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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lincoln's Birthday: A Reflection on the "Good Guys" of the Civil War

Happy Birthday, Mr.
Lincoln. Let's look at
your "accomplishments".
We all know what we were taught about the American Civil War in school. The evil southerners tried to secede from the Union so they could practice slavery, and good President Lincoln stopped them and saved the union, and also freed the slaves. But the fact is that the North wasn't so "good", slavery was only part of the issue, and most of the slaves weren't freed until post-Lincoln Reconstruction.

One of the following two descriptions describes the Union administration during the Civil War, and the other describes the Confederate administration. See if you can guess which is which.

  • This side placed a heavy focus on traditional Constitutional rights, particularly the 10th Amendment. However, they certainly did not disregard the rest of the freedoms. Additionally, one of the most powerful men in the administration was Jewish and Jews served freely in the Army. In fact, Jews were treated better by this administration than they had been by almost every other government in history. Furthermore, property rights were valued, and land was rarely seized by the government except as a last resort. 
  • On the other hand, this side suspended habeus corpus for its citizens and authorized indefinite detentions. Of the Ten amendments in the original American Bill of Rights, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and arguably the Tenth all were ignored. Material opposing the government was banned and strict limits were imposed on what people were allowed to do. Furthermore, the lead general of this army was a notorious anti-Semite who would dishonorably discharge Jews for no reason other than their religion. Additionally, the President of this country stated that he did not care about the plight of the slaves, only about winning the war.
Judah Benjamin, the first
Jewish Cabinet member
in North America by over 40
years. He was the second-most
powerful man in the Confederacy,
making him the highest-ranked
Jewish politician in North
America to date. 
Well, the first description describes the Confederate States of America and the Jewish man in question was Judah Benjamin. Benjamin held various cabinet positions and was the second-most powerful man in the Confederacy after Jefferson Davis. The USA did not have a Jewish Cabinet member until 1906 when Oscar Strauss became Secretary of Commerce and Labor. No Jew was even elected Governor of a State until 1887 when Washington Bartlett became governor of California. And yes, General (and later President) Grant was a known anti-Semite who kicked Jews out of the Army for their religion. So clearly the South isn't the only racists.

In fact, most Northerners did not even consider the South racist. Although Lincoln was an abolitionist, even he did not believe in full rights for African-Americans. Nobody really did, North or South. So the North didn't win that area of rights by much. Meanwhile, the Confederacy gave Jews far more rights and recognition than they had in the North. While Antisemitism ran rampant in the Union, it was virtually unheard of in the South.

Then there were the Constitutional violations committed by the Birthday Boy himself, Abe Lincoln. We criticize the Obama and Bush administrations for suspending habeus corpus to terrorists. Well, Lincoln did so for everybody. Even something as simple as a curfew violation could earn you an indefinite detention until they figured out what to do with you. Anyone who dared disagree with the government in public was thrown in jail. Sure, there were Southerners who disagreed with Jefferson Davis, but he let them speak out as long as they did so peacefully.

Additionally, there are questions as to whether Lincoln should have gone to war in the first place. Before the Civil War, it was considered proper to say "the United State are...." Now, of course, we say "The United States is...." Why the difference? Well, it used to be that the United States was recognized as just that - a Union of States. In fact, the Tenth Amendment protects the rights of the individual states. 
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.

Ironically, the South cared more
about our Constiution than we did.
Of course, slavery should not be allowed, but Constitutionally, it was a right given to the states. Furthermore,  the Constitutional deadline clause had already ended the import of slaves. The only new ones were the ones being born to existing ones. So, the federal government could have done what every other civilized country did and bought all the slaves (paying a fair price) and freed them. It would end the issue forever. Constitutionally, it could be argued that such a task is permissible under eminent domain since it served a public purpose. It's a bit of a stretch, but not as much of a stretch as going to war over it.

Yes, slavery was wrong. Indisputably, the ownership of another human being should be banned. But this war wasn't just about slavery. It was about states' rights. Rights Lincoln denied them. The President himself said

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union

We know slavery is wrong. But
we're not the "good guys"either in
 the Civil War.
Lincoln didn't care about the plight of slaves. He cared about preserving the Union at all costs. He is not a real hero. Today, on Lincoln's Birthday, take a moment to think about who the real "good guys" are in this story. It's a really good question. On one hand, the Southerners owned slaves, which is wrong. But as we saw, the Northerners didn't think too much better about blacks. The Union was also far more Anti-Semitic than the Confederacy. Plus, the Confederacy actually cared about the Constitution. Don't get me wrong. I don't condone slavery. But I also don't condone Antisemitism, nor do I condone trampling on Constitutional Rights. What people don't get is that the South cared about our Constitutional values, even more so than we did. They just thought differently on slavery, an issue which at the time was more economic than social. But history tends not to teach us all this.

The reason why is simple. People don't want to think that Lincoln could have been wrong.  After all, wouldn't that make the South right? But that's because people think in absolutes. Either the Union was wrong about everything or they were right about everything. And if the former is true, slavery is ok. But we can't think in absolutes. That's the problem. The South was wrong to support and practice slavery. And the North was wrong for its Antisemitic views and its Unconstitutional practices. So to answer the initial question - there are no "good guys" here. Each side had some very atrocious views. But that's not how we remember it today.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Letter to the Editor in Poughkeepsie Journal: 2012 is Scary election, vote Gary Johnson

Today, I had a letter to the editor published in the Poughkeepsie Journal. You can view it here or read below. 

Libertarian Johnson is best for president

2012 is going to be a scary presidential election.
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney seems out of touch with the American public, New Gingrich appears crazy, and I believe Rick Santorum is an utter bigot. Obama isn’t much better. He finally ended the Iraq War three years after he said he would, and only after starting wars in Libya and Somalia. He authorized indefinite detentions under the National Defense Authorization Act. We should genuinely be scared. Unless Ron Paul gets the GOP nomination (which seems highly unlikely), it may seem like we have nobody to turn to. But there is hope.
The Libertarian Party, the third-largest party in America, expects to have ballot access in all 50 states. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is the clear frontrunner to get the nomination at the party convention in May.
Johnson would restore the civil liberties that both Obama and the GOP took away from us in a stunning display of bipartisanship. Johnson would also return all troops home from the wars abroad and lead America in a strict non-interventionist policy. The end result of this will be lower taxes, a balanced budget, and more freedom to live our personal lives as we choose. Polls currently show Gov. Johnson hypothetically polling at 10 percent against Obama and Romney. In order to be involved in televised debates, he needs to reach 15 percent. Don’t pick the “least bad” candidate. Pick a good one. Vote Libertarian in 2012.
Gregory Koch

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why Ron Paul is finished and I support Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson is
running for president.
Here is why to vote
for him. 
Previously on this blog, I mentioned I supported Gary Johnson for the Republican nomination. Then, Johnson switched to the Libertarian Party and I said I would support Ron Paul for the nomination. But now, Ron Paul is pretty much finished, realistically speaking. He has said he will not seek a third party nomination. So, realistically speaking, I've got to turn to a third party. Johnson is currently polling at over 70% among Libertarians, and it seems likely he will get the nomination at the Convention the first weekend in May. If not, I will figure it out from there.

But why do I support Gary Johnson? There are several reasons. First, Johnson will significantly reduce government spending. He will pass a balanced budget in his first year, and eliminate wasteful government spending and pork. No other candidate besides Dr. Paul is willing to do that. Our country is on the brink of financial disaster, so much so that even Ben Bernanke admits it. We need to reduce spending, and we need to do it now.

Second of all, Gary Johnson will end useless wars. So long, War in Afghanistan. So long, Libyan war. Good-bye, War on Drugs. All in all, the defense budget will be cut 42% under Gary Johnson. Meanwhile, Obama finally ended the War in Iraq two and a half years after he said he would, and only after starting wars in Libya and Somalia. Romney/Gingrich won't cut military either. We shouldn't be the world's policeman.

The Libertarian Party
is fiscally conservative
and socially liberal. They
advocate small-government
libertarianism. It's a good idea.
Third, Johnson will protect out liberties. He opposes PIPA, SOPA, and ACTA, and would work to get those bills overturned if they pass under Obama. If they don't, Johnson will ensure they don't pass under his watch. Johnson (unlike Paul) also supports nationwide gay marriage. While I don't think the government should be involved in marriage at all, legalizing gay marriage is a good start. He also opposes all forms of censorship as well as the indefinite detentions authorized under NDAA. It's scary what Obama is doing and what Bush did to our civil liberties. Reverse the loss.

Gary Johnson is a "classic liberal". Back in the day, these people were just called "liberals", but now we sometimes call them "libertarians". He opposes most forms of government intervention, except in cases of force or fraud by one person against another. He would downsize government and keep it out of our personal lives. We would stay out of other countries and balance the budget. So why has nobody heard of him? I'll let that sink in for a while and answer it later.

One more thing.... Go Giants