Tanks Alot

Many people seem upset at Trump’s planning to use tanks in the Independence Day festivities in Washington, D.C. I’m not.

“When I was a child, we saw pictures of military parades in the Soviet Union,” tweeted Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. “We were told we don’t do that, that we’re proud of the fact that we don’t do that because we don’t wish to be a militarized society. Celebrating July 4 with army tanks on the National Mall is repugnant.”

“Trump says there will be military tanks at Fourth of July celebration, tweeted NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “This is so beyond the spirit of the holiday.”

I hate to break the news, but Independence Day celebrates a declaration of war.  So there’s no better symbol of the “spirit of the holiday” than a weapon of war. In this respect, Trump has it right. He’s more in touch with the essential militarism of the holiday than many of his critics. Continue reading

Reason Is Treason

With the huge movement of both civilian and military populations in and out of nearly every major seaport from Savanannah to Boston between 1775 and 1781, urban slaves had unprecedented chances for making their personal declarations of independence and for destabilizing the institution of slavery. Similarly, as loyalist and patriot militia crisscrossed the countryside plundering the farms and plantations of their enemies, slaves found ways of tearing holes in the fabric of slavery.

A turning point came in November 1775, when the royal governor of Virginia, Lord John Dunmore, issued a dramatic proclamation that guaranteed freedom to slaves and indentured servants who escaped their masters and reached the King’s forces. Against this concrete offer of unconditional freedom, slaves could only hope that the American patriots would respond to calls for the end of slavery advocated by the first abolition society established in Pennsylvania just a few months before. Waiting for freedom as a gift at some indeterminate point turned out to be a poor substitute for immediate freedom. When word of Dunsmore’s proclamation quickly spread through the South, hundreds of slaves fled their masters to British lines where officers formed them into the Black Regiment of Guides and Pioneers. Some marched in uniform with the inscription on their breasts, “Liberty to Slaves.”

Dunsmore’s proclamation galvanized the South against England, for it conjured up a vision of a large body of free Negroes, armed by the British, abroad in the land. “Hell itself,” wrote one southerner, “could not have vomited anything more black than this design of emancipating our slaves.” But thousands of slaves did find freedom by reaching British lines. The black war for independence occurred in every part of the country  and was especially intense whenever slaves were within running distance of the British army or navy.

In the South, the pursuit of freedom through flight to the British was so large that the British army was often hard-pressed to provision the fleeing slaves. Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s wartime governor, reported that 30,000 slaves fled their masters during the British invasion of Virginia in 1780-81. Twenty-three of Jefferson’s slaves fled his plantation to join the British, as did 17 of Washington’s slaves. In South Carolina and Georgia, probably one-third to one-half of the enslaved fled to the British during the southern campaigns between 1779 and 1781. Without doubt the American Revolution marked the greatest slave rebellion in the long history of American slavery.

–Gary B. Nash, “Forgotten Americans,” in The American Revolution, Official National Park Service Handbook (undated), pp. 75, 78.

Continue reading

You Say You Want a Revolution

Perhaps the most radical consequence of the American Revolution was the creation of a self-governing republic in North America at the expense of the Native Americans whose land that republic would occupy–and expand into. The new republic, which guaranteed the rights and liberties of its citizens, excluded Native Americans from these, thereby rendering those rights privileges. Article 1, section 2, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution as ratified in 1789 stated:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons (emphasis added).

Continue reading

Let Him Not Have Thy Coat (of Arms)

It is also a federal offense, again carrying a potential penalty of up to six months in a federal prison, if you use the Swiss coat of arms in any advertising for your business. I would include a picture of that coat of arms here so you could see what I am talking about, but I cannot take the chance that I might be sent to prison.

–James Duane, You Have the Right to Remain Innocent, p. 17

Taking the Opportunity

The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Abba Eban

While you’re at it, why not do something practical to end U.S. support for the Israeli occupation, now in its 52nd year? I feel safer in the average synagogue or mosque in New Jersey (and I spend time in both) than I do when I visit the West Bank (as I also do) and face Israeli soldiers who come into the town where I’m living or the university campus where I’m teaching, engaging in gratuitous violence on flimsy pretexts. Your support for Israel is “unbreakable,” but your support for its occupation seems about as stable. It’s hard to see your condemnations of “hate” as anything more than empty rhetoric considering where you stand on the Israeli occupation.

We live in a country that started a war over a 2-year-long military occupation much milder than the Israeli one. Palestinians have shown amazing forbearance in putting up with the Israeli one for decades longer than that. The least we could do is to acknowledge its existence, acknowledge its significance, and speak and act accordingly. I don’t see even that minimal response to reality from any legislator in New Jersey and haven’t, for decades. I regret to say that you’re not an exception to that rule. Consider this note an invitation to become one.

Irfan Khawaja
Readington, New Jersey

The Cloud Is Moving Nearer Still

Consider two countries, X and Y.

X and Y sign an agreement. X unilaterally pulls out of the agreement at will, then attacks Y through the imposition of sanctions. Y insists on complying with the original agreement.

X then imposes secondary sanctions on any countries that do business with Y. Y insists on complying with the original agreement.

Time passes. X attacks Y again with more sanctions. The sanctions begin to take their toll. Y still complies with the original agreement.

Eventually, Y, the weaker party, decides to attack a third party, Z, which X had (unilaterally) pledged to defend. Y’s rationale: in attacking this third party, Y pulls X into a conflict where it, Y, enjoys a certain advantage that it doesn’t enjoy in a direct, frontal attack on X, which Y cannot win. The attack creates physical damage but no human casualties. Continue reading

Sing It Again, Y’all

From a Bret Stephens column on the “Gulf of Oman” crisis:

Trump might be a liar, but the U.S. military isn’t. There are lingering questions about the types of munitions that hit the ships, and time should be given for a thorough investigation. But it would require a large dose of self-deception (or conspiracy theorizing) to pretend that Iran isn’t the likely culprit, or that its actions don’t represent a major escalation in the region.

How many fallacies do you see there? I was at first tempted to count two.

The first  is a begged question: the U.S. military’s version of the event is true because the U.S. military doesn’t lie.

The second is either a poisoned well or two of them: if you don’t believe the U.S. military’s version of the story, you are (1) self-deceived or (2) engaged in conspiracy theorizing. Continue reading

1 Rule for Life

They started down the shallow trench behind the crest of the hill and in the dark Andre smelt the foulness the defenders of the hill crest had made all through the bracken on that slope. He did not like these people who were like dangerous children; dirty, foul, undisciplined, kind, loving, silly and ignorant but always dangerous because they were armed. He, Andres, was without politics except that he was for the Republic. He had heard these people talk many times and he thought what they said was often beautiful and fine to hear but he did not like them. It is not liberty not to bury the mess one makes, he thought. No animal has more liberty than the cat; but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist. Until they learn from the cat I cannot respect them.

–Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, ch. 36 (decades before Jordan Peterson)

The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (3): A Series

I’ve previously written two posts on the Scot Peterson case under the title of “The Premature Demonization of Scot Peterson.” Here’s the first post, and here’s the second. Here’s background on the criminal case.

Having revisited and followed the case for the last few weeks, and having had a couple of conversations both with Peterson and with one of his colleagues, I’ve decided to turn this into an ongoing series. But there’s no need at this point for the overly cautious title I initially used. The demonization of Scot Peterson isn’t just “premature”; it’s an act of collective irresponsibility verging on hysteria. I so far have not been convinced that Peterson deserves to be called either a “failure” or a “coward,” much less a criminal. It seems more apt to describe him as the unfortunate victim of a society addicted to loose talk and unrestrained vindictiveness. As I see it, even commentators properly skeptical of the criminal charges against Peterson have bought too easily into the claim that he “failed” to stop the shooter out of “cowardice” (and have irresponsibly repeated those claims). Continue reading

El Que La Hace, La Tiene

Nay, the extent of ground is of so little value, without labor, that I have heard it affirmed, that in Spain itself a man may be permitted to plough, sow and reap, without being disturbed, upon land he has no other title to, but only his making use of it. But on the contrary, the inhabitants think themselves beholden to him, who, by his industry on neglected, and consequently waste land, has increased the stock of corn, which they wanted.

–John Locke, Second Treatise, sect. 36

“Is the land there owned by the peasants?”

“Most land is owned by those who farm it. Originally the land was owned by the state and by living on it and declaring the intention of improving it, a man could obtain title to a hundred and fifty hectares.”

“Tell me how this is done,” Agustin asked. “That is an agrarian reform which means something.”

Robert Jordan explained the process of homesteading. He had never thought of it before as an agrarian reform.

“That is magnificent,” Primitivo said.

–Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, ch. 16.