18 April 2010

The Nineteenth of April

Two hundred thirty-five years ago, British regulars and American militiamen exchanged the first gunfire of the American Revolution at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. The military component of the Revolution, which would drag on for several years (at least until Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown in 1781), was to be accompanied by the most important moral and intellectual revolution in history––giving rise to the Declaration of Independence of 1776, and the Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1787, with its first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, ratified by 1791.

I took a few photographs of the reenactment yesterday at the Old North Bridge in Concord:

A Minuteman, forced to defend his life and property, looks ahead, eager to return to his family and get back to the business of living.

It is not clear who fired the “shot heard ‘round the world,” but it ignited the military engagement of the American Revolution.

Above, a group of Americans commemorate a time––an age that seems tragically distant now––when ordinary citizens grasped and lived according to principles, stood on their own two feet, and recognized encroaching tyranny as a threat to be repelled, not as a “safety net” to which one meekly submits.

15 April 2010

Tax Day Tea Party

We had contemplated driving down to the Tax Day Tea Party in Washington, DC, today––I took a couple of days of off work specifically for that purpose––but ended up not going for a variety of reasons, some logistical and some due to a basic uneasiness with the phenomenon itself.

Don’t get me wrong: I regard the spontaneous appearance of the tea parties as a positive sign, one of the only remaining indications that there is any spirit whatsoever among the broader population to resist the abuse of government power. Nevertheless, I have reservations about the effectiveness of attending such events. It’s not obvious to me how milling about with large crowds of people holding mixed premises can be very productive. Religious conservatives, libertarians, party-line Republicans, and Objectivists do not see eye to eye on everything, to say the least. If every speaker at these events were a Yaron Brook or John David Lewis, it would be wonderful. But most speakers are not articulate, consistent defenders of liberty; few mention or even seem to understand fundamentals. It is rare to hear individual rights mentioned at all. Most of the speeches are either concrete-bound enumerations of grievances (e.g. taxes, deficits, etc.) or meaningless platitudes that serve only to whip up a crowd. (“Let’s take back this government!” Rah. Rah.) Unless I’m at Fenway Park, I don’t like large crowds chanting, even if they are justified in doing so.

I admit that a big part of my being put off by the tea parties has to do with my lifelong revulsion of protests, exhibitions that I’ve always deemed to be invariably leftist, anarchistic, anti-intellectual affairs––and that is a completely unfair characterization in this case. The tea party protests are shockingly civilized as far as I’ve seen, and are far more intellectual and substantial than anything the left has had to offer in at least half a century. The few isolated reports in the media about tea party protesters spitting, hurling racial epithets, or brandishing guns are the exceptions that prove the rule. If that is the extent of distasteful behavior––if that is all a hostile media could find, bend, or fabricate in over a year of desperate yearning to discredit the movement, after hundreds of protests nationwide, and in the face of a general call from leftist organizations to infiltrate and sabotage the gatherings––then it is truly remarkable.

In any case, Lynne and I ended up going to the much smaller (not to mention conveniently located) Tax Day Tea Party in Lowell, MA. As we suspected, it was a mixture of mostly good and a couple of not-so-good elements. The best part was that we met a couple of our friends there, one of whom was brave enough to be the first speaker. She fared very well, reading from the Declaration of Independence and making a few comments. The crowd was not too large. (I am terrible at estimating numbers, so I am not going to try.) Everyone was very polite and courteous. The forest of signs were universally civil and many were very witty and clever.

I had come empty-handed, but I actually ended up holding one of the signs that my friend had brought with her. It read “Read Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand was Right” on one side and “This is John Galt Speaking” on the other. This placed me in the bizarre position of holding a sign at a public protest even though hell had not yet frozen over––something I would have not thought possible! To my surprise, I actually liked it, and it afforded me an opportunity to talk to some people about Ayn Rand and answer some questions.

The one element of the gathering that I considered to be negative was a brief injection of religious faith into the discourse. This was basically limited to one speaker, a military (or retired military) man who loudly insisted that good Americans believe in God, believes that the Ten Commandments are the source of law, and demanded that prayer be put back into schools. He is probably a perfectly decent and respectable man, and I thank him for his military service, but if he takes the position that man’s rights are derived from God and thus do not exist in the real world, then he is doing the work of our enemies. Apart from him, though, no one else that I saw or heard brought up religion.

All in all, it was a positive experience, though it did nothing to convince me that such gatherings have much practical benefit. As I indicated before, the importance of the tea party protests lies in the spirit that it signals; their very existence indicates that freedom is not yet dead. However, to effect the broad cultural change that is required to reverse our plunge toward serfdom will require a much more articulate and consistent message.

13 April 2010

CapMag 2.0

Capitalism Magazine has a new look. The web site, long one of my favorite sources of articles defending unfettered minds, upgraded its appearance. Check it out!

04 April 2010

Opening Day 2010

The Sox season starts off with a bang today. It is the next installment of the best rivalry in sports–– what will undoubtedly be a four-hour-plus marathon, the first of eighteen such emotionally draining contests this year with the Yankees.

Image: Boston Globe staff photo/ John Tlumacki

There is no question that the Yankees are still stacked this year, especially offensively. They’ve upgraded defensively with Curtis Granderson in center, and they will also have a good bullpen, with Joba Chamberlain moving back to his more suitable role of setup guy. If you don’t have a lead after six innings, it’s going to be difficult to beat the Yankees this year. They are in good shape to repeat as World Series champions and will be the serious impediment to the Red Sox in their quest for a third championship of the decade.

Despite this, though, I feel good about the Red Sox chances because of one critical factor: starting pitching. The Yankees are no slouches in this department, of course, but with the addition of John Lackey to the rotation, the Red Sox have an almost unbelievable set of starters: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Lackey, Tim Wakefield, and Clay Buchholz, with Daisuke Matsuzaka waiting in the wings.

The Sox lineup has some question marks, which might lead to some frustrating innings for the fans, but defensively we are in for a treat. Some new additions, such as Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre, should provide a little more pop in the lineup while filling in positions that have been revolving doors (shortstop) or vacated because of injuries (third). Above all, though, I am looking forward to watching the defensive upgrade in center, Mike Cameron (below), the 37-year-old sure-handed outfielder that I've never gotten to see very much of, particularly in the last several years that he has spent in the AL West and in the National League. It should be great fun!

Image: Reuters and AP photo/ Steve Nesius and Steven Senne

Starting pitching wins in the playoffs, so the challenge for the Red Sox this year will be to ensure that they get the 95 wins that the team is built for––and that that is good enough to make the playoffs. It may not be enough to win the AL East, but if the Sox get the wildcard spot, I like their chances for the ALCS and World Series championships.