An Apology of Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2013 Erik No comments

My colleague at Heartland S.T. Karnick has written an excellent account of why we ought not be concerned with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Instead we should celebrate the freedom we have in this country that allows businesses to conduct business.  In a sense I agree.  I certainly would not legislate stores to be closed. However, as a republican [please note the small “r”] I am publicly dispirited by the fact that so many stores are opening on what should be our most solemn of holidays other than July 4th.

It’s time to bring Thanksgiving back to its hallowed position it used to occupy.

Stores and businesses want to get a jump early on the Christmas season in pursuit of profits. Over the years, this intense quest for profits has led to Christmas marketing to impinge on our sensibilities ever sooner, so that now, we see Christmas commercials, Christmas ads, and the stores decorated in Christmas attire as early as mid-October.  I love Christmas, and it is one of my favorite holidays, but the increasing emphasis on Christmas as a materialist holiday has soured me on the holiday somewhat I have to admit.   So important has Christmas become, that nary can one find Thanksgiving greeting cards in the stores anymore.

Thanksgiving is the one true holiday—other than July 4th—that does not require gifts or the expectation of gifts.  Thanksgiving has always been about love, family, God, and public spiritedness thanking whatever deity we worship for the many blessings for living in a free country.  We gather on Thanksgiving to recognize the blessings we have before us in our families and in the first country in history  founded on the natural rights all human beings share.  There is something more meaningful in gathering with loved ones to simply enjoy each other’s company without the material expectations that follow with Christmas.  To be frank, Thanksgiving is a far more religious and spiritual holiday than Christmas could ever be. Thanksgiving, unlike Christmas, has directed our national attention in a more direct public manner than Christmas ever has.  In terms of this republic, it precedes Christmas and is our oldest national holiday—even older than Independence Day.

The first proclamation of Thanksgiving was in 1777 (though there were others noted before the Revolutionary War by His Majesty’s Government).  As it pertains to the Union, the first was authored by the Continental Congress.  We usually forget that fact and read the more weighty proclamations by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress asserted that,

Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

It encouraged—did not require—a day of rest from work to be with family and thank God for the year that is near an end.  Of course, thanksgiving proclamations always directed our attention upward.  The early proclamations petitioned God to bless our military efforts and to relieve the afflicted in the unpleasantries that inevitably accompany war.  The central message was to petition God for wisdom, for peace, and for our “national happiness” [1782 proclamation].

In my lifetime, my fondest holiday memories surround Thanksgiving, which kicked off the holiday season.  Nowhere in the early to mid 70s was there a Christmas decoration, or ad, or store display until after we had first given thanks for the blessings of this republic.  my family would celebrate the day with blood relatives, and those who were surrogate members of the family, though they were every bit full members of our little enclave.  The day was spent in togetherness, and the enjoyment of each other’s company, not in the opening of gifts and then the inevitable paring off separate from the family to enjoy the gifts received.  The only thing that we did of any outside entertainment value was to watch the Detroit Lions lose yet another Thanksgiving football game—something I actually enjoyed.  Yet, we never forgot the blessings of freedom too.  And we reflected on the Founders, Lincoln, and the what our ancestors did to preserve the rights of mankind.  That is perhaps difficult for this materialist society to fathom, but yet, America in the 1970s was such—at least in my world and with my family.

Now, we are bombarded daily from mid October on to buy, buy, buy and rip ourselves from the family hearth to pursue some sale.  What is lost in the process?  What deep and meaningful opportunity is lost with family when we nary have dinner digested and we are running out to fight the crowds to possess some material things that in the end will decay anyway?  What has the country lost when republicans care more for material gain than giving thanks for the reason we have the freedom to achieve material comfort in the first place?

I lament our national holiday, and I do pray for its return

So this “consumer” will be shopping at Menards, who took out a full page ad in today’s Chicago Tribune stating their stores would remain closed on Thursday so families can give thanks and spend the day as it was intended.

 

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Further Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

July 7th, 2013 Erik No comments

We have just celebrated this nation’s Founding, but debate abounds on the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.  How significant is this document?  I ask my students this question at the beginning of every class I teach on American Government.  Much debate exists on all sides about this all important event. I have many friends who disagree with my position on the Declaration, so this post is to be taken as my contribution to what is a rather spirited debate.  Over at Lew Rockwell, Kevin Gutzman posts several objections to those who believe that the Declaration had a serious meaning to the Union.  Among those objections is that,

Since the 18th century, political radicals have argued for understanding the Declaration as a general warrant for government to do anything it likes to forward the idea that “all men are created equal.” Yet, that was not what the Declaration of Independence meant. The Declaration of Independence was the work of a congress of representatives of state governments. Congressmen were not elected by voters at large, but by state legislatures, and their role (as John Adams, one of them, put it) was more akin to that of ambassadors than to legislators. They had not been empowered to dedicate society to any particular political philosophy, but to declare — as the Virginia legislature had told its congressmen to declare — that the colonies were, “and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” In other words, the Declaration was about states’ rights, not individual rights, and the Congress that adopted it had no power to make it anything else. All the rest of the Declaration was mere rhetorical predicate.

Where to begin?  First, the Founders never proclaimed that the government could do “anything it likes” to forward the Declaration’s self-evident truth that, “all men are created equal.”  Second, he asserts that the document was one that emphasized the rights of the states as autonomous entities.   It wasn’t.  Indeed, in the quote above, the method by which the document was approved, refutes his argument that it was just a list of meaningless words set out to the King to express mere rhetoric.  If it was mere rhetoric, then way go through the process of committee, debate, and adoption?  As Thomas Jefferson so aptly wrote near the end of his life, the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  This means it was a commonly held reasonable opinion, which these unelected congressmen adopted as a statement of principle–it was an expression of the American mind’s belief on the foundation of government; it was where the Founders staked their flag upon which no man ought to cross. The Declaration was an affirmation of an idea–in Greek it can be considered as THE ιδεα! Jefferson understood this when he asserted that the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  Last time I checked, the congressmen who adopted Declaration were living in the former colonies, and they were a part of that American mind.

Perhaps the most audacious claim, is the belief that the Declaration was written for white men.  And Jefferson’s belief that whites and blacks could not live together justifies this conclusion.  However, this argument is a non-sequiter.  The disbelief in the ability of the former slaves living with former masters is a separate policy question from the belief in Euclid’s axiom that things equal to another are equal to themselves.  Indeed, Jefferson never stated anywhere in any document that he was sure they were unequal in their rights.  The slaves may have been unequal in talent, but it was held as a suspicion only, and any inequality was the result of their bondage not the result of any “natural” affliction.

Jefferson was also clear when he wrote in the Notes on the State of Virginia that God would side with the slaves not the masters should he judge the peculiar institution.  In other words, the Union held onto an institution that defied the truth applicable for all people at all times.  Jefferson was no less aware of this fact when he wrote that we had a wolf by the ears.

I realize that many will associate my interpretation with what the snarky NewRepublicconsidered as being a part of the “Top 10 Gangs of the Millennium,” but the fact is the Lew Rockwell interpretation is closer to Richard Taney’s defense of slavery in Dred Scott than any originalist understanding of the Founding.  Indeed, it is one of the most curious developments of American political thought, that the first defenders of slavery as a positive good were also southerners who believed in free markets–like Thomas Roderick Dew.

* Cross posted at Somewhat Reasonable.

 

Music from the 80s: HoneyMoon Suite

February 14th, 2013 Erik No comments

Going back to my days as a youngin’ is HoneyMoon Suite, which me and the wife heard on Sirius tonight and it brought back memories:

 

 

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Our Changing Demographic

February 8th, 2013 Erik No comments

As noted in the WSJ here, the fertility rate is falling among a certain group, which will lead to a changing America:

Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.

The fertility rate is the number of children an average woman bears over the course of her life. The replacement rate is 2.1. If the average woman has more children than that, population grows. Fewer, and it contracts. Today, America’s total fertility rate is 1.93, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it hasn’t been above the replacement rate in a sustained way since the early 1970s.

The nation’s falling fertility rate underlies many of our most difficult problems. Once a country’s fertility rate falls consistently below replacement, its age profile begins to shift. You get more old people than young people. And eventually, as the bloated cohort of old people dies off, population begins to contract. This dual problem—a population that is disproportionately old and shrinking overall—has enormous economic, political and cultural consequences.

 

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Online Education and Competency

January 28th, 2013 Erik No comments

Is this the Future of Higher Ed? There is still a lot of resistance to online education at colleges and universities, but the modern demand for education in a non central setting is gaining more and more traction. Those colleges that do not embrace this trend will lose market share, and possibly have to shut their doors. Snip:

 

David Lando plans to start working toward a diploma from the University of Wisconsin this fall, but he doesn’t intend to set foot on campus or even take a single online course offered by the school’s well-regarded faculty.

image

David Lando plans to join a Wisconsin program that could award him a bachelor’s degree after he takes online tests to establish his knowledge.

Instead, he will sit through hours of testing at his home computer in Milwaukee under a new program that promises to award a bachelor’s degree based on knowledge—not just class time or credits.

“I have all kinds of credits all over God’s green earth, but I’m using this to finish it all off,” said the 41-year-old computer consultant, who has an associate degree in information technology but never finished his bachelor’s in psychology.

Colleges and universities are rushing to offer free online classes known as “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs. But so far, no one has figured out a way to stitch these classes together into a bachelor’s degree.

Now, educators in Wisconsin are offering a possible solution by decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.

 

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

my #1 for the year came near the middle of the year, by the band called DIIV, and “Doused.”

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

It is 2:54, do you know where you are….you might know “You’re Early.” At #2:
 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

I have always liked M83. In march they released this, “Reunion, and so @ #3:

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

Not far behind Royal Bangs, was always A Place to Bury Strangers, and “Onwards to the Wall.” My #4 pick for the year 2012:

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In 2012 I would make several trip to Chicago, and in nearly all those trips, Royal Bangs loomed large. At #5, “My Car is Haunted.”

 

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #6 spot Wild Belle, “Keep You.”

 

 

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #7 spot I like the March release by Pond, “Elegant Design.”

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #8 spot, Tanlines! “All of Me.”

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the number 9 spot of 2012, Santigold, “Disparate Youth.” And yes, there is much rejoicing.

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 3rd, 2013 Erik No comments

As per tradition, my students introduced me to Indie music when I taught in Virginia.  I have followed it as most students–especially those in the more cosmopolitan cities like Chicago–are very in tune with the Indie scene.  Without adieu, number 10 is Frankie Rose, “Know Me”:

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Iowa Trending Obama

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

It is getting very difficult for Romney to even have a hope to win this.

And Republicans cannot and will not now retake the Senate.  It is mathematically impossible.

Scott Brown Lost

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

and I am sad.  It seems so long ago he ran this cutting edge campaign….

 

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The Fire is Roaring…..

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

here in Chicago, and it is warm inside….and Romney is not doing enough to win this.  Scott Brown from Mass is in trouble.

Why is Romney having so much trouble?  Because the base of the Republican Party is not excited to vote for him.

In Virginia, Romney is putting up a great fight.  In Florida, Obama is suffering a bit….but this night is early.  Romney is ahead now, but will lose this unless people changed their mind in the booth.

 

Stay tuned.

Daily Beast Internal

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

A friend of mine at Newsweek posted the Beast Board.  It’s over….Obama is going to win.

My Prediction for Tonight

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

So I predicted to a certain University President that Obama would win the election despite (at the time) the trends to Romney.

President Obama

Rasmussen has the race in a statistical tie. The race will likely hinge on these battlegrounds:

Colorado, Florida, Iowa, NevadaNew HampshireOhio,Virginia and Wisconsin.

Real Clear Politics is the place to find the latest polls.  Judging from them, the race is too close to call.  But in all the polls, Obama has always had a slight lead.  Romney really has not broke out over the top.

Obama looks pretty reliably up in Ohio, and for me that spells game over for Romney. We could have the oddity of Romney getting the popular but losing the electoral.  Most polls, including the one listed at Politico have a virtual tie.  With no one getting really above the 50% threshold, this could be a long night.  Unless people break hard one way or another, it could be close indeed.

Regardless, my prediction is Obama pulls this out and will be re-elected.

 

Voted This Morning

November 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

So this is where I voted today:  at the Romeoville Village Hall.  It was light, but poll workers say turnout is higher than the primary.

Have you voted today?  How was the turnout?

I made a prediction weeks ago of how this election would turn out, that will come in the next post.

Election Blogging Tomorrow

November 5th, 2012 Erik No comments

To all students in Pols 201, 202, and 415.  I will be blogging the election tomorrow. Look for posts here about the election.

Evolution of the Republican Party Voter

August 29th, 2012 Erik No comments

Michael Barone notes the strengths and weaknesses of the Republican party base.  Interesting in the article is the changing base of the party over the last few decades.  Snip:

Yet Republicans assembling sooner or later in storm-tossed Tampa should keep in mind that in 2008, as in 1944, their party was in the minority and that they need to add votes from other groups to win. White noncollege voters and white evangelical Christians were only 42% and 37%, respectively, of the winning Republican coalition in the 2010 congressional elections.

Recent polling suggests that affluent suburbanite Mitt Romney is making gains among groups where the party has been losing votes, and if he is elected he will need to govern in a way that holds this larger party together. But that is the challenge the Republican Party has always faced, and over its 158 years it has won more presidential elections than it has lost.

 

 

 

What to Look for in the 2012 Election

August 14th, 2012 Erik No comments

Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik hve written a thoughtful piece on the 2012 election.  Snip:

By contrast, the Republican Convention in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 27-Aug. 30, is vital. Mr. Romney today is slightly underperforming John McCain four years ago. Sen. McCain received 45.6% of the national vote and 45.4% in seven key swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia)—whereas Mr. Romney is scoring just 44% nationally and 44.5% in the swing states, according to Thursday’s RealClearPolitics average of polls. There are Republican-leaning voters who still must be brought into the fold, and a solid convention that defines Mr. Romney positively in personal and policy terms could give him a modest but durable bounce.

Economics may drive the election somewhat, but international developments also may determine the election as well.

Mansfield on Modernity

March 6th, 2012 Erik No comments

Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield has done us a great service by writing an excellent piece on modernity.  Key snip:

He is aware that the humanist philosophers in Poggio’s time had reason not to risk gaining a reputation for atheism, and he recounts at some length the later (1600) trial and burning of Giordano Bruno for his open heresy. But this motive would be the same in the time of Lucretius, or in any time. Almost every society punishes atheism, even to some extent our tolerant society today: Try running for president as an atheist. Every society rests on belief, almost always on a religious belief that God supports and protects it. At the same time, a philosopher is one who questions the authority of belief, especially the highest. Philosophy always tends toward skepticism, and even if it finds in favor of religion, it does so on philosophical grounds. Skepticism is normal for philosophers, and so too is dissimulation to conceal skepticism and confuse the authorities. A recent book on Lucretius and the Renaissance by the historian Alison Brown shows greater understanding of the once-common practice of evasion by philosophers, and remarks on Lucretius’ “discreet (and often unnamed) influence” in that time. The appreciation and the discretion had the same cause: Both were offensive to prevailing belief.