations into accepting false limits.

It’s federal powers that are finite, narrow, and limited. So limited you could number them. (enumerated powers) Individual rights, as conceived by the founders–aren’t limited, they’re virtually infinite. Not reducible to a list. Enshrining some of them in a list would lead to, well, exactly the misunderstanding that persists to this day. The argument resisting an enumerated “Bill of Rights” wasn’t perfect, but it had merit. It showed foresight.

Jason Pye continues:

Thankfully, George Mason and others, to ensure ratification, convinced Madison to come up with proposals, ten of which were passed by Congress and approved by at least three-fifths of the states. Read the rest of this entry »


Conceal Carry: Eleanor Roosevelt, 1957

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Don’t Know Much About History: Senator Schumer Credits Jefferson for Bill of Rights

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For Washington TimesStephen Dinan reports: Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, stumbled Tuesday over basic American history, crediting Thomas Jefferson for authorship of the Bill of Rights during a debate over the First Amendment and campaign finance.

facepalm-teapot“I think if Thomas Jefferson were looking down, the author of the Bill of Rights, on what’s being proposed here, he’d agree with it. He would agree that the First Amendment cannot be absolute.”

– Harvard graduate, Senator Charles E. Schumer

While Jefferson is deemed the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, he was not intimately involved in the writing of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, which is the first 10 amendments to that founding document.

Indeed, Jefferson was out of the country, serving as minister to France at the time of both the Constitution convention and the congressional debate over the Bill of Rights. Read the rest of this entry »


Does the Second Amendment Protect Firearms Commerce?

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Defending the right to sell and trade arms

 writes:  The First Amendment protects both book buyers and booksellers.  Does the Second Amendment protect only people who buy guns, or does it also protect people who sell guns?  Though this question has divided the federal courts, the answer is quite clear: operating a business that provides Second Amendment services is protected by the Second Amendment.  District of Columbia v. Heller1 teaches that regulation of how firearms are commercially sold enjoys a presumption of constitutionality, which does not extend to prohibitions of firearms sales.

[Related: Find John Lott’s essential book: More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]

In the lower federal courts, there is a developing split about whether firearms sellers have Second Amendment rights which the courts are bound to respect.  Seventh Circuit courts view firearms sellers like booksellers — as holders of constitutional rights.  While gun sellers are subject to much stricter regulation than are booksellers, they are both protected by the Bill of Rights.  Conversely, in the courts of the Fourth Circuit, gun sellers have no Second Amendment rights.

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Brown v. Board of Education was not exactly a popular decision among some state and local governments, and among some lower court judges.  The same is true of Heller.  One form of resistance to Heller has been to read the opinion in the narrowest possible way, excluding from Second Amendment protection many normal activities involving firearms.  One such form of resistance is the claim that the Second Amendment does not apply to gun sales.

Read the rest of this entry »


How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism ‘R’ Us

by P.J. O’Rourke

The individual is the wellspring of conservatism. The purpose of conservative politics is to defend the liberty of the individual and – lest individualism run riot – insist upon individual responsibility.

The great religions (and conservatives are known for approving of God) teach salvation as an individual matter. There are no group discounts in the Ten Commandments, Christ was not a committee, and Allah does not welcome believers into Paradise saying, “You weren’t much good yourself, but you were standing near some good people.” That we are individuals – unique, disparate and willful – is something we understand instinctively from an early age. No child ever wrote to Santa: “Bring me – and a bunch of kids I’ve never met – a pony, and we’ll share.”

Virtue is famously lonely. Also vice, as anyone can testify who ever told his mother, “All the other guys were doing it.” We experience pleasure separately; Ethan Hawke may go out on any number of wild dates, but I’m able to sleep through them. And, although we may be sorry for people who suffer, we only “feel their pain” when we’re full of baloney and running for office.

The individual and the state

The first question of political science is – or should be: “What is good for everyone?” And, by “everyone” we must mean “all individuals.”

The question can’t be: “What is good for a single individual?” That’s megalomania, which is, like a New Hampshire presidential primary, the art of politics, not political science.

And the question can’t be: “What is good for some individuals?” Or even: “What is good for the majority of individuals?” That’s partisan politics, which, at best, leads to Newt Gingrich or Pat Schroeder and, at worst, leads to Lebanon or Rwanda.

Finally, the question can’t be: “What is good for individuals as a whole?” There’s no such thing. Individuals are only available individually.

By observing the progress of mankind, we can see that the things that are good for everyone are the things that have increased the accountability of the individual, the respect for the individual and the power of the individual to master his own fate. Judaism gave us laws before which all men, no matter their rank, stood as equals. Christianity taught us that each person has intrinsic worth, Newt Gingrich and Pat Schroeder included. The rise of private enterprise and trade provided a means of achieving wealth and autonomy other than by killing people with broadswords. And the industrial revolution allowed millions of ordinary folks an opportunity to obtain decent houses, food and clothes (albeit with some unfortunate side effects, such as environmental damage and Albert Gore).

In order to build a political system that is good for everyone, that ensures a free society based upon the independence, prestige and self-rule of individuals, we have to ask what all these individuals want. And be told to shut up, because there’s no way to know the myriad wants of diverse people. They may not know themselves. And who asked us to stick our nose in, anyway?

The Bill of Rights tries to protect our freedom not only from bad people and bad laws but also from the vast nets and gooey webs of rules and regulations that even the best governments produce. The Constitution attempts to leave as much of life as possible to common sense, or at least to local option. The Ninth Amendment states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Continues the 10th Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

It is these suit-yourself, you’re-a-big-boy-now, it’s-a-free-country powers that conservatism seeks to conserve.

But what about the old, the poor, the disabled, the helpless, the hopeless, the addled and the daft?

Conservatism is sometimes confused with Social Darwinism or other such me-first dogmas. Sometimes the confusion is deliberate. When those who are against conservative policies don’t have sufficient opposition arguments, they call love of freedom “selfish. ” Of course it is – in the sense that breathing is selfish. But because you want to breathe doesn’t mean you want to suck the breath out of every person you encounter. Conservatives do not believe in the triumph of the large and powerful over the weak and useless. (Although most conservatives would make an exception to see a fistfight between Norman Schwartzkopf and George Stephanopoulos. If all people are free, George Stephanopoulos must be allowed to run loose, too, however annoying this may be.)

But some people cannot enjoy the benefits of freedom without assistance from their fellows. This may be a temporary condition – such as childhood or being me when I say I can drive home from a bar, just fine, thank you very much, at three a.m. – or, due to infirmity or affliction, the condition may be permanent. Because conservatives do not generally propose huge government programs to combat the effects of old age, illness, being a kid or drinking 10 martinis on an empty stomach, conservatives are said to be “mean-spirited.”

In fact, charity is an axiom of conservatism. Charity is one of the great responsibilities of freedom. But, in order for us to be responsible – and therefore free – that responsibility must be personal.

Not all needful acts of charity can be accomplished by one person, of course. To the extent that responsibility should be shared and merged, in a free society it should be shared and merged on the same basis as political power, which means starting with the individual. Responsibility must proceed from the bottom up – never from the top down, with the individual as the squeezed cream filling of the giant Twinkie that is the state.

Read the rest of this entry »


High School Teacher Faces Discipline for Informing Students About Their Rights

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A high school social studies teacher in Batavia, Illinois, faces disciplinary action for informing students of their Fifth Amendment rights in connection with a survey asking about illegal drug use. The survey, ostensibly aimed at assessing the needs of students at Batavia High School, was distributed on April 18. After picking up the survey forms from his mailbox about 10 minutes before his first class of the day, John Dryden noticed that they had students’ names on them and that they asked about drinking and drug use, among other subjects. Dryden, who had just finished teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights, worried that students might feel obliged to incriminate themselves—an especially ticklish situation given the police officer stationed at the school. Since there was no time to confer with administrators, he says, he decided to tell his students that they did not have to complete the forms if doing so involved admitting illegal behavior. Tomorrow the school board will consider whether and how to punish Dryden for taking advantage of this teachable moment. The Batavia Daily Herald reports that “Dryden faces having a ‘letter of remedy’ placed in his employment file,” which “could have consequences up to dismissal.” Dryden’s supporters are collecting signatures on a petition asking the board to refrain from disciplining him.

via  Reason.com