Thursday, October 29, 2009

Welcome Home Lt. Ellis

I just want to take a few moments to welcome home my cousin Jason who just finished a six month tour in Afghanistan. I am very glad he came home safe and am excited for his family who missed him greatly while he was gone. His wife writes a blog and has pictures of him surprising his kids at their school you can read it here. I have written about my cousins before, but I am very proud of them, both Jason and his little brother Cameron who is currently serving in Iraq. We pray for you both and I am glad to know you are doing so well. I do not get to see Jason very much anymore, but there was a time in our lives when we were very close. I still think of him often and cannot wait until we can hang out in the future. Thank you Jason for all you do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Review-Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

After finishing Chernow’s brilliantly written book about Alexander Hamilton I want to endorse it to anyone who enjoys history or who wants to learn more about the founding of our nation. This book is so much more than a biography of Hamilton, but a biography of the early years of our nation. I have written before that I believe that Hamilton is the most important of our founding fathers when it comes to our government structure. John Adams was the brains of the Revolution, Jefferson the pen, and Washington the sword and father, but if we move past the Revolution and want to understand the forming of the nation then Hamilton is the man. The book describes Hamilton as “an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, Hamilton rose with stunning speed to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp, a battlefield hero, a member of the Constitutional Convention, the leading author of the Federalists Papers, and head of the Federalists party. As the first treasury secretary, he forged America’s tax and budget systems, Customs Service, Coast Guard, and central bank.”

With a man so important, why do we not know more about him? Why do we not heard candidates or political parties claim the legacy of Hamilton the way they do Jefferson? There are two answers, one that his party lost and when it did their legacy was removed, even though in reality it was Hamilton philosophies that that govern our nation today. Secondly, we do not like what he had to say, even though he was right in most cases.

America’s first two presidents were federalists (though Washington would never refer to himself as such). With the election of Jefferson in 1800 the Republicans would come to dominate the White House by controlling it for the next 28 years during which the Federalist party would die away. With the Republican triumph and the Federalists demise, Federalists legacies would disappear over the next 30 years as leading Republicans would exaggerate their importance while diminishing the importance of Federalists. Of the three leading Federalists Adams and Hamilton will be largely forgotten, while Washington was too important to ignore and his own legends will grow. I am even convinced that most Americans today think Jefferson was the second president. We talk so much today about Washington and Jefferson and everyone forgets Adams was in the middle and as for Hamilton he was not ever a president and is ignored.

The larger issue that no party will ever claim Hamilton as their predecessor was his philosophy of government. Hamilton’s problem was that his beliefs do not sound very American, not the kind of thing we put on government building walls. Hamilton believed in order for our nation to last it must be tied to the wealthy and elite, they had to have a rooting interest. In order to understand Hamilton you much understand how all the founders saw our nation, as an experiment. We today have over 200 years of experience and knowledge, we know our nation will be become a mighty and great country. They did not have that insight. Most of them saw the possibility of failure as probable. At their time not a single other government in the world was a democracy. In fact in the history of world only the Greeks and the Romans even tried a democracy and they both failed. Why would America be any different? Hamilton believed we had a greater chance of our little experiment failing then succeeding. The only way our government would make it is if the wealthy and elite wanted it to succeed. Who cared what the poor wanted, they did not have the time or the ability to guarantee the success of the Constitution, they were busy tried to keep their families from going hungry. If the poor supported the government but the wealthy and powerful did not, our government would not have stood a snowballs chance in hell of survival. Anyone who takes a few moments to comprehend this will know that Hamilton was correct; the problem is it does not sound good. We do not want to admit that Hamilton was right. Hamilton also had problems with democracy which does not endear him to modern politicians.

The thing about Hamilton is that today we are a Hamiltonian nation. What created the first political parites in this country were different versions of what we should become. Jefferson and his Republicans wanted a land full of small farmers where everyone would own land. Land ownership in early America was essential for freedom, hence why the founders made land ownership criteria for voting. If you did not own your own land or were your own boss then you rented and were under the control of someone else. In the days before the secret ballot, if you did not vote the way your employer told you to, then you might be out of job or kicked off your farm. In other words land ownership made you free. With this in mind a nation of small yeoman farmers to Jefferson would make us the freest and greatest nation on earth. Jefferson also believed the federal government should be weak and that that state government should have most of the power.

Hamilton and the Federalists however saw things different. Hamilton saw that England was the most powerful nation and wanted to model us after then. To be great Hamilton wanted America to become an industrial power. He believed our survival depended on a strong federal government that could protect American industry and growth. These two men and their parties fought viciously against each other with the understanding that if the other won, our national experiment would fail. Jefferson and the Republicans did win the elections, but as anyone who is reading this has to realize that Hamilton won the struggle. American is not a nation of small farmers, but the greatest industrial and most powerful nation in the world. We do not have time to cover this now, but Jefferson talked one way, but acted another. The Hamilton governmental policies he put in place during the Federalists presidencies were so effective that the Republicans did not dismantle them and actually built upon them.

Jefferson will always be more famous than Hamilton, everyone loves a good sound bite and Jefferson had some of the best, but you really want to get to the heart of our government it is Hamilton not Jefferson who needed to be understood. Why I like Chernow’s book is because he gives a great history of nation building but in the medium of a biography. Instead of a straight forward history we have a story to follow, a story of love, betrayal, affairs, war, feuds, and a very famous death that capotes our attention. In the end we know a lot about the man, but through him we know a lot about the nation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Obama's problem with Iran

I think Obama’s biggest issue in his presidency will not be health care, but Iran. He might find himself in the difficult position of either losing the trust of the American people if they feel he cannot protect them or isolating himself from his own party if he acts aggressively. This is a serious issue and so I hate to say I told you so, but I predicted his back in Oct of last year. Instead of hashing it out again, feel free to click here and read how what I said before he was elected might just come true. Dropping another nuclear weapon is closer than I think most people believe. I do not believe Israel will allow Iran to build a bomb. I think they will drop their own bomb first. I am not pro nuclear bombs, but I would not blame Israel. If Iran builds a bomb, they are in grave danger, for their own protection they may act first. Unlike our president, Israel does not ask what everyone thinks before they act, they act out of self preservation, they do not care about being popular.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Carter-America is racist

Well it has finally happened; my only surprise is that it took so long. In an interview today on the Today Show, ex-President Jimmy Carter said the reason Obama is being criticized is because we are racists. There are two major points that need to be made, first Carter needs to shut up, and second this statement is absurd and offensive.

First things first, Carter needs to shut up. There is an unwritten rule in politics that ex-presidents stay out of politics. You have not heard any of the other ex-presidents weigh in on this issue. We know how each of them stands; they do not need to be critical of those who took their place. Of all the people, they know how hard this job is, and so usually have dignity and leave their thoughts to themselves. Well until lately. Carter came out a while ago and began to bash Bush while he was still president. I wrote about it then how it makes Carter look classless. But now he is still talking and sounding senile. One reason Carter needs to remain quiet is well who is he to criticize anyone. In case anyone is reading this and do not know about the Carter Presidency, let me fill you in. Carter may be the worst president we have ever had. If you do remember the Carter years I will not have to tell you that. Even Democrats when they are honest have to admit he was ineffective. You might really love the guy, but he was not a good leader. What right does a guy like that have to criticize anyone else? The thing about Carter is that he has redeemed himself in the eyes of most Americans. He does a lot of good for many people, especially with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. He is seen now as that kind old Uncle who had some problems, but is old now and a nice guy and so we just forget about all the mistakes he made as president. If he does not stop making such stupid remarks, people just might start remembering why Reagan beat him 489 to 49 in 1980. Part of the blowout was Reagan was just that good, but a big part of it was that Carter was that bad. I actually have some respect for Carter. I do believe one of the reasons he was ineffective as President was that he had strong moral values, he was a very religious man. In fact he was so religious that he was not willing to make the kind of compromises Presidents are forced to make. You have to sell your soul to be the President today by making a deal somewhere along the way with someone bad. Carter never would and it cost him, I respect him for that. Yet I am quickly losing my respect for him, I may have to start teaching my students a different story about Carter, maybe he was a bit more calculated politically than I thought.

The bigger issue is the actually statement. This is absurd, but expected. I wrote back during the election my fear of voting in a black president. Does an African American have the ability to lead, most definetly yes. Are they smart, I believe Obama has proven that. My fear was that the first time things went bad the race card would be played, and here we go. So the President has proposed a very radical plan. Now whether you support or oppose the plan you must agree that it is radical. As with every radical plan there are going to be many who have strong opposition to the plan. But yet when Obama purposes a radical plan and people fight it, they are racists according to Carter. So does he think that if a white man asked for government takeover of health care the entire population would openly embrace it? If it were a white president when he gave his press conference would he wink in the camera as a sign that it’s OK to vote for his, it’s OK (wink) I’m white. No, there would be as much resistance against this whether it is a white or black president. It’s not the president, it’s the plan. It is bad and even dangerous. How can he call us racists? The majority of this nation less than a year ago voted for a black man to be president, were we racist then? So when we vote for a black man it is fine, but when we disagree with anything he proposes we suddenly turn to a nation of racists. Carter’s statement would be funny if racism was not such a serious topic in this nation. He called the Rep for S.C. racist. That is the most damming accusation you can make in politics. You are better off being a drunk or womanizer (Kennedy is being honored everyday since his death) or a tax cheat (half of Obama’s cabinet is that) or even have it whispered you were involved in a murder or selling out your country (these may not be true but both Clintons were accused of such crimes), but call someone a racists and you might as well quit (ask Bob Dole who resigned as Senate Majority leader after making a slip about supporting Senator Strom Thurman during his 1948 presidential run where he supported segregation). Carter could ruin this man’s career for a statement where he had no proof other than his own crazy ideas.

Carter made one more statement in a speech that I want to make one comment on. Carter said “The president is not only the head of government, he is the head of state. And no matter who he is or how much we disagree with his policies, the president should be treated with respect." I could not agree with him more, I just have to wonder where Carter has been the past four years, Oh yeah he was criticizing the president.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Story of Obama's New Clothes and Socialism

It has been a long time since my last post. I kind of burned out and so took the summer off. We had a great summer traveling around the west and visiting AZ, NM, CO, and UT. Now I am back and starting a new semester and had an interesting conversation today. This year I am assigning Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy. Bellamy was a socialist who wrote in the 1880. His novel was about a guy who fell asleep in 1880 and woke up in 2000. This new world in which he now lived was a perfect world according to Bellamy. The point of his novel was to compare all the problems of his day and contrasting them to this perfect society. What made the world in 2000 so perfect was that the government had taken over all business, so that everyone made the same amount of money and every just did whatever job made them happy. Bellamy spells out in detail how this new society works. What is interesting is that all my students realize that this would never work. That this guy in the 1880s had no idea about how people today think. What I find interesting is that these are the same kids who support Obama. I had to explain to them that Obama is trying to do just what Bellamy wanted, health care is just the first step. So when they read this novel they saw it as impossible when they took out the current political impact. If I said this book was written by Obama they would love it, but in its historical context they all criticized it, not one student thought Bellamy’s plan would work today, but most think Obama is right on tract. To me it proves that Obama’s plan is not practical, but political. This is why the founders so feared a dema-gog, or a president who wins solely on popularity and not his political views. For that president can put forth a plan with no merits and pass it based on his appeal. Our best hope is that more Americans can see though the Hollywood persona of Obama and finally realize once and for all that the Emperor has no clothes.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lets Bring Back the Whig Party

I know it has been a very long time since I have written, but I have been so overwhelmed by our political situation that I have given up. I also did not want to be a basher of the President without giving him time to accomplish something. But he has had his 100 days now and I cannot remain silent. I have no idea where to start; Obama has hurt us so badly in such a short time that I do not want to list everything. If you think the same as me then you agree and if not I will not be able to convince you of anything. So instead I want to make a proposal.

The Democrats are taking the nation down a bad path. In a very short time they will own large amounts of some of our biggest companies such as Chrysler. There is only one word for this type of government and that is socialism. The Democrats deny that they want to be socialists, but by definition when the government owns the means of production they are socialists. Secondly, this week Obama has proposed a national sales tax similar to Europe and Canada. I am waiting to see how the public will take it. Obama promised he would cut taxes, but cutting taxes and raising sales to around 25% would be the greatest bait and switch ever. I would think the public would be outraged over this plan, but so far they are accepting it hook and sinker. There is no way that I can support the Democrats

So what is my alternative, the Republicans? Right now that does not seem to be a viable option for my political beliefs. The GOP is being divided into two wings, and neither side bring me any confidence. One wing is the Michael Steel side. Steel is the new head of the GOP and wants to build the party by being the big tent party. He has said if we do not make the party more “Hip Hop” then they will die. What he and other men like General Powell are saying is that we need to become more moderate, or open to different ideas and lifestyles. They are listening to the media that are saying if the GOP does not expand they will die. Why they are listening to the media, I do not know. Who in the press keeps giving the GOP advice, the Democrats. Why would the Democrats want to the help the Republicans, the answer is they do not, they just want the GOP to be more like them. My fear is that many Republicans are buying into this. All they hear is that the party is in real danger and needs to change. The problem is that yes the party is in danger. It is in danger of losing people and me who are truly conservative and will not support Steel. Why would anyone support a party that is liberal light when they can just be a Democrat and be real liberal? By the way why was Powell so upset when Cheney said we was no longer a Republican. If I remember right, Powell came out and openly supported Obama in the election. When someone campaigns for the Democrats I just assume he is one, but I guess not in Powell’s world.

The other wing of the party is not much better, the Rush Limbaugh/Dick Cheney wing. The thing about them is that I agree completely with their ideas. I do believe we can best grow our party by giving voters a true alternative, a real conservative voice. The Republicans have based their victories over the past 40 years on the silent majority. The reason they are called silent is because they don’t say much, but are conservative. I believe the party will come back if we stand for something, and stand up to Obama. The problem with this wing is the spokesman. I like Rush’s ideas, but I struggle listening to Rush. Rush will fight against the Democrats just because they are democrats whether or not the ideas are good or not (yes the Democrats did the same thing, but lets be bigger than them). For every good argument he has he spends hours ranting against minor things so you lose his more important ideas. I like Cheney, I trust him when he speaks. I trust him more than anyone I have heard in the past 10 years. He is unpopular, because he does tell the truth. But Cheney like Rush is very controversial. They will not have the ability to pull in new members, even if their ideas are sound. Yet no one else has stepped up.

So what is the alternative, I have decided to leave the GOP. The Libertarians are too radical for me. I do believe there is a role for government oversight. As a 19th century historian I do not believe true Laissez-Fair government is the answer. You could follow the outline for the American dream, like work hard day and night for years, but in the age of the Robber Barons you could work as hard as you want and not make progress. Some government regulation is necessary. So if the Democrats, the Republicans, and the libertarians do not fit the only answer is to start a new party, or maybe bring back a new one. There have been some great parties in the past like the Populists, the Bucktails, or the Anti-Masons. Some have had great names like the Bull Moose Party, the Know-Nothings, or Loco-Focos. Each of these parties has good qualities, but also would not capture my beliefs. However there was one dominant party in the early 19th century that is perfect, the Whig party.

In 1838 Andrew Jackson ran against the incumbent John Quincy Adams. An odd aspect of this election was that both men were running as Republicans. For the past ten years or so America had been in a political age known as the Era of Good Feelings when we had a one party system. The problems was even though by name they all agreed, in theory they were still divided. In 1838 the Jackson/Van Buren wing of the party began calling themselves Democratic Republicans to distinguish their beliefs (the Jeffersonian Republican ideas) from the Adams/Henry Clay Republicans. With the victory of Jackson in 1838, the American government would never be the same. It was Jackson who would make the president powerful. Jackson vetoed more bills in his presidency than the previous six had combined. Unlike the other presidents Jackson vetoed bills not because he felt they were bad for the nation, but simply because he was not in favor of it. Jackson took power for himself that many thought were dangerous. Those that opposed Jackson started calling him King Andrew. In England the party that opposed the King were the Whigs, so Henry Clay and all those who opposed King Andrew followed suit and began referring to them selves as Whigs. By the next election Jackson had dropped the Democratic Republican label for the just the Democrats while the other major party were now organized as Whigs.

I believe it is time to bring back the Whig party. With King Obama taking more power for himself than any president has the right to, once again we need a party that will stand up to him. By standing up to King Obama, I mean more than just fight against him and his programs, but give voters a real alterative. I want a conservative party who stands for what Americans like me believe. A party that believe in families and conservative ideas. A party that will not fold to political correctness or toleration. The Steel wing of the Republican Party believes we need more tolerance, but I believe we should never tolerate what is wrong. As our nation goes down a dark path, I believe more Americans will ultimately crave someone or a party that will stand up for what they believe.

So my call is to bring back the Whigs. We do not want old Republicans who do not believe and think like us, they can stay in the GOP. I do not believe there is anything wrong in saying that. Why do we want people in our party who do not believe like us? That does not make us bad people, we are not saying they can’t vote or join a party, just not join ours. Why would you want to be a member of the New Whig Party if you have different ideas then us? The Pope does not make Protestants or Jews Cardinals, that would not make sense and no one seems to have a problem with it. But if we don’t want pro-choice people in our party than we become closed minded and wrong.

I have considered myself a Republican as long as I can remember, and it is not easy to leave my party, but our current third party system is the longest one in American History and needs a change. I am sure the first two American party systems—the Federalists and Anti-Federalist, or the Whigs and Democrats never thought their parties would die either. Yet they did and for the better, a new parties would always grown out of the old. I think it is time for the fourth American party system, the socialists and the Whigs. The Republicans and Democrats will not agree, but lets not ask them. We are a government of the people, not parties and I think the parties have forgotten that point. Unfortunately parties are a way of life, but we can take back the parties and make them represent us, they should fit our needs not us fit theirs.

This will not be easy, but lets give it a shot. Start talking to your friends and see if we cannot get a grass roots movement. If we can get enough buzz for the right kind of change then we can try taking the next step.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are people just getting dumber

I had two funny things happen today in class while I was giving an exam, I thought I would share. One students came up to me after we handed out the test. She asked if she could give her test back and study a bit more and then start the test over. In the same class I had a student come up with a question about one of the questions. He said he was not in class the day we talked about the Constitution and so wanted me to give him help to answer the question. I guess if you don't ask you never know. But come on, are people just getting dumber.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Remember Goliad

Kids at Fannin Memorial

Fannin Memorial
Church inside the Presidio La Bahia

KIds inside the Presidio La Bahia

Kids at The Battle of Coleto Memorial
Being that it is spring break the family decided to go camping. I love camping and so does my oldest, but this was the first time for my youngest who is 19 months. We have been putting if off for a while, but decided we needed to get out. There is much more of our trip on my wife’s page, what I wanted to talk about was where we went.

Three hours northeast of us is Goliad, TX an important spot when it comes to the history of Texas’s independence. When the Texas troops beat the army of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto they yelled Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad. However, most have seemed to forget the Goliad part. In 1836 when the Texans decided to break away from Mexican control two armies were formed, one at San Antonio under command of Lt Col William Travis. This group used a small church known as the Alamo as their headquarters. The other group took the more important position at Goliad under the command of Col James Walker Fannin. What made Goliad so important was the Presidio La Bahia, the only real fortification in Texas.

When the Mexican dictator, General Santa Anna, decided to quail the rebellion in Texas he marched his forces up to San Antonio to deal with Travis. At the same time to protect his flank he sent General Jose Urrea up the coast of Texas to Goliad. Santa Anna arrived first, and most know that story. Not only was Travis defeated, but all his men including Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie. The story of the Alamo is an amazing one and deserves its place in American history, but I believe having celebrities die like Crocket and Bowie have made it so big that it has kidnapped the story of Texas and left the story of Goliad untold. When Travis sent for help when he realized his position was impossible, the main person he was hoping would come was Fannin. Fannin did leave the safety of the Presidio La Bahia and began the march towards the Alamo, but his poor planning made them leave late and shortly after they began the march they received news that the Alamo had fallen and that a large Mexican force was marching towards them. Fannin brought his men back to Goliad. With a large Mexican force arriving, Fannin sent out a detachment to assist settlers fleeing out of General Urrea’s path. When the first detachment did not return he sent out a second. What Fannin did not know was that both detachments had been captured and that all who surrendered where executed. On March 14th Fannin received word from the new supreme Texas commander Sam Houston that Goliad was isolated without the Alamo and that he and his men should burn the Presidio and fall back and join Houston. Fannin, not knowing the fate of his two detachments, waited for their return a little too long. He also, once again had logistical problems with leaving.

When Fannin and his 350 men did leave, Urrea was only two hours behind them. When Urrea’s Calvary caught up with Fannin at Coleto Creek, Fannin decided to fight. The Texas army fought well and bravely all day against increasingly larger odds. The Texans knew they could break through the Mexican lines that night, but also knew they would have to leave their wounded, including Fannin. With a determination to stay and fight, the Texans began the next morning, but quickly realized that the Mexican reinforcements brought up over night were too large and that they were surrounded. The Texans asked for a parley and were given generous terms of surrender by Urrea, but reminded that the ultimate decision was up to Santa Anna. The Texans were promised to be treated as prisoners of war, medical care to their wounded, and eventual release to the U.S.

Unfortunately for Fannin and his men, Santa Anna was not in a giving mood. Santa Anna order Urrea to execute all the surviving men. On Palm Sunday, 4 days from today, General Urrea marched the Texas out of their encampment in three separate groups in different directions and had his men shoot them down. Around 40 men were left and executed one by one at the Presidio, with Fannin being the last to die. In the end around 340 Texas soldier were massacred, adding to the legend of the brutality of Santa Anna. How this story is not more known I do not know. Again the story of the Alamo is inspirational, but 340 men surrendering, believing to be treated as prisoners is devastating. This story was not lost on the men who defeated Santa Anna’s army when they charged yelling Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad. We have all remembered the Alamo, unfortunately we have forgotten Goliad.

My family and I had a great few days camping out, but what made it most memorable was visiting those historic places that helped shaped the story of Texas and his nation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What can the Great Depression tell us about today

I had an interesting discussion today about possible social consequences of the current economic times. In class we are discussing the Great Depression and all the hardships that went along with it. I always like to look at culture during any time period, because I believe culture is influenced by the social and political events . What we see during the Depression is a major conservative backlash against the liberalism of the 1920s. The roaring 20s was a decade of decadence and a laxing of rules, but as the economy fell so did moral decay. This was clearly visible in Hollywood where they forced to censure their own work. The famous example of the shock of movie goers is at the famous line in Gone with the Wind, “I don’t give a damn.” Audiences were angered by swearing on film, something they could have gotten away with in the 20s. Another Hollywood example was the actress Hedy Lamarr who at a young age made the German film Exstase in which she appeard completely nude. The movie was a hit in Europe and won awards, but was completely banned in America.

The question I was asked in class was if we continue to slip into a depression will we have a conservative backlash? My answer is I do not know, but looking at history tells me yes. There has been a constant flow between liberalism and conservatism over the past hundred years and the reasons for those changes are all different. The 1920s was a very liberal period, followed by a very socially conservative decade of the 1930s. The 1950s was very socially conservative but then the 1960s and 70s were extremely liberal. The 1980s were conservative, while the past 10 years we have been moving closer to Sodom and Gomorra. Note that I sometimes said socially conservative, because in the 1930s they were socially conservative , but FDR and his politics were anything but.

It seems like cosmic forces makes sure we never get too far one way or the other. As a Christian I have to wonder what role God plays in all this. I am not one to make the claim that God created the Depression or our recession to humble us, but I am not one to say that he did not either.
If we do follow a similar pattern as the great depression, it could be good news for some Democrats. The liberal policies were very popular in the 30s. Though the people were conservative, many were economically liberal. With Obama throwing around money and playing to the sympathies of the people, if the recession continues or get worse, he may make another four years if he could convince the people he tried. FDR did not fix the depression and easily won reelection, twice. People were happy that he tried. Other Democrats like Pelosi will not be as happy. If the trend that I see follows, then most of the new Democrats elected will be conservative Democrats socially. They will want to help the poor but not throw all social values to the wind. These are the kind of the Democrats that will be elected during a depression. And so even though the Democrats may be able to keep the power, it would be a socially conservative Democratic party, which will allow Republicans to go even more conservative.

As a historian I do believe we can predict trends from looking at the past. And from studying the Great Depression I predict that if the economy gets worst, we will become more conservative socially, but not economically and if the Democratic party can understand that they can win many more elections. If however their power base of old line liberals fight it, they could find themselves out of power.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Hip-Hop GOP

I worry about the future of the Republican Party; I worry so much I am finding it hard to call myself a Republican. I felt this way during the primaries last year as McCain was able to beat the two conservative candidates and capture the nomination. But what I saw two nights ago I found even more disturbing. There were two different interviews being conducted at the same time, one on Fox news with Mike Huckabee interviewing Russell Simmons (founder of Def Jam Records) and on CNN with D.L. Hugely interviewing the new RNC chairman Michael Steele. Both parts of the interview that I saw were about the same subject, how Republicans need to bring hip-hop into the party. I believe there is nothing further from the truth. I have not seen the interview yet, but I believe that Rush Limbaugh and Steele even got into an argument over a similar argument. I do not always agree with Limbaugh, but I completely do on this subject. I have hated watching the Republican Party feel like they need to move away from their roots to capture future voters.

I believe moving away from what we believe will be the downfall of the party. Republicans controlled the white house for 32 of the past 44 years. They did it by standing for something better and attracting people towards them. If we lessen our principles to bring in new voters, or change our beliefs to fit current fads, we will lose many of the voters we already have. I know everyone is concerned that the GOP is too old and needs to attract younger voters, but it is impossible to mix conservative values with hip-hop. The two ideas are at polar opposites. Hip-hop is about being gangster and respecting no one but thugs. If you watch the videos and listen to the music they celebrate violence, drugs, and a pimp attitude towards women. I know rock-n-roll was seen as sex and drugs in its early years, but that is a far cry from a song I heard in the gym a few months ago where the singer was asking “where are my F**king N***ers at”, or how we need to slap a ho. The attitude of conservatives and the attitude of hip-hop can never truly blend. If the Republican Party wants in any way to go hip-hop, it will no longer be the party for me and other conservatives.

I have talked about this before, but the current GOP got its start by courting what became known as the silent majority. In the 60s they were the ones who did not make a lot of noise, but turned out to vote. I believe the silent majority is still out there today. We do not hear from them because they are busy going about their daily lives, working and taking care of their families. There are plenty that still believe in traditional family values and want a party that supports those values. If the GOP tries to incorporate any type of hip-hop than we are not giving the silent majority any alternative to the Democrats. Instead go the other way, don’t be Democrats light, be conservatives. Why would anyone vote for Democrats light (like McCain) when you can vote for the real thing, a real Democrat? The Republicans need to be conservative. They need real conservatives to stand up and take the leadership.

In the late 1900s, it is difficult to distinguish the differences between the Democrat and Republican parties. It took a third party, the Populists, to shake things up. The Populists stood for something completely different from the main two parties. Only after the success of the Populists did the Democrats, who had not won an election in years, change their political philosophy to capture voters. I wrote about the 1896 election back in November if you want to read more about it here. I am not sure, but if the GOP keeps trying to move close to the Democrats, something like a new Conservative party may need to rise up. The Liberation party has the feel of the old Populists party. A small grass roots movement and over time had real followers. I do not agree with the principles of the Liberation party, just like most could not get behind the radical stance of the Populists, but when the Populists and Democrats merged, the Democrats took some of the good ideas and dropped the radical ones. We still have time to save the GOP, but if they keep going astray from conservative values, a fusion with the Liberations may be the only hope of victory in the future.

In the end I believe the GOP needs to stand for its traditional values and not try to change itself to incorporate any new hip-hop values. I believe even many of the young will come to appreciate and respect these values. We should not change to meet new electors, but sway those electors that what we believe is correct.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Did Americans invent the car?

I do not think there is much I can add to the President’s address on Tuesday night that has already been said. I liked some of his ideas; I do think we have some serious issues that need addressing. If the President can do all that he said and not raise taxes then he is a miracle worker, I just don’t believe that is possible. I feel like he is still campaigning making a lot of promises without defining how he plans on doing anything. I do not think he can spend all this money that he announced today and not raise taxes, the rich can only be taxed so much.

As a historian I wanted to make one correction of the President in his address, it is minor, but I think it represents a lot. Obama said that we were the nation that invented the car. A minor mistake yes, but still a mistake. The Germans invented the car, it was the Americans that took the car and ran with it. We have the greatest car culture in world history. Men like Ford and Alfred Sloan (Pres of GM) revolutionized the car. Ford began the assembly line that decreased the time it took the car from 12 hours to 90 minutes. This decrease in time allowed the price of the car to be lowered to where every American family can buy one. Sloan in his brilliance marketed cars differently than Ford. Where as Ford said you can buy any color Ford as long as it was black, Sloan thought he could get people to spend more money on cars if he added more bells and whistles. What Sloan did was convince people they are what they drive, something we now all take for granted. But for all that these two men did, one thing they did not do was invent the car.

Now I realize that was a small mistake, but I think it says something. This was the state of the Union, and yes it was small, but it was a mistake. For something as big as the state of the Union he should take the time to do a little bit of research or have an aid do some very simple basic research to know who did invent the car. But instead Obama acted quickly without knowing the facts and just assumed. Now again this is a small easy mistake, but it seems like maybe he is doing the same thing with everything else. In his rush to make the people happy he is just acting quickly and not taking the time to make sure he gets it right. When it is who invented the car, no big deal, but when he acts the same way towards the economy that is a very big deal. Sometimes being president means to do the right thing not the popular thing. I think he thinks throwing money at everything is the right thing, but maybe he should take a few moments to think about it. If he has a plan to pay for all this he is being tight lipped, my guess is he is just acting quickly and will figure out how to pay for it later. So Mr. President, Karl Benz of Germany invented the car, and throwing money at everything will not fix the problem

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's First Press Conference

I realize it has been quite a long time since I have posted anything. I have struggled about what to post over the past months. The problem is I am trying not to be a hypocrite. I was always critical about how Bush was treated while acting as president and I do not want to do the same towards Obama. I do not agree with people like Rush Limbaugh who began their attack campaign on Obama’s first day. I know they disagree, but it seems like they are just trying to find any little issue to blow up into a scandal. Anyone who reads this knows I did not support Obama, but he is now my president, and just like I made the claim that Bush deserved some respect just for the position he held, I am trying to give that same courtesy to Obama. I hope he is successful, I hope this stimulus package works and the economy is revived. That is what separates me from someone like Limbaugh or Coulter, they are hoping he fails I hope he succeeds. I want what’s best for our nation and if he can fix some of the issues that have plagued us over the years, I might even vote for him. However, I do not believe that will be the case, and I do not believe the way he is going about change is positive, but I wanted to let him and will continue to let him try. However, after last night’s speech I have a few issues and an observation and I cannot remain silent.

The first issue began to bug me Saturday night as I watched Saturday Night Live. I know they have an agenda and are not meant to be taken seriously, but I have a problem when they change the facts. Then in Obama’s speech last night he alluded to the same idea, that is the Republicans have been in charge for the past 8 years, and it was complete Republican control when the economy tanked. When discussing politics this is an issue that is hard to convey to students who do not fully understand or not really paying attention. Most people associate the President with the government, in other words just because Bush was president that Republicans made all the decisions. However, for the past two years, it was the Democrats running the Congress and not the Republicans. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were running their perspective branches of government, not the Republicans. Obama kept blaming the Republicans last night for the all the financial problems, but he needs to look at the Democrats involvement. Take this stimulus package right now, it is not the president making it, but congress. The president of the U.S. does not have a single dime of his own to spend, the congress controls 100% of all U.S. funds. Pay attention to the next state of the Union speech, Obama will spend a portion of it asking Congress for money for his programs. Without congressional approval, the president can do nothing.

So to say that Republicans were in complete control when the economy collapsed is false, they only ran the White House, but Democrats ran Congress. So it was Democrats that headed all the important committees including the ones dealing with the economy. It was Democrats that allowed spending to get out of control and allowed the housing market to tank, and allowed banks to deal with bad paper. The President should have watched also, but it was the Democratic Congressmen and Senators that led us down this road, the same ones that now think they have the answers, which is just more of the same they did to create the problem.

As for the stimulus package itself, Obama was wrong last night when he said there was no pork. He should have said earmarks. A great amount of the money being given to the states does not have any specific requirements, and can be used by the states for anything. It is government wistful spending at its worse. I disagree with Obama that Republicans want to do nothing. Everyone understands the economy needs a boost, they just don’t agree with the approach. As for myself, if I get a check in the mail for $1000 great, but I will not use it to stimulate the economy. It will either go directly to pay off credit cards or go to savings so I do not need to use my card when the next situation arises (by the way Obama blew off the question asked about this last night). The only way to get people spending is a tax break, not a credit, but a break. A one time credit is the same as a check in the mail, but a break means that same money on a continued basis, or in other words everyone gets a raise, it will create consumer confidence which leads to spending. Obama is trying to play to the masses that do not know better. He promised them change and now has to act on that. What better way to please everyone than sending them a check and blame everything bad that is happening and will happen on Bush. Obama can tell his supporters that at least I gave you a check. Also if he makes the situation sound bad enough, like saying if we do not fix this now, we may never fix it is not responsible. What he is doing is making people scared while blaming the Republicans if things go bad, and if he makes it sound direr enough and then we come out of the recession he looks that much better. How is this different from past political games? How is this bipartisan?

I know this is long, but I have one other observation from last night. As a political historian I have enjoyed this past year. In my years of teaching I have never seen students so interested in the political process. I spent several classes discussing the primaries or the election so much that we never got to that days lecture, and I was fine with that. Well I opened up today’s classes with asking about what everyone thought about Obama’s speech. In my two classes of about a combined 120 students, only 5 watched the speech or could even talk about the major issue. I even had several who had no idea what the stimulus package was or cared. I thought the love affair with Obama would last, but has not. They still love him and cheer when I mention his name, but already one of his largest groups of supporters has lost interest. They may come back in 4 years to reelect him, after not paying attention to any of his policies. The main answer I got today was that they do not like the package, but do not think they can stop it. Most of my students that have paid attention think it is wasteful spending. However according to Obama last night, the American people want his plan, yet I spoke to the American people today and either they did not know about the plan or felt it was not effective. I am so glad we got change.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can Teddy Roosevelt Explain Hilary’s Appointment?

Tomorrow the Senate is expected to vote in Hillary Clinton as the new Secretary of State. I still find it an interesting decision on the part of Pres Obama to bring Clinton into his inner circle after he ran on a campaign of change. How is a Clinton change? I believe the Clintons are the exact opposite of change. I believe the reason Obama chose Clinton can be seen as the same as running Teddy Roosevelt as the VP back in 1904, but more on that later. I think Clinton will make a fine Secretary of State. She is not a person I would want to make upset. I believe she is strong and smart. She will hold her ground and stand up to anyone in her way. My only problem with her is that the Secretary of State, except for the President himself, is the face of our nation to outside nations. She will be the one who sits with foreign leaders and makes deals. With Hillary I still have the same questions that I had when she ran for the presidency, I question her character. There are still so many questions about the Clinton presidency and the many scandals they were involved in. I do not question her patriotism, but she seems to lack character. I know people love her, but to me just does not seem sincere, and is just too calculating and power hungry.

As I said, I see her nomination the same way I see Roosevelt’s in 1904. Going into the Spanish American War, President McKinley was against military action, while the outspoken Asst. Secretary of the Navy (Teddy) was very in favor of it. Then during the war, Roosevelt quit his position and raised a Calvary regiment known as the Rough Riders. The Rough Riders became national heroes after their victory on San Juan Hill (was actually Kettle Hill) and their leader Roosevelt left their army as one of the most popular men in the nation. With the war over and a great success, in 1904 McKinley had to run for reelection. His problem was that popularity had fallen, especially after we preformed so well in the war that he was against. Another problem for the Republican party and McKinley was Roosevelt. McKinley and Roosevelt were both Republicans, but had extremely different views of government. Roosevelt was a progressive and so believed in big government, the kind of government that would pass reforms over all aspects of life. With Roosevelt’s popularity, he had a great deal of power and sway over the American people, so much sway that the conservative Republicans feared him. The party needed a way to use Roosevelt’s influence yet at the same time curb his power. Their perfect solution was to make him the VP. Traditionally in this nation, there is no position with so little power or responsibility as the VP. Teddy took the position and the ticket easily won. As expected, he was miserable during his short tenure as the VP. McKinley's campaign manager said of Teddy on the ticket, "Don't any of you realize there's only one life between that madman and the presidency?" Hanna turned out to be prophetic, when McKinley was assasinated while at the worlds fair and Teddy became the next President. So the party hoped to use Teddy, but in the end he got what he wanted.

This seems to be something like what the Democrats are trying with Hillary. Her popularity is still very high and in a way losing only made her stronger. The Clinton name still holds great pull in many circles. Many wanted Clinton to be the VP, but the VP is much stronger now than when Teddy ran, and it would have been difficult for Obama to have Clinton looking over his shoulder. So they needed to do something with her, why not send her on trips around the world. She can be persuasive, but will also be gone. Her appointment will calm her supporters, but will also make her part of the administration. There is some speculation that if Obama is tanking in four years that Clinton might run against him, but if she is part of the administration than her reputation is wrapped up with his. Lets just hope the Obama camp is more successful in their attempt to reign in a rival than the McKinley camp was.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mitch Albom's Detroit

Just a quick thought. One of my favorite sports writers is Mitch Albom from the Detroit Free Press. He is someone I look up to, in that I enjoy the way he writes and I actually try to copy this style. He made his name as a sports writer, but he is so much more. He may be more famous now for his non-fiction works, but I like his sports columns because they seem to have a heart. Too few public people today seem to have a heart, their writing is cold. It is easy to find someone sarcastic or clever in their writing, which Albom has, but not enough write with feeling or emotion. I say this because I just read a piece he wrote for SI about his home town of Detroit. It is an excellent example of my respect of Albom and is worth reading. You can get hit here

I still think I feel the way I do about the auto bailouts that I wrote about earlier and agree with Romney, but as with most things, it is good to hear both sides of an argument and to get the perspective of those who it will effect the most. Read this story.

Friday, January 9, 2009

City Review-New York City

Before I continue to write about history, politics, and other topics I want to write one more review, but this time instead of a movie I want to write a review about a place, New York City. Over the weekend I attended a conference of the American Historical Association held in NYC. On a personal note the conference was a disappointment in that the main reason I attended was to interview for teaching jobs, however I did not land even a single interview. There are still many jobs open that did not interview at the AHA, so I am still holding out hope of landing one. On a positive note I did have lots of fun visiting the city. First off it was cold. When I left south Texas it was in the 80s and when I arrived in NYC it was in the 30s with light flurries when I arrived at the hotel. To many this would be a negative, but I miss winter so being able to get my coat out of storage was a treat. Another positive was I got to see a bunch of my old friends that I attended graduate school with. I roomed with Jason and the two of us had great fun staying up late watching football. We said it was like a sleepover; we stayed up all night talking and doing each other’s hair, or would have if I had any. I also hung out with my other Arkansas friends, Julie, Derek, Matt, and Tami and my very good friends from VA Tech, Aaron and Lisa.

We all did plenty of the Tourist things, including hanging out in Time Square. It was very crowded, but kind of what you do when you are in NYC. We visited all the tourists shops like the giant Toys R Us, the M & Ms store, ESPN Zone, Virgin Records, and all the souvenir shops. There were also plenty of street vendors, it was fun to watch them try to sell knock off bags and watches then grab all their blankets full of stuff and take off when the cops came around. My review of Time Square is positive. It is very touristy, cheesy and expensive, but that is what I expected.

Some other spots we visited were the Teddy Roosevelt’s boyhood home. I love Teddy, but unless you just want a picture from the outside it may not be worth going out of your way. We saw several churches that are always worth seeing. The architecture of these cathedral like structures are amazing, and inside they are stunning. We also visited the Empire State Building. I will give that experience a mixed review. You wait in a long long line before you go up, close to two hours. A suggestion for future visitors to NYC is that you can go up to the top of Rockefeller Plaza and see the same view with a very small wait. Yet at the same time I do not regret going. As a historian, visiting the Empire State Building is less about the view at the top as it was seeing this historically important landmark. When it was built it was a marvel of technology and represents the modernity of the 1920s. After all Carry Grant and Deborah Kerr did not meet at the top of the Roc, they met at the Empire State Building.

My favorite spot of the weekend was visiting Ellis Island. For only $12 (very cheap for NYC) you could take a ferry ride to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is and then to Ellis Island. To take a boat past the Statue and land on Ellis Island brought me back in time and gave me the opportunity to experience the view of millions of immigrants and their dream of a better way of life about to come true. Visiting Ellis Island was inspirational and I would recommend it to any visitor. The main building almost had a reverence about it, the same feeling I get when I visit a battlefield or a place like the Vietnam Memorial. When you read the stories of some of the immigrants you understand why. They sacrificed everything they had on a chance of a better life in America. Many families landed on these shores with less than the required $25 (they lied when asked if they had the money and luckily were never checked) they had no possible job possibilities yet (I learned they would be sent back if they already had a job, we were scared of contract workers, people who would be like indentured servants and would drive down wages. So immigrants had to prove they would not be a burden on society, yet could not already have a job lined up). My great grandfather and great grandmother came to America from Germany after WWI. They did not come through Ellis Island, but they would have experienced something similar. This visit brought me closer to them and appreciate what they did.

I cannot go to NYC without seeing a show. On this trip I took my sisters advice and saw the Tony Award winning musical In the Heights. I knew I would like the show, I had seen a few songs, but I was joyfully surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The show was about a neighborhood in Washington Heights (also the subway stop of where my sister lived when she was there) populated by Hispanics from many of the island nations and how in many ways they were being pushed out of their neighborhood. The songs and actors were exceptional and the story touching. One of the story lines dealt with a girl that had made it out and was attending Stanford. But while home she broke the news that she lost her scholarship because it was too hard and she had to work two jobs and could not keep up. It touched me, because I teach at a school full of similar students, first generation Hispanic college students who often have to work long hours. I felt bad for the students who have failed my classes and have told me they were going to lose their scholarships. There are many excellent shows to see when in NYC and this show in not hyped, but if you are visiting consider seeing this show, it is well worth it. One other side note, for a modern Broadway show it is very clean, both in content and language. I would be nervous about taking young kids to many new plays today, but this is one that your kids will enjoy and outside of a very few words the parents can feel good about them watching.

Lastly and most importantly the best part of visiting NYC is the food. As someone who grew up in restaurants and who loves to eat, NYC is a Mecca of different foods. Plus where I live now there is not much of a range of different restaurants. We ate dinner at three different places and I would give each of them an excellent review. All three I should mention were recommendations from sister Tami and her husband Doug; they lived there several years and know all the good spots. I will start with my least favorite (even though I say least, I still would highly recommend it, just the other two were better). We ate at Stardust and had a fun time. This is the most tourist spot of the restaurants and very close to Time Square. It is a basic hamburger joint but what makes it fun is that all the servers sing. Many of the actors on Broadway worked here and it is full of inspiring Broadway stars. This place was more about having fun than the food, which was average, but if you want to have an enjoyable time I would recommend it. On another night I eat at Bombay Express on 9th Street. It is an Indian restaurant. What I love about NYC is all the different types of food. I like Indian and very rarely have a chance to eat it. The menu was quite large, almost too large for someone who does not know what most of it means. Lucky for us I had a great waiter. I told him I like lamb and put myself into his hand and I was not disappointed. My favorite place was Akdeniz ( This is a Mediterranean and Turkish restaurant. I am a big fan of Lebanese food, and this was one of the best spots I have had in that genre. This is close to Time Square but just off it and not touristy so the prices were very reasonable, they have a three-course meal for $20. I got the Lebni for my appetizer, which is a yogurt dip; then salmon Kebabs for my entrée, they were rolled in grape leaves; finally the chef made us some fresh Turkish cookies for dessert, they were excellent. If you visit NYC, I would highly recommend this spot. One other quick note. I should also mention Juniors Bakery next to the Marriott in Times Square, they have some of the best cheesecake I have every had. When in town it is a must.

As a whole the time was very enjoyable. I would have like some interviews and a job, but I still enjoyed my time. I am grateful to reconnect with old friends that I have not seen in some time. I am appreciative of Jason for hanging with me the whole time, for Derek’s great planning, and my sister’s suggestions. I would never want to live there but NCY is a fun place to visit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Unexpected Response

I want to give a response I received from a letter I wrote a month ago and made it a post. Today an envelope was delivered to my office, inside was a picture and a letter which read:

Dear James:
Thank you for your correspondence and your kind words. I appreciate your taking the time to write.
For nearly 8 years, it had been an honor and a joyous experience to be the President of the greatest country on earth. I will sprint to the finish line in the months ahead with confidence in our purpose and trust in the power of the American spirit. As a nation, we will continue to defend freedom’s cause, build a more prosperous future, and make our society more peaceful and hopeful for every individual.

Laura and I send our best wishes. May God bless you, and may God Bless America.


George W. Bush

I know our President is unpopular, but I am going to guess that we may come to miss him. He was a good man and for what ever he did or did not do, he kept us safe. It is too early to know his legacy, but at least in my class, it will be of a man who kept his promises even to the destruction of his reputation and I believe that will be his legacy.